469BCe - Our Name: Try to examine everything around you.
Socrates Classical Greek Philosopher - 469 BCE - 399 BCE.
The noted philosopher Anthony Kenny described Socrates in his book 'New History of Western Philosophy' as an unparalleled philosopher.
I came to Socrates through the notion that once a person knows the difference between right and wrong they are pre-disposed to do the right thing. Any other action is based on illness, irrational thought, criminality, self-interest etc.
In the socratic sense, ignorance is being without knowledge and not understanding our own ignorance is the cause of unethical action.
- Speak your truths consistently and without being combative or aggressive: I do not require people to accept what I say.
- Listen to the truths of others without being combative: I reserve the right not to accept anything that I am told.
- Don't automatically accept or reject anything. Investigate and test everything: I have come to believe that there are no truths and no facts; everything has an alternative and everything is contextual (the problem is that this view is completely useless in the practical world).
- Use your years of experience wisely: "I know that I know nothing" started as just a clever thing to say but now I try to keep it in the forefront of my mind.
- Be Happy: For Socrates happiness would be derived from the sustained pursuit of wisdom, especially wisdom of oneself.
My Take on Socrates.
NOTE: I choose to ignore the question of where Socrates ends and Plato/Xenophon begin because I prefer to think of Socrates as a stand alone philosopher - it's easier.
- Athens, at the time of Socrates, was the dominant city in ancient Greece and cited by many as the birthplace of democracy.
- Socrates was an odd looking confrontational character and committed to arguing with people and questioning ethics and all traditional beliefs.
- Socrates, like Confucius, formed his worldview based on reason and logic against the backdrop of war and civil unrest.
- Ignorance is evil: Socrates argued that a person's responsibility to educate themselves and truly understand right from wrong was paramount.
- Socrates argued that when we harm others (even unknowingly) we harm ourselves.
- Socrates argued knowledge could only come from discussion - "...writing imprisons knowledge..."
- Socrates and his main questions are still relevant today -
What is it to be - Good? Pious? Virtuous? Just?
What is - Love? Truth? Art? Courage? Knowledge? Happiness?
Can a democracy in itself create a just society?
What sort of life should we lead?
What sort of people should we be?
Should we punish to reform or exact revenge?
Paraphrasing a question to Euthyphro - Taking the meaning of pious as deeply religious: If something is just, is it pious: if something is pious is it just?
Accept that there are always different views and everything is open to question, interpretation and alternative delivery.
Work out your own moral code. Use your code to establish ethical guidelines to help you navigate the world which we all share.
The Examined Life.