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Socratic method Perhaps his most important contribution to Western thought is his dialectic method of inquiry, known as the Socratic method or method of "elenchus", which he largely applied to the examination of key moral concepts such as the Good and Justice.
It was first described by Plato in the Socratic Dialogues. To solve a problem, it would be broken down into a series of questions, the answers to which gradually distill the answer a person would seek. The Socratic method has often been considered as a defining element of American legal education. The Socratic method is a negative method of hypothesis elimination, in that better hypotheses are found by steadily identifying and eliminating those that lead to contradictions.
An alternative interpretation of the dialectic is that it is a method for direct perception of the Form of the Good. Little in the way of concrete evidence exists to demarcate the two. The lengthy presentation of ideas given in most of the dialogues may be the ideas of Socrates himself, but which have been subsequently deformed or changed by Plato, and some scholars think Plato so adapted the Socratic style as to make the literary character and the philosopher himself impossible to distinguish.
Others argue that he did have his own theories and beliefs. Consequently, distinguishing the philosophical beliefs of Socrates from those of Plato and Xenophon has not proven easy, so it must be remembered that what is attributed to Socrates might actually be more the specific concerns of these two thinkers instead.
The matter is complicated because the historical Socrates seems to have been notorious for asking questions but not answering, claiming to lack wisdom concerning the subjects about which he questioned others. When he is on trial for heresy and corrupting the minds of the youth of Athens, he uses his method of elenchos to demonstrate to the jurors that their moral values are wrong-headed.
He tells them they are concerned with their families, careers, and political responsibilities when they ought to be worried about the "welfare of their souls". Socrates also questioned the Sophistic doctrine that arete virtue can be taught. He liked to observe that successful fathers such as the prominent military general Pericles did not produce sons of their own quality.
Socrates argued that moral excellence was more a matter of divine bequest than parental nurture. This belief may have contributed to his lack of anxiety about the future of his own sons. Also, according to A. According to Xenophon, he was a teleologist who held that god arranges everything for the best.
He mentions several influences: Prodicus the rhetor and Anaxagoras the philosopher. Perhaps surprisingly, Socrates claims to have been deeply influenced by two women besides his mother: The following are among the so-called Socratic paradoxes: No one errs or does wrong willingly or knowingly.
Virtue is sufficient for happiness. Therefore, Socrates is claiming to know about the art of love, insofar as he knows how to ask questions. For his part as a philosophical interlocutor, he leads his respondent to a clearer conception of wisdom, although he claims he is not himself a teacher Apology. Perhaps significantly, he points out that midwives are barren due to age, and women who have never given birth are unable to become midwives; they would have no experience or knowledge of birth and would be unable to separate the worthy infants from those that should be left on the hillside to be exposed.
To judge this, the midwife must have experience and knowledge of what she is judging. These virtues represented the most important qualities for a person to have, foremost of which were the philosophical or intellectual virtues. Socrates stressed that " the unexamined life is not worth living [and] ethical virtue is the only thing that matters.
It was not only Athenian democracy: Socrates found short of ideal any government that did not conform to his presentation of a perfect regime led by philosophers, and Athenian government was far from that.
The Tyrants ruled for about a year before the Athenian democracy was reinstated, at which point it declared an amnesty for all recent events. He believed he was a philosopher engaged in the pursuit of Truth, and did not claim to know it fully. It is often claimed much of the anti-democratic leanings are from Plato, who was never able to overcome his disgust at what was done to his teacher.
In any case, it is clear Socrates thought the rule of the Thirty Tyrants was also objectionable; when called before them to assist in the arrest of a fellow Athenian, Socrates refused and narrowly escaped death before the Tyrants were overthrown. He did, however, fulfill his duty to serve as Prytanis when a trial of a group of Generals who presided over a disastrous naval campaign were judged; even then, he maintained an uncompromising attitude, being one of those who refused to proceed in a manner not supported by the laws, despite intense pressure.
Irvine argues that it was because of his loyalty to Athenian democracy that Socrates was willing to accept the verdict of his fellow citizens. As Irvine puts it, "During a time of war and great social and intellectual upheaval, Socrates felt compelled to express his views openly, regardless of the consequences. As a result, he is remembered today, not only for his sharp wit and high ethical standards, but also for his loyalty to the view that in a democracy the best way for a man to serve himself, his friends, and his city—even during times of war—is by being loyal to, and by speaking publicly about, the truth.
In the Symposium, Socrates credits his speech on the philosophic path to his teacher, the priestess Diotima , who is not even sure if Socrates is capable of reaching the highest mysteries. Further confusions result from the nature of these sources, insofar as the Platonic Dialogues are arguably the work of an artist-philosopher, whose meaning does not volunteer itself to the passive reader nor again the lifelong scholar.
According to Olympiodorus the Younger in his Life of Plato,  Plato himself "received instruction from the writers of tragedy" before taking up the study of philosophy. These indirect methods may fail to satisfy some readers.
It was this sign that prevented Socrates from entering into politics. In the Phaedrus, we are told Socrates considered this to be a form of "divine madness", the sort of insanity that is a gift from the gods and gives us poetry , mysticism , love , and even philosophy itself.
Today, such a voice would be classified under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a command hallucination. In the play, Socrates is ridiculed for his dirtiness, which is associated with the Laconizing fad; also in plays by Callias , Eupolis , and Telecleides. Other comic poets who lampooned Socrates include Mnesimachus and Ameipsias.
In all of these, Socrates and the Sophists were criticized for "the moral dangers inherent in contemporary thought and literature". Prose sources Plato, Xenophon, and Aristotle are the main sources for the historical Socrates; however, Xenophon and Plato were students of Socrates, and they may idealize him; however, they wrote the only extended descriptions of Socrates that have come down to us in their complete form.
Aristotle refers frequently, but in passing, to Socrates in his writings. The Socratic dialogues Main article: Although his Apology is a monologue delivered by Socrates, it is usually grouped with the Dialogues.
The Apology professes to be a record of the actual speech Socrates delivered in his own defense at the trial. In the Athenian jury system, an "apology" is composed of three parts: Plato generally does not place his own ideas in the mouth of a specific speaker; he lets ideas emerge via the Socratic Method , under the guidance of Socrates. Most of the dialogues present Socrates applying this method to some extent, but nowhere as completely as in the Euthyphro.
What is the pious, and what the impious? The soul , before its incarnation in the body, was in the realm of Ideas very similar to the Platonic "Forms". There, it saw things the way they truly are, rather than the pale shadows or copies we experience on earth. By a process of questioning, the soul can be brought to remember the ideas in their pure form, thus bringing wisdom.