Socrates - Socrates






Who was Socrates?

A stout man with a flat face, broad nose, thick lips, heavy beard, shabby clothes and an unduly large paunch, which he hoped to reduce by dancing this is how Socrates has been described. Not a very flattering description of a man commonly considered the founder of Western philosophy. Although far from the Greek ideal of beauty, his face shows the honesty, courage and humour which has come to be called "Socraticˮ. Plato speaks of him as all glorious within¹ while Alcibiades, another disciple of Socrates, compares him to a statue of Selinus ² ugly on the outside but full of beautiful golden statues of the gods inside³

Socrates and his Times

Every great mind is to a great extent the product of his Age and environment he breathes in, for he is influenced by the ideas, manners, and social and political conditions prevalent at that time. And in return, one can say that that greatness leaves something of itself as a cumulation to that civilization that nurtured him, making it that much greater. But there are greatnesses that make a distinct difference, more than just a fractional addition in the chronology of events, who step out of the shadow of time as landmarks which herald a major change in the history of mankind. To understand Socrates better, it would be useful to



dwell on the historical atmosphere that existed at the time of his life. In the words of Shelley, "The period which intervened between the birth of Pericles and the death of Aristotle4 is undoubtedly, whether considered in itself or with reference to the effect which it produced upon the subsequent destinies of civilized man, the most memorable in the history of the world."

After the defeat of the Persians 5 in 479 B.C., Athens dominated this period because she had won the allegiance of the other city-states by her leadership in saving Greece during the Persian invasions, which had threatened to destroy their civilization. To protect themselves against future Persian invasions, they formed the Delian Confederacy under Athenian leadership. While the other city-states contributed money towards its funds, Athens contributed ships, which led to its control over the other city-states, and the confederacy eventually transformed into an Athenian empire. This marked in single ink the preliminary sketches of the destiny of Athens prepared by Fate and brought forward by the predecessors of Pericles; it was left to him to fill in the colours, which would announce it for posterity as the Golden Age or the Age of Pericles.


Under the leadership of Pericles, Commander-in-chief of Athens, elected and. re-elected for almost 30 years by the Athenians, the polls (city) of Athens reached the zenith of its political power and cultural achievements, and every aspect of the collective life prospered and developed. In his childhood and youth, he received music lessons from Damon6 the most famous music teacher of his time, he learnt literature from Pythocleides, he absorbed philosophy through the lectures of Zeno,7 and he had Anaxagoras8 for a friend and teacher who uplifted his mind to loftier purposes. From him Pericles learnt the art of eloquence and found within himself a calmness, which could not be shaken even in the most trying circumstance. It is said that Pericles, too caught up in the







 "What you leave behind is

 not what is engraved in stone  monuments, but what is  woven into the lives of  others."


affairs of state to keep in touch with his mentor, on hearing that Anaxagoras was struggling with old age and starvation, hastened to make amends and with great humility heard him as he chided, "those who have occasion for the lamp supply it with oil."

Pericles was driven by a superhuman zeal to ensure the development of Athens in all fields that make a civilization great economic, military, literary, artistic, and philosophical, and he set about in a resolute manner to accomplish his objective, successively in each and every wake of Athenian life. A man of few words, he spoke with economy but gained the admiration of enlightened minds.

Athens not only enjoyed the privileges of democracy but also the order and taste that came under the moderate leadership of his



aristocratic dictatorship. He made reforms in the judiciary and began the practice of payment for jury as well as military service. He believed that the Olympic games and plays should not remain the luxury of the rich but even the lower echelons should have the privilege of enjoying them. To make that possible, he persuaded the state to make remuneration of two obols annually to each citizen. As a point of reference, it should be noted that Plato,9 Aristotle and Plutarch,10all disapproved of these payments as, according to them, it injured the Athenian character.

He then turned towards the fortification of Athens and consequently persuaded the Assembly to supply funds for the construction of eight miles of long walls around Athens. Having secured Athens, he then turned his attention towards the beautification of the polls. He desired to transform Athens as the cultural capital of the region and to fulfill this dream he prepared a blueprint of a magnitude that would uplift the spirit of every Athenian. Pheidias 11 Ictinus and Mnesicles, the best sculptors, were engaged for the fruition of this architectural programme. The Acropolis 12 was crowned with the Parthenon within which stood the marvelous statue of Athena, executed in ivory and gold by Pheidias, and the Erectheum,13 created also by Pheidias, with its colossal statue in bronze of Athena Polias, the defender of her favourite city, along with altars devoted to Poseidon, god of the sea, and Hephaestus, god of fire, and there was also the wondrous Propylaea14 or assemblage of entrance gates that gave access to the whole. Athens witnessed the outpouring of artistic genius visible even now in the ruins of the Parthenon but also put to work the multitude of unemployed in the city bringing prosperity to the citizens at large. Parallel to the work of rebuilding of the ancient shrines and other magnificent edifices, Pericles desired to build the spiritual blocks of the soul and mind and to that end, lent his patronage to philosophy and literature as well. It was the Age that manifested in the highest degree, beauty, grace, self-contained dignity and grandeur, which we associate with the highest genius. Cultural events such as public performances of the great plays of Aeschylus,15 Sophocles16 and Euripides17 formed part of the developing







urban lifestyle. All citizens, rich or poor, could enjoy these events together in an atmosphere of critical appreciation. The political and social organization of the Greek city-states is regarded as an important step in the evolution of mankind's collective organization, for it was an attempt to realize freedom and equality for the individual. Although the rights of free expression and political participation were confined to Greek citizens, and although they were not extended to the slave labour imported from foreign "barbaricˮ countries, the polls embodied the ideal of the dignity and independence of the human being. Politics was considered an important common concern, and participation in the daily decision-making process was the right and duty of each citizen. Athens grew into one of the largest cities of the ancient world, bursting the limits of the traditionally small city-state and establishing an empire. This, then, was the atmosphere in which Socrates took his first breath.

Athens produced during that Golden Age great men in all walks of life Socrates, the founder of Greek philosophy, Pheidias, Myron, and Polycletus, the sculptors, Zeuxis and Parrhasius, the painters, Pericles, the great orator and statesman, Herodotus and Thucydides, the historians, and Euripides and Sophocles, the tragedians.

This empire, however, did not last long; a conflict with the Greek city-state of Sparta, Athens' rival throughout Greek history, grew into the long Peloponnesian War18 (431-404 BC) in which Athens was ultimately defeated. Thus, Socrates knew both the splendour of the Periclean age and the chaos of war - a war which brought not only material hardship but, even more crucial for Socrates, a confusion in the sciences and an erosion of moral values.

Life of Socrates

According to the accounts of Plato and Xenophon,19 the first forty years of the life of Socrates were nurtured by the rich cultural atmosphere of Athens. Born in 469 BC in Athens, he followed



the trade of his father, a sculptor. It is said that the statues of Hermes and the three Graces, which stood at the entrance to the Acropolis had been carved by him. His mother was a midwife. He believed in training the body to keep fit and he is said to have usually been in good physical condition. He also participated in the Olympic games. He was trained in the usual branches of a Greek education, gymnastics, reading, writing, knowledge of arithmetic and geometry, also the committal to memory and power of recitation of the poems of Homer. It is said that not only did Socrates exist at the same time as Parmenides,20 Protagoras,21Gorgias, Hippias,27 Prodicus,23 and Thracymachus 24 in Greece but that there are accounts by Plato of his meetings with them. He is said to have enjoyed the company of many distinguished men of his times; Archelaus,25 a pupil of Anaxagoras, who was for sometime his teacher, was probably responsible for turning Socrates from science to ethics, and Zenoʼs method of dialectic so impressed him that he adopted it as well. He married Xanthippe with whom he had three sons and held public office for a short time. He distinguished himself during the Peloponnesian War by his endurance and courage, serving as a foot soldier. He saved the life of a young man, Alcibiades, who for a brief time was his student, and renounced in his favour the award for courage in battle. It is said that in one of the battles with Sparta, he was the last of the Athenians to retreat and that he saved himself by glaring at the enemy. He had a remarkable endurance against hunger, cold and fatigue. .

It was around the time when he was about forty years of age when it is said that he became conscious of his special mission; a message from God, delivered to him by a spirit whom he constantly consulted to guide him, commanded him to devote himself to the task of discovering True Knowledge. This was the starting point of the philosophy of Socrates, a time when he came into his own, discovered the building blocks of his own style of philosophy, the birth of the dialogue, a means to discover knowledge of Truth, Beauty and Goodness, a step that marked a concrete shift from the world of mysticism into the world of the intellect. The



next period of 25-30 years of his life, till his death in 399 BC, was spent devoted to the task of relentlessly pursuing knowledge and perfection, both in himself and others, through questioning and logic and dialogue, a period that found him making foundational contributions to the world of Western philosophy.

It is rightly said that the individual becomes perfect when he becomes universal, but the universal manifests its own perfection when .the individual brings into him something from the transcendental and adds it to the universal manifestation. Socrates was that individual who had brought something from the transcendental and fused it into the vastness of the Greek culture and enlarged the scope of the manifestation of the Greek culture. He had brought the normative ideal of virtue derived from knowledge and infused it into the growing tide of rational thought. That man of normative pursuits of virtue and clarity of pure reason imparted that special glow to Greek culture, which made it so distinctive in the history of the world.

Having discovered his divine mission, most of his time was spent in the public places of Athens in the streets, the marketplace and the gymnasium26 -  engaging his fellow citizens in conversation on subjects ranging from reflections on nature to enquiries into politics; but he never set himself up as a teacher. He had no liking for the country, and seldom passed the gates of the city. "Fields and trees," Plato makes him say, "will not teach me anything; the life of the streets will." He went about his daily task of prodding men with questions about virtues, demanding answers. In fact he became a terror to all those who could not think clearly. He likened himself to a 'gadflyʼ 27 who made it his business to find out who was really wise and who were just pretending to be wise. A number of these conversations were recorded by Plato who, after Socrates' death, founded the "Academyˮ, the famous school of Athens, which lasted nearly eight hundred years.

Obviously, provocations of Socrates could not remain free from criticism. His opponents complained that he was busy demolishing arguments given by others and rarely built any to



replace them. He often avoided answering a direct question by replying with another question as happened with Critias,28 a student. Hippias, it is said, raged at Socrates and refused to speak another word till Socrates defined justice himself! To this exasperated outcry, Socratesʼ calm response was that he was, like his mother, but a midwife who helps in delivering; to give birth to ideas was not a privilege given him by the gods.

In many ways he was like the Sophists,29 and the Athenians referred to him as one too, though he begged to differ. And differ he did. Although like the Sophists he was well versed in the art of argumentation, could give analogies and change the course of a dialogue, and had a way with words, on four accounts he differed from them; he abhorred rhetoric, he aspired to strengthen the moral fibre in men, he desired nothing more than to teach men the art of self-examination, and he refused any payment for his services as instructor.

Despite all the criticism, there were those who loved him deeply. This Age produced not only men of genius in every walk of life but also those who nurtured them and stimulated them with their intelligent and sympathetic appreciation. As he said to one of his students:

Perhaps I may be able to assist you in the pursuit of honour and virtue, from being mutually disposed to love; for whenever I conceive a liking for persons I devote myself with ardour, and with my whole mind, to love them, and be loved by them in return, regretting their absence and having mine regretted by them, and longing for their society while they long for mine.30

His pupils differed widely; there was no common doctrine that united them. Consequently, we see the most diverse schools of philosophical thought cropping up under their leadership Cynicism31 propounded by Antisthenes,32 which adopted the simplistic way of life of Socrates; Cyrenaic School by Aristippus,33



Epicureanism by Epicurus,34 a school which developed from the Cyrenaic school; Stoicism35 as improving the individual's spiritual well-being through self-control, fortitude and detachment; and finally Platonism,36 the founder of which was so influenced by his teacher that their lofty thoughts are united for eternity. There were others, like Phaedo37 a slave, who had been transformed into a philosopher by Socrates, Eucleides of Megara38 who was so impressed by the teachings of Socrates that he risked his life to sneak into Athens to receive instructions from his teacher when a law forbid all Megarians from entering Athens, the wealthy Crito, who took it upon himself to ensure that his friend would never be in want of anything; Critias, the oligarchic leader, an erstwhile student, whose association became one of the causes for the incrimination of Socrates that eventually led to his death sentence, and the son of Anytus,39 who preferred to listen to the discourses of Socrates than apply his mind to the leather business his father wanted him to look after. And then there was Alcibiades, the Adonis of Athens, whose affections for his teacher made him cry out in wild abandon:

When we hear any other speaker, even a very good one, his words produce absolutely no effect upon us in comparison, whereas the very fragment of your words, Socrates, even at second hand, and however imperfectly reported, amaze and possess the souls of every man, woman and child who comes within hearing of them.... I am conscious that if I did not shut my ears against him and fly from the voice of the siren, he would detain me until I grew old sitting at his feet..... I have known in my soul, or in my heart.... That greatest of pangs, more violent in ingenious youth than any serpent's tooth, the pang of philosophy.....40

Socrates speaks of himself as a seeker of truth or a lover of wisdom — a philosopher. As a result of this reluctance to use his



talents for material gains, he lived a life so poor that the Sophist Antiphon could mock: "A slave who was made to live like that would run away." Through the four seasons, his coat was the same and he preferred going around the city barefoot. Once during his visit to the marketplace he remarked, "How many things there are that I do not want!"41 But his simple lifestyle was not the outcome of self-torment or asceticism; it originated in his attitude of complete indifference towards physical enjoyments. He was an example of self-control and moderation. He was not a loner; in fact he liked good company and sometimes allowed the wealthy to entertain him. But he was not a slave to them for their favours; he could very well do without them as well. As he says in his discussion with  Antiphon, as recorded in the 'Memorabiliaʼ by Xenophon, "You, Antiphon, seem to think that happiness consists in luxury and extravagance, but I think that to want nothing is to resemble the Gods, and that to want as little as possible is to make the nearest approach to the Gods; that the Divine nature is perfection and that to be nearest to the Divine nature is to be nearest to perfection."

Socratic Theme of Quest

Socrates taught that the great problem of any human being lies in the question of how to live his life. Endowed with rationality, each man must decide what course his life shall take. Although mankind's common aim is a "good lifeˮ (eu-zen), there is no common agreement on what a "good lifeˮ is, or how to reach it. Socratesʼ answer to this question lies in the Greek term arête, which is usually translated as virtue, but more precisely means the full perfection of man's innate qualities. Socratesʼ concept of the excellent and perfect human life is an integral one, encompassing the development of all physical, vital and intellectual potentialities. Pursuing this aim in his own life, Socrates fought in war and participated in the Olympic games, but his primary concern was the intellect, which he considered the noblest part of man's nature.

 In the history of thought, the word integrality has been



understood in several ways. Basically, integrality would mean the total synthesis of all the parts of the being. In the fullness of integrality, the highest spiritual consciousness manifests itself fully on all the planes of the being, including the mental, the vital and the physical. However, there are subordinate meanings of integral aims, and these aims, even while integrating all the parts of the being, may not find it possible to manifest the highest consciousness in all parts of the being. For example, the Vedic Rishis42 attempted the manifestation of the highest Supramental Consciousness in the body, and although they succeeded in widening and universalizing body consciousness, they came to the conclusion that one cannot enter into the Supramental consciousness fully in the physical body. There is also a mention in the Upanishads43 that if one enters into the Supramental Consciousness fully, one cannot return from there into the bodily life.

In the case of Socrates, we find that he advocated full life of the intellectual and spiritual consciousness in the mind, life and body. He also maintained that since the soul is planted in the body by the Divine Providence, the body should not be discarded. At the same time, he insisted that one should not crave to continue to live in the body, when by natural means or natural circumstances, the bodily life comes to an end. In this regard Socrates was following the Orphic44 view of life. Socrates maintained that in the ultimate analysis, bodily consciousness imposed on the soul the limitations of cravings of senses and hampered the fullness of the life of the soul and reason. According to him, therefore, one should, while in the body, endeavour to reduce the claims and demands of the bodily senses and strive to live more and more in the rational part of the soul, which alone can perceive and know the Ideas of Truth, Beauty and Goodness. The highest abode of the soul, where the soul discovers and lives in immortality, is the abode of the Supreme Good; there bodily existence has no place and the bodily existence is seen to be a mere shadow or appearance.

There has, of course, been a long debate in the history of thought, both Eastern and Western, as to what is reality and what is appearance, and the debate is still continuing up to the present



day. The seeker has to make a serious study of this debate and explore the various alternative aims of life, some of which are very well known. The latest view has been expounded by Sri Aurobindo,45 who has, on the basis of the highest yogic realizations, shown that the Supramental Divine Consciousness can manifest in the physical existence.

Arguments in Phaedo

In the light of this latest view, the arguments that we find in the Phaedo regarding the place of the life of the body in an ideal state of existence can be questioned. Nonetheless, what is valuable in the Phaedo is the exposition of the present limitations of the bodily existence, and these limitations are too obvious to be questioned. Even when the highest consciousness is proposed to be reconciled with the bodily existence, there is a full acknowledgement of the limitations of the physical life as it is lived under the conditions of the present organisation of consciousness. What is proposed, therefore, is that the bodily life should undergo a great perfection and even an evolutionary mutation so that the material life of the body becomes fully transformed. Divine life in a divine body is thus proposed as the aim of the highest integral view of life.

In the light of this aim and realisation, Socratesʼ views on the body, life and soul may seem to be constricted within limitations, but the value of the Socratic view lies in the fact that he endeavoured to explain as far as his own capacities and his cultural background could permit him. Judged in this way, Socratesʼ views do require radical revisitation and enlargement in the light of what has been achieved by human civilization today, but the contributions that he had made in those early times need to be acknowledged with due appreciation.

Influence of Socrates on Western Philosophy

The history of philosophy speaks of pre- and post-Socratic thinkers, illustrating Socratesʼ impact on the course of Western



philosophy and science. Prior to Socrates, the intuitive visions of the Orphic mysteries had a decisive influence on Greek thought. Socrates and his followers, Plato and Aristotle, established a rational and intellectual approach towards life, an approach, which extensively influenced the course of Western history. Their reflections on man's intellectual abilities led to the notion of the independent soul bestowed with cognitive powers through which man could achieve excellence and perfection. Socrates regarded the right use of the intellect as a great help to enlighten man in his search for the highest good in life. According to Socrates, knowledge is an indispensable part of the excellent and perfect life because doing good requires knowing what is good: "Man has only one thing to consider in performing any action that is whether he is acting rightly or wrongly, like a good man or like a bad man."46 For Socrates, knowing the good necessarily implies doing it; otherwise man would consciously be choosing misery over known happiness. Knowledge and wisdom, he says, are virtues of the soul, which pursues the perfect and excellent life. By relentlessly seeking wisdom and knowledge or, as he puts it, by "practicing philosophy and exhorting and elucidating the truth,"47Socrates developed a method for discriminating between mere opinion (doxa) and knowledge (episteme). This method became known as "dialecticˮ. In this question and answer type of discussion, opposed opinions are reduced to essential statements in order to reveal unclear assumptions, unexpected implications and fallacious inferences. The intellectual truth thus revealed, says Socrates, is only a very imperfect image of the Truth, which is the Divineʼs; compared to Godʼs, man's knowledge is mere ignorance. When the oracle of Apollo and Delphi48 called Socrates the wisest of living men, Socrates set out to disprove that statement, convinced that he really knew nothing. In the end, Socrates discovered that his so-called "wisdomˮ lay in the simple fact that he was conscious of his own ignorance: to know that you do not know is the first step towards knowing yourself.



Trial of Socrates: Apology

When, at the age of seventy, Socrates was tried in the court of Athens for heresy and corruption of the youth, it seems evident that these charges were linked to his constant criticism of any authoritarian claim to knowledge. His defence, the Apology, is one of the three texts by Plato portraying Socrates in his last days. The dialogues Crito and Phaedo show Socrates facing death. The Apology shows Socrates in court. He rejects the accusations of the prosecution; then, he goes on to give an account of his life, revealing the divine mission he has followed, and explaining the methods he has used in fulfilling his quest. He is accused of taking fees, influencing and corrupting the youth, inquiring into things "below earth and above heaven", and of believing in gods of his own. Socrates defends himself, saying that these accusations are attempts of the ignorants to suppress diverse opinions and prevent free discussion in science, art and politics.

In his life-long search for wisdom, Socrates had always exposed those who, without knowledge, claimed to have found the truth; in his eyes, ignorance disguised as knowledge is mere arrogance and the epitome of falsehood. Even when it became evident that he would be sentenced to death, he did not surrender to his accusers. As Socrates said, such an act, although it might have saved his life, would have destroyed his soul, for it would have meant surrendering wisdom to ignorance. For Socrates, who claimed to be "subject to a divine or supernatural experience",49 the real difficulty "is not so much to escape death but to escape from doing wrong.ˮ50 For all we know, he says, death may be a blessing; therefore how foolish to fear it more than we fear those evils which we know to be evils; "To be afraid of death is just another form of thinking one is wise when one is not."57

As expected, his accusers, who would have been satisfied with nothing less than Socratesʼ complete surrender, were not convinced by his defence and sentenced him to death. But Socratesʼ equanimous acceptance of the verdict increased his fame as a wise man; and he has come to be regarded as the perfect example



of the truly philosophical life.

Arguments in Crito

The Crito is a short dialogue between Crito, a wealthy friend, and Socrates, which takes place in prison after the court has sentenced him to death by hemlock poisoning. Crito has come to convince him to escape from prison with various arguments in defence of his suggestion. He tries to convince Socrates from various points of view, public perception of Crito as a friend who did not help Socrates in his hour of need, and Socratesʼ obligation to impart to his own children an upbringing and education befitting that of himself. And lastly, Crito argued that Socrates would be behaving like a coward if he succumbed to the unjust verdict of the court. It is a conversation between them regarding justice, injustice, and the appropriate response to injustice.

According to Socrates, the public has neither an unlimited capacity of doing harm nor an unlimited capacity of doing good, since the majority of people are ignorant and, therefore, the only opinion that is worthy of being considered should be that of one who is wise and good.

As far as his role as a parent was concerned, he argued that were he to escape he would have to flee to another state and it would not be fair to his children to be raised in foreign lands. And were his children to stay in Athens while he lived in exile, his friends would raise them; then if they were his true friends, would they not raise them the same if he were dead?

The most important counter-argument given by Socrates comes at the very end Socrates thinks that injustice may not be answered with injustice, and refuses Critoʼs offer to finance his escape from prison because, as he argues, it is more important to live justly than merely to live. According to Socrates, the State is more important than an individual and likens the relationship between a citizen and his country to being higher than that of a parent and a child. In his view, having been nurtured in Athens and having raised his children in Athens, and by accepting



citizenship of Athens, knowing fully the laws of Athens, he has given his consent to obeying the laws of Athens as well. He says that just as a child should respect the decision of a parent, even though he thinks that the parent is wrong in his judgment, so should an individual respect the verdict of the state even though he thinks that it is unjust. Were he to disobey the verdict, he would be unjust, as he would be reneging from an agreement he made with the state. The laws of the state are necessary for the society and "he who is a corrupter of the laws is more than likely to be corrupter of the young and foolish portion of mankind." Finally, having disobeyed the laws, would he be able to uphold in public his own views that virtue, justice, institutions and laws are "the best thing among men'?

This argument of Socrates, that the needs of the individual are subordinate to those of the state brings to mind the character and actions of one of the most celebrated personalities of Indian history, namely, Sri Rama;52 in particular, the decision he took to exile his beloved wife, Sita. From his personal point of view, Sita did not deserve to be exiled; as Socrates did not believe that he deserved to be punished; and yet both bowed before the demands of state or society, which is normally subject to public perception.

There was a time in the history of the world when there was a great need to subordinate the individual to the collectivity or to the state. This attitude has been challenged by the modern theory of individualism, according to which, the fulfillment of the individual is more important than the needs of the society or the collectivity. According to this view, the individual ought to act according to the injunction of the law of the Right, which may be opposed to the social or state law. Therefore, the individual should disregard the social or state law, even if it means a revolt against the collectivity, and follow the dictate of the law of the Right which may be directly received by the individual through his own developed moral or spiritual sense. This is the reason why individualists are often in collision with the authority of the state.

In fact, there is a Higher Will, which, favours neither the society nor the individual, and points to the source of Ideal action,



which lies in the Universal and Transcendental Self, According to that view, an individual does not owe allegiance either to himself or to the society or to the state, but to the Universal and Transcendental Self, and the individual should obey the imperatives delivered by that Self.

In judging historical events and actions of exemplary individuals, we should not be guided by the views which are currently accepted in the contemporary times, but weigh the uppermost concerns of a given Age and arrive at a truly balanced judgment or verdict. And so, in judging Socrates or Sri Rama, we should keep in mind the context of the historical importance of the society or the state in preference to the individual, which existed during their lives, and refrain from imposing arguments that have developed in later times in history, which may have their own historical value.

Arguments in the Phaedo

In the Phaedo, we find an account of the last moments in the life of Socrates, his conversation with his friends prior to his drinking hemlock and after, until he loses consciousness. The dialogue is told from the perspective of one of Socratesʼ students, Phaedo of Elis. Having been present at Socratesʼ death bed, Phaedo relates the dialogue to Echecrates, a Pythagorean philosopher from the ancient Greek town of Phlius.

Here, we see how Socrates describes his ideas of forms and essences. There is absolute justice, absolute beauty and absolute good, but they are not visible to the eye. He also speaks of absolute greatness, and health and strength and of the essences and true nature of everything. Socrates begins by welcoming death for it separates the body from the soul and therefore frees it, so that, it may finally attain to Pure Knowledge. But, he did not believe in voluntarily snuffing out life, for he considered it unlawful. He defends his theory by arguing that the body is an impediment to the soul in its search for Pure Knowledge with its incessant demands and cravings. 'He wants to get rid of eyes and ears, and



with the light of the mind wants only to behold the light of truth,53 Through a process of logical questioning, he concludes that in thought alone can a philosopher best pursue pure knowledge by gathering the mind into itself and not allowing sound, sight, pain or pleasure to trouble it.

Socrates believed in the Orphic view that the soul is immortal and that God has placed the soul of man in his body; but far from taking it only as an assumption, he goes on to argue the immortality of the soul in a very systematic manner.

He begins the argument by asking his friend Cebes54 about the theory that states that all things are generated out of their opposites weaker from the stronger which turn weaker again, swifter from the slower and then go back to swifter. He goes on to argue that the dead are generated from the living and go back again to the dead. He further argues that without this cycle "must not all things at last be swallowed up in death?"

Next, he sets out to prove the existence of the soul in the body and the immortality of the soul. Here, the kernel of the argument is his famous theory that True Knowledge is recollection, the theory, which has been demonstrated in Platoʼs dialogue Meno55. Through a series of questions he argues that all true knowledge is recollection, and since it is by recollection that we come to know Absolute Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Absolute Essence and the Equality of things, then this activity of recollection can be possible only because the soul has prior knowledge of these absolutes before taking on a new body. In a new body, it is found that these ideas are pre-existent, and this could not be possible unless the soul in a new birth, in the present body was immortal. He sums it up by concluding that the external world does play a role of stimulus to the awakening of our surface consciousness, and on comparing the knowledge by sense organs with the inherent knowledge pre-existent in our souls one discovers that the soul must have had a prior existence because ideas cannot pre-exist without the pre-existence of the soul. .

Socratic doctrine of knowledge as recollection and knowledge consisting of pure ideas of Absolutes may not seem too convincing.



The empiricists, in particular, delight in contradicting the Socratic arguments. For example, Bertrand Russell, in his hook The History of Western Philosophy,criticizes this theory of knowledge as recollection, by pointing out that even though the knowledge of logic and mathematics could perhaps be demonstrated as knowledge by recollection, the Socratic argument is wholly inapplicable to empirical knowledge.

Russell is an empiricist and considers that all knowledge is derived from the experience of the senses, except the knowledge of logic and mathematics, which, in reality, he does not accept as knowledge. There is, according to Russell, no such thing as Absolute Equality, or Absolute Truth, Beauty or Goodness. He maintains that these so-called Absolutes are only fictions of the mind for the sake of convenience of speech and communication but not corresponding to any truths of reality. Unfortunately, Russell gives no arguments to prove his contentions. He simply appeals to sense-experience. But this appeal cannot be regarded as an argument. One can feel legitimately that Russell refuses to go beyond the world of senses and finite things and dismisses arbitrarily the rationalistic doctrine of Socrates which probes deeper into the psychology of rational thought in which one does find the presence of Universal Ideas such as those of Truth, Beauty and Goodness, etc.

The humour with which Socrates welcomes the moment when he will be served the poison speaks of the lofty heights to which his soul had ascended he was detached and free from the mundane and worrisome demands and cravings of the body. The dispassionate manner in which he described the effect of the poison in his body presents to us a picture of a man who was completely without fear in the face of death.

Socratesʼ imperturbability in the face of death is attributed by some philosophers merely to his belief in the immortality of the soul and to his belief that true knowledge is attained only when the soul is free from the shackles of bodily bondage. But this belittling of Socrates ignores the fact that the normal experience or expectation of death produces involuntary reactions of shrinking and nervous anxiety, irrespective of oneʼs psychological beliefs.






Whatever may be the fallacies in his beliefs or arguments regarding the necessity of death as a pro-requisite for the soul to attain to pure knowledge, the equanimity displayed by Socrates only proves the admirable fortitude of the character of Socrates who was able to overcome the involuntary bodily and psychological reactions to the expectation and process of death.

Just a few moments before he succumbs to death, he reminds his friend to offer a cock to Asclepius,56 the god of healing: "Crito, I owe a cock to Asclepius, will you remember to pay the debt?" With these last words, in a style typical of Socrates, full of humour even in the face of death, Socrates implies that he is grateful to Asclepius for healing him, for according to him, death is the cure for life! This is Virtue, this is Knowledge; this is Socrates!

On his death, Xenophon described him as "so just that he



wronged no man in the most trifling affair.... so temperate that he never preferred pleasure to virtue; so wise that he never erred in distinguishing better from worse... so capable of discerning the character of others, and of exhorting them to virtue and honour, that he seemed to be such as the best and happiest of men would be."57

Notes and References

  1.  Plato, The Seventh Letter.

  2.  Silenus - In Greek mythology, Silenus was considered to be the tutor and faithful companion of the wine-god Dionysus'. He was bald, and fat with thick lips and a squat nose, and had the legs of a human and when intoxicated was said to possess special knowledge and the powers of prophesy.

  3. Plato, Symposium

  4.  Aristotle (384-322 BC), was a greek philosopher, a student of Plato and a teacher of Alexander the Great. He wrote on diverse subjects including physics, metaphysics, poetry, biology and zoology, logic, rhetoric, politics, government and ethics.Along with Socrates and Plato, he is considered to be one of the most influential of the ancient Greek philosophers.

  5.  The Persian king Darius was defeated at Marathon in 490 BC, and his son and successor Xerxes at Salamis in 480 BC.

  6.  Damon, son of Damonides, was an advisor to Pericles. Though his expertise was musicology, some say that he had a broader influence over Pericles' political policy; e.g. Damon is said to have been responsible for advising Pericles to incorporate the policy of paying for jury service.

  7.  Zeno of Elea (490-430 BC) was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher of Southern Italy. He was a member of the Eleatic School founded by Parmenides. He invented the Dialectic, adopted by Socrates.

  8.  Anaxagoras of Clazomenae (500-428 Be) was a pre-socratic Greek philosopher, member of the Ionian School of philosophy. Anaxagoras brought philosophy and the spirit of scientific inquiry from lonia to Athens where he lived for about 30 years. His observations of the celestial bodies and the fall of meteorites led him to form new theories of the universal order. He attempted to give a scientific



account of eclipses, meteors, rainbows and the sun, which he described as a mass of blazing metal, larger than the Peloponnese. The heavenly bodies, he asserted, were masses of stone torn from the earth and ignited by rapid rotation. However, these theories brought him into collision with the popular faith; Anaxagoras' views on such things as heavenly bodies were considered dangerous.

In 450, he was accused of impiety and collaboration with Persia, and condemned to death (?), but escaped with the help of Pericles, who had been his student, and retired to Lampsacus, where he died. The details of the story are disputed, but there is little doubt that the motives underlying his accusation were not religious or patriotic but political, and formed part of a campaign against Pericles and his advisers.

9. Plato (428-348 BC), whose original name was Aristocles, was an ancient Greek philosopher, the second of the great trio of ancient Greeks succeeding Socrates and preceding Aristotle who between them laid the philosophical foundations of Western culture. Plato was also a mathematician, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of The Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the western world. It was one of the two famous schools in ancient Athens, the other being the Lyceum of Aristotle. The Platonic Academy was closed down by the Christian emperor Justinian in AD 529, Plato was a student of Socrates and has written numerous Socratic dialogues which are a proof of his brilliance as a writer and a philosopher. Some of them are: Euthypro, Apology, Phaedo, Crito, Meno, Symposium, Republic.

10. Plutarch (46-127 AD), Mestrius Plutarchus, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist. Plutarch was born to a prominent family. His literary works consist of the Parallel Lives and the Moralia. .,

11. Pheidias (480-430 BC), son of Charmides, was an ancient Greek sculptor, universally regarded as the greatest of all Classical sculptors. Along with the Athenian works commissioned by Pericles, he also sculpted the colossal statue of Zeus at Olympia in the 5th century BC.

12. Acropolis is the Greek term for the central place of a city containing the municipal and religious buildings, preferably located on a hill, as is the one in Athens, which has the Parthenon, a temple of the goddess Athena and the treasury and other buildings located on it. For purposes of defense, early settlers naturally chose elevated ground,



frequently a hill with precipitous sides, and these early citadels became in many parts of the world the nuclei of large cities which grew up on the surrounding lower ground.

13. Erectheum is an ancient Greek temple on the north side of the Acropolis of Athens, notable for a design that is both elegant and unusual. It was built between 421 and 407 BC. The temple was dedicated to Athena and Poseidon. It was called Erectheum because it was built either in the honour of the legendary king Erectheus, who is said to have been buried nearby or in the honour of a Greek legendary hero Ericthonius.

14. Propylaea is any monumental gateway based on the original Propylaea that serves as the entrance to the Acropolis in Athens. The word propylaea is the union of the prefix pro (before or in front of) plus the plural of the Greek pylon or pylaion (gate), meaning literally 'that which is before the gates', but the word has come to mean simply gate building.

15. Aeschylus (525-456 Be) was an ancient Greek playwright. He is often recognized as the father or the founder of tragedy, and is the earliest of the three Greek tragedians whose plays survive, the others being Sophocles and Euripides. He expanded the number of characters in plays to allow for conflict between them; previously, characters interacted only with the chorus. Unfortunately, only seven of the estimated 70 plays written by Aeschylus have survived into modem times. Many of Aeschylus' works were influenced by the Persian invasion of Greece, which took place during his lifetime. His play The Persians remains an important primary source of information about this period in Greek history. The war was so important to Greeks and to Aeschylus himself that, upon his death around 456 BC, his epitaph included a reference to his participation in the Greek victory at Marathon but not to his success as a playwright.

16. Sophocles (495-406 BC) was the second of three great ancient Greek tragedians. He wrote 123 or more plays during the course of his life. For almost 50 years, he was the dominant competitor in the dramatic competitions of ancient Athens that took place during the religious festivals. Only seven of his tragedies have survived into modern times with their text completely known. The most famous of these are the three tragedies concerning Oedipus and Antigone: these are often known as the Theban plays or The Oedipus Cycle. Sophocles influenced the development of the drama, most importantly



 by adding a third character and thereby reducing the importance of the chorus in the presentation of the plot. He also developed his characters to a greater extent than earlier playwrights such as Aeschylus, and used female characters in his plays.

17. Euripides (480-406 BC) was the last of the three great tragedians of classical Athens. Euripides is known primarily for having reshaped the formal structure of traditional Attic tragedy by showing strong women characters and intelligent slaves, and by satirizing many heroes of Greek mythology. His plays seem modern by comparison with those of his contemporaries, focusing on the inner lives and motives of his characters in a way previously unknown to Greek audiences. Perhaps one of his more famous quotes is "Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad".

18. The Peloponnesian War, fought from 431 to 404 BC between the dominant city-state of Athens, master of an empire of allied states stretching across the Aegean Sea, and Sparta, which dominated its neighborhood through the Peloponnesian League. There were several causes for the war including the building of the Athenian long walls, Megara's defection and the envy felt by Spana at the growth of the Athenian Empire.

Athens, the world's first democracy, though poor in natural resources, was the naval power of the ancient world, while Sparta had the best army. The war that would eventually lead to the downfall of both city-states, started as a regional conflict between the city of Corinth and one of its colonies. Athens and Sparta were drawn into the dispute reluctantly, but with the passage of time, were completely embroiled in it.

At the start, Pericles, the great Athenian commander, fought a war of attrition against the Spartans, hoping to wear them out. But in 430 BC, a plague broke out within the city walls, killing large numbers of citizens and destroying support for Pericles' tactics.

The two powers agreed to peace in 424 BC, but neither side held to the treaty. In 415 BC, hostilities started up again, this time over control of Greek colonies on the island of Sicily. In the following years, the destruction of the Athenian fleet, the revolt of many of Athens' allies, internal unrest, and the intervention of Persia on the side of the Spartans, slowly diminished Athens' power. In 405 BC, Sparta was able to cut off Athens supply lines. The city soon surrendered. The victorious Spartans installed an oligarchy to rule over Athens, ushering in a bloody period of witch-hunts and political executions.



Although that government was overthrown a year later, Athenian democracy was critically diminished. And while Sparta enjoyed a period of dominance in the region, the war left it critically weakened as well.

The Peloponnesian War is a tragic story of virtue and ambition, of a society that developed theater, history, philosophy and architecture to unparalleled heights, and its collapse.

19. Xenophon (431-355 BC), an Athenian, was a soldier, mercenary and an admirer of Socrates. He is known for his writings on the history of his own times(Anabasis, Hellenica, etc.), the sayings of Socrates (Memorabilia, Symposium, Apology, etc.), and the life of Greece (on Horsemanship, Hunting with Dogs, etc.).

On being invited by Cyrus the younger, to fight against his elder brother, the emperor of Persia, Xenophon consulted Socrates whether he should go to Persia to fight for Cyrus or not. Socrates directed him to consult the Oracle at Delphi. Instead, Xenophon asked the Oracle as to which gods he should pray to and sacrifice to, in order to return successfully and safe from his voyage, and the oracle gave him the names. When he recounted to Socrates of his visit to the oracle, Socrates chastised him for asking the wrong question, but asked him to follow the advice of the oracle. Xenophon and his comrades were successful in their battle, but Cyrus was killed and they found themselves deep in enemy territory, leaderless. The ten thousand, as the Greek army of mercenaries was called, elected Xenophon as one of their leaders, and finally they fought their way home. Xenophon's record of his entire expedition the battle as well as the return journey homewards is called Anabasis — a text which was used by Alexander the Great as a field guide during his expeditions in Persia.

On his return, Xenophon was exiled from Athens because he fought under a Spartan king against Athens and also because of his association with Cyrus, a Persian. But it is said that he was later re-instated following the death of his son in battle fighting for Athens.

20. Parmenides of Elea (early 5th century BC) one of the most significant pre-Socratic Greek philosophers. He was a student of Ameinias. He founded the School of Elea and his students included Zeno of Elea and Melissus of Samos. His only known work is a poem called 'On Nature' of which only a fragment has survived. According to him, our perception of the -physical world is mistaken. Reality of the world is 'One Being'; without a beginning or an end,



constant, eternal, undestroyable. He taught that the Real is different from the Apparent; Reality is stastic, unchanging, that which is, and the phenomena of change and movement that one sees in the world was only an appearance of the same static eternal and unchanging reality.

Parmenides divided his teachings into two parts: the way of truth, and, the way of appearance. In the way of truth, he expounds: You cannot know what is not, and therefore you cannot speak of it. You can think of that which is. How can that, which is, come into being? If it came into being, then it is not, nor is it if it is going to be in the future. Thus the concept of becoming does not exist and the concept of extinguishing also does not arise.

21. Protagoras of Abdera (490-420 BC), though a contemporary of Socrates, was considered a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher. He was one of several fifth century Greek thinkers (including Gorgias, Hippias, and Prodicus) collectively known as the Older Sophists, a group of travelling teachers or intellectuals who were experts in rhetoric (the science of oratory) and related subjects. Protagoras is known primarily for two statements 1) Man is the measure of all things, and 2) that one could not tell if the gods existed or not. He is considered to be the first proponent of the philosophical view, which is known today as relativism. Some claim that these statements led him to being tried for impiety in Athens and his books being burned. He could make the weaker argument appear the stronger since he believed that sometimes the truth lay hidden in the weaker argument. Protagoras' notion that judgments and knowledge are in some way relative to the person judging or knowing, has been very influential, and is still widely discussed in contemporary philosophy. In his dialogue Protagoras, Plato credits him with having invented the role of the professional sophist or professional educator, training ambitious young men for a public career.

22. Hippias of Elis, one among the several Greek thinkers called the older sophists, was born about the middle of the 5th century BC. He was a younger contemporary of Protagoras and Socrates.

23. Prodicus of Ceos (465-415 BC) was one among the several greek thinkers called the older sophists. He came to Athens as ambassador from Ceos, and became known as a speaker and a teacher. Like Protagoras, he professed to train his pupils for domestic and civic service; but it would appear that, while Protagoras's chief instruments of education were rhetoric and style, Prodicus made linguistics prominent



 in his curriculum.

24. Thrasymachus (459-400 BC) was a sophist of ancient Greece best known as a character in Plato's Republic. His career appears to have been spent as a sophist, at Athens, though there is no concrete evidence that he was a sophist. He is credited with an increase in the rhythmic character of Greek oratory, also a greater appeal to the emotions through gesture.

25.. Archelaus was an Athenian philosopher of the 5th century, student of Anaxagoras and teacher of Socrates for a brief period.

26. In ancient Greece, the "Gymnasium" was a public school for physical education for the adult male population. The state-owned "gymnasiums" were basically rectangular sports grounds, surrounded by colonnades containing washrooms, massage rooms and training rooms.

27. "Gadfly" is a type of fly, but it is a term which is often used for people who upset the existing state of affairs by posing provoking questions, or who attempt to stimulate a new process of thinking in people by proving an irritant. The term "gadfly" was used by Plato to describe Socrates' relationship, as an irritating fly, to the Athenian political lot, which he compared to a slow and dimwitted horse. The term has been used to describe many politicians and social commentators. During his defense in the Apology, Socrates pointed out that dissent, like the tiny gadfly, was easy to swat, but the cost to society of silencing individuals who were irritating could be very high. "If you kill a man like me, you will injure yourselves more than you will injure me," because his role was that of a gadfly, "to sting people and whip them into a fury, all in the service of truth."

28. Critias (460-403 Be), born in Athens, was for a brief time a student of Socrates, a fact that did not endear Socrates to the Athenian public. Not liking the imposition of restraints by Socrates, both Critias and Alcibiades had abandoned their lessons with him. He was the leader of the Thirty Tyrants who came to rule Athens after its fall to the Spartans following the Peloponnesian war. He blacklisted many of its citizens, most of his prisoners were executed and their wealth was confiscated. He proved to be very violent; a tormented personality with many complexes and much hatred in contrast to the Platonic figure described as the student of Socrates.

29. Sophists were travelling lecturers, writers and teachers who offered training and instruction in return for fees. Through training in the art of speaking and arguing they prepared ambitious young noble



men for a successful political career

30. Xenophon, Memorabilia.

31. Cynicism was originally the philosophy of a group of ancient Greeks called the Cynics, founded by Antisthenes, who was inspired by the Socratic doctrine of knowledge is virtue. His students were Diogenes of Sinope, Crates of Thebes, and Zeno of Citium, who, inspired by the teachings of Socrates, was led to Crates of Thebes, who became his teacher, and later went on to develop the school of Stoics. All these men adhered steadfastly to the principles laid down by the Cynic School's founder, Antisthenes.

They believed that virtue was the only necessity for happiness, and that it was entirely sufficient for attaining happiness. The Cynics followed this philosophy to the extent of neglecting everything not furthering their perfection of virtue and attainment of happiness. Thus, they neglected society, personal hygiene, family obligations, pursuing money, etc., to lead entirely virtuous, and, thus, happy lives.

After his enlightenment, it is said, Diogenes travelled throughout Greece, almost naked and without provisions; enjoying the sun, the warm weather, the beaches, and so gathered about him thousands of pilgrims who listened to his talks, pregnant with sarcastic remarks about society. Even Alexander the Great, en route to Asian campaigns once went to him. Diogenes advised him to renounce conquest; however, Alexander declined, with "resignation", believing his destiny already written.

32. Antisthenes (444-365 BC), an Athenian, was the founder of the Cynic school of philosophy. In his youth he was a student of Gorgias, Hippias and Prodicus. Later, he came under the influence of Socrates, and became a devoted pupil.

It is said that so eager was he to hear Socrates speak that he would walk daily from Piraeus to Athens, accompanied by his friends. Filled with enthusiasm for the Socratic idea of virtue, he founded a school of his own the school of Cynics. He attracted the poorer masses by the simplicity of his life and teaching. He scorned the pride and pomp of the world. He wore a cloak with a staff and a bag, symbolising philosophy, which also became the uniform of his followers. So ostentatious was this display that Socrates rebuked, "I see your pride looking out through the rent of your cloak, O Antisthenes."

33. Aristippus (435-366 BC) was one of the disciples of Socrates.



Impressed with Socrates' calm acceptance of pleasure as a good, he developed a school of thought the Cyrenaic School of hedonism that advocated the ethic of pleasure which stated that for a good life, man should dedicate his life to the pursuance of pleasure and the avoidance of suffering or inflicting pain; but at the same time he must employ good judgment and exercise self-control to keep a check on powerful human desires 'to possess and not be possessed.'

34. Epicurus (341-270 BC) was an ancient Greek philosopher, the founder of Epicureanism, a popular school of thought. His philosophy is a combination of atomic materialism which defines the world to be made up of irreducible atoms and ethical hedonism which advocates the pursuance of pleasure through moderation of desires. His teachings gave great importance to the sense-perception.

He stated that the universe is infinite and eternal, and the events in the world are based on the movement of atoms in empty space, and that both body and soul perish after death and that the gods, also made up of atoms, though of a finer quality, do not interfere in the life of man and, therefore, do not punish or reward humans. Epicurus is famous for his argument about the contradiction between the existence of evil and the existence of an omnipotent God which he expounds as follows:

If God wants to eradicate evil but cannot, then he would be weak (which is not true according to the conventional definition of God). If God can eradicate evil but does not want to, then he would be cruel (which is not true according to the conventional definition of God).

If God neither wants to nor can eradicate evil, then he would be both cruel and weak (which is also not true according to the conventional definition of God).

If God wants to and can eradicate evil, then why does evil continue to exist in the world?

He, therefore, refutes the presence of an omnipotent God, but does not deny the existence of a number of gods, immortal and in bliss, living in between worlds in the universe, neutral to the lives of men. He believed that the objective of philosophy is to arrive at a happy and tranquil life by the eradication of two things: fear of gods and death, and pain both mental and physical. According to Epicurus, the yardsticks for good and bad were sensations of pleasure and pain, therefore the experience of pain was bad and the experience of



pleasure was good. He gave great importance to the presence of good friends for attaining a happy and tranquil life. However, he counselled restraint and moderation with respect to physical desires as unbridled desire and over-indulgence in pleasure could lead to dissatisfaction, ultimately to pain. According to him, man should aim at the absence of pain (both physical and mental) and a state of satiation and tranquility that was free from the fear of death and the retribution of the gods. In other words, when man is free from pain, he no longer desires pleasure, and when he is free from fear, he is tranquil and at peace.

According to him, it is not possible for man to live a pleasant life without being wise and just (to oneself and others). And likewise, it is not possible to be wise and just and not live a pleasant life.

35. Stoicism was founded by Zeno of Citium (333-264 BC) in Athens. His philosophy developed from the tenets of Cynicism founded by Antisthenes who was a student of Socrates. The basic teaching of this school was the attainment of freedom from anguish and grief by having clear judgement. This would help an individual improve his spiritual life and lead him towards truth which is virtuous. Reason was an important instrument for the stoics which they said should rule over passions, since passion distorts truth. They advocated self-control, endurance and detachment from distracting emotions. Stoics believed that by having a mastery over passion, it is possible to be free from the disharmony of the world and one would find peace within oneself.

36. Platonism is a term, which refers to the philosophy of Plato that expounds the existence of universals.

37. Phaedo of Elis (born at the end of 5th century BC) was a Greek philosopher who founded the Elian School. He was taken prisoner in the war between Elis and Sparta and brought to Athens as a slave where he eventually became a student of Socrates, who out of his affection for him had him freed. It is said that, since Plato named one of his dialogues after him, he must have been on friendly terms with him.

38. Eucleides of Megara (430-360 BC) was the founder of the Megarian or the Eristic School. He was influenced by the writings of Parmenides on the subject of disputation. On hearing about Socrates, he shifted to Athens and was under his tutelage for many years. Such was his sincerity that when a law was passed forbidding the entry of any Megarian into Athens, Eucleides would sneak in at



night into Athens to receive instructions. His philosophy was a synthesis of the teachings of both Socrates and Parmenides. From Socrates he learned that virtue is knowledge, and from Parmenides he learned that there is only one Reality The Being, while multiplicity, motion and sense perception (also called non-being) are illusory. Therefore, virtue is the knowledge of that Being (call it God, Intelligence, The Good, the One Absolute Being) and becoming (call it the many, evil), is its opposite. Other virtues, such as kindness, benevolence, wisdom, and patience are different names for the one virtue, i.e. knowledge of that One Being. He was evasive about the existence of the pantheon of gods that the Greeks believed in at that time. His fondness for disputation continued and he became involved in disputes in courts, which displeased Socrates who abhorred forensic competitions. This probably caused a rift between them, for after this, Eucleides founded the Megarian School, which taught students the art of disputation. Though he taught this art with great zest to the point of madness, nevertheless, he had not lost his softer side. There is an anecdote regarding a quarrel he had with his brother. Livid with Eucleides, his brother raged, "May I die, if I do not take revenge on you!" To which Eucleides replied, "And may I die if I do not manage to curb your indignation with endurance, and have you love me as you did before."

In court disputes, he disliked the analogical method of reasoning and believed that lawful argumentation should consist of unbiased inferences based on valid propositions.

39. Anytus was an honest and influential democrat why hated the Sophists and regarded Socrates as one of them. He also blames Socrates for influencing his son to rebel against him.

40. Symposium by Plato

41. Socrates' by Diogenes Laertius

42. Vedic Rishis were seekers of true knowledge, which they attained through the practice of Yoga, a science and art of psychological concentration and perfection. They described their aspirations and victories in the form of verses, which were expressions born out of their innermost vision and realization. The Vedas are a compilation of these verses, and other prose writings as well.

43. Upanishads are the books of knowledge that came after the Vedas, Brahmanas and the Aranyakas. They are also called the vedanta as they contain the essence of the knowledge contained in the Vedas.



The word Upanishad consists of three components: upa meaning near, ni, meaning closer and shad meaning dwell. Thus Upanishad means dwelling very closely to the secret knowledge.

44. Orphism was the belief in the transmigration of souls. According to it, man is bound to a wheel, which turns through endless cycles of birth and death. The central idea of Orphism seems to be the release of the soul from the wheel of birth. The soul's true life is in the heavens but it is bound to earth. In other words, man is an embodied soul partly of earth and partly of heaven; by a pure life, the heavenly part is increased and the earthly part diminished. Orphics believed that the soul might achieve eternal bliss or suffer eternal or temporary torment according to its way of life here on earth and that man should aim at becoming pure so that through purification and renunciation he may, eventually, attain to the union with God.

45. Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) was one of the greatest Indian Yogis of the modern times. He was a revolutionary, a philosopher, a poet and a visionary of evolution. He was an explorer of consciousness and the architect of a new world. "Man is a transitional being" and therefore a possibility of a Divine life on earth, not only in mind and life force but also in the physical body, was a discovery he made through his intensive exploration of consciousness, a search to which he devoted his entire life. In 1914, The Mother (Mirra Alfassa) (18781973) met Sri Aurobindo, and collaborated with him in his work for bringing down the supramental consciousness on earth. And the mission of manifesting supramental consciousness in physical consciousness was accomplished. The accounts of their research are to be found in 'Record of Yoga' by Sri Aurobindo (2 volumes) and Mother's Agenda (13 volumes).

46. Plato, "The Apology of Socrates", The Last Days of Socrates (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1961), p. 59.

47. Ibid.,p.6~[

48. Oracle of Apollo at Delphi: divinely inspired utterances given at Delphi, the temple of Apollo, the most widely revered of the Greeks Gods.

49. Plato, "The Apology of Socrates", The Last Days of Socrates (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1961), p. 63.

50. Ibid., p. 73.

51. Ibid., p. 60

52. Sri Rama, ancient King of Ayodhya, beloved hero and victor, whose exemplary virtues and life have been recounted most admirably in



Valmiki's Ramayana, one of the greatest epics of India, which along with another equally great epic, Mahabharata, has determined the value-system of Indian culture. His exile, ordained by his father under compulsion, his renunciation of his right to Ayodhya's throne, his love for his wife, Sita, who chose to accompany Sri Rama in exile, her abduction by the demon king Ravana, his (Sri Rama's) war with and destruction of Ravana and eventual rescue of Sita, and his return with Sita to Ayodhya, where he was coronated these are the main events of the major part of the story of Ramayana. Subsequently, Sri Rama, under the compulsion of public disapproval of the acceptance of Sita, since she had lived in captivity at Ravana's palace, exiled Sita from his kingdom. The difficult decision he had to take in this connection has raised much controversy about the responsibility of the King in the discharge of his public duties and the role that public opinion should play in the life of the King. Sri Rama has been worshipped in India as an ideal son, ideal husband, ideal friend, ideal brother, ideal father and an ideal king and the pattern of kingdom that he established, Ramrajya, has been put forward as the highest ideal of governance, and it has always evoked in the Indian psyche, the highest dream for eventual realization. Sri Rama has been regarded and worshipped in India as God incarnated as an ideal man, an Avatar.

 53. Commentary on the Phaedo by Benjamin Jowett

54. Cebes of Thebes, was a disciple of Socrates and Philolaus. He is one of the speakers in the Phaedo of Plato. Plato depicts him as a sincere seeker of truth and virtue.

55. Meno is a dialogue written by Plato, which has two central characters Socrates and Meno. The basic aim of this dialogue is to expound the theory that knowledge is innate and carried by the soul from its past birth. In its new birth it is simply a recollection of the same knowledge.

56. Asclepius is said to be the Greek demigod of healing. Legend says that his father, Apollo, sent him to Chiron, a centaur, to learn the art of healing. He was so gifted that apart from healing, he could also restore life to the dead. Apprehensive about his restorative powers that could upset the natural order in the world, Zeus struck him down with his thunderbolt and transformed him into a constellation.

57. Xenophon, "The Memorabilia of Socrates", literally translated from the Greek by J.S. Watson (Philadelphia: D. McKay, 1899), iv, 8.



Athena (430 BC)


"Hear, Oh Athena, Goddess of Wisdom, conceived in Mother Metis,  but born out of the of Father Zeus; Goddess of Battles, Goddess of Strategies, Goddess of Cities and Strong Citadels, Parthenos; Bearer of victory, Nike; Councilor, Weaver, Goldsmith Goddess of Olives and Oils, Goddess of Competitions, of Commerce, Strong Advocate of Just Laws, Tritogenia; we cal1 upon You with whatever name it pleases You to be called. If ever we have made offering to You, or honored You in word or deed, grant us that Arete which is the goal of mortal life."





(3rd century bronze)






Thebes and allied states

Athens and allied states

Corinth and allied states

Sparta and allied states


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