Monday, 11 October 2010


Socrates is generally considered to be the father of Western Philosophy. Although he holds this title to many people, there is actually relatively little known about him in terms of his philosophical ideas for definite. This is simply because Socrates never wrote any of his ideas down. All of his known ideas were transcribed by Plato, who is likely to have developed them. This means that distinction between what is Plato's and what is Socrates's can be sketchy unless Plato discreetly credited Socrates in his Republic. Nevertheless, here are two key ideas credited to Socrates himself. His views on CONSCIENCE and THE GOOD.


As one of the most influential western philosophers in history, he lived in Athens in ancient Greece and before becoming a philosopher he was a soldier in the Athenian army. Through being a philosopher he expressed his views publicly and this irritated the state. Even though he was extremely loyal to the laws of Athens he was still sentenced to death by drinking hemlock for heresy (not accepting the State Gods) and ‘corrupting the young’ (getting people to think for themselves.)

View of Conscience

Socrates was very loyal in obiding the laws of Athens. However, he said that he had a higher duty to follow. His duty to God. He considered to have been put in his post as a philosopher by God and as this to his was more important to him than the state, denying the search for ‘truth’ was the equivalent to abandoning your post in warfare. He claimed that his conscience refused to let him do this. Even though this cost him his life. He stated:

”I should have done a horrible thing, men of Athens, if, whilst I had stayed by ground with the rest, even at the risk of death, and obeyed the general whom you choose to command me…yet when the god gave me a station, I were to desert my post from fear of death or any other thing.”Socrates



Socrates was asked "what is good?" He says that he does not know and that he “can only say what is a child of the Good and resembles it closely.” Socrates then went on to explain how the Good is similar to the sun because the sun is the source of growth and light and in the intelligible world, the Good is the source of reality, truth, love etc. The sun causes growth and nourishment. The Good therefore is the source of intelligibility and being. This metaphor of the sun being 'good' went on to be represented in Plato's Analogy of the Cave.

Socrates as depicted in Jaques-Louis David's painting 'The Death of Socrates' (1787)

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