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Socrates and Plato: Significant Philosophers of Ancient Greece

The Unexamined Life is not Worth Living. This is the famous quote proclaimed by Socrates, a controversial philosopher of ancient Athens. He believed that anyone could lead a significant and meaningful existence by examining his or her own life and ideas very thoroughly. (Soccio) Socrates was wise in respect to the fact that he never accepted a truth that was told to him, without getting incontestable evidence to back it up. He made the realization that people believed in things without even knowing where their ideas came from.

In ancient Athens, citizens believed in many gods and myths associated with them. There was no evidence whatsoever to back up their religious claims. (Fiero) Philosophy to Socrates was the souls pursuit of salvation, signifying that Socrates was somewhat of a religious individual. (Palacios) He believed that he was guided by God, and occasionally was inspired by his divine presence. In fact, according to Platos Defense of Socrates, Socrates said that a god swayed him into not involving himself in politics.

He did not want to hurt anyone by following unjust politics. (Beck) On the other hand, Socrates was quite skeptical of the belief in many gods. Once, when he approached a famous priest he asked, What is piety? ” It is honoring the gods and doing their will, the priest replied. Confused, Socrates asked, “But there are many gods of Greece. They often fight among themselves in our myths. Is their one god I should obey, or how do I know when to support one god and when to follow another? The priest was embarrassed by his question and witnesses snickered.

Philips) This kind of questioning was typical of Socrates. His search for knowledge by asking questions is known as the Socratic Method. (Soccio) Socrates was put to death in 399 B. C. E. for allegedly corrupting the youth of Athens, by questioning the nature of their beliefs. (Fiero) Socrates most famous student, Plato, took Socrates teachings one-step further after his death. He was angered by the death of his friend, and began to distrust government; namely, the Athenian democracy.

He thought that a rule by majority was corrupt, and that the majority of people were not bright enough to make decisions for the state. Plato attempted to demonstrate that there was proof of a divine goodness by several illustrations. Such illustrations include his famous Divided Line, The Simile of the Sun, and The Allegory of the Cave. In these expressions, he aims to pick apart the foundation of knowledge and where it comes from. He believed that human souls could ultimately reach the highest level of reality and have a total understanding of all things.

In other words, the soul who had reached the highest level of understanding no longer needed to question or perceive things, because he would recognize and comprehend pure knowledge or pure goodness. (Soccio) In a way, I think Plato was trying to prove what God is. He is different from Socrates in that way, because Socrates was really only trying to distinguish fact from myth here on earth. Both were very concerned with moral issues, however. The Ancient Greek philosophy was absorbed by the conquering Romans, and has a profound effect on the way modern western philosophers think.

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