It had been awhile since I had read any of the Greeks so I thought this would be a good time to have a teacher-in-a-pocket so to speak and the author, Peter Kreeft, was very accommodating in that role. I started reading his book, then read the entire Apology, and returned to this. It would be even more helpful to read the other two Socratic dialogues, Euthyphro and Phaedo , which Kreeft draws This is an excellent companion to get acquainted or re-acquainted with Socrates, especially his Apology. It would be even more helpful to read the other two Socratic dialogues, Euthyphro and Phaedo , which Kreeft draws from to flush out his basic lesson in Philosophy. Selections of each are offered in this text so it is not essential, but might prove enlightening. The book is entitled Philosophy by Socrates.
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This precious wisdom is what he ironically says he Sophocles. No more Philosophy is the love of wisdom; wisdom is see- precious property could possibly be at stake. Philosophy is ironic Therefore, philosophy is naturally ironic. The ironic contrast Socrates refers to in his first How you felt, gentlemen of Athens, when sentence is the contrast between who he really is and you heard my accusers, I do not know; hut who his accusers say he is, and try to persuade the I-well, I nearly forgot who I was, they were jury he is, and nearly persuade Socrates himself he so persuasive.
Yet as for truth-one might is. So he says, with sarcastic, ironic exaggeration. But what most astonished me in the ever met as Plato calls him in his epitaph in the very many lies they told was when they warned last line in the Phaedo ; but his accusers are persuad- you to take good care not to he deceived by ing the jury that he is the worst man they ever met, me, "because I was a terribly clever speaker.
He is also in truth the They ought to have been ashamed to say it, most pious man in Athens, but they will persuade the because I shall prove them wrong at once by jury that he is an atheist. The irony is complete. That have spoken not one word of truth. Truth cannot be de- who speaks the truth a clever speaker. If that stroyed, but it can be hidden, by our own foolish is what they mean, I would agree that I am prejudices or dark desires; and "persuasion" can lead not an orator of their class.
Irony is the contrast be- rates loves truth. He is fanatically, absolutely single- tween appearance and reality, between what seems and minded in being devoted to truth. You might even say what is, or between what we expect and what we dis- cover. Since it sider only one thing" 18a. If it serves truth, it is good; if it serves falsehood, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about it is evil.
There are honest ways to persuade people many things; one thing is needful" Lk rn The by appealing to objective evidence and logic and "one thing" Socrates asks them to consider is justice, also dishonest ways by appealing to anything other which is a kind of truth, truth about right and wrong: than truth and goodness, for example, fear, force, "Please consider only one thing and attend care- prejudice, lust, greed, pride, and so on.
Many required it. It was deemed rates to be unjust, we have a supreme irony, a most not only useful but honorable. But the word "rheto- striking contrast between appearance and reality. Thus Socrates contrasts it to phi- tioning appearances to find truth. Darkness is judg- losophy. Instead of rhetoric, Socrates uses simple, ing light.
Philosophy is plain Rhetoric has not disappeared today, nor has it weakened; it has just changed its forms. In the past, [Y]ou shall hear from me the whole truth; not its form was mainly oratory, that is, speechmaking, eloquence, gentlemen, like their own, decked either political or religious or legal.
Today its most out in fine words and phrases, not covered powerful tools are not words but images, in TV and with ornaments; not at all-you shall hear movies. In the "image media", words are subordinate things spoken anyhow in the words that first to images: when words are used they are suggestive come.
For I believe justice is in what I say. In modern com- munications this is vastly preferred to argument. What is rhetoric? Advertising has spread its technique Rhetoric is the art of persuasion by words. In an- everywhere: products are sold by suggestion, not rea- cient Athens, which did not have modern media tech- son.
You need that apple! Eat that apple! Be like Because he is a good psychologist, and he knows God! They controls power. If you want to find that invisible are the unconscious, unexamined prejudices against thing, power, find the visible money trail. And one him. And he wants to examine them. For, as he fa- of the surest and quickest ways to get rich in our so- mously says, "Life without enquiry is not worth ciety is to learn to lie to people about how much they living" 38a.
Prejudices always come from familiar stereotypes, Socrates is such a terrible salesman that he cannot and the four "old charges" against Socrates are de- even "sell" the truth about himself and save his own scriptions of the philosophy of other, more familiar life.
He is not "clever". His speech is not "covered philosophers, the "pre-Socratic philosophers". Two with ornaments". He simply speaks the truth, the of them describe the cosmological, or physical, whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Rhetoric loses its power There are many parallels between these two groups in the face of death. Death is the friend of truth. The modernists, like tomorrow morning he will be hanged. Philosophy is misunderstood rialism, and believe in objective truth and the power of reason to find it.
The postmodernists, especially Suppose you were on trial for theft. Would you be- the "deconstructionists", like the ancient Sophists, gin your defense by arguing that you were not a ter- are interested in human, ethical, and, above all, po- rorist, a drug dealer, or a pimp?
There things, "not believing in the gods of the state and cor- is nothing new under the sun. The Greeks invented rupting the young", begin by defending himself just about every school of philosophy that would ap- against four other charges that no one brought pear for the next two millennia. He is "a highbrow", that is, an "egghead", "smart- "postmodernists". He was not an "expert", an as- aleck", or "know-it-all". Today we call them "ex- trologer, an alchemist, or a lawyer. But these were the familiar categories people had 2.
He is "brainy in skylore", that is, an astrologer, for philosophers in Athens, and Socrates was stuffed with his eyes on the stars and his head in the into them.
Many of the ancients thought the stars like most stereotypes, are not even exaggerations or controlled everything on earth. Socrates is a new kind of philosopher: one who, without ar- 3. He "has investigated what is under the earth", rogance, is confident about the use of human reason that is, he is an alchemist or at least a physicist, to find objective truth like the cosmological philoso- like most of the "pre-Socratic" philosophers, who phers and unlike the Sophists but who, like the tried to unravel the secrets of the physical world, Sophists, is interested only in the "humanities", not especially by finding what everything was made the physical sciences, and most especially in ethics.
No other philosopher in history has owed 4. He "makes the weaker argument the stronger", so little to his predecessors. The gap between Soc- that is, he is a lawyer, a Sophist. It is only half a rates and all his predecessors is far greater than the joke: the Sophists taught the art of successful per- gap between any two of his successors. The Sophists were hated even more in quintessentially Greek, as Jesus was quintessentially Athens than lawyers are in America which has 4 Jewish.
And Socrates is the quintessen- est argument the strongest" was probably a fa- tial philosopher; Socrates is pure philosophy per- miliar advertisement of the Sophists. Thus it is philosophy itself that is bound to be misunderstood. In this, as in many other ways, The real Socrates does not fit any of these de- Socrates is to philosophy what Jesus is to religion. Philosophy is a failure question with none answering.
It is not just cial argument, the one that is literally a matter of life ignorance but ignorance of your own ignorance. So was Buddha. So was Confucius. Few of their contemporaries un- Even the heavyweight champion of the world will derstood or believed any of them.
Yet their central lose to a flyweight if he has to fight blind. It did not require a the simplest operation if the lights go out in the op- Ph.
It required a Ph. Soc- Socrates knows this. They will kill swords, cannot fight against a fog. He will defend him, and he foresees this. Athenian law required the man who Indeed, I have had many accusers complain- brought legal charges against another to submit to ing to you, and for a long time, for many cross-examination, and even to pay the fine or pen- years now, and with not a word of truth to alty that he sought from the defendant if he lost the say; these I fear, rather than Anytos and his case.
But Socrates cannot defend himself against friends, although they, too, are dangerous; "everyone" and no one. A prejudice is something hut the others are more dangerous, gentle- "everybody" knows and "nobody" defends. All opinions were boys, and persuaded you Terms must be clearly defined, when you would he most likely to believe, This is not just logic; it is justice, fairness, and no one to defend.
The most unreasonable honesty. This is also the essential method of science thing is that it is impossible to know their as well as philosophy.
What we call the sciences were names For there is no possibility of hav- not sharply distinguished from philosophy until af- ing them produced here, or of cross-ques- ter Newton. What ideas? Follies, fallacies, fancies, fantasies, prej- Each of the sciences is successful and popular be- udices. You emerge from a conversation with Soc- cause each science generates a practical application, rates poorer, not richer, in opinions.
Ordinarily, money terial world and satisfies our material desires. But represents material goods or services that we want to philosophy is unpopular, by its very nature, because exchange for others.
But wisdom has no price because it is not a material good. Philosophy is poor All material goods diminish when shared: you have less money, fame, power, and so forth, after you give Socrates makes a point that he never took a fee for some away.
Peter Kreeft - Philosophy 101 by Socrates
Peter Kreeft’s Recommended Philosophy Books
Philosophy 101 by Socrates: An Introduction to Philosophy via Plato's Apology