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“The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” Albert Einstein
Philosophy shifted from natural philosophy, which was concerned with the nature of the physical realm, to classic philosophy, which compared the process of knowing and understanding. The leader of this new philosophical movement was a commoner named Socrates. Socrates lived in Athens during an era which emphasized the importance of the individual and his place in society. Athens was the cultural locus of the Greek world. Since Socrates grew up in this culturally strong location, he was familiar with the rhetoric of the Sophists.
During this era of Athenian Empire, a group of intellectual lecturers, philosophers, and teachers sprouted in Athens. This “philosophical” group called the Sophists portrayed themselves as knowledgeable and distributors of truth. Unlike true philosophers, the Sophists charged people for the dispersal of their knowledge and they made a healthy living from it. The Sophists created a new form of philosophy that was often confused by the people of Athens with true philosophy. This group of intellectual persons popularized the ideas of various early philosophers. Based on their understanding of prior philosophic thought, most of them concluded that truth and morality were essentially matters of opinion. Thus, in their own teaching, they tended to emphasize forms of persuasive expression, such as the art of rhetoric, which provided pupils with skills useful for achieving success in life, particularly public life. The Sophists, like the natural, pre-Socratic philosophers shunned the notions of Greek mythology. On the other hand, they denounced philosophical thought and proclaimed that even though answers of the most enigmatic philosophical questions may exist, no one has the ability know the absolute truth about the quirks and unexplainable events that happen on earth and in the universe otherwise known as skepticism.
The Sophists contributed to the “democentric” society in Athens. One Sophist named Portagoras once said, “Man is the measure of all things” . Protagoras meant through this statement that all moral standards is correlated and decided differently between individuals. The Sophists created great conflict in Athens by declaring that there were no moral absolute norms. Socrates begged to differ; he tried to display that there are norms that were absolute. The Sophists were the first relativists much like today’s society.
Socrates’ attitude towards politics and Sophism changed the culture of Athens forever. “Socrates believed that he had received a call to pursue philosophy and could serve his country best by devoting himself to teaching, and by persuading the Athenians to engage in self-examination and in tending to their souls.” Socrates desired for things to change. He changed great culture through his art of dialogue/teaching, his teaching of true philosophy or his project, and his guides to insight.
Socrates had a unique way of teaching and expressing his ideas and thoughts. Instead of lecturing like most teachers did, Socrates chose the method of discussing and questioning. This method also known as the Socratic method which consisted of asking probing questions that forced his students to think deeply about the meaning of life, truth, and justice. In a conversation, Socrates would ask as if he knew nothing of which was being discussed. By doing this, Socrates would breakdown and depict every little detail in his opponent’s argument and recognize the weaknesses. Socrates would then corner his opponent to realize what is correct and incorrect. Through this ignorant, inquisitive method, Socrates forced people to use their common sense. This enabled him to continually expose the weaknesses in people’s thinking. Questions are much more powerful than any answer, and that is why Socrates shocked so many people and was eventually sentenced to drink the hemlock.
Socrates used this procedure to aid people to recollect true and correct insight. Socrates believed that he could not force a person understand true thought and insight, for he recognized that understanding comes from within a person. Socrates believed that everyone had the ability to use their innate reason to grasp philosophical truths; innate reason already exists in everyone. He referred to this enlightening change as “giving birth”.
Socrates project was to spread insightful philosophy to everyone. Socrates lived at the same time as the Sophists. Influenced by the era, Socrates was concerned with man and his place
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Philosophy, Socratic dialogues, Dialogues of Plato, Epistemology, Ancient Greek philosophers, Rhetoric, Socrates, Sophism, Socratic method, Protagoras, Sophist, Theory of Forms
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