Defending Socrates: The True Definition of Philosophy

In the dialogues: The Apology, The Republic and The Phaedo, written by Plato, virtue, knowledge, and opinion are common themes throughout these dialogues, which help to explain the true definition of philosophy. Throughout these conversations, the definition of philosophy plays a vital role explaining the essential ideas that Socrates wants the readers to understand; he then wants his readers to form a Socratic position. The formal definition of Philosophy is a person who loves wisdom and who curious to learn. With the understanding of what Philosophy is and the dialogues you have read, will you defend philosophy or prosecute it and deconstruct the Socratic position? Personally, reading these dialogues I have come up with an executive conclusion that I would like to defend Socrates for many reasons, which are supported by factual evidence from the text.

In the dialogue The Apology, virtue, knowledge and opinion are ideas that are vital in understanding philosophy in this dialogue. We first examine the role of virtue, which is understood to explain that to be wise you have to have knowledge, so you can make conclusions based on understanding, not a guess.

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"...Chaerephon asked the Oracle of Delphi if there was any man wiser than Socrates; and the answer was that there was no man wiser" (Apology, et al, pg 6). Socrates thinks that he does not know anything, but it is his curious nature, that allows him to learn more and become omniscient. Moreover, "I tell you that virtue is not given by money, but that from virtue comes money and every other good man, public as well as private" (Apology, et al, pg 40).

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Socrates argues that virtue is not something one can purchase, but good things will come to those who are virtuous. We later understand, how knowledge allows one to become wise, and to be wise, you have to possess knowledge. "Above all, I shall then be able to continue my search into true and false knowledge, as in this world, so also in the next; and I shall find out who is wise; and who pretends to be wise, and who is not" (Apology, et al, Page 96). This quote explains that the true knowledgeable people are always going to be recognized for their scholarly insight on topic, on the other hand, the people who pretend to be intellectual, will fail and people will see through their forgery. Socrates serves the people of Athens with a position that will never get filled with anyone else. Socrates understands that the men of Athens want him dead, but it is Socrates who makes others hear him out. "I would have you known, that if you kill me such an one as I am, you will injure yourselves more than you will injure me. Nothing will injure me, not Meletus not yet Anytus -they cannot, for a bad man is not permitted to injure a better than himself. I do not deny that Anytus may, perhaps kill him, or drive him to exile, or deprive him of civil rights; and he may imagine, and others may imagine, that he is inflicting a great injury upon him: but there I do not agree. For the evil of doing as he is doing- the evil of unjustly taking away the life of another - is far greater" (Apology, et al, pg 70). This quote means that Socrates believes that if he gets killed, society will not recover upon his death. Greek culture viewed him as a threat to society, hence why they want to kill him. Simultaneously, Socrates views himself as a remedy to an existing social problem. He feels as if others will "inflict injury upon him" (Apology, et al,pg 70). He states that "...the evil of unjustly taking away other life of another- is a greater fear." (Apology, et al, pg 70). He says this because he fears that if he gets killed, society will crumble, and the people will become lazy and become unproductive. In the dialogue The Republic, Plato writes about the role of virtue, wisdom and opinion are prevalent ideas in the dialogue and is key to understanding Philosophy. On the other hand, Plato also talks about the idea of the three parts of the city and describes their function in society. Plato, then talks about the divided line and how the divided line separates different ideas such as: the good, the sun, knowledge and opinion. In the Republic the role of virtue is described to show how injustice is stronger and more powerful than the justice. "A statement was made that injustice is stronger and more powerful than justice having been, identified with wisdom and virtue, is easily shown to be stronger than injustice, if justice is ignorance; this can no longer be questioned by any one" (Republic, et al, pg 84). This quote means that if justice is wise and true, it is stronger than injustice, but if justice is being uneducated, no one can question it. To be wise, you have to have understanding of a particular topic along with the proof to prove others wrong. If a wise person is deemed wrong, they would be able to support their case, and prove that they are correct. To be wise, you live the just life, which is deemed to be better as opposed to unjust. On the other hand, in The Republic we examined that the unjust life was better, because people could impregnate people with the ideals that they wanted them to perceive them as. People who think the unjust life is better, don't have the wisdom to make their argument. To be a philosopher, one would have to possess knowledge. With this understanding, the individuals with knowledge are the best people to rule the city. "For there is reason to think that if a city were composed entirely of good men, then to avoid office would be as much an object of contention as to obtain office is at present; then we should have plain proof that the true ruler is not meant by nature to regard his own interest, but that of his subjects; and every one who knew this would choose rather to receive a benefit from another than to have the trouble of conferring one" (Republic, et al, pg 60). This quote supports the argument that the best people to govern the city are the people with the most knowledge. Knowledge is also defined as "the object of science is knowledge (assuming that to be the true definition), but the object of a particular science of a particular kind of knowledge; I mean, for example, that the science of house-building is a kind of knowledge which is defined and distinguished from other kinds and is therefore termed architecture" (Republic, et al, pg 202). This means that to understand how to start something, you need the knowledge to take the first steps, to understand it and then proceed with the next steps that follow. On the other hand, if opinion " the subject matter of knowledge, something else must be the subject of the opinion. Well then, is not being the subject matter of opinion? Or rather how can there be an opinion, at all about not being? ...Impossible He who has an opinion about some one thing" (Republic, et al, pg 271). This quote means that without knowledge you cannot understand beings and how they impact others. Plato talks about how you do not want to have a society where people do not get too rich, they do not go to work, and not poor enough that they cannot afford to live a quality life with the essentials they need to survive. For example if a doctor cannot practice medicine with the proper tools such as syringes or tongue depressors, how are they suppose to carry out their job correctly? Socrates describes the three parts of the city: gold, silver, and bronze and distinguishes the several nure guardians and rulers, where rational is the part of us that seeks wisdom and knowledge. Silver is made up of helpers and enforcers of the law where the High spirit is the angry and prideful part -honor driven individuals. Lastly, bronze is merchants and tradesmen where the Appetitive part of the soul that desires. Socrates then goes on to talk about how Civic Wisdom resides with the Golds and it consists in the knowledge of how all parts of the city are connected to each other, while keeping the city operating at the highest level. Knowledge is the defining characteristic of civic wisdom. Later, he argues that: one cannot make laws for all of the city unless you understand how each part of that city is causally related to each part. He defines wisdom socially- personal wisdom dwells inside the Rational part of the soul, he explains that knowledge of how parts of the soul are connected to each other. By doing this it keeps the soul as healthy and balanced as possible. Socrates says that it is important to understand the causal relationships. On the other hand, civic bravery resides with the silvers. Bravery is defined as the preservation by the Silvers of their education about what things are and are not to be feared and in what order as given to them by Golds. Personal bravery resides within the High Spirit. Bravery is the preservation by the high spirit of the education of what is and not to be feared and in what order it is given to it by the rational. Civic temperance runs through all three sections of the city and consists in the agreement of harmony between the three sections as to which ought to rule ad which ought to obey. Justice is the foundational virtue: all other virtues are created from justice. Without justice, you can be temperament, brave, and wise. The social definition of justice is defined as the precondition for all virtue, and how specialization is justice itself. Personal Justice runs through all three parts of the soul; the principle that each part of the soul doing its own business is the principle of specialization which applies to psychology. Plato describes the concept of the divided line and the four stages of Cognition in more depth throughout the middle of The Republic. Socrates states that rational should rule the psyche, and that people understand reality through images, so we can mentally identify object. Naturally, pictures, only give you limited perspective on things. Inspecting physical objects is more memorable within the human mind. Humans see with their eyes through the sensory experience, rather than knowledge; it is a varying level of belief. Socrates later talks about how everything in the physical universe is on a constant state of fluctuation. When bodies interact they can get to know each other, but do not know what they are, but rather they only know each other and how they appear in respects to physical properties. Knowledge, on the other hand, is more than just physical, for example to understand mathematical concepts such as the pythagorean theorem, which contains all possible particular examples. To understand a concept is much greater than to understand somethings physical properties. He then talks about how beauty itself makes things beautiful, and that beauty is eternal and cannot change. Socrates then emphasizes the importance of the sun which allows humans to survive and provides light so individuals can see objects, especially beautiful people or objects. "The Good" which socrates refers to allows the non-physical self to exist and is what allows metaphysical things to exist. Plato's Analogy of the Divided Line, describes the Four stages of Cognition through his knowledge of how society works best. In The Phaedo, Socrates explains what it means to be a philosopher, while describing the traits of what makes someone a philosopher, he talks about knowledge, and temperance. Socrates states that everyone already has knowledge inside us, but humans need to be able to know what something is to see it and understand it. Socrates then describes that experiences are meaningless to individuals, unless you are relating them against a prior knowledge of the forms. The goal to educate students is not to teach them anything, but to draw out them through insight of pre-existing knowledge. "It has been proved to us by experience that if we would have pure knowledge of anything we must be quit of the body—the soul in herself must behold things in themselves: and then we shall attain the wisdom which we desire, and of which we say that we are lovers; not while we live, but after death; for if while in company with the body, the soul cannot have pure knowledge, one of two things follows-either knowledge is not to be attained at all, or, if at all, after death...(Phaedo, et al, Page 66). The quote explains Socrates' belief that through experience we attain knowledge and then possess wisdom, but when an individual dies, their knowledge does not go with them to the afterlife. This ties in with the idea that "you can't take your money with you when you die", where when you die you lack the ability to experience anything, and therefore, you cannot bring knowledge with you in the afterlife. Socrates then talks about how the "the souls is pure" and does not indulge in the body, which is a very admirable trait connecting to what it means to be a philosopher. "The lovers of knowledge are conscious that the soul was simply fastened and glued to the body—until philosophy received her, she could only view real existence through the bars of a prison, not in and through herself; she was wallowing in the mire of every sort of ignorance, and by reason of lust had become the principal accomplice in her own captivity (Phaedo, et al, 82). This quote reaffirms Socrates' position on how you cannot take your knowledge in the afterlife because the soul and knowledge come apart when one dies. This then weaves in with the idea of temperance, which allows the soul to interact with other forms. Temperance allows one to understand others and yourself for what they are deep down, not just on the surface. With this being said, Socrates talks about how a true philosopher pulls from particulars from fluxene variations to underline universal or formal aspects that made particulars what they are. At the end of this dialogue, Socrates drinks the poison he is given and lies down, to prepare to die. "He was beginning to grow cold about the groin, when he uncovered his face, for he had covered himself up, and said (they were his last words)—he said: Crito, I owe a cock to Asclepius; will you remember to pay the debt? The debt shall be paid, said Crito; is there anything else? There was no answer to this question; but in a minute or two a movement was heard, and the attendants uncovered him; his eyes were set, and Crito closed his eyes and mouth" (Phaedo, et al, pg 1,325). This quote is explains that Socrates does not fear death, he actually believe that death will release him from the prison of the body. The Apology, The Republic, and The Phaedo all explain what it means to be a philosopher, and how virtue, knowledge and opinion are important to the lessons Socrates talks about. In my opinion, I believe that Socrates should have lived on and fought his death, but Socrates felt as if death freed him from his body which allowed him to experience the afterlife. Plato wrote these three vital books to help students like I am, to construct a definition of philosophy and take a stance on why they believe in his ideas or condemn them, it is entirely up to the reader. On the other hand, I believe what Socrates says in these three dialogues are very true and explains how people are cognitively thinking through, virtue, knowledge and opinion. He also explains what happens to the soul and the body after one dies.

Updated: Feb 16, 2024
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Defending Socrates: The True Definition of Philosophy. (2023, Apr 09). Retrieved from

Defending Socrates: The True Definition of Philosophy essay
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