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Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Tiny View of Socrates

Socrates would have been lost in our world and most likely cast aside as a nut job.  He was dirty, barefoot, and ugly.  It was his habit to walk around the streets of the Athens marketplace and ask the people he met a series of questions aimed at examining their lives.  

Most people do not take kindly to someone, anyone, especially a filthy, ugly, and  unkempt man, who interrupts their day to search their thinking. It was the life of Socrates.

To make matters worse,  Socrates didn't  write anything down.  All we know about his life and times we read from his students, the most famous being Plato.  Socrates wanted to know what and why people were what they were.  Did their belief follow the rules of common sense.  In other words if a married man was happy did it mean all married men were happy.  Common sense says no.  So if Socrates could find an exception to a statement he considered it false. He would consider finding more exceptions to a statement until it was found to be completely false.

I would imagine it was annoying at best.  Socrates was trying to get everyone he met to think outside the box, to be a self confident thinker and not to follow the crowd.  People were likened to sheep who always followed the leader and were horribly afraid to get out of the herd.  People are especially prone to follow those they deem successful or rich.  He found out , however, the people who were famous or rich, more likely than not did not understand or know why they had become rich or successful. Most thought they were just lucky.   

Socrates thought anyone and everyone should think.  Thinking should not be left to the folks with higher educational degrees.  It does not necessary make them  better thinkers- a horrible misconception.

If I make a statement, and say Bill Clinton, makes a conflicting statement, the most famous will be taken as correct.  Although, Bill might not know anything about the subject.  Human nature, I guess.  Education and fame trumps  relative unknown author and speaker.  Hum. Socrates was not a fan of democracy for this reason. Majority rules and focus groups that guides us today would have unnerved him.  He was a great fan of logical and reasonable thought.  Those two things are not necessarily present in our modern day decisions.

Socrates is best known for saying "I know that I know nothing."  The  Oracle of Delphi said he was the wisest man alive at the time.

The "I know that I know nothing." quote follows a basic philosophy many of we life time learners.Yet we put it another way.  "The more I know, the more I realize I don't know."  Those of us who read and study to write books and articles realize what we know is the tip of the iceberg.

Socrates was eventually tried and put to death for corrupting the youth of Athens and ignoring the gods .
He was forced to drink hemlock and died, what I am sure was a nasty death.

What he taught us rings true today.  An un-examined life is a wasted one.   It is worth it to know what you really believe and to not follow the crowd.   It will open a new chapter in you life.  Colors will appear brighter and the journey more meaningful and joy full.   I don't think hemlock is as readily available as it was back then, so grab a book you have always wanted to read but were afraid people would make fun of.

Someone once asked me what I was reading.  My daughter was there and said " Mom reads weird books."
I thought it a great compliment.

Have a great day.


  1. My husband has been taking a philosophy class, and he's been talking about Plato and Socrates and their views on democratic rule. I don't believe they would be impressed with our modern politics.

  2. Great post. And for the record, I read weird books too :-)

  3. Thanks, aren't weird books great?

  4. That was an awesome post. And so true.