Socrates (Life & Times)


The problem of Socrates concerns the nature of the philosophy and personality of a major thinker who did not himself write anything. While this fact confronts anyone considering his intellectual biography, compensation comes by way of the particularly authentic sources, such as Plato's Dialogues and Xenophon's Apology.The early dialogues of Plato, who was born around the same time as Xenophon, are concerned with the portrayal of Socrates as a character and a philosopher. It is from Plato that Socrates has come down to us in familiar form as the great thinker with an ugly body but a beautiful mind, a man who was sociable and convivial, with a lifestyle that not exclude the erotic but yet was austere and morally compelling. Socrates is presented as a talker, a thinker who thought and taught through the spoken word. Plato's dialogues bring Socrates the conversationalist to life while presenting scholars with complex problems of differentiating the views of Socrates from those of Plato himself.A biography of the Socrates must begin with an account of the social and political world in which he lived. The ancient world of Greece is the broader canvas with which one needs some acquaintance. The social, political and cultural currents flowing through fifth century Athens are inseparable from an understanding of the events and attitudes that Socrates examined and intellectually dissected.

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