Socrates’ Examined Life: A Philosophical Analysis of Plato’s The Apology

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Socrates’ examined life permeates the level of philosophical concepts from acknowledging self-ignorance to living life worthwhile.

What I really lack is to be clear in my mind what I am to do… the thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live and die.”

Søren Kierkegaard
The concept of Socrates' examined life and Soren Kierkegaard's philosophy on the idea to live and die for.
The statue of Søren Kierkegaard (Photo Attribution: CC BY-SA 3.0)

To seek the “truth which is true to me” is the business of philosophy that poses challenges to us all. The end of this endeavor, however perilous and laborious, is always to seek the truth through the deep and constant habitual reflection of the self—a deep examination of one’s life.

This gargantuan task and the conversation of unraveling the world and the deep self had started as a potpourri that is of Greek civilization. The quest for seeking the truth that can help us to find the “idea for which I can live and die” also leads us to the unceasing dialogue that began in Ancient Greece. Its end is improbable.

The pivotal contributions of the Greek philosopher Socrates, who has permeated the Great Conversation of Philosophy over time, are crystallized into a fact that his epoch becomes his namesake. It epitomizes how great the influence of Socrates is, albeit he wrote nothing that has become the basis of studying his philosophical works and underpinnings rationally. However, his impact on his successors is indubitably paramount.

Taking these things into consideration, it would be justifiable to unravel the significance of the philosophical views of Socrates to the present time. Moreover, through the works of Plato, let this endeavor becomes easier in understanding aspects of the life of the great Greek philosopher Socrates.

Meanwhile, this thought will mainly focus on Plato’s The Apology of Socrates which narrated the trial of Socrates and his eventual death.

This is also aimed at helping shed light on the philosophical underpinnings of Plato’s The Apology of Socrates. Specifically, this will posit ethical issues of the philosophical thoughts presented and flesh out the epistemic significance of truth, knowledge, and wisdom. This also will further elucidate the metaphysical significance of the idea of death according to Socrates as he was about to drink the hemlock that caused his death.

Ethics and Socrates

The philosophical views of Socrates tend to drive criticisms aimed at humanity, morality, and virtue or the concept of good. Meanwhile, the concept of Socrates on soul, virtue, and the application of reason to do good will always benefit humanity.

Socrates, who is accused of corrupting the youth with his unpopular method of discourse, reverberated his ideas on continuous development and improvement of one’s morality and continue doing good without reservation.

Moreover, Socrates put forward the connection between wisdom and virtue that manifests moral behavior. He posited that only a life that was thoroughly scrutinized was worth living. To establish an ethical foundation upon which judgment is made, he searched for beliefs and behaviors valuable to live by.

Socrates was adamant in his belief that happiness could only come through knowing and comprehending virtue or “the good.” Knowing the good is almost like being enlightened to him. He thinks that if someone truly understands the worth of life, there could be no evil.

Epistemology: Wisdom and Truth

Socrates learned that while many individuals possessed specialized knowledge and talents, they all tend to believe they were knowledgeable about other topics as well, such as the best course of action for the government despite that it is untrue. He also concluded that the Oracle was accurate in a certain, constrained sense. He is smarter than others in one way. He is also aware of his ignorance.

Meanwhile, the terms “Socratic ignorance” and “Socratic wisdom” are used to describe this awareness though there is no conflict between them.

Socratic wisdom is a form of humility that simply entails being conscious of one’s ignorance, the ambiguity of one’s views, and the likelihood that many of them will prove to be wrong. Socrates is open about the possibility of profound wisdom—an ultimate understanding of the essence of reality though it appears that he believes that only the gods can experience it; humans can not.

Socrates on Death and the Soul

The trial and death of Socrates as recounted by Plato in his The Apology of Socrates manifests the philosophical underpinnings of Socrates’ idea about the soul, the highest good and virtuous life, and a philosopher’s duty to reverberate these ideas without reservation even in the face of death.

A philosopher must invariably continue and hold still on the belief of reason and of philosophizing. This dramatic recount has been echoed by Soren Kierkegaard’s “to find the idea for which I can live and die”—truly the ultimate task and goal of philosophers and Philosophy. They are not dictated by the physical attachments of the abstruse appearance of reality. Rather, despite the threats of life and death, one must continue and persist to stay true to the idea of which one can hold in his life and even to the time of his death.

A dying true philosopher is not something to become dreadful because he had lived his life in a good and moral way. He simply had no fear of death.

Death could not be evil because of the immortality of the soul Socrates believed. To free the soul by guiding it to the eternal truth is the entire purpose of life, he posited. When death does come, it is a liberation of the soul, Socrates concluded.

Conclusion

The importance and significance of Socrates’ philosophy as a pivotal contribution to the development of the Great Conversation in Greek philosophical tradition is indubitably immense. Moreover, the richness of the philosophical thoughts contained in Plato’s The Apology of Socrates still mirrors today’s philosophical endeavor and even up to the days to come.

Editor’s Note: This article is graduate school work, an assignment submitted to the graduate class in Philosophy at the University of San Carlos. Readers are encouraged to express their opinions and philosophical thoughts relevant to the topic for educational purposes. Philosophy is not about providing absolute true answers but exploring questions to draw out answers that best serve the questions.

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