Ideas of Socrates, by Theme

[Greek, 469 - 399 BCE, Athenian. Lived as unpaid teacher. Executed for "impiety and corrupting the young". Taught Plato, Archelaus, Antisthenes. Never wrote.]

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1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 2. Invocation to Philosophy
The unexamined life is not worth living for men
1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 5. Hopes for Philosophy
Socrates opened philosophy to all, but Plato confined moral enquiry to a tiny elite
1. Philosophy / F. Analytic Philosophy / 1. Analysis
Socrates developed definitions as the basis of syllogisms, and also inductive arguments
Philosophical discussion involves dividing subject-matter into categories
Socrates began the quest for something universal with his definitions, but he didn't make them separate
2. Reason / C. Styles of Reason / 1. Dialectic
It is legitimate to play the devil's advocate
2. Reason / C. Styles of Reason / 2. Elenchus
In Socratic dialogue you must say what you believe, so unasserted premises are not debated
Socrates was pleased if his mistakes were proved wrong
Socrates always proceeded in argument by general agreement at each stage
2. Reason / D. Definition / 6. Definition by Essence
Socrates sought essences, which are the basis of formal logic
8. Modes of Existence / D. Universals / 6. Platonic Forms / a. Platonic Forms
Socrates did not consider universals or definitions as having separate existence, but Plato made Forms of them
16. Persons / E. Self as Mind / 2. Psychological Continuity
For Socrates our soul, though hard to define, is our self
20. Action / B. Motives for Action / 3. Acting on Reason / a. Practical reason
For Socrates, wisdom and prudence were the same thing
20. Action / B. Motives for Action / 3. Acting on Reason / b. Intellectualism
Socrates was the first to base ethics upon reason, and use reason to explain it
All human virtues are increased by study and practice
The wise perform good actions, and people fail to be good without wisdom
20. Action / C. Preliminaries of Action / 3. Willed Action / c. Weakness of will
Socrates did not accept the tripartite soul (which permits akrasia)
The common belief is that people can know the best without acting on it
No one willingly commits an evil or base act
People do what they think they should do, and only ever do what they think they should do
Socrates was shocked by the idea of akrasia, but observation shows that it happens
21. Aesthetics / B. Aesthetic Experience / 1. Beauty
Socrates despised good looks
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 2. Goodness / a. Goodness
Things are both good and fine by the same standard
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 2. Goodness / b. Candidates for the Good
The only good is knowledge, and the only evil is ignorance
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 5. Happiness / b. Eudaimonia
Socrates was the first to put 'eudaimonia' at the centre of ethics
22. Metaethics / B. Basis of Ethics / 3. Morality as Convention
Socrates conservatively assumed that Athenian conventions were natural and true
23. Ethics / B. Contract Ethics / 8. Contract Strategies
We should not even harm someone who harms us
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 1. Virtue Theory / a. Nature of virtue
By 'areté' Socrates means just what we mean by moral virtue
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 1. Virtue Theory / b. Basis of virtue
A well-made dung basket is fine, and a badly-made gold shield is base, because of function
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 2. Elements of Virtue Theory / c. Motivation for virtue
A good man cannot be harmed, either in life or in death
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 2. Elements of Virtue Theory / d. Teaching virtue
Socrates is torn between intellectual virtue, which is united and teachable, and natural virtue, which isn't
Socrates agrees that virtue is teachable, but then denies that there are teachers
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 2. Elements of Virtue Theory / e. Character
We should ask what sort of people we want to be
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 2. Elements of Virtue Theory / j. Unity of virtue
Socrates believed that basically there is only one virtue, the power of right judgement
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / a. Virtues
Socrates made the civic values of justice and friendship paramount
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / c. Justice
One ought not to return a wrong or injury to any person, whatever the provocation
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 4. External Goods / c. Wealth
Wealth is good if it is accompanied by virtue
23. Ethics / F. Existentialism / 1. Existentialism
Socrates emphasises that the knower is an existing individual, with existence his main task
24. Applied Ethics / B. Moral Rights / 2. Sexual Morality
A lover using force is a villain, but a seducer is much worse, because he corrupts character
24. Applied Ethics / C. Death Issues / 1. Death
Men fear death as a great evil when it may be a great blessing
If death is like a night of dreamless sleep, such nights are very pleasant
25. Society / C. Political Doctrines / 8. Communitarianism
Obedience to the law gives the best life, and success in war
25. Society / D. Social Rights / 4. Right to Punish / b. Retribution for crime
Socrates was the first to grasp that a cruelty is not justified by another cruelty
25. Society / E. State Functions / 2. The Law / a. Legal system
Will I stand up against the law, simply because I have been unjustly judged?
28. God / A. Divine Nature / 5. Divine Morality / b. Euthyphro question
Socrates holds that right reason entails virtue, and this must also apply to the gods
28. God / A. Divine Nature / 5. Divine Morality / c. God is the good
A new concept of God as unswerving goodness emerges from Socrates' commitment to virtue
28. God / E. Attitudes to God / 4. Atheism
Socrates is accused of denying the gods, saying sun is stone and moon is earth