Why we still love Socrates


A very long time ago there once was an ugly little stone cutter. He had no family name of any wealth or recognition. No fancy education. He was nothing more than working class. As a young man he served as no more than a grunt in the military. He was unattractive and certainly no son of Zeus. He performed no miracles of healing the sick. Despite all this, over twenty-four hundred years after his death, billions of people still know his name, Socrates.

Socrates had an amazing wisdom. That was his greatest strength. He did not sell this valuable gift which was certainly an option, he gave it away freely. Although highly valued in his society, wealth and fame were never a great ambition, poverty brought him no shame. He would engage people in discussion in public places. He would converse with the men and the woman, the poor and the rich, the slaves and the masters, the working class and the aristocrats.

His conversations were not the normal niceties that we've come to expect from superficial relationships. His discussions focused on examining the ideal life, the highest virtues and the scrutiny of truth. He was not a teacher in his own words, nor did he aspire to be one. Teachers filled the empty glasses of their students mind. Socrates forced anyone who would participate to fill their own glass. Self-discovery of each individual was the key. He taught that the unexamined life was not worth living. He claimed that he knew nothing and challenged others to teach him in words that could withstand critical cross examination.

His conversations made him popular with many. They idolized his wisdom and his virtues. His arguments made him enemies with many. They resented being on the losing end. Many could best Socrates in wealth, fame, honors and political power, but no one could match him in wit. Ignorance would be exposed and arrogance would be shattered as men once thought to be wise would appear as fools.

Socrates did not intend to harm, his goal was to elevate the standards of truth. Beliefs matter little unless they can withstand scrutiny. This fearless philosopher challenged the very gods of his people. The mighty Zeus did not possess the character and virtues worthy of worship. The deities of Greek Mythology were dissected and abandoned even at the risk of being sentenced to death for such outspoken beliefs which did happen. The sentence of death was accepted without fear and the poison was consumed. So ended the life of the ugly little stone cutter who put honesty and courage above all else.

“Know thyself”

"The unexamined life is not worth living."

"Try all things, hold fast by that which is good”

“There is only one good -- knowledge; and only one evil -- ignorance.”

“Knowledge is virtue, ignorance is vice.”

“The beginning of wisdom is a definition of terms.”

“To find yourself, think for yourself.”

“I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.”

"The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways—I to die and you to live. Which is the better, God only knows."

Socrates 469-399B.C.

-James Kirk Wall

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