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PHL100Y1 Lecture Notes - Irony, Socratic Method, Participatory Democracy

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Peter King

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The Trial and Death of Socrates
by Plato
September 21, 2010
Socrates was born 480 BCE and died 399 BCE; he was an Athenian citizen
Greeks decided to try out different modes of civil organization—governments
whole citizenry was in the army
The Greeks tried out democracy; any citizen could participate in the assembly; a participatory democracy
juries were immense and it was considered a city virtue to participate in these civil activities
knowing how to persuade people and speak eloquently—a key to success
around the second half of the 5th century, Athens emerged as the rich and powerful leader of the Athenian city
states; it influenced the policies of other city states
crisis in values—what really mattered now was wealth, power, success by speaking well in the assembly
there are people who teach you how to speak well to the assembly with fees—Sophists; had a bad reputation
because they are amoral and suspicious
he didn't charge money and he claimed that he didn't know anything—a philosopher
Socrates and philosophy was born in a crisis of ethical values, questioning the old values and using reason to
answer them
What Made Socrates Distinctive?
Socratic Method was to cross-examine interlocutors about their beliefs, usually on moral matters, to judge, their
soundness; typically meant to be a cooperative venture, it often ended without definitive resolution
Likewise, Socratic Irony is a standard phrase
Socrates seems to have held that knowledge is not only necessary for virtue but also sufficient for it, which led him
to deny the reality of 'weakness of will' and related phenomena. He is therefore sometimes called an 'intellectualist'
Socrates held that morality is impersonal and complete, that is, it makes no special exceptions and can demand
anything of you
Socrates held that morality is a rational enterprise: it is based on principles that need to stand up to examination
and argument
Socrates' Followers (most noteworthy being):
Aristippus of Cyrene
Euclid of Megara
Phaedo of Elis
Xenophon, Aleibiades, Critias
The Trial of Socrates:
Socrates was indicted for three charges:
he didn't acknowledge the gods, more or less tantamount to atheism
introducing strange deities or daimonia
corrupting the youth
The Apology
The “early accusations” are as follows (18B and 19B):
Socrates studies things in the sky and below the earth
Socrates makes the worse argument appear the better
Socrates teaches these same things to others
The main response to these charges is the story of the Oracle of Delphi
“The unexamined life is not worth living” --Socrates
His purpose is to wake people up and make them realize what kind of life they are living—worthless or not
Socrates bases his argument on three principles and one factual claim:
“It is wicked and shameful to do wrong, to disobey one's superior, be he god or man”
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