No matter what and how many attempts I made in this essay to supply evidence that Socrates had indeed revolutionized the field of philosophy during his times, all of it would be futile if we cannot have an understanding of the situation that prevailed before the Socratic philosophy flourished. A complete understanding on Socrates’ contribution in philosophy would entail a short flashback of his contemporaries. On this sense, allow me to deliver in a short way the pre-socratic philosophy.
In plight of understanding the Greek philosophy, two groups of philosophers were to be subjected in study. First one is the presocratics and the other would be the sophists. The term presocratic does not denote a chronological meaning for this might not be accurate since some of them were Socrates’ contemporaries. Presocratic thinkers were indentified on their tendency to identify the principles and causes of things in naturalistic terms. Hence, they are called by Aristotle as natural philosophers. In general, presocratic thinkers The presocratics and sophists differ from each other in many important ways. Although we would like to excavate more about the presocratics, this cannot be possible since there are only few surviving evidence on their existence and ideologies.
Presocratic philosophers like Thales of Miletus worked on the emancipation from mythological explanation of a natural phenomenon. They attempted to give answers to some scientific questions about nature. Further, natural philosophers denied our epistemological dependence on gods. This is evident in Xenophanes worked where he asserted that gods bring no knowledge to human thus humans should rely on their capacity to know. Many presocratic philosophers believed that the universe can be revealed to humans. There was also an attempt by presocratic thinkers to express the universe in mathematical structure. This was done by the Pythagoras writers. They have conceived that nature is a structured system ordered by numbers. Indeed, presocratic philosophers are natural philosophers who made attempts in explaining the world around them in scientific way. Their works were devoted in searching for patterns in the nature.
Socrates and his new philosophy
Since we have done presenting the presocratic philosophies, it is now the task of this essay to present what Socrates’ believed. This quiet difficult since Socrates didn’t write much about himself but I’d still want to try.
Socrates had more optimistic view of morality. He did not focus on much on nature and finding reason for natural occurrence of event unlike of his contemporaries. He separated from them in developing new age of philosophy. Although he had left no writings about his thought, his philosophies were vividly written in Plato’s works. Socrates successfully shifted the focal point of the philosophy during his times. When everybody focused in natural issues and discuss the primary elements of the physical world, Socrates made a detour when he focused in moral issues.
Socrates was more interested how a human being can make a moral choice. For him, life is a choice and therefore man must know how to choose correctly based on his moral standards. But a greater questions underlying on it are; what is moral? What is ethics? What is morality? When good is good? When bad is bad? On this account, the genres of queries have shift from mainly nature to what is we called moral aspect of human. Instead of discovering how elegant the universe is being designed, Socrates open a new way of philosophizing. This new way is knowing yourself and examining life’s aspects. Socrates believed that the man should choose a life of continual philosophical inquiry than choosing a life of what is expected from him.
In his years as a teacher, he can be considered as one of the Sophists. As we have learned in class that Sophists engaged in educating aristocrats children or shall I say transforming these children into wise citizens. Sophists and Socrates took steps to teach the primary elements of argumentation and debate. It is believed that the sophists pioneered in teaching the development of antilogic in light of debating both sides of the issues. Moreover, the sophists were known to have a very flexible attitude toward truth and morality. This implies that people create a set of values based on their needs. This clearly shows a great leap forward in philosophical development from interest in nature’s structure to religious and moral interests.
In addition, Socrates was known to his maxim, “The unexamined life is not worth living”. What could this mean? This signaled a beginning for new philosophy. It only means that one should understand his own self first, his dreams, his strengths, his weakness, his ideals and his needs before he made inquiry of the structure of the universe. Thus, Socrates brought the attention of the Greek society in their knowing more about themselves. This is very different with what the presocratic thinkers had pursued.
Ancient Greece offered a vast of knowledge to this modern world. We are so blessed that out ancient Greek fellows had possessed the courage to take a step forward in the field of philosophy. This is an advantage to the modern times since it opens a new way of thinking. The deviation made by Socrates from what is considered during his times as conventional gave us the avenue today to know and discover more about ourselves and develop our morals. His philosophical thinking of what is moral led to the more elegant discussion of morality and ethics by philosophers next to him.