This article is about the classical Greek philosopher. Plato the trial and death of socrates jowett translation pdf to survive from antiquity, though it is unclear the degree to which Socrates himself is “hidden behind his ‘best disciple’. Western philosophy that has followed.
As for discovering the real-life Socrates, the difficulty is that ancient sources are mostly philosophical or dramatic texts, apart from Xenophon. There are no straightforward histories, contemporary with Socrates, that dealt with his own time and place. A corollary of this is that sources that do mention Socrates do not necessarily claim to be historically accurate, and are often partisan. For instance, those who prosecuted and convicted Socrates have left no testament. Historians therefore face the challenge of reconciling the various evidence from the extant texts in order to attempt an accurate and consistent account of Socrates’ life and work.
The result of such an effort is not necessarily realistic, even if consistent. Two factors emerge from all sources pertaining to the character of Socrates: that he was ugly, and had a brilliant intellect. Platonic Socrates, as demonstrated in the dialogues, as a representation of the actual Socrates as he lived in history. At the same time, however, many scholars believe that in some works, Plato, being a literary artist, pushed his avowedly brightened-up version of “Socrates” far beyond anything the historical Socrates was likely to have done or said.
Also, Xenophon, being an historian, is a more reliable witness to the historical Socrates. It is a matter of much debate over which Socrates it is whom Plato is describing at any given point—the historical figure, or Plato’s fictionalization. Plato, the idealist, offers an idol, a master figure, for philosophy. A Saint, a prophet of ‘the Sun-God’, a teacher condemned for his teachings as a heretic.
It is also clear from other writings and historical artefacts, that Socrates was not simply a character, nor an invention, of Plato. Plato used the character Socrates to give voice to views that were his own. These contradictions produce doubt as to the actual philosophical doctrines of Socrates, within his milieu and as recorded by other individuals. Socrates is reported as saying he devotes himself only to what he regards as the most important art or occupation, that of discussing philosophy. Xenophon’s accounts, Socrates explicitly denies accepting payment for teaching. Socrates cites his poverty as proof that he is not a teacher. Timon is known to have written to ridicule and lampoon philosophy.