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  • Agustín García Calvo
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Home » Conferences » Conference. Despair of Socrates to us

Conference. Despair of Socrates to us

Conference. Despair of Socrates to us

Agustín García Calvo

December 3, 2007

University of Barcelona. Faculty of Philosophy

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Universitas Encyclopedia Salvat 1972 Volume II



In history, the man sentenced to death by the jury of Athenians in 399. C., 70 years old, accused of corrupting the youth and introducing other gods that state.

Out of the petty bourgeoisie: his father, artisan sculpture; his mother, midwife: he used to say he inherited the trade from his mother, because what he did to talk to their fellow citizens was to help come to light what was already implicit in his ideas.

His status did not prevent him receiving honorable treatment of characters from the most illustrious families, like that of Pericles and Alcibiades and Critias or that of Plato; it apart from other old friends, like Hermogenes, Aeschines and Apollodorus, who accompanied him in jail the day of collection of the hemlock.

Unlike the famous itinerant teachers of his time, does not seem to have come out of Athens in his life except his military service during the Peloponnesian War.

Amid the clashes between the oligarchic trends and extremes Democrats, mostly he did not participate in politics once touched lucky chair the Assembly, where it prevented summary judgment against those responsible for the disaster of Arginusae; and under the Thirty Tyrants refused to comply with a police function that is responsible. Yet his own sentence fell at a time of democratic restoration, soured by depression and guilt need left by the loss of the war.

Neither job or benefit

True that their activities had resemblance to those of the Sophists, as Hippias, Prodicus, Polo, Gorgias or Protagoras, on the one hand and science taught by another youth preparing for oratory and politics; even a disciple tradition did physical Archelaus; and Aristophanes' Clouds, released in 423, ridicule as engaging in his "pensaduría" natural and grammatical investigations. But this is, as he claims, according to Plato's Apology, the day of his trial, his accusers even had the nerve to say he had ever taken any pay or order: "And that this is true, he adds, have a witness, I think reliable: poverty. "

And indeed, when, already condemned, you have to make the penalty counter, can not offer to pay a fine rather than a mine: 1,800 pts. current, with perhaps four or five times more purchasing power.

In the same speech reminded consultation Querefonte his friend had made to the oracle of Delphi whether anyone was wiser than Socrates, what the oracle answered no; and said that his life had been devoted since then to figure out what it might mean response so strange; and that because of that business, he had not been time to devote to public affairs or her household; "But he says that I'm a millionaire in poverty to serve the god."

Whereupon, having a wife (maybe second, according to a later tradition) and three children, nothing strange that their marital relationships to be thorny: the post anecdotes would be pleased to develop scenes invectives Xanthippe, supported by Socrates patiently and humor that seems essential character trait.

Socrates was author and victim of a relentless ask; created insecurity around and ended up accused of corrupting the youth and introducing non-state gods.

In matters of love

We are told, on the one hand, their taste in conversation with great ladies and courtesans: the Aspasia own; whom the Diotima in Plato's Symposium said he received wisdom of love; Teodora or courtesan whom a chapter of Memories Xenophon advised on the practice of their art. And he himself, in Xenophon's Symposium, define their own activities as prostitution or matchmaking.

Moreover, it appears to us well-matched with the common in the Athens of his time, use of infatuation and courtship of the young men by men, whatever testimonies about their continence Plato and Xenophon give us .

It seems that it was mostly a love and loyalty to the youth itself: that is, the boy in his trance integration into the world of men. So, he hears in the Charmides: "To me, more or less, those in the prime of life all seem to me beautiful."

He in turn seems to have been graced by the standards of beauty: and playwrights advantage those grotesque features of her face and figure can be read Symposia: I stooped and tripudo, thick head mask satyr, lips fat, flat, protruding eyes. And such is the figure that popularized after imagery.

The buzzing horsefly

But outside of history, so to speak, Socrates is a perpetually dissenting voice within the Company, as the gadfly that he is compared against Athens in the Apology.

That voice can not hear us, and we can only leave perhaps revive the writings of some of his hearers; First, the brief Platonic dialogues would call "youth" in which there is no conclusion or positive doctrine (Theages, Lysis, Laches, Charmides, Euthydemus, Euthyphro, Apology, the Hippias, the Alcibiades, Hipparchus also, Love, with some held by another apocryphal; reaching the ion, the Menexenus and the first book of the Republic, and of course, the Clitophon), adding some suggestions later, as Parmenides, Sophist, Politician, or even Philebus, Cratylus, Theaetetus; secondarily, Memories (in the Apology) and the Symposium of Xenophon; poor fragments and other Socratic Aeschines, Antisthenes and Aristippus; plus some references in Aristotle, and what little literature can give us late: the Socratic Epistles 35, probably from early Empire, and Plutarch, Ateneo or Luciano.

But writing, by the mere fact of setting the voice, and does what it was not. And, less can not be confused with the voices of the writers; which, moved by the veneration of his memory and poor awareness of his death, eventually turning his character 'Socrates' in model of wisdom or virtue, and attribute values ​​or truths that they would, with the age, I believe.

Now if something is known about Socrates is that did not know much or certain; or as he says in the Apology, "which, not knowing the things of Hades, also I do not know." So doctrines in Plato's dialogues appear in the mouth of the character 'Socrates' (even some very early, as the anamnesis in the Meno or the ideas and relationships between body and soul in Phaedo or Phaedrus) are taken as platonic; Socratic and, in any case, the issues that these doctrines responded.

And also, Socrates should not preach or practice any moral. Perpetual interrogation about good and pleasure, good and utility, etc., do not lead anywhere; all they suggest is the confusion between virtue and knowledge, which Aristotle had to reproach Socrates have made radically and consistently. So exhortations to virtue (and almost to the cardinal virtues of Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance) than in Xenophon's Memorabilia appear attributed to the character 'Socrates' are taken as jenofontinas; and promoted by the desire to justify Socrates from the charge of corrupting the youth.

He wandered thus Nietzsche in his contempt and invective against Socrates as Socrates does not preach morality of the weak: just attacked, too, Clementine (well, against Thrasymachus in Republic I); among men as the stronger it is also a moral, not Nature that purports to be. And if the doctrine of Socrates vanishes in the discussion of Socratic moral is more than just watching the desolate sophist Antiphon (pick Memories) that Socrates did his friends happy, but rather on the contrary.

"At the time the square is seen lounging there could busiest" Xenophon has Socrates Socratic dialogue soon be a literary device in one of the first published, Aspasia of Aeschines and Socrates dialogue appeared,.. Above, Agora, and bronze Aspasia and Socrates.

the dialectic

Perhaps the essence of Socrates 'dialectic method or can be described as follows: take any of the names or important abstract notions in the ideological structure of their world (eg' courage ', sophrosyne, episteme, or' useful ',' good ',' on purpose ', or even philosophein or' know yourself '); advantage that one party takes over that notion, as knowing its meaning; let the dialogue develops the notion itself with its own contradictions system concepts to which it belongs.

Aristotle alludes to this, but with wry gloss, when considering research "what is" as the essence of Socrates. Thus the opposition between Socrates and the other becomes a self-contradiction, which in turn is but the embodiment of the internal contradiction of the idea itself.

So it's not about the scheme 'thesis / antithesis / / synthesis', but a synthesis of the analysis set out in the order of things.

This method originated in the wake of the same logic with Heraclitus, and Socrates is inserted by him in the tradition of Zeno and the Sophists. Then, through his friend Euclid, he inspired the little known school of Megara logic, the dialectic, apparently tended to be fixed as art.

But although Socrates was not only engage in discourse in dispute or by eristic art (see the caricature of his practice by the two brothers sophists in the Euthydemus), as should be Socratic dialectical method to be confused with the current dialogue between people : the dialectic of the dialectic between object manifesting as subjects.

Attack objects: Politics, Morality, Science, Poetry, Religion, Education ...

The objects of this dialectic are generally essential to the dominant ideology. In premiere, the policy: the aim of directing men and complaint states (eg in the Alcibiades) as absurd: I understand many not understanding what one (oneself); and have a knowledge and domain-general without master particular techniques.

It therefore appears that the policy is criticized under the Personal Moral, "care of the soul." But turn bloom in dialogue aporias that the moral claim incurred: thus, when Critias in Charmides proposes "Know thyself" and the pediment of Delphi salutation essential for the good of one, wonder Socrates I know that a pilgrim does not know anything except himself. And the same love or friendship (philia) Lysis goes unfavorably in a dispute that notion is drained again and again the meshes of reasoning.

It is also on behalf of epistemai or practical knowledge as seems often denounced the folly of man, politician or sophist, dominating everything and knows everything; but, in turn, fall under the epistemai review of its application for true wisdom: thus, in Love, scientific research or may not involve philosophéin accumulate knowledge, but knowledge that is mistaken or dikaiosyne same virtue and political capacity. And so the science experts submits Socrates (as seen in the Gift & he tells in the Apology) a relentless research: know that doing things? Implied that they knew what they were doing; resulting perpetually negative. Also, among the other arts, poetry, as we see in the Ion: in the divine credit is denied or intuitive knowledge and awareness.

The same seems to be (despite pious gibberish Xenophon put in your mouth in the Memories) Socratic attitude to religion and the idea of ​​Divine Law: interrogation by the notions that support it: so in the Euthyphro, where the firm this faith (which allows you and forces accuse his own father for murder) becomes embroiled in the issue indefinitely, "what hosion (lo 'religiously good') because the gods love what is good, or good because they love the gods? ".

In terms of pedagogy, in most of the dialogues looming doubt and joke with the nascent higher education is sophistic. But what about the effects of Socrates' own company: how likely is typical that in the Theages talk of them not learning anything but a "give" extremely vague, and also depends on the chance that the divinity he pleases or not to occur. And even more clear when the Clitophon Socrates hears silent rain upon him the hopeless Clitophon complaint: his words will surely be excellent stimulus to virtue or the care of the soul; But when it comes to practice or know what that virtue, Socrates has nothing to teach.

Pedagogy (especially higher education) has developed the world precisely as a defense against the possible danger of Socratic examination to Order: assimilation of dialectics to the world in the form of ideas assimilated individuals.

Process began with the first of the academies, the Academy, and Aristotle's Lyceum and schools to come to the institution of the University and teaching books. This encyclopedia, for example, is a pedagogical work, and is at odds with Socrates as an article "Socrates" may be in it.

Socrates was among the closest of the madness oneself ignored. However, once said "Know thyself" from the pediment of Delphi was not know anything except himself. However, in Delphi (right) praised the oracle Socrates as the wisest man. Up with the famous Roman mosaic inscription at Delphi.

And Philosophy ...

Who says Pedagogy says the "Philosophy" in the modern sense of 'secular and rational explanation of the how and why of things'; Philosophy and neither one had before Socrates and Socrates.

It is the habit of the history of philosophy in all pre-split and post-Socratic Socratic: this has the effect that Socrates stands as the end of a line of critical activity in which thought becomes about their own creations, the dominant ideas line which can be outlined on these names: Thales and Anaximander - Heraclitus and Parmenides - Zeno of Elea - sophists - Socrates. And after Socrates, in reaction to the revelation of the lie, and assimilating Science, which had been developing in parallel, like Philosophy arises as to the Platonic, in which knowledge is subordinated to the right, and therefore the philosophy is more political, and the Aristotelian philosophy is that knowledge of knowledge.

Of the post-Socratic attitudes are perhaps the Epicurean one hand, and the skeptical, somewhat in contrast, the most faithful wanted to follow the Socratic confusion between the problem of knowledge and of living.

But the positive philosophy will remain loaded with eternal bad conscience of his birth is the death of the word 'Socrates'. That bad conscience and reveals the fact that in the sole examples of syllogism appear as the name Socrates particular term; and fundamental type in: "All men are mortal, Socrates is a man: then ..." where, with ambiguity essential to philosophy, to give Socrates range sample man is condemned to death.

The Socratic demon

As a positive belief appears in Socrates, by Xenophon and harmonious witness to Plato: the daimon or demon, that voice made ​​itself heard to tell sometimes. But just the daimon demon is an essentially negative "when it occurs, signal always makes me turn away from what will be done; but I do not ever incites "

Let this be a relic of Socratic religion or superstition can also be said. But as mysterious and elusive is the demon who never know whether to take it in jest or seriously. If Socrates thought of it as something external, should be read ironically his words; if to him the voice of himself (his conscience, as we would say), perhaps we should seriously understand. But never allusions may be inferred that the daimon Socrates is in or out. And so the daimon visible figure of the annulment of the antithesis "jokingly / seriously," Socrates and irony exemplarily represent for us.

The essential denial of Socrates

That elf, among other things, discourage Socrates writing (not without due doubt that in the Phaedo is that assailed him on the eve of his death). And yet, his life and death resulted, as Jesus Christ, the birth of a new literary genre, which includes, among other lost, the dialogues of Plato and Xenophon.

They advise that we have here attempted to outline some aspects of the figure of Socrates and some echoes of Socratic voice. But this attempt and failure reporting on the fact that we had to talk separately of life and words. For surely the essence of the Socratic attitude is repeated in this disclaimer: "Not knowing is bad"; it was his way of formulating the "They know not what they do." And she implies finding separation, the separation between action and theory is not accepted.

"You drink with the gods, O Socrates, now. Wise God called you, it's just him wise, and if the Athenians gave you hemlock, briefly drank them out of your mouth. "It is the epitaph of Diogenes Laertius. Up gods and Adonis, reason for the condemnation of Socrates; down, drinking the hemlock.

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