The following discussion of Socrates isn’t easy reading, but if you don’t mind making some effort, I think you might learn something about “the father of philosophy.” Much of the argument is in the footnotes, so you might want to look at them.
I recently read a biography of Socrates by Alfred Edward Taylor. Taylor has a high reputation as a scholar, and some people regard him as a philosopher in his own right. According to Wikipedia, Taylor’s magnum opus is Plato: The Man and His Work (1926).
Taylor’s study of Socrates is clear, readable, and interesting. It’s serious and scholarly, and avoids anecdote and gossip. It examines various sources of information about Socrates, and argues that one of the most reliable sources is Plato’s work. It says that most of what Plato puts into the mouth of Socrates is authentic Socrates. It says that Socrates originated some important philosophical ideas, including ideas that we associate with Plato. Thus, it magnifies the importance of Socrates as an original thinker.
Taylor draws on the work of an earlier scholar, John Burnet. Burnet’s annotated editions of Plato are highly regarded, and still read today; one volume consists of Plato’s Phaedo, the other of Plato’s Euthyphro, Apology, and Crito.1 Burnet also wrote Greek Philosophy: Thales to Plato and Early Greek Philosophy.
One source of information about Socrates’ early career is Clouds, a comedy by Aristophanes, which was written when Plato was hardly more than an infant. This early Socrates isn’t preoccupied with ethics: “Aristophanes makes it the main point of his play to represent Socrates as the head of something like a regular ‘School’ who combine physical science with what we should call ‘spiritualism.’”2 What “we” call spiritualism is what I would call the occult; some might be surprised to find Socrates, the arch-rationalist, exploring the occult. At any rate, Aristophanes’ play seems to have contributed to the execution of Socrates, since it gave Athenians the impression that Socrates flaunted religious and moral traditions, and that Socrates taught others to flaunt them, too.3 Nonetheless, Socrates and Aristophanes seem to have been on friendly terms; Socrates seems to have viewed Aristophanes’ comedy as well-intentioned fun.
Taylor tells us that Xenophon depicts Socrates as “the head of a group of scientific students”; Socrates “possessed advanced knowledge of geometry and astronomy,” and “foreign Pythagoreans were among his intimate associates.” Pythagoreans were known for their interest in math, music, and reincarnation.
Burnet and Taylor argue that Plato didn’t put his own views into the mouth of Socrates. What Plato puts into the mouth of Socrates is authentic Socrates. In Plato’s early dialogues, Socrates plays an important role, and expresses his own views; in Plato’s later dialogues, Socrates recedes into the background, and Plato expresses Plato’s views. “In the Sophistes, Politicus, Timaeus [Socrates] is present, but takes no part in the discussion, and in the Laws he is left out altogether.”4
Turning to the early life of Socrates, Taylor says, “If Plato is to be trusted, Socrates himself had never followed any craft.”5 It seems that he inherited some property, and led a life of leisure, consorting with “the most distinguished men of Athens, the circles of Pericles and Cimon.”6 Taylor says Socrates probably knew Herodotus, Sophocles, Phidias, and other famous Athenians of the time.7 In his old age, with Athens ruined by the Peloponnesian War, Socrates was very poor. Plato says that Socrates was preoccupied with his “mission,” and paid little attention to practical matters.
Socrates was physically strong, and acquitted himself well in battle. “It is further testimony to his physical vigor that when he died at the age of seventy he left two small children, one of whom appears to have been an infant in arms.”8 Taylor thinks he got married “in mid-life.”9
Taylor describes Socrates as a visionary and mystic. Beginning in his early years, Socrates heard a “voice,” or received a “sign,” usually warning him not to do something. Socrates also had “sudden fits of absorption and abstraction, amounting at times to actual trance or ‘ecstasy.’”10 Usually these trances were brief, but in 430 BC, when Socrates was serving in the Peloponnesian War, he had a trance that lasted “the whole of a day and a night.” Taylor says that the mystical strain in early dialogues such as Symposium and Phaedrus probably reflects Socrates’ mystical tendencies, not Plato’s. Countering this mystical strain in Socrates was “the ‘obstinate rationality’ which he shared with Samuel Johnson” and “the shrewd humor in which he also resembled the ‘sage’ of Fleet Street.”
Taylor says that the mystical personality is related to the erotic personality, and he notes that “it was Socrates’ habit to speak of himself playfully as a lifelong victim of Eros and a master in the ars amoris.” But Taylor insists that Socrates kept his appetites under control, and he says that Plato’s erotic dialogues (Symposium and Phaedrus) keep Love away from “sensual or sentimental corruptions.”
Taylor says that Socrates was influenced by the Orphic religion, which molded his views on “the immortality of the soul and the importance of the life to come.” Plato also respected the Orphic religion, or at least its kernel of truth. But Plato speaks scornfully of the degenerate Orphicism of his time, which sold indulgences, etc. While some ancient religious practices focused on the family, or the state, the Orphic religion was international.11
We think of Athens as a seat of culture, especially philosophy, but Taylor points out that “philosophy and science originated outside Athens and were so uncongenial to the Athenian character that Socrates and Plato themselves are the only Athenian philosophers of any note.”12 Taylor says that philosophy and science were originally one, and it arose in the Ionian cities on the west coast of Turkey, then was carried to southern Italy by Pythagoras.
The Pythagoreans realized that the earth was round. Following the Ionian thinker Anaximander, the Pythagoreans believed that the earth was suspended in space, without support, held in position by the symmetry of the stars.13 Other Greeks, however, believed that the earth is “a broad disc which floats on the air beneath it as a leaf floats on the surface of a stream.”14
The young Socrates found it difficult to choose between these alternative theories, especially when skeptical philosophers like Parmenides and Zeno argued that all scientific theories were dubious.15 Since theorizing about the universe seemed futile, intellectuals like Protagoras were turning to moral and political questions. People were starting to debate these questions, instead of relying on tradition and custom. (One finds a similar trend, at about the same time, in China, where thinkers like Confucius were discussing moral and political questions, since people no longer blindly followed tradition and custom.) Protagoras and others were paid teachers, or “sophists.”
One philosopher who interested the young Socrates was Anaxagoras. According to Wikipedia, Anaxagoras was “the first philosopher to bring philosophy from Ionia to Athens.” He’s famous for arguing that Mind (Nous) “is the cause of all natural law and order, just as mind is the cause of the orderliness and coherence of human actions.”16
If Mind is the cause of order, Socrates reasoned, then Mind must have designed the universe, and therefore everything must be for the best: “The earth and everything else in the universe must have just the shape, position, place in the scheme, which it is best that each of them should have.”17 Socrates was disappointed to discover that Anaxagoras didn’t draw this inference, he merely made Mind his first cause, his initial impetus. Stung by this disappointment, Socrates gave up the natural sciences entirely, and decided to strike out in a new direction.
When Anaxagoras says that Nous (mind) is in all things, and governs the universe, he reminds one of the Philosophy of Today, which says that everything is alive, and that a clock can have a rapport with a human being. But this universal mind isn’t an “architect mind,” a conscious mind, it’s more like the unconscious. One might call it will/instinct rather than reason/consciousness.
The Nous of Anaxagoras, like the Tao of the ancient Chinese, is a bottom-up mind, not a top-down mind, hence Socrates was uncomfortable with it. Socrates wanted to believe that the universe was governed by a top-down mind, an architect mind, a rational philosopher with a long beard.
If the universe were rational (as Socrates wanted it to be), then it would be hard to explain suffering — explain why bad things happen to good people. But if the intelligence in the universe is an instinctive intelligence rather than a rational intelligence, then the existence of evil ceases to be a puzzle.
In 2009, we discussed A. O. Lovejoy at length — more specifically, Lovejoy’s Great Chain of Being. We said that Plato was the father of the notion that the world was rational, that it was created for a reason, that it has the best design possible. Now we find, however, that Socrates, inspired by Anaxagoras, was the father of the notion that the world is rational. Thus, we find that some of Plato’s most important ideas are actually not Plato’s but Socrates’.18 (Later Taylor says that the idea “everything is for the best” leads to teleological or finalist thinking, which he calls “the chief heritage of Greek philosophical thought.”19)
So far, we’ve learned that Socrates started out as a “regular philosopher” with a knowledge of the sciences, that he probably had a kind of school, and that he switched to moral philosophy when it seemed that certain knowledge was impossible in the sciences. But there were, according to Taylor, other factors that prompted Socrates to switch to moral philosophy. One of these factors was the declaration of the Delphic oracle that “no man living is wiser than Socrates.” Taylor dates this declaration to around 433 BC, “before Socrates was forty.”20 That Socrates took the oracle seriously is consistent with what we said above about his receptive attitude toward the occult.
Taylor says that the oracle “seems to have brought on a spiritual crisis in the life of Socrates.”21 Socrates couldn’t believe that he was the wisest man, so he looked around for someone wiser; he looked among poets, politicians, artisans, but he couldn’t find a wise man. Everyone he spoke to was ignorant of “the one thing it is most imperative to know, how to conduct their lives aright, how to ‘tend’ their own souls, and ‘make them as good as possible.’”22 Not only were they ignorant, they didn’t realize their own ignorance. As for Socrates himself, he at least knew the importance of this kind of knowledge, and knew that he was ignorant of it. And so he felt that it was his mission to pursue this moral knowledge, and to try to persuade others to pursue it.
Taylor suggests yet another possible cause for Socrates’ switch from “regular philosophy” (with an emphasis on the sciences) to moral philosophy. We said above that “in 430 BC, when Socrates was serving in the Peloponnesian War, he had a trance that lasted ‘the whole of a day and a night.’” This trance occurred during the Potidaea campaign. Taylor says that the switch to moral philosophy, the call to be a prophet, may have occurred during this trance. This may explain “why in Plato we find [Socrates] so often using the language of military duty to describe his sense of the vocation thus laid upon him by God.”23
Taylor says that the Peloponnesian War “gradually hardened for Athens into a fight for bare existence.” Athens was no longer “the secure and powerful, and therefore tolerant, democracy” of Socrates’ youth. Perhaps if Socrates had pursued his mission in peaceful times, he wouldn’t have been executed. But in a time of war, Athenians were in no mood for Socrates’ challenging questions, no mood to be pestered by a gadfly.
The Athenians were also turned against Socrates by his association with Alcibiades, who was seen as Socrates’ pupil. Alcibiades was charged with blasphemy against the state religion, so he joined the Spartan cause, and fought against Athens. Thus, Socrates was seen as the mentor of one who was guilty of both blasphemy and treason.
Socrates was also an associate of Critias and Charmides — both relatives of Plato — who were members of an oligarchy that ruled Athens in 404 BC, and that carried out a “reign of terror.”24 When the democratic party overthrew the oligarchy in 403 BC, they had a grudge against Socrates.
In fact, Socrates didn’t respect the oligarchy any more than he respected the democracy, but his past connections to the oligarchs made the democrats hostile to him. Socrates had been a friend of the arch-enemies of Athenian democracy; though he wasn’t really their teacher, his association with them made him suspect. Furthermore, Socrates’ criticisms of individual democratic politicians were felt to turn people against democracy in general. He didn’t respect the democracy or its leaders, and he was a past friend of its bitterest foes.25 In short, he wasn’t a team player, and some Athenian democrats didn’t want him on the team, didn’t want him around. So he was charged with impiety, and with being a corrupter of the young, and he was put on trial.
Taylor’s view of the trial of Socrates is consistent with the view that I took in an earlier issue; he calls it, “A trial which it was intended by his accusers he should evade, and a sentence from which he might easily have escaped.”26 After he was convicted, Socrates could have suggested a punishment of banishment, but he was proud and defiant; he even said that his activity as a prophet and teacher warranted “the exceptional privilege... of a seat for life at the public table in the Prytaneum.”27 He offered to pay a fine of one mina (not a trivial sum, “a reasonable ransom for a prisoner of war”28), and he said his friends would pay 30 minae, but his defiant attitude had turned the people against him, and they voted for the death penalty.
While Socrates was in prison, he took up writing poetry, which he had never done before.29 He explained this by saying that, throughout his life, he had been haunted by a dream in which he was told to make music. Plato described his last day in the Phaedo, which Taylor calls “perhaps the greatest thing in the prose literature of Europe.”30 Two days earlier, Socrates had a dream that foretold the day of his death.
Turning to the thought of Socrates, Taylor says, “It was Socrates who, so far as can be seen, created the conception of the soul which has ever since dominated European thinking.”31 This conception of the soul seems to lead to the separation from the body, and the contempt for the body, that are prominent features of Christianity. Nietzsche spoke of “Plato’s invention of the pure spirit and the good as such,” and Nietzsche described Christianity as “Platonism for ‘the people.’”32 In Nietzsche’s view, the idea of pure spirit was “the worst, most durable, and most dangerous of all errors.” Nietzsche felt that it was his mission to overthrow this error, and re-connect man to his body. While Nietzsche uses the phrase “Plato’s invention,” Taylor places more emphasis on the role of Socrates.
Socrates’ mission was to urge people to tend their soul, that is, to pursue “rational thinking and rational conduct.”33 He wasn’t interested in “ritual abstentions and purifications.” The function of the soul, according to Socrates, is to know, to know good and evil, and to direct us toward good and away from evil.34 Remember the Socratic equation: knowledge = virtue = happiness. Socrates believed that the various virtues were essentially one: knowledge. And the various vices are essentially one: ignorance. We never know the good but do the evil; we do evil because we lack knowledge.
So Socrates sees knowing and consciousness as fundamental, whereas modern philosophers like Schopenhauer and Nietzsche see willing or feeling or the unconscious as fundamental. The modern philosopher sees consciousness as just a skin over the unconscious, and reasoning as just a way to justify what one feels and desires. As for Eastern thought, it emphasizes spontaneity — the spontaneity of the artist or the athlete — rather than knowing.
Socrates argued that you should be able to give a rational justification for your beliefs and actions. So his first task was to question people, to ask them to explain their beliefs and actions, and to show that they were incapable of such an explanation, because they weren’t tending their souls, they weren’t thinking and acting rationally. Virtue, according to Socrates, doesn’t mean drifting along, following custom and convention. “True virtue is an affair of intense conviction, personal knowledge of the true moral ‘values.’”35
One is reminded of Kierkegaard’s view that Christianity isn’t a matter of following custom and convention, it’s a matter of intense conviction, personal commitment. Kierkegaard had boundless admiration for Socrates, and refers to him constantly. One might say that Kierkegaard was Copenhagen’s version of Socrates.
But Kierkegaard is less rational than Socrates, less confident that we can attain certain knowledge by reasoning; Kierkegaard felt that The Truth couldn’t be known, it had to be chosen. So Kierkegaard didn’t advocate a process of reasoning, he advocated a leap of faith.
But Kierkegaard approved of Socrates’ view that you have to do the reasoning yourself, you have to struggle toward truth yourself, you can’t accept it ready-made from another. Kierkegaard approved of Socrates’ remark “I know nothing. The only thing I know is that I know nothing. I can’t give you The Truth, I can only be a mid-wife, helping you to reach Truth.” So while Kierkegaard didn’t go along with Socrates’ emphasis on knowledge, he heartily approved of “Socratic ignorance.”
Socrates longed for certainty in moral matters, he longed for objective moral standards.
|Plato frequently represents Socrates as deeply impressed by the need for moral standards by which controversies about right and wrong may be determined, as disputes about area or volume are settled by an appeal to geometry.36|
In this respect, Socrates reminds one of Leo Strauss, who longed for “natural right.” Socrates’ Theory of Ideas said that there was an idea of Justice, an idea of the Good, etc., and these ideas exist in nature, they’re natural, they’re objective, they aren’t human creations. Since Strauss had a special interest in political philosophy, he uses the phrase “natural right,” which has political connotations, rather than using purely moral terms, such as Virtue and Good. But despite this difference of terminology, it’s clear that Socrates and Strauss are longing for much the same thing, hence Strauss was a fan of Socrates. In my view, neither Socrates nor Strauss made a convincing case; they both said, “we want these objective standards, we need them,” but neither argued convincingly that these objective standards really exist.
Now Taylor turns to the Socratic method. Socrates decided that scientific theories contradicted each other, and didn’t provide solid knowledge. These theories were based on direct inspection of nature. Socrates tried a different approach, which he called dialectic or conversation. The idea behind dialectic is that “truth has to be reached by dint of dialogue, or debate.”37 Thus, Socrates emphasized conversation, argument, dialectic.
Taylor tells us that, in Plato’s view, philosophy is “created by the friction of minds employed in the joint pursuit after truth.”38 This is a justification for discussion groups, etc. Mortimer Adler organized discussion groups in the U.S. Adler said, “Reading alone is almost as bad as drinking alone.” Bernard Berenson was a connoisseur of conversation. Berenson said that good conversation “animates the listener and is animated by him, stimulates each to openings of mind, to lightning flashes of suggestion, to entertaining ideas that neither party would have come to by himself.”39
In his comedy The Clouds, Aristophanes satirizes the Socratic method, and pretends that the art of argument “is to make the morally worse case appear the better”; Aristophanes depicts Vice overcoming Virtue.
Socrates liked to start from a hypothesis, from a statement everyone agreed on, then draw conclusions from that. “Whatever follows from it is also set down as true, and whatever conflicts with it as false.”40 This method is based on the assumption that “truth is a coherent system, and that nothing which conflicts with a true principle can be true.” In earlier issues, I’ve often argued the opposite, I’ve argued that truth is contradictory. What works in geometry class doesn’t work in the real world. Socrates loved geometry not wisely but too well; he was too fond of mathematical and moral abstractions, too fond of reasoning and logic.
I recently visited with two Chinese people, a woman who emigrated to Germany, and a man who remained in China. The woman said she doesn’t like Germany much — too clean, too regulated. Her favorite place is New York City — a messy, cosmopolitan city where no one feels like a foreigner. As an example of German hyper-regulation, one might cite their approach to fishing: you must have a license to fish, and to get a license, you must take a class that teaches you how to handle fish, how to kill them quickly and painlessly, etc. (I hope they also teach you how to handle worms — invertebrates feel pain, too!)
As we walked through some woods and fields, they asked me if the land were public or private. I said it was partly public, partly private. They asked if we might be shot at. They thought that everyone in the U.S. has a gun, that the law permits shooting trespassers, and that Americans are just waiting for someone to wander onto their property, just waiting for someone to stray into their crosshairs. Of all the wild misconceptions that foreigners have about the U.S., surely this is one of the wildest.
Though the man was afraid of being shot, he wasn’t afraid of much else. He recently took a train from Beijing to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, then rode a bicycle to the Nepal border, about 200 miles south of Lhasa, then rode back to Lhasa. He said the Tibetan people are friendly, and let you stay in their house; he said that Han people wouldn’t do that (Han is the main Chinese ethnic group).
I taught them some English words as we walked. We noticed that the Latin hostis (stranger) gives us the English words “host” and “hostel” and “hostile”. Evidently a stranger can have hostile intentions, or he can awaken our hospitality.
I received a number of e-mails recently about the Shakespeare controversy. One person asked how Oxford could have written Sonnet 136, which plays with the name “Will,” and concludes,
Make but my name thy love, and love that still,
And then thou lovest me for my name is “Will.”
I responded thus:
In my discussions of the Sonnets, I mentioned several that are a problem for the Oxford Theory, or at least don’t strengthen the Oxford Theory. On the whole, though, I think the Sonnets strengthen the Oxford Theory, and are a problem for the Stratford Theory.
As for the particular sonnet that you quote, I believe that “William Shakespeare” was the pen name of the Earl of Oxford, as “Mark Twain” was the pen name of Samuel Clemens. So when the poet says “my name is Will,” it’s like Samuel Clemens saying “my name is Mark” — in other words, it’s not surprising, and it’s not a strong argument for Stratford. Furthermore, Oxford had to conceal his authorship, unlike Twain, so he has an extra incentive to use an alias.
I asked my interlocutor if he was going to see the new Shakespeare movie. He said no, the movie is based on the Beauclerk book, which argues that the poet was both Elizabeth’s lover and Elizabeth’s son; he said that this incest theory sickens him.
He continued thus:
So, you don’t believe there was a man named Will Shakespeare, or you think he just let them use it? Why didn’t this surface until about 150 years ago? Why wouldn’t it have come out sooner? Why would all the players have thought “Will Shakespeare” wrote the plays? And do you also believe that Shakespeare killed Marlowe?
I haven’t read Beauclerk, or investigated the incest theory, but I plan to. We shouldn’t close our minds to a theory just because it turns our stomach. I’m sure many people were sickened by Darwin’s theory.
I’m quite sure there was a person whose real name was William Shakespeare, just as there may have been a person whose real name was Mark Twain. Oxford may have chosen that pen name before he heard about the Stratford man.
The facts about the authorship were known at the time, then people lost interest in the matter during the English Civil War, then the truth sunk into oblivion, then it was replaced by the Stratford Theory.
If the players thought the plays were by “Will Shakespeare” that simply raises the question, which Will Shakespeare? The Stratford man, or the Earl of Oxford who went by the name William Shakespeare?
No, I don’t think Shakespeare killed Marlowe.
He responded by saying that people have big mouths, theater people are especially prone to gossip, and the secret couldn’t have been kept. “There were just too many people involved for this to have been feasible.”
I agree, lots of people knew, lots of people talked. But the government put a lid on it, as best they could, and prevented the publication of material about it. Shakespeare’s works dealt with the most sensitive question of the day, the succession question, so government censors were on high alert. When the Civil War came, around 1640, people were occupied with other things, and the truth was gradually lost. But now it seems to be gradually coming back, regardless of how the movie does. Our triumph is inevitable!
|1.|| Taylor seems to have published an annotated edition of Plato’s Timaeus in 1927.|
In addition to recommending John Burnet’s works, Taylor recommends George Grote’s Plato and the Other Companions of Socrates, and Grote’s History of Greece. Grote also wrote a volume on Aristotle. back
|2.|| Taylor, ch. 1 back|
|3.|| Ch. 2, pp. 92, 93 back|
|4.|| Ch. 1 back|
|5.|| Ch. 2 back|
|6.|| Ibid back|
|7.|| Ch. 2, p. 93 back|
|8.|| Ibid back|
|9.|| Ch. 3, p. 97 back|
|10.|| Ibid back|
|11.|| Ch. 2, p. 53, footnote 1. The Orphic religion reminds me of Christianity (international character, emphasis on life-after-death, etc.). back|
|12.|| Ch. 2, p. 55 back|
|13.|| Ch. 2, p. 58 back|
|14.|| Ch. 2, p. 57 back|
|15.|| Ch. 2, p. 59 back|
|16.|| Ch. 2, p. 67 back|
|17.|| Ch. 2, p. 67 back|
|18.|| Taylor argues that Plato’s famous Theory of Ideas was probably developed by Socrates, as is suggested in Phaedo.(ch. 4, pp. 170, 171) He also says it’s misleading to call this the “Theory of Ideas,” since this suggests ideas in our head, whereas the theory is about forms or patterns in the external world.(ch. 4, p. 173, footnote) Something is beautiful, for example, insofar as it partakes of the idea of Beauty, and the idea of Beauty is a pattern in the external world, not an idea in our heads. But the pattern doesn’t exist in the visible world, it exists in an invisible or ideal world, and in that respect it resembles an idea in our heads.|
Taylor says that the Theory of Ideas probably started with mathematical and moral ideas — for example, the idea of the triangle, the idea of Justice, etc. In Plato’s Parmenides, Socrates doubts whether there are ideas of Man, Fire, Water, Hair, Mud, etc. “He is sure of his ground in Mathematics and Morals, but very unsure of it everywhere else.”(ch. 4, p. 176)
Aristotle argued that the Forms don’t exist in an invisible world, a world separate from things themselves; rather, they exist in things themselves. “The ‘form’ only exists in the individual sensible thing, and is just its ‘essential character.’”(ch. 4, p. 181) The relation between universals and particulars is, in Taylor’s view, one of the major problems in philosophy, and Socrates was the first to wrestle with it. back
|19.|| Ch. 4, p. 172 back|
|20.|| Ch. 2, p. 83 back|
|21.|| Ch. 2, p. 83 back|
|22.|| Ch. 2, p. 85 back|
|23.|| Ch. 2, pp. 86, 87 back|
|24.|| Ch. 3, p. 106 back|
|25.|| Socrates criticized Athenian politicians, including Pericles and Themistocles. He said that these politicians built ships and docks, but they didn’t possess the all-important knowledge of the good, and they didn’t make the people morally good — in fact, they couldn’t even make their own children morally good.(ch. 4, pp. 159, 160) back|
|26.|| Ch. 2, p. 54. See also ch. 3, p. 109 back|
|27.|| Ch. 3, p. 126 back|
|28.|| Ch. 3, p. 126 back|
|29.|| Ch. 3, p. 130 back|
|30.|| Ch. 3, p. 132 back|
|31.|| Ch. 4, p. 139 “The conception of the soul as the seat of normal intelligence and character” is a common conception in the generation after Socrates, but unknown in the literature of earlier times. Taylor thinks this conception must have come from Socrates. Taylor says that, for Homer, the psyche “is not the self; for Homer the ‘hero himself,’ as distinguished from his psyche, is his body.”(ch. 4, pp. 141, 142) Among Orphics and Pythagoreans, on the other hand, the psyche is more important, the psyche is immortal and divine. The psyche must muddle through in this vale of tears until, by good works and careful rituals, it wins liberation, and is restored to the divine realm (this belief reminds us of Buddhism). But even this conception of the psyche isn’t the same as Socrates’ conception of soul, since Socrates viewed the soul as the seat of intelligence and character, whereas the Orphic/Pythagorean psyche is manifested in dreams, trances, etc. One might say the Socratic soul is conscious, while the Orphic/Pythagorean psyche is unconscious. The Socratic view separates soul from body, and overvalues consciousness/thinking.|
Socrates isn’t interested in knowledge of the visible world, he’s interested in knowledge of the world of ideas (or as Taylor puts it, “Forms”): “The soul... has one single fundamental activity, that of knowing realities as they really are, and it is only in knowing the Forms that this activity is successfully discharged. Where the mind is not face to face with a Form, we have only opinion or belief.”(ch. 4, p. 178) back
|32.|| Beyond Good and Evil, preface. According to Lovejoy, Plato’s other-worldly approach triumphed with Christianity and became “the dominant official philosophy of the larger part of civilized mankind through most of its history.” back|
|33.|| Ch. 4, p. 146 back|
|34.|| Ch. 4, p. 147 back|
|35.|| Ch. 4, p. 152 back|
|36.|| Ch. 4, p. 177 back|
|37.|| Ch. 4, p. 165. Taylor says that Socrates’ approach is like that of Newton, “who treats the facts as there to test theory by.” On the other hand, the approach of the pre-Socratic theorists is like that of Bacon, “who assumes that facts are there to draw a theory from.”(ch. 4, p. 168) back|
|38.|| Ch. 4, pp. 157, 158 back|
|39.|| Sketch for a Self-Portrait, Ch. 6, p. 33 back|
|40.||Ch. 4, p. 167. Taylor says that drawing-conclusions-from-a-hypothesis was a method developed by Zeno of Elea. “It was the hypotheses of his opponents which [Zeno] treated in this way, and his object was to discredit them by showing that they led to impossible consequences, as he is made to explain himself to the youthful Socrates in Plato’s Parmenides.”(ch. 4, p. 170) Aristotle called Zeno the inventor of dialectic. back|