Archive | April, 2017

The Death of Socrates D.17.05.01

30 Apr

The death of Socrates was dramatic to say the least. The circumstance of Socrates’ death is interesting. When he was condemned to death for corrupting the youth, whatever that meant, Socrates was told that he would have the option of killing himself by drinking hemlock, which was poison. And he had an opportunity; he had many opportunities, to escape from prison.
Socrates had many friends, and they offered to pay a huge fine for him, and they offered to get him out, but he said no, that would be wrong. His country had condemned him to death, and therefore he must abide by their rules. He said they’ve acted wrongly in condemning me to death, but if I were to escape, and not follow the sentence, I would be acting wrongly, and then I would be no better than they were. And so he voluntarily drank the poison surrounded by his friends and disciples.
He took the cup of hemlock.
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Symposium D.17.04.30

29 Apr

Philosophers and various other people from the ancient city would sit around and talk about what the nature of love was. Socrates was quite at home in the symposium environment.
There would be drinking and after dinner conversation. It was an environment that sometimes got out of hand in terms of drunkenness and in terms of all sorts of sexual misbehaviour.
It is said in Plato’s Symposium that Socrates never indulged in any of this. He would drink, but not get drunk and that he was, even though he hung out with all sorts of different people, he was himself impeccably chaste and upstanding.
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The Wisdom of Socrates D.17.04.29

28 Apr

We can learn a lot from the wisdom of Socrates’. “I do not think I know what I don’t know”. One of the things this suggests is that wisdom is involved with self-criticism and self-reflection. You shouldn’t just think the best of yourself. You should ask yourself all the time, how do I know what I know, and always be aware of your limitations and failings.
Socrates was a very social person. He examined supposedly wise people. He did this in a crowd; perhaps he did it at a symposium.
Today the word symposium is to refer to some august meeting of scholars, or experts, or diplomats. But in Greek, symposium simply meant drinking and party, and this is what Athenian wealthy men did in the evenings.
The wealthy men got together and drank and talked, and had many women and attractive young boys around and basically acted crazy.
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Socrates’ Apology D.17.04.28

27 Apr

One of Plato’s dialogues is entitled Socrates’ Apology, which was his defence at his trial.
Apology in Greek just means defence, it doesn’t mean you’re saying sorry, it means you are standing up for yourself, and that’s what Socrates did in his defence.
There was a passage from it that gave a good idea of what kind of a person he was and also what was attractive about him and also annoying about him to other people.
It was in that part is where he was asked by the jury, why are people so hostile to you? Why do people hate you so much? And he said that he had a friend named Chaerephon. And Chaerephon went one day to the oracle at Delphi, the greatest of the Greek oracles and asked this question.
He asked, is anyone wiser than Socrates? And the oracle answered, no there’s no-one wiser than Socrates. And so Socrates hears this and says this is from Plato, when I heard about the oracle’s answer, I said to myself, what does the God mean? Why does he not use plain language? I am only too conscious that I have no claim to wisdom great or small. So what can he mean, asserting that I am the wisest man in the world? He can’t be telling a lie. That would not be right for him. After puzzling about it for some time, Socrates said, I set myself at last, with considerable reluctance to check the truth of it in the following way.
I went to interview a man with a high reputation for wisdom, because I felt that here, if anywhere, I should succeed in disproving the Oracle and pointing out to my divine authority. You said I was the wisest of men, but here’s a man wiser than I am. Well, I gave a thorough examination to this person. I need not mention his name; it was one of our politicians. And in conversation with him, I formed the impression that although in many people’s opinion, and especially in his own opinion, he appeared to be wise, in fact, he was not.
Then, when I began to show him that he only thought he was wise was not really so, my efforts were resented both by him and many of the people present. However I reflected as I walked away, well, I’m certainly wiser than this man. It’s only too likely that neither of us has any knowledge to boast of, but he thinks he knows something which he does not know whereas I am quite conscience of my ignorance.
At any rate it seems I am wiser than he is to this small extent.
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Socrates’ Apology D.17.04.28

27 Apr

One of Plato’s dialogues is entitled Socrates’ Apology, which was his defence at his trial.
Apology in Greek just means defence, it doesn’t mean you’re saying sorry, it means you are standing up for yourself, and that’s what Socrates did in his defence.
There was a passage from it that gave a good idea of what kind of a person he was and also what was attractive about him and also annoying about him to other people.
It was in that part is where he was asked by the jury, why are people so hostile to you? Why do people hate you so much? And he said that he had a friend named Chaerephon. And Chaerephon went one day to the oracle at Delphi, the greatest of the Greek oracles and asked this question.
He asked, is anyone wiser than Socrates? And the oracle answered, no there’s no-one wiser than Socrates. And so Socrates hears this and says this is from Plato, when I heard about the oracle’s answer, I said to myself, what does the God mean? Why does he not use plain language? I am only too conscious that I have no claim to wisdom great or small. So what can he mean, asserting that I am the wisest man in the world? He can’t be telling a lie. That would not be right for him. After puzzling about it for some time, Socrates said, I set myself at last, with considerable reluctance to check the truth of it in the following way.
I went to interview a man with a high reputation for wisdom, because I felt that here, if anywhere, I should succeed in disproving the Oracle and pointing out to my divine authority. You said I was the wisest of men, but here’s a man wiser than I am. Well, I gave a thorough examination to this person. I need not mention his name; it was one of our politicians. And in conversation with him, I formed the impression that although in many people’s opinion, and especially in his own opinion, he appeared to be wise, in fact, he was not.
Then, when I began to show him that he only thought he was wise was not really so, my efforts were resented both by him and many of the people present. However I reflected as I walked away, well, I’m certainly wiser than this man. It’s only too likely that neither of us has any knowledge to boast of, but he thinks he knows something which he does not know whereas I am quite conscience of my ignorance.
At any rate it seems I am wiser than he is to this small extent.
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Ancient Great – Socrates D.17.04.27

26 Apr

The three greats of ancient philosophy are Socrates, Socrates’ student Plato, Plato’s student Aristotle.
The fascinating observation is that the three greatest Greek philosophers were in a kind of genealogy, where one was the student of the other.
Socrates himself left no written record of his life. What we know about Socrates, we know from the writings of his students, Plato and Xenophon. And there is the question as to how much they’re representing Socrates, and how much they’re using the figure of Socrates to express their own ideas.
There was a general agreement that Socrates was not particularly attractive, at least physically, and that he got on people’s nerves. We know this is true, because he was, in later life, condemned to death for corrupting the youth of Athens, and put on trial.
Why was there this controversy about him that ended up with him being executed? It seems what Socrates did, was he wandered around Athens asking people questions, and disturbing questions, difficult to answer questions.
The questions he asked were: how do you know you’re right? How do you know what’s good? How do you know how to be brave? How do you know how to judge people and things? How do you know how to be a good citizen? What do you really know about anything, really?
These types of questions made Socrates very popular with young people in Athens, especially wealthy young men. But, it made him very unpopular with the older men who ran Athens, and this led to his trial, his condemnation and eventually his death.
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The Destruction of the Parthenon D.17.04.26

25 Apr

The Parthenon was a church for almost 1,000 years until the 15th century when the Ottoman Turks conquered Athens, and then it became a mosque.
It was a mosque for hundreds of years until the great catastrophe that befell it in 1687 when a Venetian fleet besieging the city, fighting the Turks, bombarded. One of their bombs hit the Parthenon.
The Parthenon was being used by the Ottoman Turks as their ammunition dump. It was where all of their explosives were, and the whole thing blew up. The interior of the structure was completely damaged. Any surviving statues, many of them fell off the walls and were badly damaged.
In 1806, an Englishman named Thomas Bruce, the Earl of Elgin, came and removed many of the surviving sculptures. He claimed the Ottoman rulers let him do that. He never asked the local population. He claimed that he was acting to preserve the sculptures, which was not an irrational thing to do, seeing how damaged they were on the Acropolis for many years. They are now controversially held in the British Museum in London.
The Greeks want them back. The British don’t want to give them back.
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