The Socratic Philosophy
But Socrates would not compromise with his view that he had been the benefactor of the Athenian public.To escape or to propose any penalty or fine ,however trivial,would be to admit guilt.Moreover,when his friends begged him to allow them arrange the escape,he argued that it would be legally and morally wrong to escape ,since every citizen or a state has entered into a social contract to obey its laws.And he also argued that individuals who disobey the laws of their own society tear away the foundation of group life.
Socrates took his stand upon the abstract principles of his philosophy .This was his “apology,” his defense of himself.It was for the truth of his philosophy that he was willing to die.It was for the truth of this philosophy that would not consent to be conciliatory to the judges or to the jury ,or to put him to death.But what was this philosophy for which he chose to die rather than to renounce to it?
(1)The only true wisdom consists in knowing that you know nothing.Socrates says this because the famous oracle at the shrine of Apollo at Delphi had said that no man living was wiser than Socrates.So,says Socrates to the jury,I wanted to test what the oracle had said in order to prove that it was false .And so first I went to the statesmen,he says in his speech ,and I found that those whose reputation for wisdom was the very highest were in fact the most lacking in wisdom.And I knew that I was wiser than the statesmen ,because at least I knew that I knew nothing.Then ,he continues,I went to the poets to see if some of the poets were not wiser than I.But I found out they create their poetry not by wisdom but by inspiration.
“Like prophets(ឧ.កវី,អាចារ្យ បព្វជិត…)who say many fine things but understand nothing of what they say.”But the poets thought that they were the wisest of men in all other matters,too, because of their poetry.Then I went ,he says,to the craftmen ,the artisans,and I found that they indeed did know many fine things that I did not know,like how to build ship or to make shoes,but like the poets,they believed themselves to be wise in matters of greatest importance because of the skill that they have in their own craft,such as shoemaking.This tended to diminish the real knowledge that they did have.And so, says Socrates,I conclude after discovering that wisdom cannot be found among the statesmen ,the poets,or the craftsmen,that what the oracle at Delphi meant was not that Socrates is wise but that he at least knows that he really knows nothing.
(2)Socrates`s second philosophic point in his Apology is that the improvement or” tendance” of the soul ,the care for the wisdom and truth,is the highest good.This is why I go about,he says,persuading old and young alike not to be concerned with your bodies and your money,but first and foremost to care about the improvement of your soul.Not until you have pursued wisdom and truth ought you to think of money or fame or prestige or of the body.Virtue does not come from money ,but from virtue comes money and every other good thing for mankind,public and private.This ,says Socrates,is my teaching and if this is the doctrine which
corrupts the youth,I am a mischievous person.If anyone says that I teach anything else,he lies.
(3)Socrates`s third point is to say to the Athenians that if you condemn me ,you will sin against the gods who have given me to you .I am a gadfly,he says, whom the gods gave to the state,which is like a great and noble horse,sluggish and slow in his motion because of his vast size ,and needing to be stirred into life by my sting.That is why all day and in all places I am always alighting upon you to arouse and reproach you.You will not easily find another like me ,he says,and therefore I would advise you to spare me.
(4)The fourth and the most important point in Socrates`s speech is the principle that virtue is knowledge .According to this principle,to know the good is to do the good.Evil,wrongdoing or vice are due to the lack of knowledge or to ignorance,and to nothing else.If virtue is knowledge and if to know the good is to do the good,then wrongdoing comes only from failure to know what is good.And so in a famous line Socrates says”No one does evil voluntarily”.Knowing the good,no man would voluntarily choose evil.But do we often say:”I acted against my better judgment” or ” I really knew better ?”According to Socrates,this sounds absurd,because if you really did know better,if you really understood the right thing to do.you would have done it.If you really had had better judgment than you used ,you would have acted on it,not against it.Socrates insists that when one does an evil act,it is always with the thought that it will bring one some good,some benefit.A thief knows that stealing is wrong but he steals the diamond ring believing that it will impress a desired female and will bring sexual favors.So also people spend their lives striving for power,or prestige,or wealth,thinking that one of these is good and will make them happy.But they do not know what is good .They do not know that these are not good and will bring them happiness.One needs to know human nature,the true nature of human beings,in order to know what is good for humans and what will bring happiness and in order to know how to live and what to strive to achieve.And not to delve into this,never to know what is good for human beings is to live a life of striving to achieve but never finding happiness.Such a life Socrates calls unexamined .In one of his most famous lines Socrates declares that “ The unexamined life is not worth living.“.
From the book :” From Socrates to Sartre:the Philosophic Quest ” By T.Z.LAVINE