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Posted on by John Chiarello

SOCRATES

Socrates was born around 469-470 BCE.

He is famous for introducing a way of learning that engaged the students in a dialogue- the question would be put on the table- and thru rigorous debate- you would come to an understanding thru the process of questioning.

 

This is referred to as the Socratic Method.

Socrates came on the scene during the famous Spartan wars.

 

The other day I watched the movie 300- which depicts the battle between the city state of Athens against the city/state of Sparta.

As you know- the Athenians suffered a great defeat at the hands of the Spartans.

The Spartans were outmanned by the Athenians- but their motto was ‘come back with your shields- or on them’.

 

They were a true warrior nation- trained to fight from their youth- and this defeat sent the people of Athens into a time of disillusionment.

 

They questioned the power of their gods- and a sort of malaise fell over Athens after the defeat.

 

This was when Socrates entered the fray- when the people had many questions about life.

 

He was called the Gadfly of Athens- a title that would also be given to the 19th century Danish father of existentialism- Soren Kierkegaard.

 

They were called Gadfly’s- because they were like flies that would pester you- and elicit a response.

 

The leadership of Athens saw Socrates as one that was stirring up the youth of his day- and creating discontent among the populace.

 

He rejected the many god’s of the day- but did have a belief in a single deity- he- like the Christians 4 centuries later- would be accused of atheism- because of his rejection of multiple god’s.

 

He was sentenced to death in 399 BCE- and his form of execution was drinking Hemlock.

 

His most famous student- Plato- spoke with him before his death.

 

Many were surprised at how willingly Socrates faced his demise- and this willingness had a great impact on those who witnessed it.

 

Socrates never wrote anything- but most of what we do know about him comes from the writing of others- most notably from Plato’s Dialogues.

Plato wrote down what Socrates taught- In his writings we see Socrates engaging in this method with various people- thus the name of Plato’s works- Dialogues.

 

There is a debate about how much of what was written about him was actually true- Plato did add his own ideas into these debates- and the controversy about this is so strong that we actually have a name for it- the ‘Socratic Problem’.

During the time of the disillusionment of the Athenians- there were a group of philosophers known as the Sophists.

 

The word comes from Sophia- meaning wisdom.

 

Philosophy itself means The Love of Wisdom.

In our day the words Sophomore- Sophistry and Sophisticated are derived from this root word.

 

The Sophists were the original Pragmatists.

 

Pragmatism is a form of belief that says ‘do what works- regardless of the ethical implications’.

We will get to Pragmatism at the end of this whole series on Philosophy.

 

But for now- we see the division between what Socrates taught- and the Sophists.

 

Socrates did indeed teach a form of Ethics- which contrasted with the Sophists.

He said that the pursuit of virtue was better than the pursuit of wealth- much like the words of Jesus ‘what does it profit a man if he gain the world- and lose his soul’.

 

His most famous saying is ‘The unexamined life is not worth living’.

 

He emphasized the importance of mind over body- which inspired Plato’s philosophy of dividing reality into 2 separate realms- the world of senses and the world of ideas.

 

Socrates actually challenged the Democratic process- he believed it better for the wise men- the Philosopher Kings- to run the show.

Athens did have a form of Democracy at the time- and because of the rise of the Sophists- and the itinerant teachers- you had sort of an election process- much like in our day- where those who would attain office were those who spoke the best- and made the best public argument.

 

We elect judges and stuff in our day- and even presidents- not because they are the most capable- but because they ran the best campaign.

 

So- in a way I agree with Socrates- at times I think we need a better process of electing those to higher office- then the one we have now.

 

It’s important to note that even though we started this study with Thales- and in the study of Western philosophy it’s commonly understood to have started with Thales.

 

Yet- Socrates seems to be the Father of philosophy in many ways.

He probably has had the most influence in the field philosophy- and the 2 great philosophers that we’ll get to next come right out from the heels of Socrates [Plato and Aristotle].

 

Why is this important to note?

As we progress in this study- and get closer to the 19th/20th century philosophers- we will see a trend- away from the idea that there are actually any ethical values- moral virtues- or ‘right or wrong’.

 

These philosophers dabbled with the idea that values themselves are the cause of man’s problems [Freud].

 

So- keep in mind- one of the main streams of thought in the early stages of philosophy was that values were indeed the main thing- Socrates challenged the Sophists of his day- he said that moral virtue was very important- that to live life with the values of courage- honesty- self-denial- these were the things that made men good- noble.

 

The bible says ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ ‘those that seek the Lord understand all things’.

 

Christian tradition would agree with Socrates in many ways- Jesus showed us that the virtue of service to others- to love your fellow man- to honor God- that these were indeed the heart of the matter.

 

Socrates feared the loss of virtue in society- that if we simply lived for the present time- with no higher values [a form of hedonism] then the foundations of society will erode.

He also believed that it was good to question things- not to simply believe a thing for the sake of believing.

 

Over time- thru debate and the discourse of other people- he believed you would get to the truth.

 

The bible says ‘in the multitude of counselors there is safety’.

 

Yeah- as people have a conversation- as they dialogue- often times they themselves come up with the answer to the question.

 

The apostle Paul penned the letter to young Timothy- he said ‘preach the word- in doing this you will save yourself- and those that hear you’.

 

Yeah- when you engage- and even try and teach others- this will have an effect on you too- the actual act of engaging- of teaching- often brings more insight to the one doing the communicating- then the ones who hear.

 

Yeah- I like Socrates- he believed in what he taught- he drank the Hemlock- knowing full well that his life would pass- but he had belief- faith- that after death man would pass over into another realm- a much better one.

 

No- he was not ‘Christian’ in the traditional sense of the word- but he was about as close as you could get- for his time.

 

 

 

 

PLATO

 

Plato was born in 427 BC- he was the most famous student of Socrates.

 

He is best known for his theory of Ideas/Forms.

 

He believed that the material world was an imperfect copy of the Idea world.

That is he believed that Ideas exist apart from the construct of the human mind- that they were the perfect forms of the things we see in the material realm.

 

He could also be referred to as a Realist- because he believed these Ideas actually existed [for real]. Where did he get this from?

As we study Philosophy- each one that comes down the line has been influenced in some way by those that preceded them.

 

There was a famous thinker- Pythagoras [his followers were the Pythagoreans] who taught a concept called the Transmigration of the Soul [a sort of Reincarnation].

They believed that the soul of man went thru various stages- and existed independently of the body.

 

In Greek thought the soul is immortal- it exists before the body.

In Christian teaching the Soul [mind- Spirit] comes into existence when God creates man [the bible says ‘and man BECAME a living soul’- referring to the creation of Adam].

 

The Greeks saw the soul as preexisting before the natural life.

 

In the mind of Plato- the body was a receptacle- in this life we recollect the knowledge that comes from the Idea world.

 

He ascribed Ontological status to ideas themselves.

 

In Philosophy there are 2 basic ways knowledge comes [we study this in Epistemology- an offshoot of Philosophy- which deals with how we know things].

 

A Priori knowledge is knowledge obtained independent of experience.

A Posteriori is knowledge obtained thru the senses- what we call Empirical evidence.

 

In Plato’s schema he believed that the knowledge that comes to us from the Formal world [ideas- forms] was A Priori knowledge- that the human mind recalls- and in the present material world- knowledge comes to us from the perfect idea world.

 

The Greeks believed that all matter was flawed- that the Body was an imperfect vessel- and after death we are released into the perfect world- and free from the material realm.

 

Christian Tradition does not hold to this view.

The Church teaches that the created world is good- not evil.

Among Christians there is some confusion about this- because the older versions of the bible [King James] seem to teach that matter [world, flesh] is evil.

 

Why?

 

Paul the apostle talks about no good thing being in The Flesh- he talks about the Carnal mind- the apostle John says ‘all that is in the World- the lust of the flesh- the pride of life- is not of the Father but is of the world’.

 

There are many references like this in the bible- but they are speaking about the sinful nature of man [the flesh] and not about the human body itself [For instance Paul says in Romans ‘present your BODIES as living sacrifices unto God- Holy and acceptable’ in Corinthians ‘your BODY is the temple of the Holy Spirit’- there are many references in scripture that speak of the Body as Holy.

 

When the bible says ‘satan is the god of this world’ it is not speaking of the earth- which God created- and calls GOOD- but it is speaking of the ‘world’ system- an age of wickedness.

 

So- at times Christians have confused this- and have held a sort of Dualistic view of matter- that is not the biblical view- but a Gnostic view- that all matter is evil.

 

Plato saw the unseen world of Ideas as the perfect- pure world.

 

He taught that in this life we obtain the knowledge of the pure- by reason of recollection- that these pure ideas come to us ‘are recalled’ in this life.

 

He is famous for founding the first Philosophical school- it was called The Academy- named after a man by the name of Academus.

 

The land was donated for the school- it was previously used as an Olive Grove- and in honor of the donation- Plato named the school after the donor.

 

This is why we use the phrase ‘The Groves of Academia’ today.

 

Plato was actually a nick name- he wrestled in Athens- in a sort of precursor to what would later become the Olympic games- and he was broad shouldered- that’s where his name comes from- Plato means broad shouldered.

 

So- to sum up- Plato believed that Forms [ideas] were eternal, the cause of all that is.

He believed we are born with innate ideas- these are not learned thru sense experience- but exist independently of the mind- and in this bodily life we retrieve [the body is a receptacle] these ideas.

 

Does the bible teach anything along these lines?

 

Not exactly.

 

Christians believe that God himself is infinite- without beginning or end.

That wisdom- ideas- ‘forms’ of things do indeed exist- prior to our own life.

 

But these ideas are not without a Mind- God is Spirit- and he is everywhere [Omnipresent] he knows all tings [Omniscient] - so- in a way- there are indeed ideas- forms- but they come from the ultimate Mind of God.

 

A good example would be the building of the Tabernacle- and later the Temple- under Moses and King David [his son Solomon actually built it].

 

God told Moses ‘see that you build it after the Pattern shown to thee in the mount’.

In the book of Hebrews we read that the earthly Tabernacle [Temple] was simply an image- a symbol- of heavenly realities.

 

That God himself had the ‘form’ in his mind- indeed- like Plato taught- the heavenly form is perfect- the earthly expression imperfect.

 

But these patterns- forms- ideas- are from the Mind of God- they are not Innate in the soul of man- nor does the soul of man exist before his birth.

In the past few months I have had several Christian friends tell me that they feel like they existed before this life- a type of reincarnation.

 

I explained to them that in the Christian faith we do not hold to this view.

 

But- the bible does tell us that God had a purpose for us- Predetermined- before the ‘foundation of the world’.

 

Meaning that yes- in the Mind of God- in a way- we did exist- but we did not have actual being [called Ontological status in the field of Philosophy] until we were created by God.

 

God’s purpose for us was already in the Mind of God before our birth.

 

The bible says that Christ is made unto us wisdom- we are not Receptacles in the sense that Plato taught.

 

But yes- in time God reveals to us this Hidden Wisdom- about his love and purpose for us.

 

And in this life we act out- we fulfil this eternal purpose.

 

Man [or woman] can never find true happiness- true meaning- until they tap into this purpose.

We were created by the hand of God- to bring glory and honor to him- and we in this life can ever find true fulfilment- until we make it back to God.

 

1Chronicles 28:10 Take heed now; for the LORD hath chosen thee to build an house for the sanctuary: be strong, and do it.

1Chronicles 28:11 Then David gave to Solomon his son the pattern of the porch, and of the houses thereof, and of the treasuries thereof, and of the upper chambers thereof, and of the inner parlours thereof, and of the place of the mercy seat,

1Chronicles 28:12 And the pattern of all that he had by the spirit, of the courts of the house of the LORD, and of all the chambers round about, of the treasuries of the house of God, and of the treasuries of the dedicated things:

1Chronicles 28:19 All this, said David, the LORD made me understand in writing by his hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern.

Exodus 25:9 According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.

Exodus 25:40 And look that thou make them after their pattern, which was shewed thee in the mount.

Hebrews 8:5 Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.

Hebrews 9:23 It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.

Hebrews 9:24 For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:

 

Ecclesiastes 7:12 For wisdom is a defence, and money is a defence: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it.

Ecclesiastes 7:19 Wisdom strengtheneth the wise more than ten mighty men which are in the city.

Ecclesiastes 7:25 I applied mine heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason of things, and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness:

Ecclesiastes 7:26 And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Note- Do me a favor, those who read/like the posts- re-post them on other sites as well as the site you read them on. Thanks- John. Don’t forget to scroll down on the timeline [FaceBook#] - I have posted lots.

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