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Comparing the Portrayal of Socrates as Philosophical Martyr Essay

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Updated: Sep 9th, 2021

The portrayal of Socrates in various novels and plays differs according to the epoch and according to the writer who describes him. It is argued, that the three most well-known literary works which portray the image of this philosopher are “The last days of Socrates” “The Apology” and “The Clouds”. All three works show the image of Socrates in different ways, and each emphasizes different details.

Accomplishing the first claim of the assignment, it is necessary to emphasize, that Socrates as a historical person is viewed as the philosopher and sage who always lived in poverty, and Socrates is often regarded as the archetype of the heroic professor. An analysis of the career, character, and teaching methods of Socrates is used to identify essential qualities which define the professoriate. Further, the example of Socrates can inform and inspire our teaching today. It must be said, however, that Socrates was the author of the “Theory of Ideas.” Strictly speaking, of course, Plato was the author of none of his doctrines, which are identical with the wisdom revealed by the ancient Hindu sages. The Platonic shapes or archetypes were symbols of the world as it existed in Universal Mind, as pointed out in The Secret Doctrine I, 200. The devotion to the Platonic account of Socrates makes him presume that the Theory of Forms or Ideas was an innovation of Plato’s teacher, as the doctrine is pronounced by Socrates in the dialogues. It seems probable that this highly metaphysical clarification of the nature of belongings originated with Plato and only was stood for by him as being skilled by Socrates. Aristotle, who had no motive to hide the truth of this theme, says in his Metaphysics that Socrates occupied himself only with issues of ethical philosophy and that Plato commenced both the name and the commencement of the “Ideas.” It is said that Socrates is often pictured, insofar as philosophical teaching is concerned, as Socrates as comes into view in Plato’s writings, and not Socrates the historical character.

Although there is a bit of the real Socrates in the “Clouds” by Aristophanes in the character of the same name in the play, it is clear that Aristophanes’ description of Socrates in the Clouds is in good part a comedian deformation. Socrates was a well-known person in Athens who was commonly distinguished as an intellectual. Aristophanes, taking benefit of this fashionable awareness, randomly places him at the head of the Thinkery, in which topics such as rhetoric and astronomy are taught. As will happen to be evident in the Apology and the Republic, Socrates was not a tutor of rhetoric or any of the other subjects taught in the Thinkery. He was not alarmed with teaching students to attain material achievement through rhetoric; in fact, his main attention was to hearten young men toward religious, not material development. Despite Socrates’ atheism in the Clouds, he was not a scorner at conventional religion, but a dutiful believer in the gods.

Strepsiades

I’ve been ravaged
by disease—I’m horse sick. It’s draining me
most dreadfully. But please teach me
one of your two styles of arguing, the one
which never has to discharge any debt.
Whatever payment you want me to make,
I promise you I’ll pay—by all the gods.

Socrates

What gods do you intend to swear by?
To start with, the gods hold no currency with us. (Clouds, p. 22)

Plato in his “Apology” has assumed that either we must appreciate the “influence or obey” doctrine as leaving open the option of justified noncompliance or we should convict Socrates of totalitarianism and self-challenge. It is meant in the following passage “Well, then, I will make my defense, and I will endeavor in the short time which is allowed to do away with this evil opinion of me which you have held for such a long time; and I hope I may succeed, if this be well for you and me, and that my words may find favor with you. But I know that to accomplish this is not easy – I quite see the nature of the task. Let the event be as God wills: in obedience to the law I make my defense.” (Apology, p.3)

Aristophanes and Plato devote so much attention to Socrates, as they both were not indifferent to this character. Plato was Socrates’ student, and Aristophanes decided that it would be unfair to leave such a well-known personality without attention, and also envy played some role, as Aristophanes probably wanted to surpass Socrates in wisdom and popularity.

The genres of the regarded works are claimed to shape the image of the main characters in different ways. The comedian genre of “The Clouds” shows the comic character of Socrates to deride Socrates’ wish to study and to cover as many spheres as possible in his studies.

The philosophical dialogue/ monologue of “The Apology” shows Plato’s respect for the teacher, and reveals the details of the philosophical thoughts that could be missed in the records of those monologues.

It is necessary to mention that “The Apology” is often regarded as the kind of exaggeration, where Socrates is viewed too perfect and too much respect by Plato is shown. But it is necessary to underline, that this aspect is present in the work, but the main emphasis is not on this. It is claimed to transfer the thoughts of the great sage through the centuries.

References

Plato, Harold Tarrant 1993 “The Last Days of Socrates: Euthyphro; The Apology” Penguin Classics Aristophanes, William Arrowsmith, Richmond Lattimore, Douglas Parker 1994 “Four Plays by Aristophanes: The Birds; The Clouds; The Frogs; Lysistrata” Plume Taylor, C. C. W. Socrates A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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IvyPanda. "Comparing the Portrayal of Socrates as Philosophical Martyr." September 9, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/comparing-the-portrayal-of-socrates-as-philosophical-martyr/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Comparing the Portrayal of Socrates as Philosophical Martyr." September 9, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/comparing-the-portrayal-of-socrates-as-philosophical-martyr/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Comparing the Portrayal of Socrates as Philosophical Martyr'. 9 September.

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