Sacrificing Life for Philosophy

In Plato’s book, I believe that Socrates presents himself as a practitioner of philosophy by questioning the men of Athens on their beliefs about how to attain the goodness. Socrates argues, “if I do not think [someone] has attained the goodness, I shall reproach him because he attaches little importance to the most important things and greater importance to inferior things” (30). Socrates explains that this is what God ordered him to do; if the men of Athens execute him, they will actually be doing greater harm to themselves. The following paper will show how Socrates claims that Euthyphro should know what piety is before he prosecutes his father, challenges Meno to explain piety, and helps people to achieve the goodness.

In the first chapter, Euthyphro claims that Socrates has been indicted for innovations in religious matters and for speaking about divine matters in the assembly, which is frequently laughed at. First, Socrates exhorts Euthyphro to teach him about piety. While Euthyphro gives an example of piety, Socrates looks for the form, definition, and type of action that piety is. In doing so, Socrates shows Euthyphro how definitions are difficult to explain. Second, Euthyphro defines piety by claiming that if gods disagree in general, they will not disagree with the claim that “whoever has killed anyone unjustly should pay the penalty” (8b). Socrates challenges Euthyphro to question his evidence for thinking that way. He says, “come try to show me a clear sign that all the gods definitely believe this action to be right. If you can give me adequate proof of this, I shall never cease to extol your wisdom” (9b). In other words, this chapter shows that Socrates does not care if people laugh at his philosophy but wants to challenge them by questioning their ways of life. Another instance of this, is when Socrates argues that unless Euthyphro knows what piety is, he should not prosecute his father.  

Furthermore, in the fourth chapter, Meno is convinced that he can define what virtue is based on what he had received from Gorgias. He asks Socrates whether virtue can be taught. Socrates argues that he has never met anyone who knows what virtue is and that virtue is a universally understood concept. Socrates uses Meno’s slave to demonstrate the concept of recollection. Then, Socrates explains that virtue is not knowledge so it cannot be taught. The soul is eternal, knows everything, and only has to recollect in order to learn. This concept is known as anamnesis. For example, Socrates says, “So the man who does not know has within himself true opinions about the things that he does not know” (85c). This shows that Socrates is an exemplar of philosophy since he questions Meno on his beliefs and challenges him to explain and define piety.  

While some Athenians accuse Socrates of corrupting society, Socrates blames others of corruption and claims to be the one striving to undo it. Socrates says that people should not care “for body or wealth in preference to or as strongly as for the best possible state of soul” (30b). In other words, Socrates uses his philosophy to help the men of Athens to flourish and live meaningful lives. Socrates clearly presents himself as a practitioner of philosophy throughout the Plato’s textbook by helping the people to achieve goodness even if it leads to his execution: “You are wrong if you think that a man who is any good should take into account the risk of life or death” (28b).  


Works Cited

Platon. Plato Five Dialogues. Everyman’s Library, 1949.