Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Keaton from Lake Wales. Keaton Wonders, “Who was Socrates? ” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Keaton!
Have you ever heard that “true knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing”? How about that “education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel”? If so, you may know that these are quotes from Socrates.
Or, at least, people think they are. They can’t know for sure. That’s because Socrates never actually wrote either of those quotes down. In fact, he wrote nothing at all! Because of that, no one today has ever read anything that came straight from Socrates himself. Instead, experts rely on what others wrote about him. Most of what people today know about Socrates comes from two other ancient philosophers—Plato and Xenophon.
Socrates was born near Athens, Greece, in 470 BCE. Many Athenians saw him as a teacher. However, many experts believe that Socrates didn’t think of himself as a teacher. Instead, he saw himself as a learner.
During his early life, Socrates was a sculptor. He also served in the army. Later, Socrates married and had three sons. Socrates became a philosopher when he began seeking truth. He believed he could learn by questioning the people around him. So, that’s what he did. One day, a friend of Socrates went to the Oracle at Delphi. He asked whether anyone in the world was wiser than Socrates. The Oracle’s answer was, “None.”
Socrates was confused by this answer. He didn’t consider himself wise at all. He tried to prove the Oracle wrong. Socrates went to many people who were seen as wise in Athens. He questioned them in an attempt to learn. That’s when Socrates learned many people only pretended to be wise. He began to think true wisdom lies in a person’s willingness to learn.
Soon, many young people in Athens started following Socrates. They had long conversations with him. Socrates would pose simple questions that turned out to be complex.
What is wisdom? What is right and wrong? What is honesty? These may seem like simple questions. But when you really think about them, you may notice they’re hard to answer. These are the types of questions Socrates asked Athenians in his quest for knowledge.
After some time, many people began to dislike Socrates. His questions made them uneasy. They didn’t like that he challenged their ways of thinking. Eventually, enough Athenians turned against Socrates, and they arrested him. His charge was impiety, and it carried a death sentence.
Still, the philosophy of Socrates lived on. It influenced Plato, who then taught another great philosopher, Aristotle. Aristotle tutored Alexander the Great, who conquered much of the known world. Alexander the Great spread the philosophy of his teacher Aristotle. Of course, Aristotle was influenced by Plato and Socrates. For that reason, many experts call Socrates the father of Western philosophy.
Many still question whether modern people can trust what they know about Socrates. After all, everything we know about him is told through the eyes of someone else. Most experts tend to trust the ancient texts, but there’s always plenty of room for conspiracy theories.
Standards: C3.D2.Civ.14, C3.D2.His.2, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.W.2, CCRAW.4, CCRA.W.7, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2