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The Caution Curves
Learn About Philosophy: Trial of Socrates
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The trial of Socrates in 399 BC gave rise to a great deal of debate and to a whole genre of literature, known as the Socratic logoi. Socrates's elenctic examination was resented by influential figures of his day, whose reputations for wisdom and virtue were debunked by his questions. The annoying nature of elenchos earned Socrates the epithet "gadfly of Athens." Elenctic method was often imitated by the young men of Athens, which greatly upset the established moral values and order. Indeed, even though Socrates himself fought for Athens and argued for obedience to law, at the same time he criticised democracy, especially, the Athenian practice of election by lot, ridiculing that in no other craft, the craftsman would be elected in such a fashion. Such a criticism gave rise to suspicion by the democrats, especially when his close associates were found to be enemies of democracy. Alcibiades betrayed Athens in favour of Sparta (although this was likely more a matter of necessity than a matter of ideology), and Critias, his sometime disciple, was a leader of the Thirty Tyrants (the pro-Spartan oligarchy that ruled Athens for a few years after its defeat during the Peloponnesian War), though there is also a record of their falling out.
In addition, Socrates held unusual views on religion. He made several references to his personal spirit, or daimonion, although he explicitly claimed that it never urged him on, but only warned him against various prospective events. Many of his contemporaries were suspicious of Socrates's daimonion as a rejection of the state religion. It is generally understood that Socrates's daimonion is akin to intuition. Moreover, Socrates claimed that the concept of goodness, instead of being determined by what the gods wanted, actually precedes it.
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Added by bena_dc on February 6, 2007