In the post ‘Radical Thinking: What You Can Learn From the Timeless Philosophy of Socrates’ written by Tejvan Pettinger, we are provided with some wise advice on how we can use the most important components of the philosophy of Socrates, and apply his principles to positive affect in our daily lives.
Following is an excerpt from the aforementioned post,
During his lifetime Socrates wrote nothing down. Yet his wisdom has formed the bedrock of western philosophy. Socrates was viewed as a great teacher. But he did not claim to be a teacher. In fact, he frequently said ‘all I know is that I know nothing’. By all accounts Socrates was both poor and ugly. Yet in a society that placed tremendous value on beauty and wealth, people of all classes were magnetically drawn to his teachings and enigmatic personality.As he wrote nothing down, there is some dispute about what Socrates actually said. But, from the writings of Plato and others, we can gain a few glimpses into the character and ideals of this ancient sage and unique philosopher.
The Socratic Dialogue
Perhaps the most arresting feature of Socrates’ legacy is his unique method of teaching and arriving at the truth. Socrates didn’t claim the truth is this or the truth is that. He sought to question students in a way that would lead them to arrive at the truth themselves. Socrates frequently claimed to know nothing. Yet, if Socrates knew nothing, why were people so eager to hear him talk? The reason was that Socrates was able to make people reconsider their own ingrained ideas; Socrates had a way of making people think for themselves and consider truth from different angles.This method of conversation incurred the ire of some people; they were not happy that Socrates was able to show the limitations of their thinking. Yet, the genius of the Socratic method was that he never had to directly tell people their inadequacies; they came to realise it themselves.
Independence of Thought
One of Socrates most admired traits was that he did not follow popular opinion. He questioned every orthodox belief and decided independently if it was worth pursuing. Socrates looked at issues from both perspectives; he did not allow himself to be tied down by religious, political, or social conventions.This independence of thought and mind was particularly powerful given the forces of conformity predominant in Greek society. The importance he placed on independence of thought can be seen by his response to his trial and death. Socrates had numerous opportunities to flee; however, he didn’t wish to flee — he felt that escape would weaken his philosophic independence.Socrates was also non dogmatic; he had friends with both Oligarchs and Democrats. At the same time, he had enemies in both parties; Socrates would never moderate his words to curry favour with others.
Interest in the Welfare of Others?
Socrates spent most of his time wandering the streets of Athens, talking with people interested in discovering more about life. Socrates was a great teacher, because ironically he didn’t have an agenda to teach. He was not interested in imparting a certain dogma or attracting followers. He wanted people to think for themselves and consider the real nature of life and truth. As Socrates said to one student.”If you take my advice, you will give but little thought to Socrates but much more to the truth.” Socrates was not just a great talker, but also a great listener. It is this balance which set him apart from ordinary teachers who want only to lecture others.
Please take the time to read the rest of Tejvan’s excellent and useful post ‘Radical Thinking: What You Can Learn From the Timeless Philosophy of Socrates’, as it offers some great Socratic advice for getting you started in improving yourselves in life.