Considered as the wisest thinker of Greek philosophy, Socrates became the vanguard of intellectual exchange during the height of Athenian intellect and culture in 5th century - Socrates essay introduction. As the master of great thinkers such as Plato, he is admired for his contribution in the study of ethic in which his debates focus on questions about morality. Accounts about his life and teachings were revived by Plato’s famous Platonic Dialogue and Aristophanes’ The Clouds. The former, being a collection of dialogues written by Socrates’ former student in which his teachings are being conveyed through his conversation with another character, while the latter portrayed Socrates in an opposite image. The author of The Clouds made a parody out of Socrates’ philosophies which has been composed comically and became famous for its humor.
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The discussion will delve on the comparison between two contradicting images of Socrates which have been conveyed in these two highly popular classics. The comparison deals about how the teachings of Socrates are viewed and how he was portrayed as a philosopher. Concepts such as Socrates’ belief in nature, his belief in cosmic forces of the Gods and Goddesses, and his influence on the youth will be compared for the discussion to look at in detail. It is an obvious fact that being the student of Socrates, Plato’s work regard his teacher in a highly positive fashion while Aristophanes satirically criticized the teachings of Socrates as impractical and shies away from the problems of reality. The essay will discuss the details of the differences between the two.
From the concept of nature, the first act of Aristophanes work relate a Socrates as the head of a school where he was greeted by Strepsiades – the play’s lead character – and saw the philosopher studying celestial bodies. When asked what Socrates was doing, the philosopher replied, “I am walking in the air, and speculating about the sun” (Aristophanes, 1909, p. 13). From this perspective, it gives the impression of Socrates engaging in natural science, thus, heavily follows it. On the other hand, Plato portrayed his teacher as not involve in nature or natural science in one way or another. In his dialogues, though Plato did not present Socrates as someone who is not involve in natural science, Socrates deeply encouraged to rely more on critical and rational thinking that with the cosmic forces. Despite of this, Socrates was not disrespectful of the achievements of natural science (Nehamas, 1999, p. 87).
Subsequently this headed out to Socrates’ perception of the Gods and Goddesses. In Greek society, the presence of the deities plays an important role in politics and culture. In Aristophanes’ play, Socrates aggressively told Strepsiades that Zeus does not exist (Aristophanes, p. 20) in which he further explained that the world is governed by a group of celestial bodies called Vortex. On one of Plato’s work, the Apology, he narrated that Socrates have been accused of not believing in God by his critics. In which Plato wrote Socrates’ defense that he “believe that there are gods, in a far higher sense than that in which any of my accusers believe in them” (Plato, 2004, p. 23). From the two works, it can be seen that there has been a switch of Socrates’ image in terms of beliefs connecting with celestial bodies.
Personally, in terms of reliability, the work of Plato weighs more in that category than Aristophanes. Though both can be seen of each other’s bias, the fact that Socrates’ image has been exaggerated for the purpose of entertainment and humor in Aristophanes’ play is considered to be as a superficial portrayal of Socrates. Since Plato has been the student of Socrates, Plato personally has a stronger personal connection which in turn can result into a more realistic image of Socrates. Whether or not Socrates has corrupted the youth, it can be judged differently. The most important thing that Socrates contributed is the release of human capabilities to test the limits of their logic and reasoning. Humans are made differently and it cannot be said that he corrupted the youth, for he merely just instigated healthy debates of morality and ethics, with the purpose of producing good and intelligent citizens of Athens.
Aristophanes. (1909). The Clouds of Aristophanes. (B.B. Rogers, trans.) USA: Forgotten Books.
Nehamas, A. (1999). Virtues of Authenticity. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
Plato. (2004). The Apology, Phaedo and Crito of Plato; Golden Sayings of Epictetus; Meditations of Marcus Aurelius: Part 2 Harvard Classics. (C.W. Eliot, trans.) USA: Kessinger Publishing.