Philosophy of Life#6 – Getting Started With Socrates

To officially start out this new project of the Philosophy of Life I need to set a few things straight. I have no intention of giving you a dissertation on philosophy. You will not learn the many branches of philosophy, nor will you be exposed to many of the terms used. Instead, I will give you a down-to-earth lighthearted Will Rogers style look at the subject. I will give you a dose of useful info followed by perhaps a pound of irony. One of the things I will show you is how we often say one thing but then go about doing the opposite. We just never seem to learn much from history or from those much wiser than we are.

To get started we need to go back to the person who started it all. That is Socrates. Yes, I am aware that many others preceded him, but his teachings (he would not like me to call them that) are what our western world is based on. First I will cover a little about his history and then in the following posts there will be some pertinent quotes and how the western world ended up clinging to what he said

First of all you must know that Socrates was a rebel and that eventually cost him his life. He was executed because he refused to acknowledge the gods of the Greek State. He basically questioned everything. Before you can understand how what he said was so rebellious you have to understand what the world looked like before his time.

Socrates was born around 470BC and for a thousand years before that the world was totally controlled by people who claimed they had the ear of the gods. Greece, where Socrates was born, had about 2,000 gods at the time. They say that Grecian skies were blackened daily by all the burnt offering, both human and animal, to their deities. People were told they don’t have to know and especially question anything, just obey the gods. The Age of Enlightenment was still very far in the future.

Ironically, It seems strange that Socrates wrote nothing. In fact, he almost disdained writing altogether. He was convinced that change can only come with face-to-face dialogue. What we do know about him primarily came from his student Plato and a few others. He was a somewhat fat and ugly person who committed his life to philosophy. He mostly ignored his hygiene, so he was mostly a very smelly guy. It’s astonishing anyone would follow such an unkept person.

He spent his life on the street of Athens, not to teach others, but to get people to think for themselves and therefore change their view of the world around them. He claimed he was not a teacher as he knew nothing. Over the years, he gained a large following primarily from younger generations.

At the age of about 70 the Athenian Empire finally got tired of him and had him executed by poison. But his martyrdom only caused more disruption and rebellion. If all this kind of sounds like what happened with Jesus four hundred years later, it is not coincidence. Jesus was initially known as a wise philosopher, much like Socrates. It was generations after his death that future philosophers turned Jesus into the Christ.

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