Socratic Dialectic, Method, and Piety

Essay by TheManFromJapanHigh School, 12th gradeA+, December 2007

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This essay will discuss the nature of Socrates inquiries in to the way humans ought to live. This paper will begin by looking at Socrates' understanding of the good life and the importance of self-knowledge. It will then look at the theory of learning that the Socratic dialectic fosters, along with Socrates' theory of the natural goodness of human nature. Using Plato's story of Euthyphro, it will show the practical nature of Socrates' task of making people think for themselves and understand their own fallibility through the destructive process of the Socratic dialectic. Finally, it will strip the story of Euthyphro of its details and demonstrate the step-by-step process of the Socratic method.

The ultimate aim of Socrates' philosophical method is ethical. Skeptical of the conflicting theories regarding the physical world of whom "some conceived existence as a unity, others as a plurality; some affirmed perpetual motion, others perpetual rest" (Internet), Socrates instead focused on moral questions of how we ought to live.

Socrates firmly believed the words adorning the wall of the Oracle at Delphi, "Know thyself", and held that ignorance is the root cause of evil and that by stripping away misconceptions and self-conceits, people can come to a better understanding of the good.

Socrates firmly believed in the importance of education, and as opposed to the rote learning seen in classrooms today, he believed the only way was for a student to think it through for himself. Socrates had little to offer in the form of "practical intelligence" or moral truth, though he did stand for a new, critical way of living. His philosophy on human nature is that 'no one does wrong willingly' (Magee) and an immoral act is a consequence of ignorance, not perversity. According to Socrates, to do wrong is to turn a blind...