Read Five Dialogues: Euthyphro/Apology/Crito/Meno/Phaedo by Plato Free Online
Book Title: Five Dialogues: Euthyphro/Apology/Crito/Meno/Phaedo|
The author of the book: Plato
ISBN 13: 9780915145225
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 558 KB
Edition: Hackett Publishing Company
Date of issue: December 1st 1983
Read full description of the books Five Dialogues: Euthyphro/Apology/Crito/Meno/Phaedo:All of the Platonic dialogues in this book come together to form something of a narrative of the trial and last days of the famous philosopher Socrates. Covering topics that range from piety, truth, virtue and even the nature of the soul and the afterlife this is a good collection to get started in an investigation of the figure of Socrates and his depiction by his most famous pupil Plato.
Euthyphro: On his way to the Athenian law courts to face charges of impiety and the corruption of the youth of the city (the charges that will ultimately lead to his death), Socrates meets up with Euthyphro and engages him in one of his famous interrogations/discussions. Euthyphro is himself at the courts to charge his own father in the case of the murder of one of his slaves (a legal action that many in the Athens of the time would have considered itself an impious act), though Euthyphro himself is convinced that he has a more accurate view of the will of the gods than anyone who can stand against him. Socrates thus hopes that this self-styled prophet and expert on piety can teach it to Socrates himself and ultimately aid him in his legal defense. At first Euthyphro is only too eager to accept the challenge until the penetrating questions of Socrates start to show this would-be ally that his convictions are not based on any rational foundation, but are rather the results of his own baseless assumptions and personal feelings. Rather than stay and try to work with Socrates to find the answer to the question “what is piety?” in a rationally satisfactory way, Euthyphro recalls that he has business elsewhere and leaves posthaste.
Already Socrates shows himself to be worthy of the moniker “the gadfly of Athens”. He is a penetrating questioner, but his lack of tact and disregard for all but the truth show how it was all too likely that even many of those who might admire and support Socrates could in the end be driven away by his remorseless quest for answers.
Apology: In which Socrates has his day in court and responds to the allegations of impiety and corruption of the young levelled at him by the Athenian citizens who are fed up with his ability to constantly show up the flimsy nature of their beliefs. There is much of interest in this dialogue (or really monologue for the most part), but it is significant that Socrates avers that the basis for his whole way of life is piety and attributes as the source of his questioning no lesser authority than Apollo himself through the voice of the Delphic oracle. According to Socrates a friend discovered from the oracle that no man was wiser than Socrates himself. Apparently perturbed by this declaration Socrates decided to put the oracle to the test and so began by questioning all of those thought to be wisest in the city, the result being that he soon discovered that all those most likely to put themselves forward as wise were in fact the least wise and often the ones whose opinions held the least water when examined closely. Of course, as he continued pursuing this means of inquiry with any and all in the city he didn’t win any friends amongst the powerful, the ‘wise’, and the rich. Ultimately it is Socrates’ willingness to suspend judgement on what is true until the facts can be accurately ascertained, to acknowledge his ignorance, that places him in the role of ‘wisest man in Athens’ and brings forth the famous Socratic maxim: “This man among you, mortals, is wisest who, like Socrates, understands that his wisdom is worthless.” Socrates asserts that his actions have been undertaken in order to aid the city, not corrupt it, since his aim is the perfection of the virtue of its citizens and that for him to denounce his teachings in the face of opposition, and even fear of death, would be not only to give in to lies instead of pursuing the truth, but would ironically be the greatest act of impiety imaginable. Despite his renunciation of a ‘normal’ way of life and preoccupation with theoretical ideas Socrates is not unaware of the reality of his situation and, despite his strong rational defense (in his own mind at least), he acknowledges that because his entire way of life is a tacit criticism of what the majority hold to be most dear (namely the pursuit of wealth, power, influence, and comfort) he is not likely to meet with success. Add to this the fact that he holds the position of principal nuisance and embarrassment to the powerful of Athens and he acknowledges that his place on the chopping block is nearly assured. He takes his eventual sentence of death philosophically (heh, see what I did there?) noting that “the unexamined life is not worth living” and that equivocating simply to avoid death would be to suffer a worse fate: the loss of virtue and betrayal of truth.
Crito: After his trial Socrates’ friend Crito attempts to convince him that he must let his friends help him escape both for his own sake and theirs. He appeals to the shame Socrates’ execution will bring on them all, as well as the injustice of the verdict Socrates received at the hands of his accusers. Crito brings up some good points especially when he argues the injustice of Socrates’ verdict (it was obviously a rigged trial, at least as Plato presented it), but Socrates will have none of it. Engaging his friend in his typical question and answer debate format Socrates quickly dismisses any concern as to the stain on their honour since the opinions of the majority have little or nothing to do with the truth and should therefore not be considered when nothing less than that is at stake. He goes on to argue that it is a good life that has value, not merely life itself, and thus to betray one’s ideals and beliefs about the truth in order to save one’s life is both ignoble and wicked. Regardless of the consequences one must follow where the path of virtue leads even unto death. The truth, for Socrates, is an absolute value, not a relative one. So far so good, at least from an idealist’s perspective, but when Socrates ventures into the defence of his accusers, saying that since they represent the city of his birth to whose laws he willingly subjected himself I was a little less convinced. The obvious personal interest of his accusers in using the law to gain their own ends, and even the simple fact that the human laws of any state can easily be used to attain nearly any goal by one skilled enough in their manipulation, left me feeling that in this regard Socrates was either being willfully simple, or making an ironic comment on law itself. Also, given that the ways of states can differ significantly, and Socrates avowed aim is to find the objective Truth (with a capital T), to defer to the man-made and situational laws of one state as in some way embodying a facet of this greater Truth left a bad taste in my mouth. After all it seems pretty obvious to me that Socrates’ entire way of life had the ultimate aim of improving, that is changing, the ways of the Athenians so why defer to their conceivably misguided ways now? Is this not also a betrayal of the truth, arguably an even larger one than that proposed by his friends? Socrates goes some way to answering this argument by claiming that the laws themselves were just, they were merely misused by men, but I still remain largely unconvinced. Crito gives up on any further attempts to convince his friend to escape and Socrates places his fate in the hands of the god.
Meno: Socrates searches out the answer to the question of how virtue is attained (is it learned, the result of practice, or an in-born quality) and skirts around the wider question of what in fact virtue even is. In the case of the latter investigation Socrates first asserts that the soul is immortal and as such participates in the eternal nature of the cosmos and has therefore come to know all things, which are then able to be recollected by us in our earthly lives. He uses as his prime example the ability for an unlearned man to come to ‘discover’ mathematical truths by examining simple facts and coming to his own conclusions on them as opposed to being taught these principles by another. While I don’t disagree that we certainly seem able, in many cases, to intuit a truth from observation and argument, drawing the conclusion that this results from the immortality of the soul and its participation in the oneness of the universe seems a somewhat specious argument to me. It is also rather ironic given its reliance on the religious beliefs of the day and Socrates’ ultimate execution for the charge of impiety. Indeed there are quite a few places that seem to be making an ironic comment on Socrates’ death, such as his own accusation that the Sophist Protagoras “corrupts those who frequent him and sends them away in a worse moral condition than he received them.” Ouch! Don’t cast too many stones there Socrates…or put ideas into your enemies’ heads. Ultimately Socrates comes to deny that virtue can be taught, or that it exists in men by their own nature (thus apparently refuting his earlier statement that the soul ‘pre-knows’ all things) and comes to the conclusion that it is a divine gift, given only to some men.
Phaedo: Socrates’ last day has arrived and his friends gather round him to console him (or more accurately to look for consolation from him). In his last ‘teaching moment’ he addresses their concerns and gives a much fuller account of his theory on the immortality of the soul that was initially touched upon in the Meno. He begins by noting that life is like a prison, a difficult trial which men must overcome by adopting the philosophical life whose end is apparently ultimately to prepare one for death. It would thus appear that the philosopher is, ultimately, a spiritual man. Socrates notes that the world itself, and all we perceive through the physical senses, are flawed at best and it is only through ‘pure’ reason communing with itself and divorced from the physical world that Truth can be discovered. This internal communing allows the philosopher to perceive the famous ‘Platonic Ideals’ and through this contemplation to understand the nature of reality. It seemed to me that Socrates (or Plato) laid it on a little thick here in denying the utility of sense perceptions as part of rational investigation:
Then he will do this most perfectly who approaches the object with thought alone, without associating any sight with his thought, or dragging in any sense perception with his reasoning, but who, using pure thought alone, tries to track down each reality pure and by itself, freeing himself as far as possible from eyes and ears and, in a word, from the whole body
Do not the things that we perceive about objects inform our very understanding of these Platonic Ideals in which they supposedly participate? Could a man born blind and deaf be a good philosopher since he would not be hampered by deceptive sense perceptions? Socrates seems to adopt an almost dualistic stance equating the body, and all of its functions, with a flawed and even evil nature, while the soul is pure (unless dragged down by the desires of the body). Man’s life thus becomes a battleground in which the good man (ultimately the philosopher) will overcome all of the body’s urgings and desires while pursuing only, insofar as it is physically possible, the desires of the soul and the intellect. Socrates goes on to state his belief in the existence of the afterlife and the immortality of the soul, confirming that those who follow the path of virtue and reason while alive will be rewarded with eternity amongst the beings of pure intellect and virtue known as the gods in a world of the purely rational, while those who succumb to the temptations of the body will be punished and even the moderate, if they are not good enough, will be sent back amongst the living in a new body to try to attain ‘salvation’ or to fall into ‘damnation’.
I think it is in the presentation of the doctrine of the Platonic Ideals that I had the most difficulty in this dialogue. Socrates argues that these Ideals are eternal and existed before all other things in the world that merely participate in their nature. Could it not be argued, however, that these ‘Ideals’ did not come first and are merely the representation of a non-existent pattern that only exists in the mind based on humans’ sense perceptions of the physical characteristics of the things in the world around us? While not ultimately convinced, or comforted, by Socrates’ arguments regarding the nature of reality or the ends of the philosophical life, this was definitely a dialogue that provided much food for thought. In the end Socrates stoically (socratically?) quaffed his hemlock nightcap and bid his friends, and the world, adieu.
Read information about the author(Greek: Πλάτων) (Arabic: Platón, Platone)
Plato is a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the foundations of Western philosophy and science.
Plato is one of the most important Western philosophers, exerting influence on virtually every figure in philosophy after him. His dialogue The Republic is known as the first comprehensive work on political philosophy. Plato also contributed foundationally to ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology. His student, Aristotle, is also an extremely influential philosopher and the tutor of Alexander the Great of Macedonia.
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