Monday, January 22, 2007

My lecture notes on Socrates

III. Socrates
A. Dialectical method
1. Starts conversation
2. Isolates key term, asks "What is X"
3. Asks for help defining X
4. Asks for clarification
5. Shows definition to be inadequate
6. Repeats process until it becomes evident the “victim” doesn’t know what he’s talking about
B. Theory of knowledge
1. Socratic dialogue presupposes that there is something quality or property that the term refers to. Universal definitions can capture the truth. A sophist would say that words mean whatever you can get them to mean, for the purposes of advancing yourself.
2. The midwife of ideas
3. Doctrine of innate ideas
C. Metaphysics
1. The soul is the most important part of the person, not just the accompaniment of the body
2. The soul is worth caring for independently of whether or not it will last for an eternity.
D. Virtue
1. The goal of life is not just living, but living well. To do what is immoral in order to preserve oneself, as Antiphon suggested is to defend one’s body by harming one’s soul.
2. Being virtuous is fulfilling our nature. The good life is not just the pleasant l life.
E. Knowing a doing
1. Socrates said that to know the good is to do the good. No one chooses to do evil knowingly.
2. What he means is that when people do wrong they often do so out of a misplaced idea of what is good. Ex. Willie Sutton the bank robber. Why do you rob banks, Willie? Because that’s where the money is.
3. Knowledge isn’t just possessing the information. It is more like wisdom. What is involved in knowing that smoking causes cancer. You can read on every pack of smokes that it does. But if you really knew what you were doing to yourself would you smoke? (The answer to all of this may not, on reflection, support Socrates’ contention. Aristotle, for example, rejected it).
F. Political philosophy
1. Social contract theory- Socrates refuses to escape because he has agreed his receiving the benefits of society means he should accept the penalties it metes out.
2. Natural law theory: There is a universal moral law that can be known through reason and experience, not created by governments. Governments are just insofar as their laws conform to the natural law.

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