I suspect that Socrates did not exist

Discussion in 'Religion & Philosophy' started by Patricio Da Silva, Sep 8, 2021.

  1. Patricio Da Silva

    Patricio Da Silva Well-Known Member

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    "The only thing I know for certain is that I know nothing" -- Socrates,

    Yes, I'm mindful of the Socrates quote, and it is a shortened and paraphrased one from the original in Greek. Right?

    ... ἔοικα γοῦν τούτου γε σμικρῷ τινι αὐτῷ τούτῳ σοφώτερος εἶναι, ὅτι ἃ μὴ οἶδα οὐδὲ οἴομαι εἰδέναι.

    ... I seem, then, in just this little thing to be wiser than this man at any rate, that what I do not know I do not think I know either. [from the Henry Cary literal translation of 1897]

    Moreover, I've often harbored the suspicion that Socrates did not exist, and that Plato invented him because he was such a humble man that he did not want to take credit. Here's my evidence: Imagine you are, with ancient writing tools, a quill and papyri, writing down every word your colleague utters? Imagine doing that. Can you do it? If you think you can, the next time someone gives a speech, without the benefit of knowing shorthand, try doing it with a fountain pen, let alone a quill and ink well. It's well nigh impossible because normal speech is at about 200 words per minute. No one can write that fast without knowing some kind of shorthand. However, IF the words are YOURS, then you have all the time in the world to put down your own thoughts.

    What evidence do we have of Socrates, beyond what Plato tells us? How was he able to transcribe Socrates's every word?

    Now, it's entirely possible Socrates was a real person, but Plato merely projected HIMSELF into Socrates, out of humility. Is not a truly wise, enlightened man, a humble man?

    And, why wouldn't Socrates write anything down for posterity? If he were so wise, one would think, at the very minimum, he would have thought of that? Surely he would have been mindful that Plato was doing it for him, that Plato was doing this might have given him the idea to do it himself, but, alas, no such record exists by the hand of Socrates. Surely Socrates was educated and could read and write, yes?

    No, I believe what Plato wrote of Socrates IS Plato, or at least the majority of his words. Not only that, I believe Plato kept the fact he was doing it from Socrates, for not the benefit of Socrates, but for the benefit of posterity, because there is where the wisdom lies, for the benefit of posterity. I believe Socrates may have existed, and did, indeed, rant in the marketplace to the annoyance of many, and perhaps his annoyance led to his death sentence, but the profound words he supposedly uttered, most of it, anyway, were Plato's words, and that is my opinion. But, admittedly, it is not an opinion arrived at via any great study of Plato's writings, and no, I haven't done a thorough amount of research would call 'due diligence', let alone 'research' ( to a scholarly level).

    But, that quote may have very well been that of Socrates, as he spoke it often. Socrates would have been at least wise enough to think of something like that, and his words were a supreme annoyance to the ruling class, because, well, you know the old adage' 'truth to power'. And truth to power in an age before there was due process, could easily lead to a death sentence.

    The more I think about it, is that the more likely truth is that Plato's Socrates is an amalgam of both Plato and Socrates, rolled into one.

    And the reason I think that is that Socrates may have had some notable lines, which he repeated often, and those would have been easy to recall and thus transcribe. But, the more contemporaneous writings by Plato of Socrate's spoken words, are not Plato's contemporaneous writings at all, they are Plato's thoughts disguised as Socrates. That, to me, makes a lot more sense. However, not having done due diligence, reading all the Socrates allegedly spoke by Plato's hand, scrutinized all the detail of the dialogues, etc., I'm still open on the matter, but I am suspicious.

    Anyone want to chime in? Hopefully from someone who has a degree in philosophy?
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2021
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  2. Dirty Rotten Imbecile

    Dirty Rotten Imbecile Active Member

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    Sorry I don’t have a degree in philosophy.


    It’s pretty common to read that Socrates as he is depicted by Plato acts as a mouthpiece for Platos own ideas. I am sure many of those ideas were informed by Socrates himself.

    The existence of Socrates is documented by many other sources. Since I don’t have a degree I can’t quote them off the top of my head.

    I really like the dialogues about Justice but overall I disagree with the philosophy about ideal forms existing and that concept is a key premise in his Republic.

    The Republic he describes is a bit too totalitarian to me and forming a civilization based on lies seems unbalanced.
     
  3. VotreAltesse

    VotreAltesse Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    @Patricio Da Silva No degree of philosophy either. As far as I know Socrates and Plato lived at a time where oral tradition were much more important. From what I remember their epoch was a time where writtings started to have more importance.
    Socrates was maybe more of that old world of oral tradition when Plato was more that new generation or writting tradition.
    People were more trained to memorize long texts and epic poems.
    I don't see any reason to doubt of the existence of Socrates, it's obvious however that everything that Socrates said is known through the prism of Plato own understanding and philosophy.
     
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  4. Espinoza

    Espinoza Banned

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    Does it matter?
     
  5. Dirty Rotten Imbecile

    Dirty Rotten Imbecile Active Member

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  6. Patricio Da Silva

    Patricio Da Silva Well-Known Member

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    What about the idea I posited where Plato projected a lot of his own ideas letting Socrates take the credit?

    But, Socrates spoke, not always of stories of memorization, but lecturing, extemporaneous speech.

    Writing all that down means that Plato would have to have quill and paper and ink and always be following him around, and be able to write 200 words a minute.

    If you think that is easy, try it on an audio book of Socrates.
     
  7. Patricio Da Silva

    Patricio Da Silva Well-Known Member

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    Does any thing matter?
     
  8. Pycckia

    Pycckia Well-Known Member

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    There are at least three lengthy, contemporary, independent accounts of his life that have survived: Plato’s dialogues and Apology, Xenophon’s Socratic works and Aristophanes’ plays. From later works (e.g. Diodorus Siculus, Byzantine sources) it is known that other philosophers like Aeschines of Sphettus who met Socrates personally had written first-handed accounts of his life and teaching that are now lost. Needless to say, there are numerous accounts from later writers who met those who had met Socrates, the best known being Aristotle.
     
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  9. Polydectes

    Polydectes Well-Known Member

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    I do not have a degree in philosophy. My thought is at first who cares. The value of Socrates is not on whether he was an actual man or not kind of like the value of Robin Hood or chicken little it isn't so much that they were actually people that existed but an idea and that's what philosophy is an idea.

    If he has to be absolutely proven to be real for a person to take value from the teaching then I would consider such a person a nhilist.
     
  10. Patricio Da Silva

    Patricio Da Silva Well-Known Member

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    Thanks, what do you think about the idea that Plato projected some of himself into Socrates, letting Socrates take credit for Plato's ideas?
     
  11. VotreAltesse

    VotreAltesse Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    It's absolutly possible and it's an interesting hypothesis.

    I don't think it's easy, but If Plato grew up in a society where spoken tradition had an important place, it's likely has he was a child, that he had to memorize long poems. The more you learn to memorize things, the more it's easy for you to memorize things and we're not equal on that matter, so it's absolutly possible that Plato had predisposition for that. If those predisposition were trained, it's absolutly possible he at least memorized the whole substance of what his teacher said.
    I wasn't trained for that, as a child, I just had to memorize once a year a small poem two or three times. My ability to memorize things compared to people who grew up in oral tradition societies is likely compared of someone who know barely to swim compared to someone who spend his time swimming as a child.

    A similar situation is with the Buddha and globally the relationship of master/disciple who was (and is still) very important. The teaching of Buddha was not written for century and was purely kept by assemblies of monk through oral tradition.
    For instance, the pali canon that is the base texts of theravada buddhism looks like that :
    [​IMG]
    And all of that was for a long time just passed over generations through only pure memorization, we can in a legitimate manner wonder how much was originally of the Buddha, but it's sure that all of that was transmitted on generations to generations through pure memorization, by assemblies of monks.

    So as far as I understand things, memory when extensively trained and with the right predispositions (and it's absolutly possible it was the case for Plato) can be able to memorize whole speech and book sized information.
     
  12. Pycckia

    Pycckia Well-Known Member

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    Certainly possible. Perhaps Plato wanted to give his ideas more gravitas by attributing them to a well known and respected philosoper.
     
  13. Dirty Rotten Imbecile

    Dirty Rotten Imbecile Active Member

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    Something to consider is that Socrates was what the 20th century Hannah Arendt called an active philosopher. In The Republic, Socrates is depicted philosophizing in public through a series of conversations. This type of active discussion was what Arendt wanted to be noted for. In contrast, she saw Plato as the template for the contemplative philosopher. After the death of Socrates, Plato was disillusioned with Athens. He had just witnessed his mentor sentenced to death for reasons Plato would have disagreed with. He then left Athens and entered a period of reclusiveness; his philosophy reflects that.
    Perhaps that difference in philosophical styles is an indicator that Plato delivered a representation of Socrates that was more true to Socrates than Plato.
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2021
  14. btthegreat

    btthegreat Well-Known Member

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    We have a second source who also documented. "A student and a friend of Socrates, Xenophon recounted several Socratic dialoguesSymposium, Oeconomicus, Hiero, a tribute to SocratesMemorabilia, and a chronicle of the philosopher's trial in 399 BCApology of Socrates to the Jury. Reading Xenophon's Memorabilia inspired Zeno of Citium to change his life and start the Stoic school of philosophy...."
    Xenophon was a student of Socrates, and their personal relationship is evident through a conversation between the two in Xenophon’s Anabasis. In his Lives of Eminent Philosophers, the Greek biographer Diogenes Laërtius (who writes many centuries later) reports how Xenophon met Socrates. "They say that Socrates met [Xenophon] in a narrow lane, and put his stick across it and prevented him from passing by, asking him where all kinds of necessary things were sold. And when he had answered him, he asked him again where men were made good and virtuous. And as he did not know, he said, 'Follow me, then, and learn.' And from this time forth, Xenophon became a follower of Socrates."[42] Diogenes Laërtius also relates an incident "when in the battle of Delium Xenophon had fallen from his horse" and Socrates reputedly "stepped in and saved his life."[43]

    Xenophon's admiration for his teacher is clear in writings such as Symposium, Apology, and Memorabilia. Xenophon was away on his Persian campaign during the trial and death of Socrates. Nevertheless, much of Xenophon's Socratic writing, especially Apology, concerns that very trial and the defence Socrates put forward."
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xenophon

    And you have contemporary descriptions by playright Aristophanes in his plays that actually preceded the documentation of the students.
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2021
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  15. Cougarbear

    Cougarbear Well-Known Member

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    Did Plato have a degree in philosophy?

    First question to answer is I have gone to countless seminars in my business and have taken extensive notes. Not a problem who spends time doing it. Also, maybe Socrates wrote down his lessons and Plato had access to them.

    As far as Socrates existing, Bill and Ted went on that excellent adventure and brought him back to San Dimas. So, we know he existed... :icon_picknose:
     
  16. Patricio Da Silva

    Patricio Da Silva Well-Known Member

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    To memorize an extemporaneous speech, well, let's take a closer look at this. Okay, no matter how well 'trained' one is for memorizing poems, with poems, you have the luxury of time, with extemporaneous speech, you do not. Therefore, the only way an individual could memorize an extemporaneous speech, a long one, as Socrates's talks almost always were, such that he or she could transcribe it in toto later, would be if that individual had a photographic memory. Photographic memory is extremely rare.
     
  17. Patricio Da Silva

    Patricio Da Silva Well-Known Member

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    Taking notes is one thing, but verbatim transcriptions where speech is averaged at 200 wpm, that takes knowledge of shorthand.
     
  18. VotreAltesse

    VotreAltesse Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    I think that you may underestimate the power of a trained memory, maybe not at the point of remembering every exact words, but remembering every ideas, great lines that was said and global structure of thought, I suppose it is.

    It's possible that he got such memory, Plato seemed to be someone quite exceptionnal.

    I would suppose there is a halfway solution also : Plato memorized the great lines of what his master said, he kept the general ideas but wrote them as he could. Someone with a good memory could absolutly do that. Basically, he didn't memorized everything verbatim, however manage to memorize the great lines, the ideas.

    I'm a little bit interested in the history of buddhism, and beyond the case of Buddha and his disciples, I have noticed at least one example of someone that has wrotten the teaching of his master a long time after the death of this said master.
     
  19. Dirty Rotten Imbecile

    Dirty Rotten Imbecile Active Member

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    Perhaps Plato’s experience with Socrates was a bit like when you are out with your wife and she tells that story about how she found that girl who gives her a great deal on getting her nails done. You’re like “oh here goes Socrates with his line of questioning on justice again. Poor Thrasymachus has no idea what he triggered.”

    I mean I’m sure Plato liked hanging out with Socrates but after a while some of these stories would get to be old hat.
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2021
  20. Cougarbear

    Cougarbear Well-Known Member

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    Some people are also verbal learners and can remember what people say verbatim just like photographic memory persons can do. No, I've done very well in the past with taking notes at seminars. And, as I said, Socrates may have written his lessons down and Plato just took from them.
    I thought the Bill and Ted comment was classic humor. Where is the humor in people today? Certainly not with liberals...
     
  21. Dirty Rotten Imbecile

    Dirty Rotten Imbecile Active Member

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    Why would people with a different political perspective than yours lack a sense of humour?
     
  22. Cougarbear

    Cougarbear Well-Known Member

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    Apparently they do. Why, because liberals are naturally unhappy people who always have to have a cause to get them interested in their lives.
     
  23. Dirty Rotten Imbecile

    Dirty Rotten Imbecile Active Member

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    How many liberals do you know?
     
  24. Patricio Da Silva

    Patricio Da Silva Well-Known Member

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    Many prominent comedians are on the left. Bill Maher, Louis Black, George Carlin, and I'm sure there are others. Even Maher commented the comedians on the right aren't funny.
     
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  25. Cougarbear

    Cougarbear Well-Known Member

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    Oh, we are funny. Liberals just can't take a joke against them. But, they expect conservatives are supposed to take jokes against them. But, most liberal comedians aren't funny anymore like Carlin. They make political statement not expecting laughs but to expect claps for their positions.
     

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