Torch: U.S. LXXI Spring 2022 | Page 14


Socrates: Ancient Greece’s Philosophical Pioneer

“The life which is unexamined is not worth living.”⁴ Socrates championed this mantra throughout his philosophical career, inspiring all to conduct more thoughtful and truthful lives. He was born in Athens around 470 BCE to a sculptor named Sophroniscus and a midwife named Phaenarete. Socrates’ father was closely linked with the Delian League, an Athens-led coalition of city-states. During the time of the Delian League, Athens was thriving under the statesman Pericles, who fostered rapid intellectual, technological, and democratic developments. Exposed to his father’s work early on, Socrates interacted with the members of the Periclean Circle, a group of well-educated Athenians. These experiences led him to think deeply from a young age, contributing to his future philosophical accomplishments. Socrates also became a notable citizen due to his service in the Athenian military during the Peloponnesian War against Sparta.³ This early recognition also led to his later prominence as a philosopher. Socrates revolutionized the philosophical studies and practices of the Ancient Greek civilization through the examination of ethics and the invention of the Socratic Method.

By exploring ethics and virtues, Socrates ushered in a novel philosophical era of moral contemplation and development. Since his childhood, Socrates was guided by a divine voice called a daimon. The daimon served as his conscience and directed his actions, differing from the traditional philosophy of guidance through omens.² Socrates read the texts of Greek philosophers, such as Heraclitus,

Socrates: Ancient Greece’s Philosophical Pioneer

by Nayan Shankaran

The Episcopal Academy


Parmenides, and Anaxagoras, which served as the basis for his thinking when he began to question human ethics.³ Specifically, he considered people’s motivations, virtues, and nature.⁶ Socrates’ studies were revolutionary because earlier philosophers did not examine themselves and others to such an extent. By introducing this introspective way of thinking, Socrates opened the citizens’ eyes to their own thoughts and beliefs. Like him, they further developed their own conscience and morality. Socrates fundamentally transformed philosophy, spurring a new period of self-discovery that evolved Greek society.

Socrates further advanced Ancient Greek philosophy by creating the active questioning technique called the Socratic Method. The objective of the Socratic Method was to shed light on people’s assumptions in order to promote truthful thinking and more purposeful living.³ This method also improved the Athenians’ education and analytical approach. To spread his teachings, Socrates walked the streets of Athens and questioned Athenians in order to spark dialogue that encouraged critical thinking.¹ Even though the Socratic Method exposed purportedly knowledgeable people, a broader audience could also participate in philosophical enlightenment.¹ Socrates and others realized that seemingly-wise people could actually be ignorant. Furthermore, the method encouraged the Athenians to become more mindful citizens by questioning the validity of their own thoughts and beliefs. Socrates dedicated his life’s work to the Socratic Method and soon became known as the wisest

Spring 2022 · Torch: U.S. · HOW TO PREPARE FOR CERTAMEN

HOW TO PREPARE FOR CERTAMEN · Spring 2022 · Torch: U.S.