How Socrates is still relevant today and needed more than ever
“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”
Arguably the most influential thinker ever, Socrates was dedicated to reasoning. He sought knowledge more than anything else including victory. He used logical methods to pursue the truth with his willingness to question everything. His determination to only accept the absolute truth with reasoning make him the first clear person in critical philosophy. Over the centuries and even today a lot of decisions are made under emotional judgement rather than reasoning. We today can see the divisions in society and a lot of it can attributed to the breakdown in seeking the truth through logic.
There is much about Socrates that is still relevant today and examples below show how important he can still be for society.
Freedom of Speech
Athens was one of the first places to have freedom of speech where every man had the capacity to address the whole Athenian Assembly. However depending on social class, you would have to “know your worth” and for the lowest social class to speak it would be with a sense of shame.
Socrates fought against this by devising a system of real free speech. Athens did not like this but he continued to rebel which in the end would be the cause of his death. Today freedom of speech is one of the most vital parts of democracy, Socrates understood this 2400 years ago.
“The highest form of Human Excellence is to question oneself and others.”
Socrates belief that world wasn’t created by God was seen as widely controversial. He not only would go against people of his own generation, but this ideology would also disagree with many religions which would arrive hundreds of years later. Socrates was not a scientist but his method of questioning to find answers paved the way for how science works today. He devised a unique way of breaking down a conservation with people who have different views but who seek the same truth. Scrutinise everything, beginning with a hypothesis and then do not stop till there is a clear conclusion. He believed in not depending on the whim of Gods and instead pushed for individual empowerment and responsibility,
Seek True Happiness
“The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.”
Socrates battled in both foreign and civil wars. He began to ask himself and others what is the point of war if the people we are fighting for are not happy. He is the first person to believe that happiness can be achieved through human effort. Most people of his generation believed that happiness was a rarity and it is given to those that the Gods prefer. The concept that you can get happiness yourself was seen as arrogant and was met with punishment. However, Socrates believed it is possible and that to achieve true happiness you must focus on your soul. Living a moral life will lead to a happier life. Having awareness of our lives is vital as we end up going about our jobs with little questioning. As Socrates argued what is the point of wars unless the people of the country are actually happy. This can be related to everyday people working away from 9–5.
Challenging Social Norms
Socrates never feared the Greek state and would regularly fight and argue with the government wherever he saw opportunity for improvement. He never feared speaking his own mind on bad governance as Martin Luther King once wrote in 1963:
“Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths… so we must see the need for non-violent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism.”
Creator of Philosophical Ethics
Socrates was one of the first people to encourage people to question what is right or wrong? He would ask questions to all of society to establish what was good and what was bad which would later shape the legal conducts in Western society. Socrates did not stop there, he questioned what would be the best way to live, and his answer was so impactful that many philosophers took his answers in their own explanations.
Primarily, Socrates enjoyed the company of people. He loved listening to them, understanding their problems and their ways of thinking. His speeches centred around the importance of morality, bravery and loyalty to fair ruling. He especially taught the youth of wealthy families not to over-value material objects but to have more interest in their spirits. He believed that people had the capability to solve issues through just logical thinking. This is still relevant as ever as his theories are critical to modern Western Philosophy.
“Prefer knowledge to wealth, for the one is transitory, the other perpetual.”