What was Socrates orientation

Socrates (470–399 BC) or The Birth of Political Philosophy from the Death of Socrates

History of Political Thought pp 234-254 | Cite as


Socrates philosophy answers the same crisis to which sophistics and tragedy have answered. It is the crisis of traditional morality that manifests itself in the period of the Peloponnesian War. The sophists responded to this crisis with pragmatic and skeptical doctrines; they have propagated a new orientation towards benefit and success. Tragedy grasped the crisis as a collision of norms and sought an answer in self-modesty and traditional piety. In Euripides, however, this had already given way to a doctrine that was reflected in many ways and in some cases only outwardly reconciled the conflict. Socrates' answer to the crisis is his famous: "I know that I know nothing". If Socrates can say of himself that he 'knows that he knows nothing', then this word expresses his superiority over his contemporaries. Socrates shows them, the craftsmen, the politicians, the fellow citizens, that they only think they know, but really do not know. In this respect he is ahead of them. On the other hand, his word about not knowing is also a tribute to the crisis. If Socrates "knows nothing", then his answer also says that the crisis of tradition has become radical.

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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2001

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