Socrates, the most notable and the best known of all the Greek philosophers, to whom the designation of "the Father of Philosophy" (parens philosophioe) has been deservedly given. His prominence during life, his influence after death, and his notoriety through his death affected the character and development of speculation more than they have ever been affected by any other philosopher. It is the impress of his own heart and mind upon the growing thought of the world the impulse and direction which he gave to intellectual inquiry and to moral action — much more than any special doctrine, which have insured to his name the distinction and affectionate reverence that have attended it through all the ensuing centuries. Even if no regard should be paid to the peculiarities of his philosophical doctrine, the career and the character of Socrates would merit the highest admiration in any age. They were singularly remarkable in a pagan age, and amid all the corruptions, the sophistries, and the brilliant license of Athens during the Peloponnesian war. He was a heathen, with many of the virtues and more, of the aims of Christianity. In a period of unrestrained ochlocracy, of eager ambition, of greed, of self-seeking, and of rapacity, he, though conscious of the highest intellectual vigor, and associating with the ablest public men, was content with the humble station in which he was born, and never sought office or command. Surrounded with opportunities for acquiring wealth and luxurious indulgences, he was heedless of poverty, hunger, exposure, and all hardships. He was at all times patriotic, and observant of law in matters religious, political, and social. He was without superstitions other than those inseparable from his time and country. He was faithful and fearless in the discharge of every public and private duty. He gave his thought, his heart, his energies, to the improvement of his fellow citizens, and spent his life as a missionary of moral and intellectual reformation. His temperament, at least in his later years, was withal so serene; his disposition so amiable, earnest, and unaffected; his manner so sincere and winning; his intercourse so kindly and sportive; his resolution so steadfast; his heart. at all times so simple and devoid of selfishness or guile, that he might well appear to Alcibiades and the contemporaries of Alcibiades such a man as was not elsewhere to. be encountered. "We shall not look upon his like again." He will remain, as he has remained, a unique exemplar in the history of humanity. In accounting for the unequalled fascination which Socrates since death, as in life, has exercised upon all intellectual and cultivated men, to the merits and charms and singularities of his career must be added the quiet and unostentatious grandeur of his death, when he freely surrendered life under an undeserved sentence, in order to maintain the laws of his country, though misapplied, and to seal his doctrine and his practice with the most solemn of all signatures. As a missionary, and as a zealous, self-abnegating and untiring moralist, Socrates suggests a comparison with the apostles and martyrs of Christianity, and with the founders of monastic communities in the dissolute and stormy Middle Age. As a preacher and teacher of moral regeneration, he provokes, though with reverential assertion of the vast interval, a more daring comparison, which has impressed devout Christians no less than unbelievers and misbelievers like Rousseau and Baur. It adds new dignity and a loftier interest to the life and death of Socrates to contemplate his career as an essential part of the providential and patient preparation of the civilized world for the acceptance of Christianity.

I. Life. — It is peculiarly needful, in the case of Socrates, to pay careful attention to the course and circumstances of his life, because his remarkable personality is so strongly and so strikingly impressed upon his doctrine and upon the whole tenor of his procedure. The Socratic philosophy, in its active development and in its theoretic import, is distinctly the product of the idiosyncrasies of Socrates, and of the requirements and tendencies of the memorable age in which he lived, and which he rendered more illustrious by his life. This has been fully recognized by Ritter, by Zeller, by Grote, and by other historians of philosophy and historians of Athens. It may be thought that they have overlooked some considerations not less weighty and significant than any that they have adduced. But they have not failed to note the intimate correspondence between the man and his doctrine, between his teachings and his times. His life is his philosophy, his philosophy the refection of his life. Yet it is difficult to present a true portrait of the great teacher, or a just biography of him. The materials are abundant are, indeed, redundant; but they are all presented "in such questionable guise" as to be of doubtful credibility. Socrates reappears in nearly all later writers, Greek or Roman, whose subjects allowed any reference to him, or who sought "to point a moral or adorn a tale." Incident and anecdote, text and comment, are multiplied indefinitely; but no confidence can be accorded to the traditions reported or repeated by Cicero, Seneca, or Quintilian, by Plutarch or Diogenes Laertius, or by other authorities having still less claim on our belief. Reverent conjecture invented, credulous admiration accepted, eager tradition expanded, and curious repetition distorted or transmuted detail after detail, till the genuine Socrates of the 5th ante-Christian century became an accumulation of myths. This process of transfiguration commenced, in no respectful way, in the lifetime of the sage. Aristophanes, in his Clouds, and Ameipsias, in his Connus, exposed to immortal laughter his appearance, his rags, his manners, and his speculation. Yet the caricature of the comedians may be welcomed as a likeness with almost as much security as the delineations of his disciples. It is fortunate that we possess the Memorabilia and the Synposium of Xenophon and the Dialogues of Plato. But both these biographers were manifest writers of fiction, and all their productions were dyed in the brighter or more subdued colors of fancy. The author of the Memorabilia composed the Cyropoedia, the Agesilaus, and the Hiero. The author of the exquisite Apologia was also the dreamer of the Republic and the Laws. All the writings of both these glories of Attic literature may be included under Pindar's category:

δεδαιδαλμένοι ψεύδεσι ποικίλοις ... μῦθοι. Aristippus wrote to Plato repudiating his representations of their common teacher (Aristotle, Rhet. 2, 23), and Demochares denied Plato's statements regarding the exploits of Socrates at Delium and Amphipolis. The contrasts and discrepancies between Xenophon and Plato have been long and prominently noted. They have been explained by diversity of aim, difference of intellectual susceptibilities, and disparity of talents. It has been held by Zeller, by Grote, by Mason, in an able article in Smith's Dictionary of Biography, that the apparent contradictions may be reconciled. It is alleged that Xenophon regarded only the practical side of the Socratic instructions, and sought to convince the Athenians of the innocence of the master; while Plato was always contemplating the speculative import of the Socratic doctrine, and sublimating teaching and teacher in accordance with his own philosophical fantasy. This may be freely admitted, but it does not leave a sufficient or a safe basis for accurate biography: "The trail of the serpent is over it all." Even those who espouse this scheme of conciliation are compelled to exclude from the Memoires pour servir the greater and the more characteristic part of the Platonic Dialogues, in which Socrates is evidently a mere lay figure, or, rather, a tailor's manikin for the exhibition of the Platonic robes and other finery. Agreement may be imagined between the representations of Xenophon and Plato by considering them as different views of the same personage. Such agreement, however, is not inconsistent with a lavish employment of decoration by each; since all forms of flattery and of caricature require some observance of characteristic features. Yet it may reasonably be concluded that the Socrates of Xenophon as well as of Plato is posing or attitudinizing, though there be great difference in the grace and fascination of the two figures. Still Xenophon and Plato are our best, and almost our only real, authorities for the life and opinions of Socrates. They must be accepted as nearly our sole genuine sources of information. Due caution must be shown in their employment; and it must be remembered that something of coherence and consistency, the softening of some asperities, and the exaggeration of some angularities, which were originally due to the fictitious ingredient, will remain after all our care. There may be little real ground for regret in the want of perfect assurance of the literal truth of the portraiture. There is a hazy conception, and an exaggeration through the haze, of all the images of the past. There will be a general truth of presentation, resulting from the affectionate and admiring pictures of dissimilar followers, which will be more impressive and inspiriting than any mechanical though faithful daub could be. At any rate, Xenophon and Plato furnish forth the Socrates who kindled, guided, charmed, the later world. Those who are satisfied of the substantial agreement of the two contemporary biographers introduce Aristotle to check or to confirm their statements. The indications of Aristotle are eminently valuable. They are rarely biographical. They do not diminish the regret that all the works of the censors and even calumniators of Socrates, except the Clouds, and all the sources whence Athenieus drew his discrediting reports, have been utterly lost, but lost without having influenced the general judgment of men.

Socrates was born at Athens in B.C. 468 or 469; before 469 says Ueberweg, with great plausibility. His birthday was in later times commemorated as a sacred day on the 6th of Thargelion, which would fall in May. His father, Sophroniscus, was a sculptor or statuary, in humble circumstances; not a common stonemason, if his distinguished son, who learned and practiced the father's art, produced the Graces in front of the Acropolis, which were seen and noted by Pausanias (1, 22, 8; 9, 35, 1). His mother was Phaenarete, a midwife, whose occupation he often employed to illustrate his own intellectual procedure, which may have been confirmed or suggested by it. The father's condition did not allow the son any special advantages of education. The statement that Socrates was the pupil of Anaxagoras and Prodicus can have no other meaning than that he may have read the works of the former, and may have conversed with both. They, as well as Gorgias and Parmenides, were at Athens during his early or mature manhood. The ordinary education of an Athenian, with the varied aids and stimulations which rendered the average Athenian more than equal to an average member of the British Parliament, were open to him, and were doubtless turned to the best account. He would learn music and gymnastics, and these were, probably, his only school acquirements; but music and gymnastics embraced the elements of all intellectual and physical training. He has expressed, through Plato, his obligations for his public education (Crito, 12). The free intercourse of a democracy, and of such a democracy as that of Athens in the age of Pericles, with its boast of freedom of speech and of association, would afford Socrates, who ever sought intimacy with noted persons, every chance of instruction and information that could be desired. The education of living communion far transcends all that can be learned from books. Socrates himself professes to have been self educated in philosophy (Xenophon, Symp. 1, 5), and the profession is just, for he had none to point the way which he pursued. He might also have claimed self education in other respects, but it was an education resulting from habitual intercourse with the most intelligent and the best informed of all classes and of both sexes — with the associates of Pericles and Phidias, with Aspasia and Diotima, as well as with poets, artists, sophists, and artisans. His indefatigable pertinacity and curiosity would enable him readily to acquire the extensive knowledge ascribed to him by Xenophon.

There are no authentic details of the first half of the life of Socrates. To Plato and to Xenophon he was always an old man. Is there not room here for suspecting that the tenets and, inquiries and practices which were ridiculed by Aristophanes and Ameipsias, before an audience familiar with the object of caricature, may have been the pursuits and investigations of Socrates in his earlier years, while groping his way towards his ultimate vocation? This suspicion merits examination. It may, however, be fairly inferred from the tenor of Xenophon's and of Plato's remarks that Socrates pursued the simple path of his obscure life, in the performance of every public and private duty, without failure and without blame. He discharged the civil functions devolving on every Athenian faithfully, but without thought of advancement. He rendered the regular military service without seeking or holding command. He distinguished himself, or is said to have done so, at Potidaea, Delium, and Amphipolis by his courage, patience, and endurance. The story of the rescue of Alcibiades by Socrates at Potidaea is incredible, for the former was barely fifteen years of age at the time. The compensating story that Alcibiades afterwards rescued Socrates has the air of fiction about it. These military expeditions were the only occasions of absence from Athens, except one visit to the Isthmus, to which Aristotle adds a visit to Delphi (Frag. 3). Socrates loved Athens, loved its scenes, its bustle, and its people. He married and had children, but he was happy neither in his wife nor his children. Xanthippe had the reputation of a shrew throughout all antiquity; and the sons of Cimon, Pericles, and Socrates are commemorated together as worthless (Aristotle, Rhet. 2, 15). It may easily be credited that Socrates neglected wife and family while interminably discussing and debating throughout the livelong day. It is a question whether he had one or two wives the much known Xanthippe, the mother of his daughter, and Myrto, the daughter or descendant of Aristides the Just. This bigamy, or matrimonial duplicity, is repudiated by Athenaeus (13, 2), by Grote, Zeller, and nearly all the moderns. Athenaens says that the allegation rests upon the authority of Callisthenes, Demetrius Phalereus, Satyrus, and Aristoxenus. This is early testimony, and in the main reputable. It rests also on the higher evidence of Aristotle (Fra. 84), as reported by Diogenes Laertius, but the reporter may be suspected.

We may believe that Socrates displayed the highest civic virtue and the highest moral courage on the only two occasions when he is stated to have been clothed with an official character. He was at all times averse to political employment, and avoided it as unsuited to his temperament and habitudes; but he renounced no duty. As presiding member of the Prytany, he refused to put to the vote the iniquitous decree against the generals inculpated at Arginusae; and, under the Thirty Tyrants, he opposed the execution of the infamous order for the arrest of Leon the Salaminian. In one case he braved the furious mob, in the other the despotic oligarchs. The vocation of Socrates lay not in art, nor in litigation, nor in war, nor in politics. His mission was that of a reformer of morals and of speculation, and was created by and for himself. At what time he entered upon this career it is impossible to ascertain. It probably grew upon him gradually, and strengthened and shaped itself as it grew, until at length it became recognized as a definite and irrecusable duty. There is so much in both method and doctrine that springs from the peculiarities of the man, so much in the fashion of his apostolate that reflects and elucidates any possible interpretation of his character, that his marvellous career must be deemed primarily spontaneous and unconscious. The deliberate and systematic prosecution of his high vocation must have begun soon after the death of Pericles, though it probably did not assume its characteristic form till a later time. He must have attained public notoriety in those years, for Aristophanes and Ameipsias offered him to the merciless ridicule of the Athenian people in the spring after the battle of Delium. The new teacher presented as curious a spectacle as the fancy of a caricaturist could devise. He was earnest, enthusiastic, untiring, pertinacious; pressing forward, "in season and out of season," with "line upon line and precept upon precept;" tackling everybody, high and low, at work or at recreation, in street and temple, theater and banquet hall, court, dockyard, and grove; in school, workshop, conference, and assembly. He claimed to be impelled to catechise, and to expose ignorance, under the solemnity of a divine call. But the missionary was grotesque in all respects, repulsive in many. He was garrulous beyond measure, an interminable disputant; boring everybody with an unceasing and pitiless storm of questions, and answering others only with a fresh shower of questions. This concorporated note of interrogation was ugly beyond known examples of human ugliness, with short, squat figure, fat, round belly, goggle eyes, thick lips, big mouth, pug nose, transcending in its pug-nasi-ty all observed puggishness. Even friends and admirers called him a satyr, and compared him to the comic masks of Silenus. Rabelais wittily assimilated him to a patent physic bottle. He was habitually unwashed and unshod, and clothed with an old, worn, greasy chlamys. His manners tended to increase repugnance. His speech was rude and inelegant, his voice grating, his immediate topics and examples humble, if not positively vulgar; his bearing was obtrusive, without being presumptuous; his address plain and unpolished, though not discourteous. His manners were termed coarse and clownish by Aristoxenus. Politicians, legists, orators, philosophers, sophists, magistrates, generals, and citizens were decried by him as fools and knaves, and compelled to gaze in the mirror held before them, that they might recognize their own folly, fraud, and ignorance. This drastic medicine was forced upon those who enjoyed the discomfiture of others, but not their own, by the quaint personage who could stand, and keep others standing, from morning to night, and who talked without intermission, though able sometimes to listen with the utmost patience. Nevertheless, this portentous mouthpiece of the gods had strange powers of enchantment, and lulled those on whom he fastened like a vampire, fanning them while sucking their blood, or held them, like the skinny finger of the Ancient Mariner, so that "they could not choose but hear." The lustre of another world broke forth in his speech, like the moon emerging from a shapeless bank of clouds, and revealed a tenderness of sentiment, a purity of feeling, a depth of thought, a fertility of illustration, an overflowing humor, a playful and penetrating wit, a wealth of knowledge, an ingenuity of argument, and a concentration of noble aims. His magic wrought like the Vice of the poet:

"A monster of so frightful mien As, to he hated, needs but to be seen; Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, We first endure, then pity, then embrace."

It could scarcely increase the favor of Socrates with the multitude, who knew him only by sight, to see him attended by Critias, Alcibiades, Charmides, Xenophon, Aristippus, etc., and to hear that this zealot of a new doctrine, who condemned present conduct and current opinion, professed to keep a little divinity of his own, and was declared by the Delphic oracle to be the wisest of men. The humility of his interpretation of the oracle might be unknown, or might seem a mock humility, correspondent to his familiar and habitual irony. The only ground of the oracular utterance, he said, was that he knew that he knew nothing, while others mistook their own ignorance for knowledge. There is more wit than reason in the remark of Athenseus (5, 60), "If knowing nothing is wisdom, knowing all things must be folly." He proceeds to say that Socrates was worthy of belief when he professed himself "not to be wise;" and that it was as needless to consult the god on this point as to ask "whether any one was more pug nosed than Socrates." Such, then, was the reformer who undertook to convert the Athenians from the error of their ways. He was more frugal than a Neapolitan lazzarone or a Greek mendicant — Groeculus esuriens. He was abstemious, given neither to wine nor to pleasure. He was able and willing to drink more than any of his compotators; yet "no man ever saw Socrates drunk" (Plato, Symp. p. 220). He was ascetic, inviting hardships and careless of pain, like the Coenobites of the desert or the founders of mediaeval fraternities. He declined the invitations of princes and potentates because he could not return their favors. He refused to take money for his instructions, denounced the Sophists for their mercenary practice, and sent back to Aristippus the gains which he desired to share with him. He condemned existing usages, procedures, and theories; derided the political institutions of Athens; invited all to abandon their delusive and pernicious doctrines and reasonings; attached him self specially to the young for the conversion of the rising generation; yet was himself observant of established customs and prescription in religion, in law, in political and social conduct.

A character like this could hardly receive due appreciation in the lively and captious community in which he lived and moved without resting, and which he tormented through all ranks without ceasing. How difficult the appreciation must have been may be estimated from the diverse portraits drawn by his friends and pupils, Xenophon and Plato, without either achieving a fair picture. Socrates might win the admiration of many by his brilliant display of dialectical ingenuity and intellectual power; he might attract ambitious politicians by the hope of acquiring his arts; but he could secure the devotion only of the few who caught glimpses of his purpose and desired to share his aims. To the populace and to the upper multitude he must have seemed a strange and unwelcome phenomenon. He must have gone about multiplying dislikes, nursing enmities and antagonisms, and storing up wrath against the day of wrath. In the Platonic Apology he expresses greater apprehension of chronic misconception and calumny and odium than of the immediate capital charge. This is consonant with probability. The distinct reference to Aristophanes is a Platonic device, and excites a suspicion that there is as little authentic and uncolored fact as in the Latin Panegyrica, or the Diogenes of Dion Cassius.

Full acquiescence may be accorded to Grote's remark that the indictment and condemnation of Socrates are less surprising than his long escape from prosecution. For twenty or thirty years he had been suffered, without molestation, to infest the streets of Athens, to consort with oligarchs and tyrants, to preach novel doctrines to idlers, to interrupt and deride every one, and to offend prevailing sentiment. The Jews would have stoned such a prophet without such patient endurance.

At length, in B.C. 399, after the restoration of the democracy and the reestablishment of the old constition, Socrates was indicted. His accusers had little obvious reason for personal enmity. Meletus, or Melitus, was a youthful poet, otherwise almost unknown. Anytus was a wealthy tradesman and active politician, who had cooperated efficiently with Thrasybulus in the recent overthrow of the Thirty, and whose son had been dissuaded from following his father's trade. Lycon was a professional rhetorician, and was thus involved in the Socratic censure of the Sophists. Anytus alone had any personal grievance. It was very slight, but it concurred with a general antipathy to Socrates. The charge was that Socrates neglected his country's gods, introduced new divinities, and corrupted the Athenian youth. These charges may now be admitted to be substantially unjust; but they were then very plausible, and gave utterance to what may well have been the common impression in regard to the tenor and tendency of his disputations. The purity of the motives, designs, and conduct of Socrates none will now gainsay. None will now repeat the fatal accusations with any thought that Socrates could conceive them to be just. His strict observance of the religious rites of his country is insisted upon in both the Apologies written after the event. He will not be less reverenced now from a conviction that his religious views inclined vaguely to the assertion of monotheism and to the adoration of "the unknown God." This would result in the negation of existing superstitions and creeds, and would sustain the allegation of the introduction of new divinities. This allegation would be confirmed by his claim of special inspiration, and by the announcement of his mysterious and divine counsellor, whose essential character has not yet been satisfactorily explained. The third charge of corrupting young men would be even more plausible among the ancient Athenians than the other two. The Socratic method contemplated the compulsory confession of ignorance, and proceeded by a perplexing series of questions and constrained answers, designed to remove the false conceit of knowledge in order to prepare the way for a careful and unprejudiced investigation of truth. Most of the sufferers would stop with the negative result, as Socrates himself appears practically to have done. Others, who did not understand the process and could not appreciate the design, would conclude that the purpose as well as the effect of the Socratic elenchus was to unsettle belief in accredited institutions no less than in established convictions. This apprehension would be aggravated by remembering that Alcibiades, Critias, and Charmides had been among his most cherished associates; that his chief disciple, Plato, perhaps not yet prominent, was the nephew of Charmides, one of the Thirty, and had recently been active in aristocratical opposition; that Socrates had always disapproved the existing modes of appointment to office; and that he had displayed a constant distrust and disapproval of democratic institutions a censure which democracies always jealously and passionately resent.

Socrates was brought to trial. His divine monitor forbade his making a defense in the customary spirit. If he spoke what is reported by Plato, his Apology was calculated only to irritate his judges. There was no fixed or systematic law at Athens, especially in criminal matters. Every indictment was a bill of attainder. Nevertheless, Socrates was condemned by a majority of only five or six voices in a dicastery of more than five hundred. After the condemnation the penalty had to be determined. Athenian procedure required the accusers to name a penalty and the accused to offer an alternative satisfaction. The accusers had specified death. The alternative proposed by Socrates was a virtual negation of the verdict by substituting for death public support in the Prytaneum, the highest honor that could be bestowed; or, in deference to the urgency of his friends, a fine of thirty minae (about seven hundred dollars). The jury could choose only one or other of these penalties. Socrates had already been declared guilty. The sentence could scarcely be other than — death.

Polycrates among the Greeks, and Cato among the Romans, justified the condemnation of Socrates. Lelut and Forchhammer did the same thing forty years ago, and Dresig preceded them by a century. Grote holds the balance even between the judges and the judged. The judgment of Polycrates may have been merely a rhetorical exercise, an intellectual tour de force; or it may have been serious, and may have called out the Apologia of Xenophon as a reply. It was recognized by friends and contemporaries, it was generally recognized in antiquity, it has usually been recognized by the moderns, that the condemnation and death of Socrates were his own act. He did not desire to live. His work was done, his career was bending to its close. He was willing, if not eager, to perpetuate his influence and to confirm his life and doctrine by his death. Nothing can be more exquisitely touching, more ennobling, or more memorable than the account given by Plato of the last days of Socrates, and of the cheerful. playful serenity with which he welcomed the hastening term of life. The closing scenes are among the noblest exhibitions of human, and almost of superhuman, virtue. That there is much of Plato in the pathetic story is indubitable. The artistic arrangement of details, the subdued coloring, the solemn calm, the dramatic presentation, are all Plato's; but the substantial significances may be confidently ascribed to the genuine Socrates. We shall not repaint the rose or reperfume the lily. The tale must be read in the pages of the reverent disciple and consummate artist.

Socrates should have drunk the fatal hemlock the day after the sentence. But the sacred embassy had just sailed for Delos, and capital punishments were suspended till its return. Socrates lay in prison for a month, suffering, perhaps, the indignity of fetters, surrounded by sorrowing friends, to whom he repeated the instructions of his life. Provision was made for his escape. He refused such release because firm in his obedience to the laws, whether just or unjust in their operation upon him. At the appointed time, towards the end of May, he drank the deadly cup with perfect composure, and welcomed death in the hope, but without the confident expectation, of a tranquil immortality.

The death of Socrates scattered his disciples: he never formed a school. The dispersion of the disciples disseminated his doctrine and method. Many years elapsed before philosophy revisited Athens. A long and troubled time intervened before Plato returned to renew with caution, and to remodel, expand, and transfigure the speculations of his master.

The Athenians have been alleged to have soon repented of the condemnation and execution of Socrates, and to have prosecuted his accusers capitally. There is neither valid evidence for this nor inherent probability in it. The supposed remorse of Elizabeth for the execution of Essex is not more fanciful. There was occasion for deep regret; there was none for repentance. Socrates had left his judges little room for hesitation. There is no reason to suppose that they had decided contrary to their convictions of right and of law. Moreover, the Athenians were oblivious of past incidents and of melancholy events. They were always engrossed with the enjoyment or the expectation of something new. No reaction was known when Demosthenes and Aeschines were rival orators, nor, previously, to Xenophon or Plato. A statue made by Lysippus in Macedonian times is said to have been erected at Athens in memory of Socrates. This may be questioned; yet from this tribute, or from the belief in such a tribute, the legend of the repentance may have arisen.

II. Philosophy. — There is no such thing, properly speaking, as a Socratic philosophy. There was a Socratic impulse, a Socratic method, a Socratic inquiry, but no positive or systematic Socratic speculation. He planted the vigorous seed; he did not cultivate the plant or gather the harvest. He was the father of all wholesome investigation by indicating, not by constructing, the route. Like Bacon, he was the herald of conquest, not the conqueror. Potest videri ostendisse posteris, non tradidisse. "Still, enough remains to stamp him as the originator of the philosophy of conceptions, as the reformer of method, as the first founder of a scientific doctrine of morals." The characteristic and essential features of the philosophical career of Socrates were his aim and method. These determined all his philosophical developments, and were themselves determined by the complexion and requirements of his time. Pericles, during his long ascendency, had "wielded at will the fierce democratic," and had restrained the violent, excessive appetencies of a capricious and domineering populace and of their ambitious and unscrupulous guides. Yet the agitations of demagogues, the disappointments, disasters, and sorrows of the opening years of the Peloponnesian war, the distress and demoralization produced by the plague, had gravely shaken his control in his latter life. After his death the political conflict lay between the wealthy but weak and superstitious Nicias and the turbulent, boastful, and rapacious Cleon. The voting and dicastic mass of the people were gravely debauched and completely misled by noisy bawlers and greedy flatterers. The corrosion of public, and, to a great extent, of private morals was fearfully aggravated by the destruction of all political, jural, ethical, and speculative principles through the harangues on the bema, the arguments in the courts, the predominance of rhetorical ingenuity, and the sophistries of brilliant and mercenary teachers, who reduced all truth to semblance, all discussion to a conflict of showy words and dazzling plausibilities. The Athenians had been brought to accept that most pernicious of all delusions — "There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so" (see Protag. ap. Aristot. Met. 3, 5; Plato, Sophist. 47; Erasmus, Chil. — "Non est beatus, esse qui se nesciat;" "Nil passus es mali si dissimulaveris"). It was in this condition of the State and of Greek society that Socrates felt himself urged, as by a divine voice, to interpose for the reclamation and regeneration of his countrymen, and to appear as a persistent missionary in the cause of justice, honesty, and truth (Plato, Apolog. 22). It has already been observed that his career must have been gradually developed. He may have proceeded at first in an intuitive, unconscious, tentative sort of way, following his natural impulse to inquiry, to the pursuit of information, to love of company and conversation, till his course shaped itself out before him, beset him as the special duty of his life, and assumed the imperative form of a divine monition. The increasing perception of the decline of public and private faith and morals would conduce to such a result in a nature highly sensitive to all intellectual and moral demands. Whatever opinion may be entertained of the claim of the Platonic Apology to be regarded as a just representation of the actual defense made by Socrates, it is very remarkable that Plato puts into the mouth of the accused the distinct declaration that he had received his mission from the divinity, and that if his life were taken another divine messenger might be sent (Apolog. 18). This special and controlling influence is familiarly known as the dcemon of Socrates. What that daemon was is still under discussion. Some critics, commentators, and historians of philosophy conceive it to have been a personal genius, or, at least, to have been so regarded by Socrates. Others look upon it as simply a divine pressure or mysterious suggestion. Those who recognize the direct action of the Holy Spirit and the divine call to Christian believers cannot utterly reject the possibility of the like agency even in pagan times (Ro 2:15). Others, again, consider the Socratic δαιμόνιον to have been "the still, small voice of conscience" gradually transmuting itself into a prepossession. Others, finally, regard the allegation of such divine guidance or restraint as hallucination, hypocrisy, or pretence. Neither pretence nor hypocrisy would have been apt to assume such a form in those skeptical times, and would be at variance with any plausible or consistent conception of the character of Socrates. Pure hallucination is not consonant with the singular sobriety of mind and sentiment which distinguished him from all other enthusiasts. That this daemon was sometimes regarded by him and by his disciples as personal cannot be denied. As Socrates says that every earnest servant of the gods may have a like divine illumination, as Plato speaks of the daemon of everyman leading him after death to the judgment (Phoed. 55), it is apparent that it was regarded, at an early period, as a guardian or attendant angel. This conclusion scarcely militates against the second supposition, which will not appear extravagant or unreasonable to those who remember the numerous echoes, through all ages and all creeds, and from the most eminent men in all lines of thought, of the Homeric phrase ἐνέπνευσε φρεσί δαίμων (Odyss. 19, 138). Says Cicero (De Nat. Deor. 2, 66, 167), "Nemo vir magnus sine aliquo divino afflatu umquam fuit." The testimonies are endless, and from sources that would not be anticipated; but there is no room to cite them. Waiving, however, such transcendental speculations, and admitting that there may be delusion in imagining any special inspiration, it will not do to resolve the Socratic doemonism into practical wisdom with Grote, or into moral tact with Ueberweg. These might be the results of the monitions of the demon, or independent of them; but they are wholly distinct from them. There is a curious psychological phenomenon, rarely noted because of infrequent occurrence and less frequently subjected to critical observation, which merits grave estimation in this connection. A mind and nature quick, earnest, comprehensive, and impressible — with unusual faculties of intuition — fervently occupied with any serious moral or intellectual pursuit, has visions of the day "which have elsewhere their rising," and spring neither from the reason nor from the volition; hears voices in the silence which others never hear; has sudden convictions which descend upon him without logical inducement or antecedent evidence; has firm assurances which rest upon inexplicable faith; and is led reverently to presume that "it is the Lord which giveth him understanding" by an immediate revelation. Of such men was Socrates.

In the assurance of a heavenly vocation, Socrates put aside all other thoughts, cares, interests, employments, aims, and devoted himself exclusively to the task of reforming his fellow citizens by disclosing their intellectual procedure and by enlightening their consciences. He pretended to be seeking everywhere for knowledge to improve himself and to acquire fixed knowledge. He disclaimed any pretence of teaching, for ignorance was his profession and the ground, as he alleged, of his being declared by Apollo "the wisest of men." He spent the whole day and every day, from early morn till set of sun, amid the gatherings of men, inquiring into the opinions, and the grounds of their opinions, of persons in every profession and of every grade. He was never tired of asking questions, and he did nothing but ask questions, drawing out by the answers obtained the fallacy and inconsistency of dogmas, and making every one confute himself and apprehend the baselessness of his supposed knowledge. Hence he always professed to do nothing more than practice intellectual obstetrics, and to deliver men of their own intellectual progeny, for the most part monstrously deformed. This was the method of Socrates, and his method was his whole philosophy. The curtain was the picture. Yet this method was productive of nearly all the philosophy that followed, and was then the one thing needful — the effectual exposure of the false conceit of knowledge. "Dum falsas mentis vires mirantur homines et celebrant, veras ejusdem, quae esse possint,... praetereunt et perdunt. Restabat illud unum, ut res de integro tentetur, melioribus praesidiis" (Bacon, Nov. Org. Monitum; comp. I Aph. 9, 31). To those who were subjected to this catechising process it may have appeared a preconcerted scheme for their confusion. Such it may ultimately have become, being scarcely disguised by the pretension of ignorance and the solicitude for enlightenment. So the practice was regarded and presented by Xenophon and Plato. So it has been universally esteemed by later writers, who have explained it by the Socratic irony. Is it not more reasonable and more consistent with every probability to suppose that this interrogatory inquisition was begun in simple honesty with the view of gaining information, and that it assumed its definite purpose as a criterium falsitatis only after those who were consulted were found to be without settled principles or tenable doctrines? With the prevalent arrogance of knowledge which was no knowledge, with the consequent substitution of blunt assurance for intelligent investigation, with such a blind indifference to logical proof that the possibility of either rational or moral principles was often theoretically denied, with the vitiation of all intellectual procedure and of all authoritative rules of moral conduct thence ensuing, the first duty of the reforming missionary was to discover the reality and the basis of truth. What is truth? was the great question. What is true? was the question that Socrates propounded. There was, however, a preliminary task to be performed before such inquiries could be hopefully prosecuted. It was necessary to purge the minds of the inquirers, to disclose the nature and the sources of uncertainty, to reveal the hollowness and fallacy of current maxims, postulates, deductions, and argumentations, to expose the ambiguity and deception of popular phrases and received terms, and to establish the elementary principles of valid reasoning: διαλεκτικὴ γὰρ ἰσχὺς οὔπω τότ᾿ ην (Aristot. Metaph. 13, 4). Socrates never got beyond the preliminary task. His whole life was engrossed with it. He only laid the foundations and discovered the elements of dialectical science.

Socrates thought — at first, perhaps, only instinctively felt or ascertained by experience — that any hope of moral reform must be preceded or accompanied by intellectual reform. He examined himself, he examined others, and discerned that received doctrine was nothing better than ingenious fantasy or unauthenticated opinion. The first effort, then, was to remove delusion, prejudice, presumption, and what Grote calls "the conceit of knowledge." The humble confession of ignorance was the indispensable preparation for a candid and hopeful search for truth. Grote has acutely and ingeniously compared the procedure of Socrates with that of Bacon. It may be as justly compared to that of Descartes. Hence the Delphic Nosce teipsum became the point of departure (Aristot. Fragm. 4), and both in his own case and in the case of all with whom he conversed his effort was to unveil ignorance under the presumption of knowledge. This was his special function with all who approached him — friends and opponents, young and old, notable and simple; for school and scholars he had none. This was his unpaid office, for which he would take no pay. Why should he take pay when he disclaimed teaching or having anything to teach? Why should he seek gain when the teaching for gain and the pursuit of gain had engendered the mental and moral diseases which he attempted to cure? In accordance with his function, he required those whom he catechised to examine the precise import of their terms and propositions. By a succession of adroit cavils he compelled them to apprehend the absence of precision and consistency in the vague phraseology which they employed and the hazy meaning which they attached to their statements. It was purely an inquisitive or investigative process — an examination of mind and conscience, confined to negative results, the recognition and admission of ignorance, or of false knowledge, which was worse than ignorance. These negative results involved living germs of positive and active growth. Much, too, was learned by the way. The investigation of duplicities of expression and of the derivative fallacies and discords compelled attention to the meaning and to the strict use of language. It compelled the habit of strict definition and regard to the comprehension of terms and the limitation of conceptions. It compelled also habitual observation and observance of the just processes of reasoning, and thus introduced dialectics. The purpose and results of the method of Socrates may be fitly compared with the tenor of John Locke's Essay on the Human Understanding, which is occupied with the legitimate import of words and the cautions needful in their employment. Aristotle says (Metaph. 13, 4) that Socrates deserves the credit of two inventions the definition of general terms and the introduction of inductive (or anagogical) reasoning. It was necessary to induce men to look into their own minds, to dissect their own thoughts, to test their own language, that they might detect their own meaning, or want of meaning, and thus arrive at actual knowledge, or at the conditions precedent to any valid knowledge. This lesson once taught was taught forever. The character of the day, the character of the habits, doctrines, speculations of the day, no less than his own temperament and gradual self development, inevitably led Socrates to adopt this procedure. It was not deliberately chosen; it was forced upon him. Some influence may be ascribed to the outdoor life of the Athenians, and to their addiction to free converse, inquiry, and disputation. The process, it will be seen, was not adapted to instruction, but to compulsory introspection. In the exercise of his peculiar vocation, Socrates furnished continual illustrations of ingenious cross examination to those who sought dexterity in eristic arts. He irritated many, and among them persons of note, whose ignorance and sophistries were skilfully exposed by him; but in others — sages, anxious for knowledge, for improvement, for intellectual and moral growth — he kindled a zeal, an enthusiasm, and an affectionate admiration which no other education has ever equalled (Plato, Symp. p. 219). It must be manifest how effectual this continual introspection, this constant testing of terms and torturing of significances, this inspection of the interdependence of thoughts, must have been in clearing the ground for healthy inquiry and in stimulating wholesome investigation. Socrates thus inaugurated genuine philosophy, or the earnest search for truth simply as truth; and communicated the impulse whence all real Hellenic philosophy proceeded.

The primary and abiding purpose of Socrates to promote moral regeneration through intellectual reform inclined his thoughts almost exclusively to ethical speculation. He was dissatisfied with the development of the physical theories of Anaxagoras, which he studied in early life; but he was dissatisfied on grounds whose invalidity Bayle has pointed out (Hist. Crit. Dict. "Anaxagoras," note R). He rejected physical inquiries entirely, deeming them beyond human apprehension and human application: "Quod supra nos nihil ad nos." Grote thinks that he excluded physics only provisionally, and that he contemplated such studies as an ultimate portion of his scheme. But he had no system, and could have no system; and Grote is directly contradicted by Aristotle (Metaph. 1, 6; 13, 4). Ethics, in the widest sense of the term, was the special and peculiar domain of Socrates. He deserves Grote's designation as "the first of ethical philosophers." This commendation had been anticipated by Augustine (De Civ. Dei, 8, 3): "Socrates primus universam philosophiam ad corrigendos componendosque mores flexisse memoratur." Hence he is said to have been the first to draw down philosophy from heaven to dwell with men (Cicero, Tusc. Disp. 5, 4). But there was no systematic doctrine; there were principles and tendencies which might be developed into a system, or into several systems, but they were not adapted by him for the places which they might occupy in such systems. They were undeveloped and disconnected; not inharmonious, but unharmonized; requiring explanation and discussion to be understood in their true bearing. Thus he holds that all virtue is knowledge, and may be acquired by instruction — a doctrine accepted and partially developed by Plato, and corrected by Aristotle. His test of good is practical utility — a narrow and dangerous principle, which he was far from acting on himself. In government he advocated the rule of the best and most instructed — an optimist delusion — without showing, or being able to show, how the best and most competent were to be discovered, or to secure obedience. He censured democratic elections and appointments by lot; and, with good reason, condemned the contemporaneous practices in his own State. However wise in purpose, Socrates was a dreamer in practical affairs, despite Xenophon's admiration of his sagacity in counsel. In that higher department of ethics which consists of theology he manifested an inclination towards monotheism, though maintaining the formal observance of the religious ceremonial and worship of his country. Like the best of the ancients, he had not attained to the conviction of the immortality of the soul. It was a wish, a hope, a probability, not an assured belief. It must be remembered, however, that everything we seem to know of Socrates, of his tenets, and of his instructions is seen through stained glasses, and glasses of a wonderfully magnifying and distorting power. We cannot safely trust either Xenophon or Plato, and there is none other whom we can trust except Aristotle; and his indications are loose and rare. The number of coincidences between the alleged Socratic utterances and the precepts of Scripture, under both the first and the second covenant, are singularly noteworthy. These precepts may or may not be the real expressions of Socrates; they may be eagerly accepted as such, but some doubt must always remain. After all uncertainties are entertained, and all reasonable deductions made, there can be no reluctance to reverence Socrates as one of the most memorable, best, and wisest of men: "Bonum virum facile crederes, magnum libenter." Erasmus declared that he was often tempted to exclaim, "Sancte Socrate, ora pro nobis!" and his impulse may excite sympathetic appreciation in others. The highest attestation of the moral excellence, the sublime purpose, and the intellectual greatness of Socrates is to be found not in the beautiful biographical notices of his loving disciples Xenophon and Plato, which have the taint of fiction on them, but in the reputation which he left permanently behind; in the universal reverence early and always accorded to his name; in the volume of philosophy which traced its descent from him; and in the broader, loftier, healthier, soberer spirit which animated all subsequent speculation.

III. Influence of Socrates. — The unquestioned influence of Socrates was not revealed by any marked improvement in, the political or private morals of the contemporary and succeeding generations, but in the changed tone of thought and sentiment among the higher natures of the following times, and pre-eminently in the enlargement and more sedate and rational development of philosophy. Xenophon and Plato, Euclid and Phaedo, Antisthenes and Aristippus, were his immediate disciples, and from them proceeded all the great sects of the Greek philosophers, with the exception of Epicurus — and the morals of Epicurus accorded with Socratic purity. It is useless to add that from this Hellenic philosophy issued all Roman, and nearly all that is valuable in mediaeval or modern philosophy, so far as these have been independent of revelation. No such extensive and enduring influence has ever been, or can ever again be, exercised upon the world by any other uninspired teacher. No such unending influence could have been exercised by any system or by any founder of a system.

IV. Literature. — Dresig, De Socrate juste Damnato (Lips. 1732); Freret, Observations sur les Causes et sur quelques Circonstances de la Condamnation de Socrate (1736; Paris, 1809); Wiggers. Sokrates, als Mensch, Burger u. Philosoph (Rost. 1807); Schleiermacher, Ueber den Werth des Sokrates, etc. (Berlin, 1815); Meiners, Ueber den Genius des

Sokrates; Brandis, Ueber die Grundlinien der Lehre des Sokrates (Rhein. Mus. 1817); Lelut, Le Demon de Socrate (Paris, 1836); Baur, Sokrates und Christus, in the Tub. Zeitschrift, 1837; Forchhammer, Die Athener und Sokrates, etc. (Berlin, 1837); Van Limburg Brower, Apologia contra Meliti Redivivi Calumniam (Groningen, 1838); Grote, History of Greece, ch. 68; Hanne, Sokrates als Genius der Humanitat (Brunsw. 1841); Brikler, Sokrates und sein Zeitalter (Ellw. 1848); Hurndall, De Philosophia Morali Socratis (Heidelb. 1853); Lasaulx, Des Sokrates Leben, Lehre und Tod (Munich, 1859); Volquardsen, Das Damonium des Sokrates (Kiel, 1862); Higle, Das Damonium des Sokrates (Berne, 1864); Zeller, Socrates and the Socratic School (Lond. 1868); Alberti, Sokrates (Gotting. 1869); Nietzsche, Sokrates, etc. (Basel, 1871); Labriola, La Dottrina di Socrate (Naples, 1871). (G.F.H.)

Topical Outlines Nave's Bible Topics International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Online King James Bible King James Dictionary

Verse reference tagging and popups powered by VerseClick™.