BeeOasis Step 2
By Max L. Knowles
The plant was highly poisonous. The man took it and mixed it into a drink. It was a deadly cup of poison. He took the cup into the room where Socrates was waiting. When Socrates saw the man, he said, “Now, good sir, you understand these things. What must I do?” The man said, “Just drink it and walk around. When your legs begin to feel heavy, then lie down. It will soon act.” And with that, he gave Socrates the cup.
Socrates didn’t look sad. He took the cup happily. But before drinking it, he said a prayer: “May my journey from this world to the next be a success.” Then he put the cup to his mouth and drank the poison calmly. When his friends saw this, they covered their faces and cried. They were losing their teacher and friend.
Socrates is one of the fathers of western philosophy. Much about his life is a mystery to us because he wrote nothing. But we know him through the writings of his students, especially Plato. Our knowledge of his life is second hand, so many people argue about it. But we do know this. Socrates changed philosophy for all time.
Philosophers often talk about right and wrong. This is the study of morality. Philosophers also talk about the qualities that make a person good. For example, we might say that Mary is kind and patient. We call these qualities “virtues.” Today, virtue is about how to be a good person. And virtue was important to Socrates, but it had a special meaning for him.
For Socrates virtue was a kind of excellence that led to success. It was also the power to do right and not do wrong. He believed that wrong actions were unhealthy. And a person of virtue was a healthy person. For Socrates, having virtue was more important than life. He said that a person may be healthy, rich, and beautiful, but wisdom brings true riches and beauty. Wise people know what is right and do what is good. Wise people are truly happy people.
Perhaps Socrates’ greatest gift to philosophy was his way of searching for truth. We call this The Socratic Method. What is the Socratic Method? It is a way of teaching and learning by asking questions. You get to the truth by question and answer. When Socrates asked a question, he acted like he didn’t know the answer. By asking questions, he showed his students’ ignorance. For Socrates, the first step of knowledge was saying, “I don’t know!” Socrates said he was wiser than others. Why? Because he knew that he didn’t know.
Socrates was put to death in 399 BC. Leaders said he had a bad influence on young people and did not respect religious values. He accepted his death sentence, and he willingly drank the poison that was given to him. He felt that a philosopher should not fear death.
Today, people continue to argue about the death of Socrates. Was it fair or unfair? Was it just or unjust? And so, even after 2,400 years, Socrates still makes us think. He makes us think and ask questions. What is good? How can we be good, and how do we know?
Click here to a read Step 3 version of this story.