BeeOasis Step 3
The man mixed the hemlock plant into a drink. It was a strong cup of poison. And then, a slave led the man into a 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 until your legs begin to feel heavy, then lie down. It will soon act.” And with that, he offered Socrates the cup.
Socrates took the cup cheerfully. But before drinking it, he prayed that his journey from this world to the next would be successful. Then he put the cup to his lips and drank the poison calmly. When his friends saw this, they covered their faces and cried. They were losing their teacher, mentor, and friend.
Socrates is considered to be 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. Thus, our knowledge of his life is second hand, and many people argue about it. But Socrates changed philosophy forever. And he is famous for many ideas, especially ideas about ethics, virtue, and the Socratic Method.
Ethics is the study of morality, or the study of right and wrong. And virtue concerns how to be a good person. In Socrates’ time, virtue was any kind of excellence that led to success. But for Socrates, virtue was also the power to do right and resist doing wrong. He believed that wrong actions harm the soul, and that a person of virtue has a healthy soul. For Socrates, a healthy soul was more important than material life. He said that a person may be healthy, wealthy, and beautiful, but wisdom brings true wealth and beauty. Wise people know what is right and do what is good. It is the wise, therefore, who are truly happy.
Perhaps Socrates’ greatest gift to philosophy was his method of searching for truth. The Socratic Method is teaching and learning by asking questions. It is a way of getting at the truth by question and answer. When Socrates asked a question, he pretended to be ignorant, and he tried to show the ignorance of his conversation partners. For Socrates, the first step of knowledge was admitting ignorance. Socrates claimed he was wiser than others because he was aware of his ignorance.
Socrates was put to death in 399 BC. He was accused of having a bad influence on young people and of not respecting 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 about the way we learn, the meaning of justice, and the nature of truth.