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Plato Paper r - 1 World Literature I All I Know is that I...

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1 World Literature I October 11, 2007 All I Know is that I Know Nothing: A Look into the Life of Plato’s Philosopher In Plato Complete Works , Plato uses the memory of his mentor to paint a portrait of how a true philosopher should act, think, and live. His main character, Socrates, is put to death because he puts his beliefs above all else: his family, popularity, and possible wealth. When looking at the outline of Plato’s philosopher, his characteristics can be grouped into four main groups: his philosophical mission, his place in social, his beliefs, and his views on death. This paper will examine these aspects in Plato’s Socrates, starting with his mission. The first group of characteristics can be described as Socrates’ philosophical mission; which is comprised of receiving his undertaking from the gods, understanding what knowledge truly is, and testing his knowledge against so called experts. Through Plato’s “Apology” it is learned that Socrates discovers he is the wisest through an inquiry of a friend to an oracle (“Apology” 21a). Socrates is humbled by this message; however, he trusts that the gods would not lie and takes on the mission of trying to understand the knowledge he was not aware he held. After conversing with men that he thought were wiser than he, he
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2 realizes that his knowledge lies in acknowledging his own ignore; which seems to go unseen by the men of Athens with reputations for being well-informed in their fields (“Apology” 22a-e). When Socrates comes across an “expert” he uses an elenchus to test their knowledge. This is a process where Socrates asks the expert for a definition and when a contradiction is found a new description is formed and the procedure starts anew ( Wolfsdorf 2 ). As “Euthyphro” and “Apology” is read one becomes aware that the experts are only conversant on in areas that can be beneficial to them, this can be seen in “Euthyphro” when Socrates asks Euthyphro for a definition of piety and impiety (“Euthyphro” 5d). Instead of giving a clear meaning of what piety is, he continuously explained how his actions are pious; leaving his explanation replete with contradictions. As it is proven by Euthyphro, these men allow their prestige to blind them, believing they are truly wise because others believe them so. After incessantly receiving inconsistency from the experts Socrates develops the theory of the forms. He realized that not everyone’s characterizations of an object or action will ever be the same; nevertheless, their definitions will participate in the prefect form of that object or action ( Wolfsdorf 5 ). This is revealed when contemplating Euthyphro’s definition piety. His
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3 explanation only were focused on his action and left many contradictions; however, his actions do participate in the form of piety. Realizing this it can be seen that not only was Socrates testing the expert, but he was also examining his theory of the forms. Through “Apology” and “Euthyphro” one can become acquainted with Socrates’ philosophic mission.
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