The Father of Western Philosophy

Lesson Objectives

Appreciate the historical differences between Socrates and the Presocratics

Understand what Socrates was pursuing and why

Understand what the Socratic Method is and how it works

Appreciate what it means to "Know Thyself"

Explain the reason Socrates compared himself with a gadfly

Describe Socrates' thoughts on the soul, the gods, and Athenian justice

Key Terms



Dialogical Reasoning



Socratic Method


Know Thyself

The Apology

The Gadfly

The Crito


The Historical Socrates

The Written Record

• Socrates wrote nothing down himself

• In fact, he was against writing things down

• Teachings recorded by students, Plato (philosopher) and Xenophon (historian)

     • Plato: sychophant who believes Socrates can do no wrong

     • Xenophon: older warrior, far less clever, questions Socrates more

• We have a few fragments from Xenophon, but Plato is the main source

The Life of Socrates

• Humble beginnings: son of a stone mason

• Combat Veteran (Peloponnesian War): his unit lost all 3 battles

     • Terrible, pointless civil war which the elite in Athens started

• Saves the life of Alcibiades, a general and aristocrat

• Returning from war, Socrates had questions for the elite class

Apart from the Presocratics

• Socrates doesn't care about the nature of reality (metaphysics)

     • The Presocratics wanted to put together a cosmology

     • They wanted to discover the true nature of the 'arche'

• The methods used by the Presocratics were much different