Thursday, April 06, 2006

Socrates: A barefoot philosopher

You cannot put the same shoe on every foot

Oublius Syrus 42 BC

The Greek philosopher Socrates walked barefoot, by preference and he is generally regarded as one of the wisest men of all time. It is not known who his teachers were, but he seems to have been acquainted with the doctrines of Parmenides, Heraclitus, and Anaxagoras. Socrates himself left no writings, and most of our knowledge of him and his teachings comes from the dialogues of his most famous pupil, Plato, and from the memoirs of Xenophon. Socrates is described as having neglected his own affairs, instead spending his time discussing virtue, justice, and piety wherever his fellow citizens congregated, seeking wisdom about right conduct so that he might guide the moral and intellectual improvement of Athens. Using a method now known as the Socratic dialogue, or dialectic, he drew forth knowledge from his students by pursuing a series of questions and examining the implications of their answers. Socrates equated virtue with the knowledge of one's true self, holding that no one knowingly does wrong. He looked upon the soul as the seat of both waking consciousness and moral character, and held the universe to be purposively mind-ordered. His criticism of the Sophists and of Athenian political and religious institutions made him many enemies, and his position was burlesqued by Aristophanes. In 399 BC Socrates was tried for corrupting the morals of Athenian youth and for religious heresies; it is now believed that his arrest stemmed in particular from his influence on Alcibiades and Critias, who had betrayed Athens. He was convicted and, resisting all efforts to save his life, willingly drank the cup of poison hemlock given to him. The trial and death of Socrates are described by Plato in the Apology, Crito, and Phaedo.

The saying "Now you have put your foot into it" comes from the time of the Greeks. Originally it did not mean misfortune but instead it implied luck and Agesias was described as " his lucky foot into his sandal." In Plato's Theaetetus there is reference to putting the shoe on the wrong foot, showing that even then there were right and left sandals.

Pythagoras forbade damaging a man's footprint in the belief a man's soul lay in his feet. The same belief appears to exist among primitive hunters who mutilated the animal’s spoors in order to ensure the killing of their prey.

Garai J 1973 The book of symbols London: Lorrimer Publishing pp41.

Reviewed 16/01/2017

1 comment:

nik said...

Mr Kippen

My name is Nik and to have a fascination but it with Socrates and the doctrines of Parmenides, Anaxagoras are article was fascinating and wish to know how much know about them and if you would like to discuss there philosophy.
P.S. love Bullett & Rumpole

my email is