Socrates was a great philosopher who lived in Athens from 469 B.C.E to 399 B.C.E. He would teach his philosophy of life to anyone who would listen and was the most influential thinker of his time. He thought that everyone is responsible for their own thoughts on what is right or what is wrong. Socrates went to trial for many charges that were brought against him. Socrates was charged with corrupting the young and not believing in the Gods that the rest of the city believed in. He stood up for what he believed in even though it cost him his life.
He is best known for his association with the Socratic method of question and answer. Socrates was a great teacher and the inspiration for many other philosophers after him, unlike other philosophers though Socrates never wrote anything down. Because he wrote nothing down it was more difficult to know his ideas and methods as a philosopher, what we do know comes from his peers and followers. Socrates objected the democracy that ran Athens because he believed that only a philosopher was suitable to govern others.
One famous quote from Socrates at his trial is “An unexamined life is not worth living”. What he meant by this quote is that knowing and understanding ourselves is the only way for our lives to have any meaning or value. Through this quote Socrates was telling us that we should carefully examine our actions and beliefs and learn from our mistakes in order for our lives to be more fulfilling.
Plato is another one of the world’s best known philosophers. He was the student of Socrates and lived from 427 to 347 B.C.E. in ancient Greece. Plato focused on a virtue-based concept of ethics, and he believed that the human soul is divided into three parts- reason, spirit, and appetite. He thought that this could be the only reason that we could have so many psychological conflicts. Plato did not make it very clear what the three parts really mean but one translation is that “reason” is our ability to use our thoughts to judge, “spirit” is our emotions and our ability to understand them, and our “appetite” is our desires. His whole point of this is that we will be happiest and healthiest when these three parts are balanced.
Plato thought that a perfect society was one were everyone lived in harmony and without violence. Like Socrates, Plato also very much disliked Democracy. For the most part Plato’s views on the perfect society are very similar to Socrates’s, for example they both thought that only the philosophers were wise enough to rule over the city. He wrote many dialogs featuring his teacher Socrates, so that may be why they seem to have similar thoughts and beliefs.
A famous quote from Plato is “Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something”. What Plato means by this is that wise people speak only when the have the facts and they are also willing to listen and learn from others. Fools on the other hand don’t speak about their observations, what they hear when they listen to others, and what they think, instead they only speak only based on their own feelings and opinions. Wise people say talk only about things of great importance in that moment, while others talk no matter what the meaning is behind it.
Aristotle was Plato’s best student, and ended up becoming a very well paid tutor of Alexander the Great. He is one of the highest paid philosophers in history. Aristotle was what it known as a peripatetic philosopher, because he preferred to lecture to his students while on a walk. He thought that the true goal in life is to achieve happiness. This does not necessarily mean only that you feel happy or amused, but that your life is functioning well and you have what is essential. Aristotle was also the first to classify knowledge into categories like math or biology, and some of these are still used today.
He is known to be the father of the field of logic, and was the first to make a formal system of reasoning. He also made the observation that the effectiveness of an argument is determined by its structure not just its content. Aristotle also thought that the best way to aquire knowledge is through science or “natural philosophy”.
Aristotle made the claim that virtue can lead to happiness, and you can become more virtuous through education and habit. Habits make up who we are and teach us how we should be and act, for example, being friendly or brave. Also we can learn how to be virtuous by watching what someone who already is virtuous does and in a situation ask yourself what that person would do.
One of his famous quotes that I think really sums up his thoughts is “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”. I think that by this statement Aristotle means that to be a virtuous person you must make a habit of constantly acting correctly. This maybe could work the opposite way to in that we sometimes have negative habits that could lead you in the opposite direction of virtue, but then are those habits or just issues?