What Did Socrates Teach the Youth?

The ancient Greek Philosopher Socrates lived between 470 BC and 399 BC. He is regarded as the father of western Philosophy. Most of the information that is known about Socrates were derived from the “Dialogues” of Plato and other works by Plato who was his student. 

His works largely influenced Plato and subsequently Aristotle and the whole of Philosophy. Aside from these two great Philosophers, many other philosophers are still being influenced by the works of Socrates to this day. No philosophical era can deny the traces of his wisdom and influence.

The people of Ancient Greece who had the privilege of having Socrates live and teach among them gained a lot from his wisdom. However, some non-progressive people dragged him before the courts for “corrupting the youths” This allegation will form a substantial part of what defines the role of philosophy in every society. Socrates was ready to die for his method and practice of Philosophy and he had a lengthy discussion with his student Plato, justifying his works and actions before his demise.

As a “gadfly”, Socrates stung the people of Athens especially the youths, to seek knowledge needed to live the good life based on true, unbiased and irrefutable knowledge. This was done at his own expense as he was condemned to take the deadly hemlock, resisting all attempts to escape.

Socrates and the Youths

His focus on the youths was very disturbing to the authorities because they considered his influence to be a threat to the establishment and its existing traditions which helped retained their comfortable place in society. The society in Ancient Greece was no doubt a prosperous one which had highly developed religious and political systems as such his ideas were not fully welcomed.

More so, his continuous influence will mean that the youths will also begin to question everything including the gods and the traditions of the people that have been handed down from one generation to another. 

He introduced them to his method which questioned everything without reserve, making even the gods subject to human rationality and reasoning at a time when the gods and legends had absolute control over people, notions, and perspectives and believes.

The authorities were bothered about what his intentions were. Could it have been to overgrow the existing order? To work for the enemies of the state? or to make so many replicas of him? Socrates proved all these assertions wrong by his teachings. 

He has been described as a man who considered virtue as a quality worth dying for and was certainly going to build youths that will take their stand of issues as it concerns life and destiny without any recourse to tradition and old believes. As such he targeted the youths because they were the future of the people that has not been totally lost like their older forebears who would do anything to preserve even what they do not know.

Man know thyself was his famous dictum. If the youths got to know about who they are, their freedom and their place in the universe, they will live the good life which is based on reason and not adherence to strict traditions allegedly provided by the gods. Socrates subjected matters of religion and the gods to rational discourse and this was not considered noble by the Greeks. His methods suggested that the gods were made for the good of men not men for the gods.

He used his Socratic method to teach the youths or rather make them think about their lives, morality and their place in the society and in the world. By so doing, they will become liberated from old customs and traditions which impeded the growth of humanity, prompting them to seek higher knowledge of their self and the universe and lessen their reliance on myths, legends and stories as the source of their knowledge.

Socrates and Today’s Youths

Socrates taught his followers not just with words of mouth only. He taught them with the example of his life and death. He chose to die for what he believed rather than to live. His actions can be likened to civil disobedience, a pattern that has thrived for many centuries among societies whose young people come to the realization of some certain social ills that needed to be addressed. Even today, youths champion various lofty dreams and seek their actualization against existing old orders and traditions that have kept their societies in the dark.

Early scholars had credited Socrates to be father of Philosophy in general. But with the discovery of the vast array of African Philosophy and its pre-Socratic origin, many philosophers now prefer to ascribe Socrates as the father of western Philosophy. Others have also sought a criticism of the works of Socrates as presented by Plato.

Some scholars think that although Socrates had good intentions, his method was creating tension and conflict in Athens where he resided. If people had the right to question everything especially the authorities and the laws, there will be chaos and confusion everywhere.

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