Looking at the things that should be considered for a better understanding of this topic, writing a book on it would be the best option, but I’d try to keep it succinct— so I exhort you to read through carefully with an open mind.
It may be hard to determine whether Socrates believed in fate, but that’s only before one takes a closer look at the life of Socrates and his beliefs. And in fact, into what is best regarded as fate and how that can lead us to know Socrates’ stance on fate.
Without circumlocutions, anyway, let us first admit that Socrates believed in fate. He evidently did.
There are at least two ways to confirm this fact to you: through his life and the influence of his teachings, but before then, we shall take a cursory look at the meaning of fate as our operative word.
Wiktionary defines fate as an event or situation which is inevitable in the fullness of time.
Thankfully enough, a recent study has shown that crediting a supernatural force with controlling Earthly events doesn’t require religious faith. So, we shouldn’t have to bother ourselves with whether Socrates believed in God before reaching the truth behind his stance on fate.
Socrates’ stance on fate: his life
By arguing that man is supposed to work towards being like some divine entity, because of course he’s especially known for this, Socrates demonstrated his belief in a predetermined essence.
It is in pursuit of this essence that he said one of his most popular sayings, “The end of life is to be like God, and the soul following God will be like him.”
Socrates is known to always work towards fulfilling his commitments to serving a divine being which he very often called his personal god.
For instance, he wasn’t without opportunities to change his fate, but he remained unyielding in the face of death because he knew that was his fate after all.
As to how we come to this conclusion, one may say on the surface that he was ready to die for the truth or die a man of integrity who wouldn’t afford to get around the wrath of the land upon his actions, but it isn’t just that, it should also be worth adding that he accepted his death penalty as a fate— because he trusted his personal god, the Daimonion to notify him whenever he wasn’t doing the right thing.
Studies have shown that Socrates remained sangfroid even in the face of death because the Daimonion wasn’t against his dying.
This is evident in his speech at the courthouse refuting the allegations against him when he asked if anyone knows what becomes of them after death.
His equanimity was more likely triggered in part because he was convinced that more than we could determine, fate ultimately gets the better side of man— as, in fact, dying, in the long run, is inevitable.
Similarly, Aristotle, the student of his student, will be quoted as saying, “Nonone deliberates about things which cannot be otherwise”.
All of these show how much these men believed in the power of some supernatural forces, other than human agency in affecting the natural world.
In my opinion, this sort of ideology strengthens the argument that the stoicism school of philosophy has its founding principles based on the ideas of Socrates.
Socrates’ stance on fate: through the influence of his teachings
Did you know that understanding whether Socrates was a stoic thinker can also help us get to his stance on fate better?
Now to what his teachings were and their influence on Stoicism as a school of philosophy. This is to save us time because if we begin to mention the various schools that have been influenced by the ideas of Socrates, this piece will become unnecessarily long and since we’re headed somewhere plausible to our discussion by picking just this, I think there should be no need for the inclusion of other schools.
So, doing some kind of inductive philosophy, here is it: was Socrates a stoic thinker? Do stoics believe in fate? How does this show Socrates’ stance on fate?
Was Socrates a stoic thinker?
Look at those words again, they didn’t ask if Socrates was a stoic because it might be unreasonable to think that he was a stoic before the school started.
So we say Socrates was not a defined stoic because the school of philosophy had not been established in his time, but Evey reason points to the fact that he was much of a stoic thinker or that Stoicism is more Socratic.
For one, his teachings were profoundly influential on the major principles of school and the paradoxes of the school— even though they, admittedly, do not seem to come to terms with certain approaches.
As to the point of sharing common ground, for instance, Stoics and Socrates both readily admit and embrace the things they do not have control over:
Socrates believed that death is healing from the sickness resulting from the Earthly imprisonment of his immortal soul in a material body for which the god should be thanked.
On the other hand, Marcus Aurelius ascertained that death smiles at us all and that all a man can do is smile back.
Not only do we see elements of accepting fate in these lines, but we also get to see their interpretation of the worst through rose-colored glasses.
We should remember Seneca as saying: “We suffer more in imagination than in reality”. This was what Socrates already knew and observed even before the Stoics came around.
Yet in the same vein, Socrates said: “Remember, no human condition is ever permanent. Then you’ll not be overjoyed in good fortune nor too scornful in misfortune”. An idea that Seneca would later put more relatably, “The whole future lies in uncertainty.”
As a matter of fact, a research paper has shown the Socratic ideas and those of Stoicism to be so identical that we can still find common ground for their supposed differences if we look deeply.
For instance, the paper talking about the reason Stoics despite despising the idea of irony cannot disregard Socratic irony reads, partly:
“The standard Greek meaning of being ironical is deception, and the Stoics can reject deception without disparaging Socratic irony, which gently mocks— without intending to deceive. In fact, the Stoics had better not be disparaging Socratic irony since their paradoxes preserve a measure of it— ‘only the sage is rich’. ”
What’s more, the congruence between the teachings and beliefs of Socrates and those of the Stoics may seem simply coincidental until one realizes the teacher-student chain between Socrates and the first defined Stoic, Zeno of Citium.
Not only was Zeno reportedly a great admirer of Socrates, he studied alongside Crates who learned under Diogenes of Simope, one who became influential under the tutelage of Antisthenes, a follower of Socrates.
According to a source, Zeno’s discovery of Crates and the works of Socrates were the things that influenced his idea of Stoicism the most.
Do Stoics believe in fate?
Any attempted digging into this will be no more than a boondoggle as we’ve always seen stoics, even in the foregoing extraction of Seneca, talk about the uncertainties of the future.
Stoics emphasize two things: understanding what you can change and understanding what you cannot change; the things you’re subject to. Isn’t the latter referring to fate?
How does this show Socrates’ stance on fate?
While knowing that Socrates was more of a stoic thinker may not be enough proof that he believed in fate, it is a thing with which to underscore previously highlighted points that tell us Socrates’ stance on fate.
It is expected to show us that there is every reason pointing to Socrates as a believer of fate.
Although, admittedly, he doesn’t seem to have had a dogmatic view of heeding or proselytizing the spiritual; he believed in both human efforts (to examine life) and fate (to live a predetermined life, being like God). Oh, this blend makes him even more Stoic, if you see that.Share