The Recordless: A Socrates Biography Essay

1062 words - 5 pages

“The philosopher Socrates remains, as he was in his lifetime, an enigma, an instructable individual who, despite having written nothing, is considered one of the handful of philosophers who forever changed how philosophy itself was to be conceived”(Nails). A great philosopher named Socrates once changed the very way man perceived nature. Socrates was a man that lived life to its fullest, from being a foot soldier, or hoplite, to freelancing around the town hall barefoot and smelly. Socrates, because he never wrote or recorded anything, is only known today from non-primary sources, and the majority of what we know is only from the second half of his life.
Socrates, like most men during this time period, had a toned body; however, Socrates’ features would not exactly be considered “beautiful” in Athenian culture. His nose expressed huge nostrils by having an upward point, and he had very bulging eyes, as if someone was strangling him and his eyes were about to pop out. The repulsive appearance does not stop there, though. On a regular basis, Socrates would roam the great city of Athens barefoot, in dirty clothes with a vile stench. This was unacceptable in social life, and people frowned upon him for this physical appearance(Nails).
Historians did not learn of his appearances from his own writing. In fact, Socrates never wrote or kept written records for anything. Most of our knowledge of Socrates comes from second hand stories and written sources, although not all match. Some depicted him as a goofy man filled with clumsiness who wreaked of the stench of alcohol. Others say this mastermind and outstanding teacher brought a whole new meaning to life for man. Which one are historians to believe? Well this brings me to the “Socratic Problem”(Nails).
So what is this “Socratic Problem”? This nickname represents a multitude of complexities and records that try to portray Socrates. After Socrates died, people tried to act the same as him and claimed to be him. Because Socrates kept no written record, historians today just have to go upon the most logical and credible sources(Nails). “‘The ‘real’ Socrates we have not: what we have is a set of interpretations each of which represents a ‘theoretically possible’ Socrates’”(Cornelia de Vogel). Unfortunately, historians today can only base Socrates upon what others have written, and because so many wrote about an obviously different person, it is hard to come up with who he really was. “‘There is, and always will be, a ‘Socratic Problem’. This is inevitable’”(W.K.C Guthrie). The true Socrates might never be unveiled.
Thankfully, one of Socrates’ students, one of Greece’s greatest philosophers, wrote a lot about his teacher. That student’s name was Plato. Many writings from Plato during his early life were about his teacher Socrates. Without these writings, we might not know that Socrates was actually a hoplite that fought in the Peloponnesian War. Plato’s philosophical background he acquired later in his...

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