Who Was Socrates?
Press Start for “Who Was Socrates?” by 8-Bit Philosophy, where classic video games introduce famous thinkers, problems, and concepts with quotes, teachings, and more.
Episode 18: Who Was Socrates? | Socrates & Plato’s Dialogues
Written by: Mia Wood
Created & Directed by: Jared Bauer
Narrator: Nathan Lowe
Animation Producer: MB X. McClain
Original Music & Sound by: David Krystal (http://www.davidkrystalmusic.com)
Animation Consultant: Matt Reichle
Producer & Additional Artwork by: Jacob S. Salamon
Who Was Socrates?
Though known as one of the most influential thinkers of all time, Socrates never wrote down a single word.
So, in reality, all we know about him is what others tell us.
Most famously, Socrates is a figure in Plato’s dialogues, where, among other things, he is depicted as short, fat, and ugly; wears dirty togas; doesn’t have a job to support his wife and kids; doesn’t participate in Athens’ political life; and doesn’t care about his social status. But it’s also said of him that he could stay up all night without feeling tired the next day, could drink anyone under the table without getting drunk, and he is seemingly impervious to heat and cold.
A total dreamboat, indeed. Yes, according to Plato, Socrates is seemingly superhuman individual who cares only about asking questions about moral knowledge.
It all started when the Oracle at Delphi declared that no one was wiser than Socrates. Puzzled by this claim, Socrates set about testing the riddle by seeking out knowledge from people who claimed to have it.
But while the people thought they had good answers, Socrates’s cross-examination showed them they were wrong. This, of course, made them look like fools, which made a lot of people in Athens hate him. In the end, Socrates decided that he was wise – at least he knew that he didn’t know.
You would think Socrates would have backed off at that point. But he didn’t.
Even in the face of a death sentence, he refused to stop philosophizing, for Socrates thought fearing unknown things, like death, was just another way in which we pretend to know when, in fact, we don’t.
Socrates believed that he had a responsibility to his fellow Athenians to root out arrogance and ignorance wherever he found it.
After all, false beliefs are bad for your health. Think about it like this: if you have a belief that you can safely cross the street, but don’t know that an 18-wheeler is bearing down on you, and if you also happen to have an outsized hubris, you’re not going to listen to someone who tries to tell you to get out of the street. Instead, you’ll just walk right into the path of that massive truck, and, well, SPLAT.
False beliefs influence our actions, and degrade our character. And this is what Socrates wanted to prevent.
So, the next time you think you know something, consider the wisdom of not thinking you know something that you don’t.
Then again, everything we “know” about Socrates is based on other people’s words. So, dear viewer, is it, then, unwise for us to strongly believe that he even existed?