Question

Respond to the following:

1.    In the early part of Socrates trial defense he relates the story of how he became known as ‘the wisest man in Athens.’ This story introduces an epistemological position wherein “…human wisdom is worth little or nothing…” (Five Dialogues, 27), but on the basis of this epistemological claim Socrates is still able to ground positive ethical claims. Discuss this transition from epistemology to ethics.

2.    Socrates (on p. 35 of Five Dialogues) presents an argument where he compares himself to a gadfly. In what respect is he like a gadfly and why is this important (by his argument) to the city state of Athens? Outlining the argument for democracy we discussed, how does the gadfly argument support a case for the protected rights of freedom of speech and by extension in our modern political context, freedom of the press?

3.    In his fictional conversation with the laws of Athens, Socrates introduces the distinct but related notions of a Social Contract and of Tacit Consent. Briefly outline this argument defining each of these distinct but related notions. By your analysis of this argument, what sort of duties are implicit to democratic citizenship?

4. Briefly discuss the constitution of the Soul.

5. Discuss Plato's Theories of the Forms.

6. How does Plator's theory of the nature of reality compare with those of Heraclitus and Parmenides.

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A place to begin in considering the positive ethical claims Socrates derives from the ostensibly epistemological position, “…human wisdom is worth little or nothing…” is with a question: Is that position in fact an epistemological one? Consider the oddity of introducing the notion of “worth” alongside “wisdom”, where, presumably, wisdom can be taken to refer to the having of non-trivial knowledge and the capacity to acquire more. When Socrates interprets the oracle and the “god” which speaks through the oracle, Socrates seems to explicitly present the interpretation in terms of the relative value of humans and their ‘wisdom’—zero to little value—and real, substantial, meaningful wisdom. And, pointedly, Socrates at the time leaves unanalyzed what that ‘real’ wisdom could be. The claim to notice here must, from the start, thus be that we err in how we position ourselves and our attitudes in relation to real wisdom: That is, we are and act in ways that are fundamentally wrong with respect to wisdom and the gaining of it, because we misjudge our own standing and that of what (little) we know...

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