Socrates: A Man for Our Times

Socrates: A Man for Our Times

Paul Johnson

Language: English

Pages: 224

ISBN: 0143122215

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

“Spectacular . . . A delight to read.”
The Wall Street Journal
From bestselling biographer and historian Paul Johnson, a brilliant portrait of Socrates, the founding father of philosophy

In his highly acclaimed style, historian Paul Johnson masterfully disentangles centuries of scarce sources to offer a riveting account of Socrates, who is often hailed as the most important thinker of all time. Johnson provides a compelling picture of Athens in the fifth century BCE, and of the people Socrates reciprocally delighted in, as well as many enlightening and intimate analyses of specific aspects of his personality. Enchantingly portraying "the sheer power of Socrates's mind, and its unique combination of steel, subtlety, and frivolity," Paul Johnson captures the vast and intriguing life of a man who did nothing less than supply the basic apparatus of the human mind.














innovation was deliberate and authorized at the highest level we cannot doubt, and it marked the most adventurous point of Periclean humanism. To Socrates it must have been the most significant feature of the entire cultural enterprise that Pericles launched. We look at these marble figures, in the British Museum and elsewhere, and admire the majestic monumentality of the Parthenon in respectful silence. But such images need to be seen in their aural context of poetry and music. We should never

other theatrical attacks on him, including an entire comic play, whose text has disappeared. Such mud sticks, and plenty of mud had been thrown in Socrates’ direction over many years. A third portion of the jury, in any likelihood, had no views at all about Socrates. But they probably disliked him, as being “clever,” or reputedly so. And why was he of such importance as to occupy the attention of the court, when there was so much more of genuine importance to be dealt with? These people would not

contests, especially in tragic and comic drama, were more important than any Panhellenic occasion. Socrates was concerned in such events, being a friend of Aristophanes, who won the first prize for comedy three times, and especially of Euripides, youngest of the three great Athenian tragedians. Euripides, though fifteen years Socrates’ senior, came to him for advice, and there is a tradition that Socrates had a hand in his plays, perhaps with his trio containing Hippolytus, which won first prize

death, which must be administered by the person condemned, who was required to swallow poison. This was composed of hemlock, though Plato does not explicitly say so, and it may have been a mixture more certain to produce death quickly, surely, and painlessly than a simple distillation of the noxious plant. The jailer could not help but tell those present that Socrates was the noblest, the gentlest, and the bravest man he had ever had in his custody, and his obvious distress at the work he had to

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