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.
















twentieth century, he might have been even more severe than Popper. That there was a widening bifurcation between Socrates and Plato is one of the most obvious facts in the history of philosophy. Exactly when it occurred in the Platonic oeuvre and which dialogues can be described as Socratic or mainly Socratic or mainly Platonic or wholly Platonic has been debated by scholars for generations. I prefer a broad-brush approach that makes a general contrast between the Socratic and Platonic

to book, in one way or another, and my list is far from complete. Cleisthenes, usually regarded as the creator of Athenian democracy, was prosecuted and exiled by his rival, Isagoras. He made a comeback, but his last years are a blank, presumably because he was thrown out again. Cimon, an immensely successful Athenian statesman and general as well as a promoter of public works, was prosecuted for bribery but acquitted. Two years later he was successfully ostracized, and after four years in

days. It was as though the physical restraints on his body, by the kind of paradox he loved, released his mind and soul into a freedom he had never known before. He thought more clearly and luminously than ever, and his expressions took on a kind of beauty that Plato, happily, had the genius to convey. We must not suppose we can enjoy the full glory of the results, at any rate in translation. Ancient Greek is a magical language, both written and spoken. Like ancient Hebrew, it has undertones and

Socrates had a favorable opinion of men and women because he saw clearly that they were capable of the highest moral heroism. Their outward appearance was of no lasting significance. Beauty faded with age, and clothes could do little for a man or woman to enhance or detract from what nature had provided. He had no shoes and precious little in the way of garments, and God had made him an ugly man. On the other hand, he was no uglier at seventy than he had been at twenty: a little more

dramatic poets Sophocles and Euripides, the architect-sculptor Phidias, and the painter Zeuxis. It was the underlying theme of Pericles’ panegyric over the dead that human beings were not the helpless victims of fate but masters of their own destiny. The soldiers had died defending Athens, which was the supreme human artifact. Then, being more explicit, he said Athens was the one society where justice applied equally to all, where men might not be equal but where social differences did not stop

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