Why did Socrates hate sophists

Summary of Phaedo

Philosophy as a way of life

In the pre-Socratic times, the Greek thinkers were primarily concerned with two basic questions: What is the cause of all things? And: how should we act? The so-called natural philosophers tried to answer the first question. Their quest to explain everything from a root cause resulted in about Thales the water and Heraclitus made fire the primordial element. In the field of philosophical practice, the sophists dominated, who took a pragmatic approach to truth: for them everything was relative; which opinion prevailed depended on who could argue best. The Sophists not only held this view, they were also experts in teaching others the art of winning in politics and in court - for appropriate remuneration, of course. Then suddenly a man stepped onto the philosophical stage in Athens who subjected all these ideas to a critical examination. Socrates introduced a radical research into the causes, before which all materialistic attempts at explanation had to give way. But it hit the Sophists even harder. Should truth be relative? This did not correspond to Socrates ’ideas at all, and he did not shy away from publicly exposing the cynicism of the sophists.

Athens was a grassroots democracy at the time. The rulers did not have an unlimited mandate, but had to convince their voters with appropriate speeches when making important decisions. The sophists' rhetorical tricks came at just the right time; Socrates ’persistent adherence to absolute truths, on the other hand, was a nuisance - especially because he was increasingly able to convince the philosophical and political offspring of them. So he was brought to trial without further ado. The accusation: He corrupts the youth and teaches them strange gods. This is also because Socrates had indicated that the old myths should only be understood allegorically. The political elite, however, had no interest in actually killing Socrates. They just wanted to teach him a lesson and silence him. When the philosopher did not back down in court and also insolently demanded that from now on he should be publicly entertained as a folk hero, a death sentence was imposed. He was secretly advised to flee - he had influential friends who could offer him a good life far from Athens - but Socrates refused. You have to submit to the authorities even if they are corrupt, because otherwise public order would suffer.


Plato was probably Socrates' favorite pupil, but definitely his most successful pupil. After Socrates ’death in 399 BC Several of his disciples founded new schools based on the teachings of the Master. The only one that was to have a long-term influence was Plato's academy. Plato was so convinced not only of his teacher but also of his dialogical method that, with a few exceptions, he put his entire teaching into Socrates' mouth and published it in dialogue form.

The Phaedo, originated around 380 BC. In this respect is a central work of Plato. Due to an illness, he was unable to personally witness the death of Socrates. The reports of the composure with which he died, however, provided a good background for the exposition of the ideas to which Socrates owed his carelessness. Plato confronted these ideas with the most important philosophical currents of the time, especially those of the Pythagoreans, weighted them differently and thus worked out his own position.

Impact history

Not only the impressive example of Socrates, but also his view of immortality (expanded by Plato) gave the intellectual history decisive impulses. That of Plato's pupil Aristotle modified doctrine of the immortality of the soul shaped religious thinkers such as Augustine and Thomas Aquinas and lives on to this day. The ideas of the “pre-memory” of the soul served as a mental stimulus for rationalism and German idealism.

The in Phaedo The views expressed were soon subjected to critical analysis, starting with Aristotle. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz about took arguments from the Phaedo as an opportunity, John Lockes To reject the idea of ​​the “tabula rasa”, the idea that humans come into the world without any knowledge or pre-formed thought mechanisms. Friedrich Nietzsche attacked Socrates with reference to the Phaedo: Socrates propagates an unjustified turning away from the human existence, which is also shaped by the body, and thus restricts people in their development.