Believed that one arrives at the truth by questioning the
assumptions on which all things are based
Student of Socrates
Student of Plato
“THE” philosopher by Medievalists
Greek Philosophy & Its Origins
Philosophy = love of wisdom
Mesopotamians and Egyptians
contemplated how the natural
world around them worked
Early Greeks (time of Homer,
c.800 BCE) used mythological
stories to explain the natural
7th Century BCE – Greeks looked
for new, more practical
Socrates (469-399 BCE)
What little we know comes from his students, Plato
and Xenophon, and his enemy, Aristophanes
Wrote nothing down
Founded no formal school – taught in the agora
Believed material things would not bring happiness
Died for his principles
So Many Questions…
What should we do? (i.e. how should we behave)
What is the meaning of life?
What is the meaning of happiness?
Is perfection possible?
What constitutes the good or just life?
What is virtue?
How should a man best conduct his life?
For each statement ask as many follow up questions as
you can with a partner. Record questions that were
brainstormed on the
Statement #1 – Only people over the age of 19 should
be allowed to drink
Statement #2 – Canada should abolish the sale of
firearms to the public
Method of elenchus (i.e. rigorous questioning
Designed to “sting” people into realizing their own
Provoke genuine intellectual curiosity
True knowledge gained only by constantly
questioning assumptions that underly all we do
To achieve truth is to engage in a permanent state of
Socratic Method Example
Q: So you think that the gods know everything/
A: Yes, because they are gods.
Q: Do some gods disagree with others?
A: Yes, of course they do. They are always fighting.
Q: So gods disagree about what is true and right?
A: I suppose they must do.
Q: So some gods can be wrong sometimes?
A: I suppose that is true.
THEREFORE the gods cannot know everything!
The only life worth
living is a good
I can only live a
good life if I really
know what ‘good’
and ‘evil’ are.
‘Good’ and ‘evil’ are not
relative; they are
absolutes that can only
be found by a process of
life is one of
In this way,
The life which is
unexamined is not
Alcibiades, Socrates’ pupil, betrayed fellow Athenians by
defecting to Sparta in Peloponnesian War
Socrates scapegoated by Alcibiades’ actions, accused of
“not believing in the gods” and “corrupting the youth”
Tried and sentenced to death
Refused to plead for lesser punishment
Wanted his punishment to be free meals for the rest of his
This was usually only given to state heroes
Forced to drink poison hemlock and died
Socrates used the claim of wisdom as his moral basis
Chief goodness consists in the caring of the soul
concerned with moral truth and understanding
“Wealth does not bring goodness, but goodness brings
wealth and every other blessing, both to the individual
and to the state”
“Life without examination (dialogue) is not worth
“I am a citizen of the world”
“I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance”
He would want you to evaluate society and your own
Plato (429-347 BCE)
The “idealist” or “utopian” or “dreamer”
Born into a wealthy family in the second year of the
Name means “high forehead”
Student of Socrates
Left Athens when Socrates died but
returned to open a school called the Academy
in 385 BCE
Wrote 20 books, many in the dialectic style
(a story which attempts to teach a specific
concept) with Socrates as the main character
Idealist, believes in order and harmony, morality and
Immortality of the soul
Virtue as knowledge
Theory of Forms – the highest function of the human
soul is to achieve the vision of the form of the good
Philosophy of Forms
The real world is the
world of Ideas, which
contains the Ideal
Forms of everything. The illusory world in
which we live – the
world of the senses –
copies of the Ideal
We are born with the
concepts of these
Ideal Forms in our
minds. We recognize things in
the world, such as dogs,
because we recognize
they are imperfect copies
of the concepts in our
Everything in this
world is a ‘shadow’ of
its Ideal Form in the
world of Ideas.
only access this
Plato’s Cave Exercise
1. Read through the allegory of the cave as a class
1. When reading, highlight any parts of the story that is
detailed and offers you a clear mental picture
2. Now, instead of writing about the cave, draw a
picture of the cave using your highlighted material
3. Share your drawing with some classmates around
you. What differences do you have?
4. What do you think about the allegories made?
Most perfect form of government: “Philosopher Kings”
(i.e. very smartest) rule over an essentially
Why Philosopher Kings?
Plato believed they alone possess the intellectual
capacity to achieve the highest form of human
Such penetrating powers of insight necessary to distinguish
between truth (i.e. that which is eternal and unchanging and
therefore is “really real”) from that which is untrue
(changeable stimuli received by our faulty instruments of
perception that serve to trick us into thinking that something
is in fact “real”)
Plato’s thinking on the immortality of the soul, his
conception of a world beyond the sensory and his god-like
form of good have very much shaped Christian thinking on
God, the soul, and an afterlife
Nietzsche called Christianity “Plato for the people”
Famous Quotes from Plato
‘If particulars are to have meaning, there must be
‘The soul of man is immortal and imperishable’
‘What we call learning is only a process of recollection’
Aristotle (384-322 BCE)
The “real” or “encyclopedist” or “inspired common
sense” or “the prince of those who know”
Studied under Plato at the Academy
Son of a Macedonian doctor, returned home to
become the teacher of Alexander of Macedon for three
years, beginning in 343 BCE
Later returned to Athens to open
school called the Lyceum in 335 BCE
Plato vs. Aristotle
We see different
instances of ‘dog’ in
the world around us.
Using our senses
and our reason, we
makes a dog a dog.
We recognize the
dogs in the world.
We find the truth
gained in the world
Plato = sense
Believed in the Golden Mean
i.e. all things follow the middle course; by avoiding
extremes, one will enjoy a maximum of happiness and a
minimum of pain
Called the “encycolpedist” as he had a profound love of
Numerous fields of scientific study he either invented
or contributed to:
Logic, biology, zoology, botany, psychology, chemistry,
astronomy, cosmology, metaphysics, ethics, political
theory, constitutional history, history of sport
Founder of scientific method
A valid and reliable process by which all scientific analyses of
a given phenomenon could take place
Led to explosive advances in the Greek scientists’ capacity
to conduct scientific research
Middle Ages’ scholars felt Aristotle knew almost as much as
God, therefore called him “The Philosopher”
“Everything that depends on the action of nature is by
nature as good as it can be.”
“All men by nature desire to know.”
“Every action must be due to one or other of seven causes:
chance, nature, compulsion, habit, reasoning, anger, or
Elements of the Art of Rhetoric
Ethos = Ethics
Appeal based on the trustworthiness/character of the speaker
Relies on the reputation of the author
Logos = Logic
Appeal based on logic or reason
Found primarily in scholarly articles and corporate financial reports
Pathos = Pathetic, sympathy, empathy
Appeal based on emotion
Found in advertisements
The more people react without full consideration for the “why,” the
more effective an argument can be
Although it can be manipulative, it is the cornerstone of moving
people to action
Legacy of Greek Philosophers
Taught us how to think
Provided a great deal of insight into the natural world
Provided many of the most profound and meaningful
answers to the great philosophical questions that have
befuddled humans since the dawn of civilization
Provided a comprehensive, valid, and reliable method
by which we could test whether or not a given idea is
Mark Steel Lectures: Aristotle
1. Why were there so many philosophers during Aristotle’s
2. What does Plato mean by the perfect form?
3. What are some examples of what Aristotle researched?
4. What is his ‘4 Essence’ theory?
5. What did Politics address concerning nature?
6. Why did he feel the rich AND poor were unfit to rule?
7. How was he before his time?
Reflect on Aristotle’s view on education and apply it to
the 21st century and what education’s role in our