Reason and Religion in Socratic Philosophy

Oxford University Press
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This volume brings together mostly previously unpublished studies by prominent historians, classicists, and philosophers on the roles and effects of religion in Socratic philosophy and on the trial of Socrates. Among the contributors are Thomas C. Brickhouse, Asli Gocer, Richard Kraut, Mark L. McPherran, Robert C. T. Parker, C. D. C. Reeve, Nicholas D. Smith, Gregory Vlastos, Stephen A. White, and Paul B. Woodruff.
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Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
Nov 16, 2000
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Pages
240
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ISBN
9780195350920
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Language
English
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Genres
Philosophy / History & Surveys / Ancient & Classical
Religion / Philosophy
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This content is DRM protected.
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Americans have an unwavering faith in democracy and are ever eager to import it to nations around the world. But how democratic is our own "democracy"? If you can vote, if the majority rules, if you have elected representatives--does this automatically mean that you have a democracy? In this eye-opening look at an ideal that we all take for granted, classical scholar Paul Woodruff offers some surprising answers to these questions. Drawing on classical literature, philosophy, and history--with many intriguing passages from Sophocles, Aesop, and Plato, among others--Woodruff immerses us in the world of ancient Athens to uncover how the democratic impulse first came to life. The heart of the book isolates seven conditions that are the sine qua non of democracy: freedom from tyranny , harmony, the rule of law, natural equality, citizen wisdom, reasoning without knowledge, and general education. He concludes that a true democracy must be willing to invite everyone to join in government. It must respect the rule of law so strongly that even the government is not above the law. True democracy must be mature enough to accept changes that come from the people. And it must be willing to pay the price of education for thoughtful citizenship. If we learn anything from the story of Athens, Woodruff concludes, it should be this--never lose sight of the ideals of democracy. This compact, eloquent book illuminates these ideals and lights the way as we struggle to keep democracy alive at home and around the world.
In giving to charity, should we strive to do the greatest good or promote a lesser good that we care more about? On such issues, ethical theory can have momentous practical effects. This volume is a unique collection of new papers on philanthropy from a range of philosophical perspectives. The authors are among the best-regarded philosophers writing on ethics today and include a number of thinkers who have not previously published on the subject. Most recently published work by philosophers on charitable giving tends to support what is called effective altruism-doing the most good you can. In practice, however, charitable giving is often local and relatively ineffective, supporting causes dear to the givers' hearts. Are ineffective givers doing wrong or merely doing less praiseworthy work than they might? This volume includes at least three challenges to the effective altruism movement, as well as two chapters that defend it against the gathering tide of objections. Most thinkers who align with utilitarianism support effective altruism, and some other perspectives do as well. But the ideal of personal integrity can push the other way. So can justice-based theories of giving: perhaps I could do the most good by stealing and giving to the poor, but that would be unjust. In the most important cases, however, justice leads to the same result as effective altruism. Other theories give different results. The authors represent include intuitionism, virtue ethics, Kantian ethics, utilitarianism, theory of justice, and the ideal of personal integrity.
A revisionist account of the most famous trial and execution in Western civilization—one with great resonance for American society today. Socrates’ trial and death together form an iconic moment in Western civilization. In 399 BCE, the great philosopher stood before an Athenian jury on serious charges: impiety and “subverting the young men of the city.” The picture we have of it—created by his immediate followers, Plato and Xenophon, and perpetuated in countless works of literature and art ever since—is of a noble man putting his lips to the poisonous cup of hemlock, sentenced to death in a fit of folly by an ancient Athenian democracy already fighting for its own life. But an icon, an image, is not reality, and time has transmuted so many of the facts into historical fable.

Aware of these myths, Robin Waterfield has examined the actual Greek sources and presents here a new Socrates, in which he separates the legend from the man himself. As Waterfield recounts the story, the charges of impiety and corrupting the youth of Athens were already enough for a death sentence, but the prosecutors accused him of more. They asserted that Socrates was not just an atheist and the guru of a weird sect but also an elitist who surrounded himself with politically undesirable characters and had mentored those responsible for defeat in the Peloponnesian War. Their claims were not without substance, for Plato and Xenophon, among Socrates’ closest companions, had idolized him as students, while Alcibiades, the hawkish and notoriously self-serving general, had brought Athens to the brink of military disaster. In fact, as Waterfield perceptively shows through an engrossing historical narrative, there was a great deal of truth, from an Athenian perspective, in these charges.

The trial was, in part, a response to troubled times—Athens was reeling from a catastrophic war and undergoing turbulent social changes—and Socrates’ companions were unfortunately direct representatives of these troubles. Their words and actions, judiciously sifted and placed in proper context, not only serve to portray Socrates as a flesh-and-blood historical figure but also provide a good lens through which to explore both the trial and the general history of the period.

Ultimately, the study of these events and principal figures allows us to finally strip away the veneer that has for so long denied us glimpses of the real Socrates. Why Socrates Died is an illuminating, authoritative account of not only one of the defining periods of Western civilization but also of one of its most defining figures.
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