How was Socrates the personification of philosophy?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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A quote often associated with Socrates is that "the unexamined life is not worth living."  It is this emphasis on reflection, intellectual discourse, and ideas that makes Socrates the very personification of philosophy.  It makes sense that a discipline rooted in "philos," or love, of "sophia," or wisdom, would have Socrates as its very embodiment.

One reason why Socrates is the embodiment of philosophy is because of his willingness to engage others in debate and discourse. He lived it.  Socrates, himself, did not write any works, but rather simply walked around and participated in discussion about issues such as truth, justice, and ethics.  He did not have another job.  Socrates did not "do philosophy" on the side.  He was what he talked about and he sincerely embraced the idea that the unexamined life was not worth living.  His commitment to philosophical inquiry is one reason why he is the embodiment of the genre.  Simply put, he did not do anything else.

Socrates is the embodiment of philosophy because of his method of discussion. Socrates did not preach to others.  Rather, he posed question after question.  He was not content with a simplistic and reductive answer. True to a discipline that loved wisdom, Socrates sought to enhance understanding through questioning techniques that generated intricacy of thought.  Socrates embodied philosophy because of his willingness to integrate the act of questioning into his very being.  Socrates sought answers, but recognized the power of the questions.  It was the questions that drove Socrates, something that he believed should be the basis of all human beings. Socrates embodies philosophy because he never accepted stated truth, rather seeking to scrutinize it through questioning analysis.

Socrates believed that philosophy contained the key to being in the world.  If individuals sought to understand their purpose, it was through philosophical inquiry.  Socrates believed that societies can be shaped through philosophy and the individual pursuit for a life that embraces the good, the true, and the beautiful can only be achieved through philosophy.  It is his zeal towards philosophy that makes Socrates the embodiment of the discipline.  There are few others who represent the purest of love and sincere belief in the power of philosophy.  It is for this reason that Socrates can be seen as the embodiment of philosophy.

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