What is Socrates trying to figure out?

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larrygates | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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It is difficult at times to understand exactly what Socrates was after in his teaching because he only taught by asking questions rather than making affirmative statements. Also, because he wrote nothing down, we only have his teachings as interpreted by Plato, who undoubtedly added his own stamp to Socrates' thoughts. However, it appears that he emphasized the importance of morality and ethics; he stressed that one should work toward improving his spiritual life rather than earthly gain. Personal integrity and honest dealings with others was to him the highest goal. This could only be obtained by fearless soul searching. Although he taught primarily by asking questions, he is quoted as having once said "The unexamined life is not worth living." When Plato asked questions of his students, he did so in a manner which suggested that he himself was unaware of the truth. It would thus appear that he was teaching his students by getting them to teach him--after all, one cannot teach another without one learning also. So he was attempting to figure out answers which he probably already knew by leading his disciples to discover the answer for themselves.
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