On this episode of the podcast, we discussed the Sophists and the man who inspired the term ‘Presocratic’, Socrates himself. We first discussed the ‘golden age’ of culture and philosophy that took place in Athens around 500 BC. During this time, language and critical thinking skills were highly desired, but rarely possessed–a demand which gave rise to a group called the Sophists. The Sophists were philosopher-teachers who charged Athenians an arm and a leg to learn how to win arguments in court, regardless of whether their argument had any validity or not. As we learned, the Sophists aren’t held in very high regard in philosophy circles, but they’re an important part of philosophy’s history nonetheless.
Next, we discussed the ways that some of the philosophers we’ve discussed previously are categorized. The first distinction made is between the monists and the pluralists. Monists believed that the universe is made up of one fundamental substance, and this category includes three schools of thought: the Milesian school, the Pythagorean school, and the Eleatic school. The pluralists believed that the universe is made up of several fundamental substances, and this category includes the Pluralist school, the Atomic Pluralist school, and the Sophists. Check out the graph above for more information on the philosophers that belonged to each school!
Finally, we got around to talking about a philosopher who learned from all the various schools of philosophy, and used that knowledge to create his own entirely new way of thinking–a way of thinking that made him one of the most important philosophical figures in history. His name was Socrates, and what he lacked in personal hygiene, he made up for in his ability to ask thought-provoking questions. Socrates is famously quoted as saying “the unexamined life is not worth living,” which reflected his belief that pursuing knowledge was the ultimate goal of life. Because Socrates didn’t write anything down, much of what we know about him comes from Plato’s “The Apology”, an account of the trial that ultimately led to Socrates being sentenced to death. One of the most important insights we gain from the story of Socrates’ trial is the fact that he was willing to die rather than sacrifice his beliefs.
Philosophize this! Is there anything you believe in so strongly you would be willing to die in support of it?
Make sure to download Philosophize This! on iTunes for the full story behind Socrates and the Sophists!
See the full transcript of this episode here.