Study Help Essay Questions


1. What are our chief sources of information concerning the life and teachings of Socrates? Why did he leave no writings?

2. Describe briefly the dialectic method as it was used by Socrates. Explain what is meant by the statement "virtue is knowledge."

3. In what respect was Socrates opposed to a democratic system of government? Explain his lack of interest in the physical sciences.

4. Give a brief account of the life and times of Plato, including his education, travels, and writings.

5. In what respect was Plato in favor of democracy, and in what respect was he opposed to it? What did Plato regard as the ideal form of government?

6. Describe Plato's experiments in government at Syracuse. Why did these experiments fail? How was Plato rescued?

7. Name some of the most important of Plato's dialogs and indicate the chief subject matter of each of them.

8. Describe the nature of the Academy that was founded by Plato. What were the chief advantages of the dialog form of writing?

9. Who was Euthyphro? What is the chief subject matter of the dialog that bears his name?

10. What were the circumstances that led Euthyphro to charge his own father with the crime of murder?

11. Contrast the two conceptions relative to the purpose of religion held by Euthyphro and Socrates.

12. Describe Euthyphro's attempts to define piety and tell why Socrates objected to each of them.

13. Why do you think the dialogue Euthyphro closed without reaching any satisfactory definition of piety? What purpose was the dialogue intended to accomplish? Do you think it succeeded?

14. The Apology is believed to contain an authentic account of Socrates' defense of himself. What are the reasons for this?

15. Socrates states that he will reply to two kinds of accusation brought against him. What were they, and why did he find it so difficult to deal with the first one?

16. How did Socrates reconcile the statement made by the oracle at Delphi that he was the wisest man in Athens with his own admittance of ignorance?

17. How did Socrates account for the popular prejudice that led so many people to be suspicious of him and his work?

18. What, according to Meletus, was the crime of which Socrates was accused? What do you think was the real reason why Meletus was opposed to Socrates?

19. How did Socrates reply to the charge that he was a corrupter of the youth? What was it that led people to think he was guilty?

20. Aristophanes in his work called The Clouds had made certain references to Socrates. For what purpose had these remarks been made, and how were they interpreted by Socrates' opponents?

21. Socrates did not charge fees for his services as a teacher. Since he did not think it was wrong to charge fees and since he was in need of money, why did he not accept fees?

22. Why did Socrates reject many of the popular beliefs concerning the Athenian gods? Was Socrates an atheist? Give reasons for your answer.

23. What reason did Socrates give for having avoided a political career? Describe the prophetic warning that he delivered to the judges at the close of his address.

24. Why was Socrates kept in prison for a whole month preceding his execution? What reasons were given by Crito for urging him to escape?

25. Why did Socrates believe it would be wrong for him to escape? Did he believe all laws authorized by the state should be obeyed?

26. How did Socrates reconcile his position about obedience to the laws of the state with his conviction that it is morally right to disobey laws that are unjust? Distinguish moral and legal rights.

27. What is the chief subject matter of the Phaedo? Since it was written months or possibly years after the

28. death of Socrates, what reasons can be given for its authenticity as a correct account?

29. Explain Socrates' statement that the life of philosophy is a "longing for death." Was this consistent with his refusal to escape from prison?

30. What was the Heraclitean doctrine concerning "opposites"? What use did Socrates make of it in his reply to Cebes and Simmias?

31. How did Socrates refute the idea advanced by Simmias that the soul is comparable to the harmony of a musical instrument?

32. What arguments did Socrates use in his refutation of both epiphenomenalism and a mechanistic interpretation of the soul?

33. Explain Socrates' theory of "recollection" and its bearing on belief in the immortality of the soul.

34. It has often been held that Socrates was delinquent in his role as a husband and a father. What reasons can be given both for and against this belief?

35. Tell why you think Phaedo's final tribute to Socrates was or was not well deserved.

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