Why is Socrates called a Christian before Christ?
How did the ancient philosopher Socrates intuitively come to the Christian understanding of God as Truth? Why did he think that people commit evil only out of ignorance? Why not afraid of death, and even waited for her? For what thoughts did his fellow pagans execute him? This is discussed by Viktor Petrovich Lega, head of the department of philosophy at PSTGU, teacher at Sretenskaya Theological Seminary.
Socrates versus sophists
Socrates lived in the V century before Christ. This is the era when the sophists were very popular, and it is impossible to understand Socrates without sophists – this is a single system.
Who are the sophists? These are people who were ready to teach anything, the main thing is that they pay well for it. To justify this activity of theirs, they came up with the doctrine of the relativity of truth – this position was defended by Protagoras, the most famous of the sophists.
The famous phrase of the sophists is: "Man is the measure of all things." In other words, someone like what it seems, the way it is! There is no objective truth that does not depend on a person, but there is a subjective truth, relative, depending on time, on space, on personality, on health, and so on.
Sophists were very popular. And therefore their activity cannot be assessed unequivocally: they really were wise. It was they who for the first time put education in a big way, made it popular, fashionable and, most importantly, affordable, not elitist. Their era is the era of Greek enlightenment.
Before them, mass education was not at all. If you want to study – look for a teacher who may be hundreds of kilometers away, you will have to go from Milet to Syracuse, or somewhere to the south of Italy, or to Egypt to learn, and the teacher will still think whether to take you to their students. And sophists offered education here and immediately: pay, if you have money, come, we will teach anything!
However, Socrates was sure that they did not teach what they should have, and therefore entered into an implacable struggle with them.
He spoke for objective truth.
Is it good to steal if it is profitable?
Sophists taught: if truth is subjective, then morality is subjective. But there is nothing more dangerous for society!
The main danger of sophistry, which Socrates saw, is that if truth is subjective, then morality is subjective. And there is nothing more dangerous for society!
If the criterion of truth, as the sophists said, practice, profit, then it turns out that if it is profitable for me to steal and they do not put me in jail at the same time, then I will steal. You do not like to steal – do not steal. And I like to steal – that’s all. No objective moral installations.
This was one of the reasons, the external reason that prompted Socrates to work. But there was another, internal – the desire of Socrates himself to this truth. And the conviction that truth is, it is objective, it is eternal and therefore is not in our material world. In fact, Socrates reveals the existence of God.
Sophists were materialists, and, based on materialism, argued: there is no truth. Today is cold – tomorrow is warm. Today I am sick – tomorrow I am healthy. Today I can go outside in a T-shirt – tomorrow I will wear a warm jacket.
If the truth is one, then this is God.
But Socrates says: no, there is one, objective truth. If it is objective, if it is immutable, eternal, then it does not belong to the material world. It can relate only to a world in which there is no change, that is, to the divine. And if the truth is one – then this is God. God is one.
Actually, it was for this that Socrates was judged by the Athenians, who saw in his teachings a danger to their city, worshiping the goddess Athena and other gods.
The charge by which Socrates was tried and executed was very simple: he preaches new gods. In fact, Socrates preached one God, but for the Athenians it meant to preach some new gods. What was considered a state crime in ancient Greece.
Socrates wanted everyone to teach this desire for truth. For him, the main thing was not just the desire for truth in itself — he was not an abstract scientist, he understood that truth and good are one and the same! And a man does evil only because he does not know that it is evil. From ignorance he takes evil for good.
If people knew whatabout evil and thabout good, they would do only good. This Socratic thought confused many: how is it! how many clever but evil people who deliberately make evil, cultivate poisons, commit crimes. Socrates answered: no, they are clever, but not wise: they know a piece of truth, but they don’t know the whole thing.
It seems to me that this thought of Socrates is close to Christianity – because we speak of God as Truth, of God as Love, in which Truth and Love unite.
I think he walked the path of knowing God through the world around him.
Sculptor, son of a sculptor
In his youth, he was an artisan sculptor. His father was also a sculptor and taught him his skills. It is even said that some statues on the Parthenon are made by Socrates.
In his younger years, Socrates was a very strong man and fought as a heavily armed warrior, that is, a hoplite, with the Persians. The brave warrior, as they write about him: during the retreat he left last and saved the commander Alcibiades.
When the time of peace came, Socrates began to lead a strange life. He did not work. He had a wife Xantippa, who constantly scolded him for this, three children – sons. He spent all his time on the market square, in the agora, in conversations with his students and with all the people he met, whom he wanted to teach the truth.
This is the amazing quality of Socrates: he is absolutely not a man of this world! He is not interested in material wealth at all. How and what he lived – we can only guess. Probably, the students somehow imperceptibly helped with something. But Socrates refused to take money, believing that teaching for money was immoral. That’s why he scolded sophists, who for money were ready to teach anything.
Proving the correctness of Socrates, I usually give students an example. Imagine that you have gone beyond the gates of Sretensky Seminary, a certain young man comes to meet you and says: “Oh, that’s great! I just wanted to know about God … And you, apparently, are studying in the seminary. Tell me, is there God or not? "And you say to him:" All right. Now. Thousand rubles, please … "How do you like this turn?
One can speak about truth, about God only from the fullness of the heart. And for Socrates, truth is some ideal. Therefore, nothing can be taught for money, he believed. Such a paradoxical person.
I know that I know nothing
How was the famous formula born: “I know that I know nothing”?
How to know the truth? Socrates says that – and, by the way, this is in his defensive speech at the trial, which we know about thanks to his student Plato and his work “The Apology of Socrates” – that he knows that he knows nothing.
How did this famous formula appear: I know that I know nothing?
One of his friends asked the prophetess, the prophetess, who sat near the temple of Apollo at Delphi, who is the wisest of men. The soothsayer – and through her, the Greeks believed, the god Apollo himself said, answered: "Socrates". Socrates found out about this from a friend and was surprised. I said I never considered myself the smartest. I began to go to different people whom I considered smarter than myself. I think I’m not smart, but God can not be wrong. I went to the statesmen – after all, they govern the country – and they were so pompous, proud of their power, that it was impossible to talk with them. They do not understand anything! And they do not even understand that they do not understand anything.
Then I went to artisans – these are people who know how to do concrete things, unlike me. They, of course, are brilliant masters, but suddenly they think of themselves that, understanding their carpentry, leather or other craftsmanship, they understand everything! That is, they also do not know anything.
And then I realized that all people just think they know something. They do not even know that they know nothing. And I know that I know nothing. And I’m smarter than all other people for this little knowledge.
And only God knows everything, only God can be a wise man. A person can only be a philosopher, that is, a lover of wisdom, who knows that, before God, to him is like infinity. Therefore, he must know that he knows nothing.
Vladimir Soloviev compared the Socrates formulas with the Gospel commandments of the bliss
By the way, an interesting comparison was made by the famous Russian philosopher Vladimir Sergeevich Soloviev. In his work The Life Drama of Plato, he compared this thought of Socrates with the commandments of bliss. “I know that I know nothing” – “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” “I want to know the truth” – “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” “I cry that I do not know the truth” – “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” … These are the parallels. An interesting idea for Vl. Solovyov.
"The midwife" of truth
But as? It is here that Socrates accomplishes a decisive revolution in philosophy, after which we divide the entire history of philosophy into pre-Socratic and post-Socratic. He gave philosophy its subject. The subject of philosophy is man. Physics deals with nature, biology with living beings, astronomy with stars, and philosophy deals with man, his intellectual and moral inner world. She helps him to become kinder, better, smarter and understand who he is, why he lives, what evil he does, how to do good, and answers other questions that other philosophers will put to him after Socrates according to his method.
So how can you know the truth? Reflecting on this, Socrates recalls the profession of his mother. His mother was a midwife, that is, in our opinion, a midwife. He says: “I am the same midwife, only my mother became a midwife already in old age, having given birth to children and knowing how to give birth to them. Being old, she can not give birth, but helps young mothers with advice. In the same way, I, having become old and stupid, cannot give birth to truth myself, but I help young youths to give birth to truth. ”
Of course, there is some zealotry or the irony of Socrates, when he says that he allegedly knows nothing about the truth. But it turns out to be an important point. Truth cannot be taught, truth can only be known by oneself, it is in the soul. You can teach to cut or chop wood, showing: do as I do. And to say: “Thoughts like me” is impossible.
How to teach a person to think?
And then Socrates resorts to his famous method of conversations, questions. You need to be able to interest a person, make him talk to you, he says. How you do it doesn’t matter. The main thing – to catch a man on the hook. And then with skillful questions make him think. And then he, answering questions himself, will come to the truth – only it is necessary to direct him in the right direction in time with these clever questions.
These questions and answers of Socrates are known to us thanks to Plato, who recorded them in the form of some dialogues. In fact, many of them are real historical conversations of Socrates with various students or strangers.
The irony and humor of Socrates
We all love to learn. And capturing this important psychological trait of man, Socrates resorts to this method: he asks questions, pretending that he knows nothing. “Explain to me, friend, what beauty is …” “And what is courage. "" And what is justice? "
And any person is immediately ready to teach this guy, who probably does not understand anything! Socrates thanks him: “How clever you are! What a brave warrior you are! What a sophist you are! Explain this to me, explain this to me. ” And in half an hour, in an hour, the person realizes that at the very time of his grandfather Socrates teaches him, and not vice versa.
This was extremely disliked by many – especially considering that such conversations took place on the square, in the presence of many people. Many thought it all an insult. Thus, St. Basil the Great writes in “The Word to the Young Men on How to Benefit from the Pagan Writings” writes that these conversations often ended with the interlocutor of Socrates using his fists, unable to bear the shame. St. Basil reminds us of one such case.
"This act of Socrates is similar to the commandment, according to which you should substitute another one to the striker on the face." St. Basil the Great
Once, Socrates also disgraced one interlocutor, he set his fists and beat the philosopher so that his whole face was covered with bruises and abrasions. The next day, Socrates came to the city with an inscription on his forehead: “He did such and such.” When he was asked why he wrote it, he said: “You see, I was a sculptor by profession in my youth and used to sign my products. The one who sculpted yesterday, forgot to subscribe, I did it for him. ” And St. Basil the Great writes: “Since this indicates one thing almost with our rules, I affirm that it is very good to imitate such men. For this act of Socrates is similar to the commandment, according to which you should substitute another one to the striker on the face. ”
Therefore, Socrates was not only Basil the Great, but Augustine, Justin Martyr, and Clement of Alexandria were actually called Christians before Christ. He not only taught about the only God and the need to know Him as the Truth, as a blessing, but he actually lived as a Christian.
Socrates life ended sadly: he was convicted and executed. We know about the last conversation of Socrates with the disciples from the dialogue of Plato “The Phaedo”, where Socrates, having learned that he is being executed today, is extremely happy. The disciples do not understand this, but he says: “How not to rejoice? You see, as a philosopher, I was in fact always in my life always striving for death. After all, the truth is eternal, and when I strive for its knowledge, I actually try to free myself from my body, which prevents me from knowing this truth. It is tied to the temporary, to the changeable, so I strive to get rid of the body … "
What is death? This is the deliverance, the liberation of the soul from the body. Therefore, philosophy is the desire for death, as many Fathers of the Church often repeated after Socrates. In particular, in the Reverend John of Damascus in his "Philosophical Chapters" we find the following definition: "Philosophy is the desire and care of death."
Blessed Augustine notes that after the execution of Socrates, the Athenians seemed to wake up: “the indignation of the people turned on two prosecutors to the extent that one of them died at the hands of the crowd, and the other could avoid a similar punishment only by voluntary and perpetual exile.”
The teachings of Socrates quickly became very popular, we know about the set of his students, and the most significant of them – Plato. According to the blessed Augustine, Plato and his disciples came closest to our Christian philosophy.
Truth does not tolerate compromise
Socrates seeks to know the truth – and how to know this truth? The most complicated discovery that Socrates makes concerns the question: what is thinking?
Before Socrates, no one even raised such a question. And he sets as his task to know himself, and after all “I” is, first of all, “I am thinking”.
There is a sort of innocent, easy conversation: “Tell me, friend, what courage is. You are a prominent commander, you participated in many battles … ”And a pompous commander says:“ Well, what courage is … Courage is standing in the line, reflecting all the attacks of the enemy, without taking a single step back. ” Socrates responds by playing along with him: “You are a wonderful commander, a courageous warrior. And I heard that there are such warriors, Scythians … ”He replies:“ Yes, I fought with them, courageous warriors ”. “How brave are they when they embark on a feigned flight to disperse an army and then kill the enemy one by one?” “Yes … Courage is probably the ability to defeat the enemy by resorting to different means.” – "It’s great! It is evident that you are a commander, yes … My friend recently was ill. It was a serious illness, but he didn’t moan … "-" Yes, Socrates, you have a courageous friend. " – “How courageous, he did not fight with anyone?”
He directs the interlocutor with such questions to the understanding that the word “courage” – or in other dialogues the word “beauty”, the word “truth”, the word “knowledge”, the word “justice” – in fact requires a very serious understanding. That is the definition.
“What is beauty?” Asks Socrates. – "See, here comes the girl?" Beautiful, yes? "-" Yes, of course, the girl is beautiful. And I heard you bought a horse yesterday. ” – "I bought a beautiful horse." “So wait, you said that beauty is when a girl is beautiful …” And so on. It turns out that there is some general concept that can be applied to a girl, and to a horse, and to a vase, and even, perhaps, to theory – “beautiful theory”. Beauty is not necessarily a sensory concept.
Aristotle draws attention to the fact that Socrates made two of the greatest discoveries: one must define and be able to relate these concepts. That is, in fact, he gave impetus to all philosophy as a theory of knowledge, logic as a methodology for scientific research.
Socrates gave impetus to the study of morality, because if there are moral laws and they are objective, then they must be investigated.
And what, above all, Christian philosophy pays attention to: it gave impetus to the study of morality. If there are moral laws, they are objective – it means that they must be investigated.
On the eve of the execution of Socrates, his disciple stole into the prison and said: "Here is a cloak for you, in which you are not recognized, but the guards are already bribed." Socrates replied: “I will not go anywhere. I am willing to die for my words, because I am telling the truth. Truth does not tolerate any kind of compromise; it requires our full agreement with it. ” This is also the most important point. As Augustine writes, the most important thing in the acts of Socrates is that he turned philosophy into an active area. Pythagoras developed the contemplative part of philosophy, and Socrates developed the active one. And the greatness of Plato, according to Augustine, lies in the fact that he connected an active philosophy with a contemplative one.