Chapter Three: Theology of Socrates
Chapter Three: Theology of Socrates
Speaking about the views of Socrates is indeed difficult. The description of one of his students by the name of 'Guznafun' is not compatible with the description of another of his student by the name of 'Plato' in all the instances. Similarly the depiction of Socrates which is presented in the first conversation of Plato is not the same as the Socrates propounded in the later depictions.
Nevertheless, if this certification of Aristotle that Socrates did not teach exemplary ideas is accepted, then the true Socrates is the same, which has been propounded in the primary works of Plato. As such, it would also have less contradiction with the descriptions of Guznafun. Previously, we had mentioned something about the aim and method of Socrates and it was explained that with the great attachment which Socrates had in the manner of ethics he intended to find a reliable base for ethics and finally reckoned this base to be the Universal and ethical definitions. According to him the manner of reaching this Universals is dialectics and discussion in the definitions so that one can move from a partial definition to a more general definition.
Aristotle explicitly asserts that Socrates was preoccupied with ethical matters and did not engage in the whole of nature. Rather he was in search of the whole in ethical fields and he was the first person who focussed contemplation of definition. (Aristotle - Metaphysics; Pg. 25 and 428)
The aim of Socrates was achieving a virtuous and ethical life and recognition and knowledge of the Universal definition, which is attained through dialectic and debates. On the other side, the specification of Socrates ethics is a relation, which is set forth between knowledge and virtue, meaning that a wise person, who knows what is the truth, also acts upon it. In other words, no person intentionally and by knowledge involves in evil actions. Thus, knowledge of the Universal definition is the necessary and adequate condition for a virtuous living.
Just as Aristotle used to state, there does not exists any weakness in the views of Socrates about ethics, obligation and responsibility because, there does not exists a possibility that after (achieving) knowledge of the definition, man does not act, due to moral vices, upon the necessities of 'Ma'refat' (gnostic knowledge). In other words, ethical qualities and habits are having no place in the philosophy of Socrates.
Now regardless of this that the necessary consideration between knowledge and action, self-love and essentials of man is towards perfection or other things, this result can be understood from the philosophy of Socrates that perfection and guidance of man lies in the knowledge (Ma'refat) of the Universal definition and the mechanism of guidance is dialectics.
The General Principles of Socrate's Theology
By paying attention to what was said earlier, the theology of Socrates is capable of being projected in few sentences:
1) In view of the fact that Socrates has not presented a philosophical system with regard to the world, rational philosophy too are not propounded in his philosophy.
2) More than any other thing, Socrates focussed his attention towards man and presented one ethical system for man.
3) Socrates reckoned the guidance and perfection of man to be in ethical and virtuous life and for the reason that virtue is necessary after acquiring knowledge of Universal definition and the fact that virtue is the same as knowledge, the perfection of man lies in recognizing the Universals.
4) According to Socrates, the mechanism of guidance is inductive dialectic with this meaning that dialectic and dialogue begins from partial definition and along with the contravention and confirmations which is mooted in relation to the definition, a Universal definition with regard to ethical actions is finally achieved.
5) In the view of Socrates, 'Ma'refat' (gnostic knowledge) is the same as virtue and 'Ma'refat' accompanies the virtue. Therefore, there remains no place for moral purification or striving for keeping aloof from mental vices or becoming endowed with spiritual habits. Ethical weakness, obligation and responsibility too are devoid of any meaning and is seen as a kind of practical compulsion in Socrates philosophy.
6) In the philosophy of Socrates God has not been given any place and for a prosperous living, man 15 needless of God, divine Prophets and religions and he should only bear the trouble of dialectics.
7) It is narrated that Socrates has spoken about the traditional Greek gods and similarly it has been narrated that Socrates had reckoned the human intellect to be a part of 'Universal intellect'. (History of Kapilstan's Philosophy; vol. 1; Pg. 160)
If these talks have been said on the part of Socrates, perhaps one can consider a role for gods or Universal intellect in the philosophy of ethics of Socrates, in such manner that the gods in the form of genetic and without sending the Prophets guide the intellect of man. Moreover, by paying attention to the other sayings of Socrates, the help of gods is either through presentation of intellect and or by means of placing the Universal definition, in the human soul and or in reminding the Universals.
Describing the differences of Socrates ethical system with the divine religions is outside the scope of this discussion. However, inasmuch as this system does not consider any place for sending of Messengers and the matter of divine rules and legislation's, its encounter with the divine religions becomes manifest. With regards to the origin of God's existence and His role in the Universe, Socrates has not narrated self-sufficient discussion and only some scattered words from him are at hand which indicate the multiplicity of gods. Hence its difference with the monotheism of religions. About 'Universal intellect' too, there is no explanation at hand.
On the whole, it can be said that Socrates is not the master of cosmology and theology. Rather, just as it has been said by Aristotle he was engaged more in ethics and his ethics too leave no place for the divine religions