Socrates, 469?—399 B. C.

[Mentioned in Science and Health, pp. 66, 215, Miscellaneous Writings, pp. 345, 361, and in the Message to The Mother Church for 1901, p. 24]

Socrates, teacher and philosopher, was born in Athens during the Periclean age. He served his country as a soldier, rescuing Alcibiades during the siege of Potidaea and at Delium carrying Zenophon to safety. In the Council of 500, he stood alone against condemning by a single vote 8 commanders accused of negligence.

The contradictory answers arrived at in the study of natural science caused him to conclude that "the proper study of mankind is man." And it was as a teacher and philosopher that he became known in the market place, in the gymnasia, and in the streets of Athens. Barefoot and wearing the same light clothing summer and winter, he could be seen addressing his questions to anyone he could buttonhole. The use of a series of questions calling for direct answers has since been called the Socratic method. For example, if in answer to the question, "What is courage?" the reply was, "Courage is not running away in battle," Socrates would indicate that such a definition failed to include all varieties of courage. The next definition given by his victim might well embrace qualities other than courage. Thus Socrates pointed out the inaccuracy of human concepts.

He laid the foundations of ethics, the science of human conduct, teaching that virtue was the outgrowth of self-knowledge and that moral goodness was the greatest value in the universe. His own example won Plato's judgment that he was "the most righteous man of the whole age."

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Signs of the Times
June 25, 1955

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