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Bust of Socrates, Roman copy of a Greek original, 1st century, Louvre , Paris

Socrates ( Σωκράτης Socrates ; * . 469 BC. In Alopeke , Athens ; † .. 399 BC in Athens) was a for the Western fundamental thinking Greek philosopher , who in Athens at the time of the Athenian democracy lived and worked. In order to gain knowledge of human nature, ethical principles and an understanding of the world, he developed the philosophical method of a structured dialogue, which he called Maieutik ("midwifery").

Socrates himself left no written works. The tradition of his life and thought is based on the writings of others, mainly his students Plato and Xenophon . They wrote Socratic dialogues and emphasized different features of his teaching. Any representation of the historical Socrates and his philosophy is therefore incomplete and associated with uncertainties.

Socrates' outstanding importance is shown above all in its lasting effect within the history of philosophy, but also in the fact that the Greek thinkers before him are now called pre-Socratics . The fact that he accepted the death sentence imposed on him for allegedly pernicious influence on the youth and disregard for the gods and did not take an opportunity to escape out of respect for the law contributed significantly to his fame . Until he was executed by the hemlock , he and the friends and students visiting the prison kept philosophical questions. Most of the major schools of philosophy in antiquity referred to Socrates. Michel de Montaigne called him in the 16th century the “master of all masters” and Karl Jaspers wrote: “Having Socrates in mind is one of the indispensable prerequisites for our philosophizing.”

Center of a turning point in the history of ideas

Socrates was the first to call philosophy down from heaven to earth, to settle it among the people and to make it a test instrument of the way of life, customs and values, remarked the Roman politician Cicero , who was an excellent expert on Greek philosophy. In Socrates he saw personified the departure from the Ionian natural philosophy , which up to 430 BC. Was prominently represented by Anaxagoras in Athens. Socrates 'principle of reason had impressed him, but he missed Anaxagoras' application of reason to human problems. However, contrary to what Cicero believed, Socrates was not the first or only to put human concerns at the center of his philosophical thought.

During Socrates' lifetime, Athens was the dominant power in the Attic League and, as a result of the development of the Attic democracy, it was the cultural center of Greece, which was subject to far-reaching political and social change and diverse tensions. Therefore there was there in the 5th century BC Good chances of development for new spiritual currents. Such a broad-based, also effective protruding through course offerings school of thought was that of the Sophists , which Socrates united so much that he often himself was his contemporaries as a sophist: the practical life of the people, issues of Polis - and legal system as well as the position of the individual In it, the criticism of traditional myths , the examination of language and rhetoric , as well as the meaning and content of education - all of this also preoccupied Socrates.

What set him apart from the sophists and made him a founding figure in the history of ideas were the additional features of his philosophizing. For example, his constant, probing endeavor to get to the bottom of things and not to be satisfied with superficially obvious things when it comes to questions like “What is bravery?”, But rather to bring up the “best logos ”, that is to say from time and location-independent, constant essence of the thing.

Methodologically new in its time was Maieutik, the method of philosophical dialogue introduced by Socrates for the purpose of gaining knowledge in an open-ended research process. The questioning and research to establish a philosophical ethic was also originally Socratic . One of the results obtained by Socrates was that right action follows from right insight and that justice is the basic condition for a good state of the soul . For him it was clear that doing injustice is worse than suffering injustice.

This is followed by a fourth element of the new philosophical beginning associated with Socrates: the importance and validation of philosophical insights in everyday life. In the trial that ended with his death sentence, Socrates attested to his adversaries that they were clearly in the wrong. Nevertheless, he subsequently refused to escape from prison in order not to put himself in the wrong. The philosophical way of life and the observance of the principle that doing injustice is worse than suffering injustice, he weighted higher than the possibility of preserving his life.

Bust of Socrates in the National Archaeological Museum, Naples

Life path of the philosopher

Hardly anything is known about the career of Socrates in the first half of his life, and afterwards only incomplete information. The biographical references mainly come from contemporary sources, although some of the information contradicts one another. These are the comedy The Clouds of Aristophanes and the works of two students of Socrates: the memorabilia (memories of Socrates) of the historian Xenophon and writings of the philosopher Plato . Plato's early dialogues and his Apology for Socrates are the most important sources on Socrates. Among those who were born later, it was above all the Plato pupil Aristotle and - in the third century AD - the doxographer Diogenes Laertios who contributed hints. In addition, only scattered notes, messages and anecdotes by other authors of Greek and Latin literature have survived, including Cicero and Plutarch . More early information can be found in other ancient comedies.

Origin, education, military operations

According to Plato, Socrates was 399 BC. 70 years old, from which the year of birth is 469 BC. Chr. Results. The year of his trial and death, 399 BC, is well established. A later invention is probably that his birthday was the 6th day of the month of Thargelion . According to Diogenes Laertios, he came from the Athenian Demos Alopeke of the Phyle Antiochis and was the son of the stonemason or sculptor Sophroniskos . Plato reports that the mother of Socrates was the midwife Phainarete. Plato also mentions a maternal half-brother named Patrokles, who is probably identical to the Patrokles von Alopeke, who is mentioned in an inscription on the Athenian Acropolis from the year 406/405 BC. Is recorded as the competition folder of the Panathenaia .

According to the German ancient historian Alexander Demandt , his training has followed the usual lines, which in addition to literacy, gymnastics and music education also included geometry, astronomy and the study of poets, especially Homers . According to Plato, his teachers included two women, namely Aspasia , the wife of Pericles , and the seer Diotima . On the male side, next to the natural philosopher Anaxagoras, with whose disciple Archelaus Socrates undertook a trip to Samos , the sophist Prodikos and the music theorist , who is close to the Pythagoreans , Damon.

The historian of philosophy Diogenes Laertios , who wrote in the early 3rd century AD, commented on one of Socrates' professions , referring to a source that is now lost. According to this, Socrates worked as a sculptor like his father and even designed a Charite group on the Acropolis. In the traditions of his students, however, there is no mention of this, so that he must have ended this activity at least early and hardly ever brought it up.

Concrete dates are connected with his military operations in the Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC): As a hoplite with heavy armament, he participated in the siege of Potidaia in 431–429 BC. And at the battles of Delion in 424 BC. BC and Amphipolis 422 BC Part. This suggests that he was not without means, because the hoplites had to pay for their equipment themselves.

Ideal portrait of Alcibiades (marble bust, 4th century BC)

Socrates made a great impression on the general Laches and his own pupil Alkibiades in the field with the way he endured cold, hunger and other deprivations and, when retreating after the defeat of Delion, he showed measured pace and always ready to defend his prudence, determination and courage instead of like others to flee headless. He rescued the wounded Alcibiades in Potidaia with his weapons and then gave him an award of bravery that would have been his own. At least this is what he testifies in Plato's symposium and reports how he experienced Socrates in Poteidaia:

“In enduring all the hardships he not only surpassed me, but everyone in general. When we were cut off somewhere, as can happen on campaigns, and then had to fast, the others couldn't take it for a long time. But if we were allowed to indulge ourselves, he was the only one able to enjoy it, especially when he was forced to drink, which of course he hated; there he surpassed us all. And what one has to wonder most about: Nobody has ever seen Socrates drunk. "


Socrates had his center of activity on the lively market square of Athens, as Xenophon made clear: “So he always did everything in public. In the early morning he went to the colonnades and gymnastics schools, and when the market filled up he could be seen there, and the rest of the day he was always where he could be with most of the people. And he mostly spoke, and if you wanted to, you were free to listen to him. ” Aristophanes gave the satirical reading in his comedy The Clouds , where Socrates is the main character and is addressed by the choir as follows:

“But you, you priest of the tricky word, announce your desire to us now!
For no one else we like so gladly of all the grandiose gossipers
like Prodikos: too fond of his wisdom, his insight; and besides him you still,
because you proudly stroll around in the alleys and let your eyes wander all around,
always barefoot and without sensitivity and in believing in us full of conceit. "

Already in this 423 BC The comedy listed in BC was held up against Socrates' wickedness and delusion of youth. His interlocutors in the streets of Athens and on the Agora belonged to both sexes and almost all age groups, professions and social ranks represented in the Attic democracy.

The school of Athens by Raphael , Socrates in the picture: back row, left side, the man in brown clothes turned to the left gesturing with his hands

About the character of the Socratic conversation, Plato had Alcibiades say:

“... if anyone wants to listen to Socrates' speeches, they will initially seem quite ridiculous to him; they are outwardly wrapped in such words and idioms, like the skin of a cheeky satyr .

For he speaks of pack donkeys, of blacksmiths, cobblers and tanners, and always seems to be saying the same thing in the same way, so that every inexperienced and incomprehensible person has to mock his talk. But if someone sees them open and steps inside: He will first find that these speeches alone have reason inside , and then that they are entirely divine and contain the most beautiful idols of virtue and most of this, or rather everything aim at what is due to investigate who wants to become good and noble. "

Even if Socrates' pupils in particular apparently understood his questions that way, his conduct of the conversation met with incomprehension and displeasure from others:

“Socrates, the teacher, appears regularly as a student. He does not want to teach others, but rather to be taught by them. He is the ignorant, his philosophy appears in the form of ignorance. Conversely, he brings his interlocutors into the position of knowing. That flatters most and provokes them to spread their supposed knowledge. Only when you ask consistently does it become apparent that they are the ignorant themselves. "

Committed policeman

Long before the premiere of the clouds , Socrates must have been a prominent figure in public life in Athens, because otherwise Aristophanes would hardly have been able to successfully stage him in the aforementioned way. Even a non-datable questioning of the oracle in Delphi by the childhood friend Chairephon presupposed that Socrates was well known far beyond Athens.

In Plato's apology , Socrates describes the process: “So he (Chairephon) asked whether there was anyone who was wiser than me. Then Pythia said that there was none. ”Socrates named a witness for this in the brother of the deceased childhood friend. According to Xenophon's version, the oracle information was that no one was freer or more just or more prudent than Socrates. From this oracle, Socrates, who was in view of his ignorance, derived, according to Plato, the task of testing the knowledge of his fellow men in order to verify the statement of the deity.

The historicity of oracle inquiries was disputed in antiquity and is also denied by some modern researchers. They consider Chairephon's question in Delphi to be a literary fiction from Socrates' circle of students. They assert, among other things, that at a time when Socrates was not yet famous, Chairephon had no reason to ask the oracle such a question. Proponents of historicity believe that Plato had no reason to make up such a detailed story and put Socrates in his mouth. Had an opponent then exposed it as fiction, which would easily have been possible at the time, this would have shaken the credibility of Plato's entire account of Socrates' defense speech in court.

Bust of Pericles, Roman copy based on the Greek original, Vatican Museums

In contrast to the sophists, Socrates did not allow himself to be paid for his teaching work. He consciously referred to himself as a philosopher ("wisdom friend"). His philosophizing, which often took place in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Athens, could help answer the question of how Athens was able to assert itself as the "School of Hellas" and promote the individual development of the respective abilities and virtues of its citizens.

In particular, Socrates used his question method to test ambitious young politicians in order to make it clear to them how far they were still from being able to competently represent the interests of the polis. According to Xenophon's testimony, he also did this with benevolent intentions with Plato's brother Glaukon , who did not prove himself to be solid either in state finances or in assessing the balance of military power or in matters of Athens' internal security. Socrates concluded: “Be careful Glaucon, otherwise your pursuit of fame could turn into the opposite! Don't you notice how reckless it is to do or talk about something you don't understand? [...] If you want to enjoy respect and fame in the state, then first and foremost develop the knowledge you need for the tasks you want to solve! ”In the long run, Socrates made his way with his verbal inquiries, various questions, doubts and inquiries Both friends and enemies: friends who saw his philosophy as the key to their own and community welfare and wisdom, and enemies who viewed his work as blasphemy and harmful to society.

Occasionally, Socrates also understood specific policy advice. In his memoirs, Xenophon reported a dialogue between Socrates and Pericles , the son of the same name of 429 BC. Statesman Perikles, who died in the 4th century BC, in which it was about possibilities to regain Athens' external position of power in Greece which had disappeared in the course of the Peloponnesian War. After a whole series of general considerations, Socrates finally developed the proposal to Perikles, who was considered militarily capable, to occupy the mountains off Attica in the direction of Boeotia . He encouraged those who agreed with him: “If you like the plan, carry it out! All the successes you get with it will bring you fame and benefit to the city; but if you do not succeed in doing something, it will not have a harmful effect on the general public and will not shame you either. "

416 BC BC Socrates appeared as the guest of honor at the famous symposium that took place on the occasion of the tragedy of the young Agathon and in which, in the Platonic tradition, Aristophanes and Alkibiades also took part in an important role. The next biographically datable event took place ten years later and concerned Socrates' involvement in the reaction of the Athenians to the sea ​​battle at the Arginus , where the salvage of shipwrecked people in the storm had failed. The People's Assembly acted as the court in the trial of the strategists who led the military operation . Socrates also belonged to the executive committee of the Council of 500 , the 50 Prytans . At first it seemed as if the strategists could prove their innocence and be acquitted. On the second day of the trial, however, the mood changed and the demand was made that the strategists should be found jointly guilty. The Prytanen wanted to declare the application illegal because only individual proceedings were allowed. But since the people in the full sense of their sovereignty did not want to be forbidden and the Prytans were threatened with condemnation, all but Socrates gave in.

According to Plato's testimony, Socrates once again demonstrated a very similar attitude in 404/403 BC. Under the arbitrary rule of the thirty , when he refused the order of the oligarchs to carry out together with four others the arrest of an opponent of the rulers who was considered innocent. Instead, he just went home, knowing full well that it could cost his life: "At that time I really proved again, not by words but by deeds, that death, if it doesn't sound too rude, doesn't bother me so much either. that everything is important to me not to do anything wrong or dishonest. "

A clear preference for a certain type of constitution or the rejection of the organizational structures of the Attic democracy, which formed its framework , is not discernible in Socrates - unlike in Plato. Ekkehard Martens sees Socrates more as a promoter of democracy: “With his demand for a critical search for truth and orientation towards justice, Socrates can be regarded as a founder of democracy. This does not exclude a criticism of certain democratic practices according to their criteria. At the same time, however, Socrates' criticism in Plato's State (8th book) is not negligibly to be ascribed to the historical Socrates himself, but must be understood as Plato's view. However, Socrates also put the principle of factual decision-making over majority decision-making (Laches 184e), a conflict of any democracy that has not yet been overcome. ”For him, it was above all a matter of upholding any form of government and being a role model for his fellow citizens . Klaus Döring writes: “When it came to dealing with the respective rulers and the institutions of the polis, he pleaded for loyalty as long as one is not forced to do injustice, i.e. to proceed exactly as he did himself. As everyone knew, he himself had meticulously fulfilled his civic duties on the one hand, but on the other hand, even in precarious situations, he had not let himself be dissuaded from never doing anything other than what, after careful examination, proved to be just. "

Trial and death

A diverse network of motives comes into question for the trial against Socrates. Charges of godlessness, so-called Asebie trials, had been brought before the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War. At that time, they were considered personalities in the environment of the leading statesman Perikles, who had promoted and represented the development of Attic democracy. So were in the 430s BC BC Pericles' wife Aspasia, Phidias , who was commissioned with the design of the Acropolis , and the philosopher Anaxagoras were charged with Asebie.

In his comedy The Clouds, Aristophanes not only caricatured Socrates as a supposed sophist, but also criticized his use of terms as a dangerous twisting of words. Socrates could have drawn additional resentment through the anti-citizenship and anti-democracy behavior of two of his students: Alcibiades had repeatedly switched sides during and after the Sicilian expedition , and Kritias was one of the thirty leaders who died in 404/403 BC. With massive support from Sparta had established an oligarchic tyranny. The undesirable development that Critias and Alcibiades finally took, however, occurred, according to Xenophon, not because of, but despite, dealing with Socrates. Xenophon deduced from this that every educational influence presupposed a sympathetic relationship: “Critias and Alcibiades did not come into contact with Socrates because they liked him, but because they had set themselves the goal from the outset to become the head of the state [ …]. ”After developing a certain arrogance towards politicians on the basis of Socratic discussions, both had avoided contact with Socrates in order not to let him convict them of their mistakes. Xenophon emphasized that none of the other Socrates students had gotten on a bad path.

From the trial of Socrates in 399 BC BC report - partly inconsistent - both Plato and Xenophon. Both authors let Socrates express themselves in terms of their own goals. Xenophon emphasizes Socrates' conventional piety and virtue, while Plato shows it as a model of philosophical life. The portrayal of Plato, who, as an observer of the trial, gave a detailed account of Socrates' contributions in the Apology , is predominantly viewed as the more authentic. Only second-hand information is available about the circumstances of the execution, as neither of the two reporters was an eyewitness. Plato's dialogues Crito and Phaedo are mainly concerned with the process and death of Socrates .

The Apology According acted Socrates in court just as he was known in the public life of Athens already for decades: embarrassing Examiner, demand Santander, research results relentlessly Apparently Ender. The first and by far the longest contribution was his justification to the indictments. To the accusation that he was spoiling the youth, he reacted with a thorough exposure of the accuser Meletus, in which he also involved the jury and ultimately all the citizens of Athens when he called Meletus cornered with the question of who, according to his ideas, is now responsible for the improvement of youth, and then drew his conclusion: “But you, Meletos, prove sufficiently that you have never thought about youth, and visibly do you show your indifference that you have not bothered about any of the things you are bringing me to justice for? "

He also denied the indictment of wickedness. He always obeyed his daimonion , which he presented as a divine voice that occasionally warned him against certain actions. He explained to the jury that he would in no way agree to be released on condition that he cease his public philosophizing: “So if you wanted to release me on such a condition, I would answer: I appreciate you, men of Athens, and love you, but I will obey God more than you, and as long as I breathe and have strength, I will not cease philosophizing and firing you ... "

In the role of the accused, he presented himself as a defender of justice and legality by refusing to influence the jury through appeals for sympathy and petitions: “The judge does not take his seat to bestow the right to goodwill, but to do so To find judgment, and he has sworn - not to please when he wants to, but - to speak rightly according to the law. "

With a narrow majority of votes (281 of 501 votes) he was found guilty by one of the numerous courts of justice of the Attic democracy. According to the process of the time, Socrates was allowed to propose a punishment for himself after conviction. In his second speech, Socrates insisted that he had done his fellow citizens only good through the practical philosophical instruction and that they did not deserve the death penalty, but the feeding in the Prytaneion , as they received Olympic champions. In view of the guilty verdict, he then considered various possible strategies, but ultimately considered a fine to be acceptable at best. According to this, the jury sentenced him to death by a majority that increased again by 80 to 361 votes.

In the closing remarks he was entitled to, Socrates once again emphasized the injustice of the condemnation and accused the accusers of malice, but expressly accepted the verdict and, according to Plato's tradition, said: “Perhaps this all had to happen that way, and I believe it is the right chance. “He tried to reassure those jury who had tried to acquit him with explanations about the less terrible consequences of death. He asked her to enlighten his sons in the way that he himself had practiced with the Athenians: “But it is already time for us to go - I to die, you to live: but who of us is tread a better path, no one knows unless God. "

Jacques-Louis Davids The Death of Socrates (1787)

Socrates also insisted on this with friends who visited him in prison and tried to persuade him to flee. The opportunity arose from the fact that the execution, which normally took place shortly before the sentencing, had to be postponed in this case. During the annual delegation to the holy island of Delos , which took place at this time, no executions were allowed for reasons of ritual purity.

On Socrates' last day the friends, among whom Plato was absent due to illness, gathered in prison. There they met Xanthippe , the wife of Socrates, with their three sons. Two of the sons were still children, so Xanthippe must have been much younger than her husband. Socrates had the loudly wailing Xanthippe led away to prepare for death by talking to his friends. He justified his refusal to flee with respect for the law. If judgments are not obeyed, laws lose their force altogether. Bad laws have to be changed, but not willfully violated. The right to free speech in the people's assembly offers the opportunity to convince of suggestions for improvement. If necessary, those who prefer could go into exile . According to tradition, Socrates emptied the hemlock cup that was finally handed in completely. In his last words he asked that a rooster be offered to the god of healing Asclepius . The reason for this request has not been passed down, its purpose is disputed in research. Alexander Demandt thinks that Socrates wanted to express that he is now cured of life, that death is great health.

Basics of Socratic Philosophy

Bust of Plato (Roman copy of the Greek Plato portrait of Silanion , Glyptothek Munich )

What would be left of the philosopher Socrates without the works of Plato, asks Günter Figal . He replies: an interesting figure in Athenian life in the fifth century BC. BC, hardly any more; Perhaps subordinate to Anaxagoras, definitely to Parmenides and Heraclitus . Plato's central position as a source of Socratic thought harbors the problem of delimiting the two worlds of thought, because Plato is represented in his works as an independent philosopher. In research there is broad agreement that the early Platonic dialogues - the Apology of Socrates , Charmides , Crito , Euthyphron , Gorgias , Hippias minor , Ion , Laches and Protagoras - show more clearly the influence of the Socratic way of thinking and that the independence of philosophy Plato is more prominent in his later works.

The core areas of Socratic philosophizing include the striving for knowledge based on dialogues, the approximate determination of the good as a guideline for action and the struggle for self-knowledge as an essential prerequisite for a successful existence. The image of Socrates having conversations in the streets of Athens from morning to evening should be expanded to include phases of complete introspection, with which Socrates also made an impression on his fellow citizens. Alkibiades' description of an experience in Potidaia, which is contained in Plato's symposium , is the extreme for this trait :

“At that time on the campaign […] he stood, absorbed in some kind of thought, in the same place from morning on and considered, and when he did not want to succeed, he did not give in, but remained pensive. It was now noon; then the people noticed, and in amazement one told the other that Socrates had been there since that morning and was thinking about something. Finally, when it was evening, some of the Ionians carried out their sleeping pads after they had eaten; so they slept in the coolness and could at the same time watch whether he stayed there at night. Indeed, he stood there until morning came and the sun rose! Then he offered his prayer to the sun and went away. "

Eros, Attic red-figure double disk by the painter from London D 12 , around 470/50 BC. BC, Louvre

The Socratic conversation, on the other hand, was clearly related to erotic attraction. Eros as one of the forms of platonic love , presented in the symposium as a great divine being, is the mediator between mortals and immortals. Günter Figal interprets: “The name of Eros stands for the movement of philosophy that transcends the realm of the human . […] Socrates can philosophize best when he is captured by the utterly unsublimated beauty . The Socratic Conversation does not take place after a successful ascent to that nonsensical height where only ideas appear as beautiful; rather, it continues to move from the human to the superhuman beauty and dialogically ties the superhuman beauty back to the human. "

Sense and method of Socratic dialogues

“I know that I don't know” is a well-known, but very shortened formula that makes clear what Socrates had ahead of his fellow citizens. For Figal, Socrates' insight into his philosophical ignorance ( aporia ) is at the same time the key to the object and method of Socratic philosophy: “In Socratic speech and thought there is forced renunciation, a renunciation without which there would be no Socratic philosophy. This only arises because Socrates does not get any further in the area of ​​knowledge and takes flight into dialogue. Socratic philosophy has in its essence become dialogic because researching discovery seemed impossible. ”Inspired by the philosopher Anaxagoras, Socrates was originally particularly interested in natural research and, like him, dealt with the question of causes. However, he was unsettled, as Plato also narrated in the dialogue Phaedo , because there were no clear answers. Human reason, on the other hand, through which everything we know about nature is conveyed, could not explain Anaxagoras. Hence, Socrates turned from the search for causes and to understanding based on language and thought , as Figal concludes.

The aim of the Socratic dialogue in the form handed down by Plato is the common insight into a situation on the basis of question and answer. Afterwards, Socrates did not accept lengthy speeches about the subject of investigation, but insisted on answering his question directly: “In the Socratic conversation the question has priority. The question contains two elements: it is an expression of the questioner's ignorance and an appeal to the respondent to answer or admit his or her own ignorance. The answer provokes the next question, and in this way the dialogical investigation gets under way. "So by asking questions - and not by instructing the interlocutor, as the sophists practiced towards their students - the ability to discern should be awakened, a method that Socrates - so Plato - called Maieutik: a kind of "spiritual obstetrics". Because the change in the previous attitude as a result of the intellectual debate depended on the insight itself being gained or "born".

The progress of knowledge in the Socratic dialogues resulted in characteristic gradations: In the first step, Socrates tried to make it clear to the respective discussion partner that his way of life and way of thinking were inadequate. In order to show his fellow citizens how little they had thought about their own views and attitudes so far, he then confronted them with the nonsensical or unpleasant consequences that would result from it. According to the Platonic apology , the oracle of Delphi imposed on Socrates the test of the knowledge of his fellow men. According to Wolfgang H. Pleger , the Socratic dialogue always includes the three moments of examining the other, the self-examination and the substantive examination. “The philosophical dialogue that Socrates started is a cetetic , that is, an investigative process. The refutation, the Elenchos (ἐλεγχος), inevitably happens alongside. She is not the motive. "

After this uncertainty, Socrates asked his interlocutor to rethink. He steered the conversation by tying into the subject of discussion - be it z. B. bravery, prudence, justice or virtue in general - on the level of questions what is essential in people. If the interlocutors did not break off the dialogue, they came to the realization that the soul, as the actual self of the person, must be as good as possible and that this depends on the extent to which the person is doing morally good . So what the good thing is to find out.

For the dialogue partners, Plato regularly showed in the course of the investigation that Socrates, who pretended not to know, soon revealed significantly more knowledge than they themselves had. Initially often in the role of the apparently inquisitive student who offered his counterpart the role of teacher, in the end he proved to be clearly superior.

Because of this approach, the starting position of Socrates was often perceived as implausible and insincere, as an expression of irony in the sense of disguise for the purpose of misleading. Döring nevertheless considers it uncertain that Socrates began to play ironically with his ignorance in the sense of deliberate low-keying. Like Figal, he basically assumes that the expression is serious. But even if Socrates was not about a public dismantling of his interlocutors, his actions had to anger many of those he addressed against him, especially since his students also practiced this form of dialogue.

However, Martens rejects the notion of a unified Socratic method as a philosophical-historical dogma that goes back to Plato's student Aristotle, which says that Socrates only had "testing" conversations, but no " eristic " disputes or " didactic " doctrinal conversations . On the other hand, according to Martens, Xenophon's statement is correct that Socrates coordinated the conduct of the conversation with the respective interlocutor, in the case of the sophists in the refutation of their alleged knowledge (Socratic elaboration ), in the case of his old friend Crito, however, on a serious search for truth.

Another characteristic element of Socratic conversation, as it is presented in Plato, is the fact that the course of the investigation often does not lead in a straight line from the refutation of accepted opinions to a new horizon of knowledge. In Plato's dialogue Theaetetos , for example, three definitions of knowledge are discussed and found to be inadequate; the question of what knowledge is remains open. Sometimes it is not only the interlocutors who become perplexed, but also Socrates, who himself has no final solution to offer. So it is not uncommon for “confusion, wavering, amazement, aporia, breaking off the conversation” to appear.

The question of justice in the Socratic dialogue

Both Plato and Xenophon unfold a particularly broad spectrum of research in their Socratic dialogues devoted to the question of justice. Justice is not only examined as a personal virtue, but social and political dimensions of the topic are also addressed.

The example of Plato

In the so-called Thrasymachos Dialogue, the first book of Plato's Politeia , there are three partners, one after the other, with whom Socrates pursues the question of what is just or what is justice . The conversation takes place in the presence of two brothers of Plato, Glaucon and Adeimantos , in the house of the rich Syracusan Kephalos, who at the invitation of Pericles has looked for a residence in the Athens port of Piraeus .

After introductory remarks on the relative advantages of old age, the head of the house, Kephalus, is supposed to provide Socrates with information about what he most appreciates in the wealth that has been granted to him. It is the associated possibility of not owing anyone anything, answers Kephalos. So for Socrates the question of justice is addressed, and he raises the problem of whether it is fair to give them back to a fellow citizen from whom weapons have been lent, even if he has meanwhile gone insane. Hardly, thinks Kephalos, who then withdraws and leaves the conversation to his son Polemarchus.

With reference to the poet Simonides, Polemarchus states that it is fair to give everyone what is guilty, not weapons to the madman, but good to friends and evil to enemies. Socrates objects that that presupposes that one knows how to distinguish between good and bad. For doctors z. B. Let it be clear what they need expertise, but what do the righteous? In matters of money, replies Polemarchus, but cannot assert himself. With the argument that a real expert on the subject must be familiar not only with the matter itself (the right handling of money), but also with its opposite (the embezzlement), Socrates throws Polemarchus into confusion. When distinguishing between friends and enemies, it is also easy to make an error due to a lack of human knowledge, adds Socrates. Besides, it is not a righteous thing to harm anyone at all. With this negative finding, the examination returns to its starting point. Socrates asks: "But since it has now been shown that this, too, is not righteousness nor righteousness, what else should anyone say that it is?"

Now the Sophist Thrasymachus, who has not yet had a say, intervenes with a quick temper . He declares everything that has been said so far to be empty chatter, criticizes the fact that Socrates only asks and refutes instead of developing a clear idea of ​​his own, and offers to do so on his part. With the support of the others present, Socrates accepts the offer and only humbly objects to the reproaches of Thrasymachus that he cannot rush forward with answers who do not know and do not pretend to know: “So it is much cheaper for you to speak because you claim that you know it and that you can perform it. "

Thrasymachus then determines what is just as what is beneficial to the stronger and justifies this with the legislation in each of the various forms of government, which corresponds either to the interests of tyrants or those of aristocrats or those of democrats . At the request of Socrates, Thrasymachus confirms that the obedience of the ruled to the rulers is also fair. But by getting Thrasymachus to admit the fallibility of the rulers, Socrates succeeds in undermining his whole construct, because if the rulers are wrong about what is beneficial to them, the obedience of the ruled does not lead to justice either: “If it does not then necessarily come that way find out that it is fair to do the opposite of what you say? Because what is unsuitable for the stronger is then ordered to the weaker to do. - Yes with Zeus , O Socrates, said Polemarchus, that is quite evident. "

Thrasymachus does not feel convinced, however, but rather outwitted by the nature of the question, and insists on his thesis. Using the example of the doctor, however, Socrates shows him that a true guardian of his own profession is always oriented towards the benefit of the other, in this case the patient, and not towards his own: so consequently also the capable rulers on what is beneficial for the ruled.

After Thrasymachos also failed to show that the righteous pays too little attention to their own advantage in order to achieve something in life, while the tyrant who drives injustice to extremes on a large scale gains the highest happiness and prestige from it - that So justice stands for naivety and simplicity, but injustice stands for prudence - Socrates directs the discussion to the consideration of the balance of power between justice and injustice. Against the view of Thrasymachus it finally emerges that injustice is in a bad position there too: Unjust are at odds with one another and disintegrate with themselves, says Socrates, how are they supposed to arrive in war or peace against a community in which there is unity the righteous rule? Apart from this, for Socrates justice is also the prerequisite for individual well-being, eudaimonia , because it has the same meaning for the well-being of the soul as the eyes are for sight and the ears are for hearing.

Thrasymachos finally agrees with the result of the discussion in everything. At the end of the day, however, Socrates regrets that he , too, has failed to reach a conclusion over all the ramifications of the conversation on the question of what constitutes what is just in its essence .

Xenophon's dialogue variant

In the dialogue on justice and self-knowledge handed down by Xenophon, Socrates tries to establish contact with the young Euthydemos, whom he is pushing onto the political stage. Before Euthydemos found himself ready to talk, he had repeatedly drawn ironic remarks from Socrates about his inexperience and unwillingness to learn. When Socrates asked him one day directly about his political ambitions and referred to justice as a qualification, Euthydemus confirmed that without a sense of justice one cannot even be a good citizen and that he himself has no less of it than anyone else.

Thereupon Socrates begins, Xenophon continues, to question him in detail about the distinction between just and unjust acts. The fact that a general has property plundered and stolen in an unjust enemy state appears to Euthydemus in the course of the conversation as just as he generally regards everything as fair to enemies that would be unjust to friends. But even friends are not owed sincerity in every situation, as the example of the general shows, who falsely announces the imminent arrival of allies to his discouraged troops in order to strengthen morale. Socrates now poses the question of whether an intentional or an unintentional false statement would be the greater injustice if friends would be harmed by it, to the already very insecure Euthydemos. Euthydemos opts for deliberate deception as the greater injustice, but is also refuted by Socrates: Whoever cheats in his own ignorance is obviously ignorant of the right path and, if in doubt, disoriented. In this situation, according to Xenophon, Euthydemus now sees himself: “Oh, dear Socrates, by all gods , I have put all my diligence in studying philosophy because I believed that this would educate me in everything a man could do who strives for higher things. Now I have to realize that with what I have learned so far, I am not even able to give an answer to what is essential to know, and there is no other way that can lead me further! Can you imagine how discouraged I am? "

Socrates takes this admission as an opportunity to refer to the oracle of Delphi and to the temple inscription: “ Know thyself !” Euthydemus, who has already visited Delphi twice, confesses that the invitation did not concern him sustainably because he was already sufficiently over thought to know. Socrates hooks:

“What is your opinion: who knows himself better: the one who only knows his name, or the one who does it like the buyer of horses? They believe that they only know a horse that is available for selection after they have examined whether it is obedient or stubborn, strong or weak, fast or slow, and even in everything that is expected of a horse, useful or useless . In the same way, only those who submit to the test of the extent to which they do justice to the tasks facing people will recognize their strengths. "

Euthydemus agrees; but that is not enough for Socrates. He points out that self-knowledge has the greatest advantages, but self-deception brings the worst disadvantages:

“Because those who know themselves know what is useful for them and are able to distinguish what they can and cannot do. Whoever does what he understands gets what he needs and is doing well; on the other hand, he stays away from what he does not understand, and so he does not make any mistakes and is protected from harm. "

The correct self-assessment also forms the basis for the reputation you have with others and for successful cooperation with like-minded people. Those who do not have access to this usually go wrong and make a mockery of themselves.

"In politics, too, you see that states that wrongly assess their strength and get involved with more powerful opponents, either fall prey to destruction or enslavement."

Xenophon now shows Euthydemus as an inquisitive student who is urged by Socrates to take up self-exploration by taking care of the determination of the good in contrast to the bad. Euthydemus sees no difficulty in this at first; He cites health, wisdom and happiness one after the other as characteristics of the good, but has to accept the relativization by Socrates every time: “So, dear Socrates, happiness is the least challenged good.” - “Unless it is someone, dear Euthydemus , builds on dubious goods. ”As dubious goods in relation to happiness, Socrates then gives Euthydemus beauty, strength, wealth and public prestige. Euthydemos admits: "Yes, indeed, if I am wrong in praising happiness, then I must confess that I do not know what to ask of the gods."

Only now does Socrates direct the conversation to Euthydemos' main area of ​​interest: the desired leadership role as a politician in a democratic state. What Euthydemos could say about the nature of the people ( Demos ), Socrates wants to know. He knows his way around the poor and the rich, says Euthydemus, who only counts the poor among the people. “Who do you call rich and who do you call poor?” Asks Socrates. “Those who do not have what is necessary for life, I call them poor, those whose possessions go beyond that, rich.” - “Have you ever observed that some who have little are satisfied with what little they have and even give away from it while others have not yet had enough of a considerable fortune? "

Suddenly the Euthydemos remembered that some violent people commit injustice like the poorest of the poor because they cannot get by with what belongs to them. Accordingly, Socrates concludes, the tyrants must be counted among the people, while the poor, who know how to handle their possessions , must be counted among the rich. Euthydemos closes the dialogue: “My poor judgment forces me to admit the conclusiveness of this proof as well. I don't know, maybe it's best I don't say anything anymore; I'm only in danger of being at the end of my wisdom within a short time. "

In conclusion, Xenophon mentions that many of those whom Socrates reprimanded similarly stayed away from him afterwards, but not Euthydemus, who from then on believed that he could only become a good man in the company of Socrates.

Approaching the good

According to Plato's apology , Socrates developed the indispensable core of his philosophical work to the jury in the trial by announcing reproaches to each of them in the event of acquittal at a future meeting:

"Best of men, you, a citizen of Athens, the largest city and most famous for wisdom and strength, you are not ashamed to worry about treasures in order to possess them in as great a quantity as possible, also about reputation and prestige, on the other hand about insight and truth and about your soul, that it will be as good as possible, don't you worry and reflect? But if one of you makes objections and claims that he is worried about it, then I will not let go of him immediately and go on, but ask him and try out and investigate, and if he does not seem to me to be competent, but claims to so I scolded him that he respected the most valuable things the least, but the worse. "

Only knowledge of what is good serves your own best and enables you to do good, because Socrates is convinced that no one knowingly does evil. Socrates denied that anyone can act against their own better knowledge. He thus denied the possibility of "weak will", which was later referred to with the technical term Akrasia coined by Aristotle . In antiquity, this claim was one of the best-known principles of the teaching attributed to Socrates. This is also one of the so-called Socratic paradoxes , because the thesis does not seem to agree with common life experience. In this context, Socrates' claim that he does not know appears paradoxical.

Martens differentiates the Socratic ignorance. Accordingly, it is first to be understood as a defense against sophistic knowledge. Also in the knowledge tests of politicians, craftsmen and other fellow citizens it shows up as delimitation knowledge , as “rejection of a knowledge based on conventions of the Arete ”. A third variant involves a not-yet-knowledge that leads to further tests, and finally the delimitation of evidence-based knowledge about the good life or about the right way of life. According to this, Socrates was convinced that "with the help of common sensible deliberation, one could at least come to temporarily tenable insights beyond merely conventional and sophistic pseudo-knowledge".

According to Döring, this apparent contradiction between insight and ignorance is resolved as follows: “When Socrates declares it impossible in principle for a person to acquire knowledge of what is good, pious, just, etc., then he means universally valid and infallible knowledge that provides immutable and incontestable norms for action. Such knowledge is fundamentally denied to man in his view. What man alone can achieve is partial and provisional knowledge, which, no matter how certain it may appear at the moment, nevertheless always remains aware that it could prove to be in need of revision in retrospect. ”To seek this imperfect knowledge hoping to get as close as possible to the perfect good is therefore the best that man can do for himself. The further he goes in it, the happier he will live.

Figal, on the other hand, interprets the question of what is good as pointing beyond people. “In the question of what is good actually lies the service for the Delphic God. The idea of ​​the good is ultimately the philosophical meaning of the Delphic oracle. "

Last things

In the closing remarks that Socrates addressed in court after Plato's report to the part of the jury that weighed him, he justified the fearlessness and firmness with which he accepted the judgment, referring to his daimonion, which he never before any of his actions In connection with the process. His statements about impending death express confidence:

“It must be that it is something good that happened to me, and it is impossible for us to guess correctly if we believe that dying is an evil. […] But let's also consider how great the hope is that it will be something good. One of the two is being dead: Either it is nothingness, and we no longer have any sensation after death - or, as the legend goes, it is some sort of transfer and an emigration of the soul from the place here to another. And if there is no sensation, but a sleep, like when someone is asleep and not seeing a dream, then death would be a wonderful gain [...], because then eternity does not appear longer than one night. If, on the other hand, death is like an emigration from here to another place and if the legend is true that all the dead live there, what good would be greater than this, your judges? For if someone comes into the kingdom of Hades and, rid of these here, who call themselves judges, meets those who judge truthfully there, who, as the legend reports, judge there, Minos , Rhadamanthys and Aiakos and Triptolemos and all other demigods, who proved to be just in their lives, would the migration there be despised? And even to have contact with Orpheus and with Musaios and Hesiod and Homer , at what price would one of you buy that? "

Socrates was no different to the friends who came to see him on his last day in prison, according to Plato's dialogue Phaedo . This is about trust in the philosophical logos "also in view of the absolutely unthinkable", says Figal; “And since the extreme situation only reveals what is otherwise the case, this question is about the trustworthiness of the philosophical logos in general. It will be the last challenge for Socrates to stand up for them. "

The question of what happens to the human soul at death was also discussed by Socrates in his last hours. Against their mortality speaks that they are bound to life, but life and death are mutually exclusive. However, when death approaches, it can disappear as well as dissolve. Figal sees in this the open perspective on death adopted by Socrates in court and concludes: “Philosophy has no ultimate ground into which it can go back, justifying itself. It turns out to be unfathomable if one asks about the final justifications, and that is why it has to be rhetorical in its own way when it comes to its own possibility: its logos must be represented as the strongest, and this is best done with the power of persuasion of a philosophical life - by showing how one trusts the Logos and gets involved with what the Logos is supposed to represent. "


The exemplary impact of Socrates' thinking on the history of philosophy extends to two main areas: ancient civilization and modern western philosophy, which began with the Renaissance . Since the Renaissance, the public perception of the personality of the thinker and his work has primarily been shaped by the transfiguring image that Plato paints of his revered teacher. In classical studies, however, it is emphasized that the source value of Plato's literary works, as well as that of all other reports, is consistently problematic. Therefore, a sharp distinction is made between the "historical Socrates" and the diverging Socrates images of Plato, Xenophon and other ancient reporters. The history of the aftermath of Socrates is the history of the reception of these partly idealizing and legendary traditions. Whether it is even possible to reconstruct the philosophical and political views of the historical Socrates is highly controversial in research.

The “little Socratics” and the great schools of antiquity

The ancient literature reports of numerous friends and disciples of Socrates. Seven of them have made a name for themselves as philosophers: Plato, Xenophon, Antisthenes , Aristippus , Euclid of Megara , Aeschines and Phaedo of Elis, who is known as the title figure of a Platonic dialogue . Three of these Socratic students - Plato, Antisthenes and Aristippus - themselves became the founders of important schools. With his literary and philosophical greatness, Plato so clearly surpasses the other continuers of the Socratic tradition in the judgment of posterity that they are mostly referred to as the "little Socratics". To present their views, the Socratics used the form of the “Socratic dialogue”, a fictional, literary conversation in which the figure of Socrates plays a decisive role.

Antisthenes is considered to be the most prominent Socratics of the first decade after the master's death. Like Socrates, he placed the knowledge and realization of the right way of life at the center of his endeavors. He considered any non-aiming scholarship superfluous. Although he shared the Socratic conviction that virtue is sufficient for happiness in life, he did not accept Socrates' thesis that everyone who has recognized the good necessarily lives and acts well. Rather, in the opinion of Antisthenes, in addition to the knowledge of the good, a willpower such as that which Socrates demonstrated in enduring privation is absolutely necessary. Such power can be achieved through targeted practice of unpretentiousness. Therefore one should expose oneself to exertion and effort. The only student of Antisthenes known by name, Diogenes von Sinope , made this requirement, which aimed at the greatest possible autarky , the core of his philosophizing. It became the main demonstrative feature of the Cynics who followed the example of Diogenes.

Another way suggested Aristipp and that he initiated in the school Cyrenaics one. Although they adopted the general principle of the Socratics that one should concentrate on the targeted realization of the right way of life and that it is important to maintain inner independence in all situations, they regarded the pleasure conveyed by the body as the highest good and therefore affirmed wealth and luxury.

Euclid of Megara primarily took up the question of the good posed by Socrates and emphasized its unity. In the doctrine of the good he seems to have largely followed Socrates, but he rejected the argument with analogies preferred by his master as inconclusive.

The large schools of philosophy that were established in the 4th and early 3rd centuries BC assessed very differently. Formed the legacy of the Socratics. In the Platonic Academy and in the Stoa , Socrates enjoyed the highest esteem as a leading figure. The Stoics saw in him the role model par excellence, because in his life he had realized the correspondence of knowledge, word and deed with unique consistency, especially through his exemplary control of affect . For them he was not an ironic and skeptical seeker of wisdom, but a consummate sage. On the other hand, the attitude of Aristotle and his school, Peripatos, was distant . The Peripatetics cultivated erudition and were interested in Socratics almost only from the point of view of the history of philosophy. Aristotle made the statement, which has been common since then, that Socrates had completely turned away from natural philosophy and introduced a new epoch in the history of philosophy that was characterized by an orientation towards ethics. The Peripatetic Aristoxenus wrote a biography of Socrates in which he drew a negative picture of the thinker. He relied on information from his father, who had known Socrates personally. The attitude of the Epicureans was also negative . The founder of the school, Epicurus , already criticized the Socratic irony, which he apparently disapproved of as an expression of arrogance, and his students violently polemicized Socrates, assuming that he was dishonest.

In the academy it happened in the sixties of the 3rd century BC. Chr. To a momentous turn when the school of Plato turned to the "academic skepticism ". With this step, the scholarch Arkesilaos gave the academy a completely new direction, referring to Socrates. The starting point of his epistemology was the Socratic question of the accessibility of secure knowledge. Following the example of Socrates, Arkesilaos argued against foreign views with the aim of shaking questionable certainties. He wanted to show that the alleged knowledge of the advocates of dogmatic assertions was actually based on unproven assumptions and that they were therefore mere opinions. With his methodological doubt, he drew a radical consequence from the Socratic demand to expose pseudo-knowledge. His core thesis was that the claim to have obtained certain knowledge is in principle not verifiable . This skepticism was further developed by the successors of the Arkesilaos and remained for the academy until its demise in the 1st century BC. The authoritative concept.

Bust of the Roman emperor and stoic philosopher Mark Aurel

In the Roman Empire , the Stoics and Platonists began to reflect intensely on Socrates and his philosophy. The Stoics Seneca and Epictet in particular tirelessly presented the example of the famous Athenian to their contemporaries. When Seneca had to commit suicide on the orders of Emperor Nero , he designed his death according to the description of Tacitus in imitation of the classical Greek model. Emperor Mark Aurel , the last important philosopher of the Stoa, also referred to Socrates as a model. According to Marcus Aurelius, one should turn to the spirit that dwells in people and ", as Socrates said, has distanced itself from sensual passions, has submitted to the gods and primarily cares for people".

With the Neo-Platonists , whose teachings largely determined the philosophical discourse of late antiquity , the figure of Socrates took a back seat. The Socratic call for self-knowledge and self-formation continued to be the starting point and a central element of philosophizing. During this time, when the need for redemption of the human being cut off from the divine realm was emphasized, Socrates appeared as a gift from God. According to the portrayal of the Neoplatonist Hermeias of Alexandria , he was a messenger from the world of gods, who was sent to people as a benefactor so that they could turn to philosophy.

A contemporary opposing view

Original texts by the accusers of Socrates have not survived, but a lost polemic against him, the accusation of Socrates written by the rhetorician Polykrates , can be partially reconstructed on the basis of indirect tradition. It originated in the early 4th century BC. And was later widely regarded as a speech actually given at the trial. It is unclear whether Polycrates viewed writing only as a sophistic exercise in style or whether he seriously wanted to defame the philosopher. In any case, he judged from the perspective of a follower of the 403 BC. Restored Athenian democracy. In addition to the allegations of disrupting religion and family cohesion, the rhetorician also made political accusations. He brought Socrates close to the oligarchic circles who were responsible for the reign of terror of the thirty.

Legends and literary reception

From the 4th century BC A legend spread that Xanthippe was not the only wife of Socrates. It was said that he had two wives. According to a version only attested to in the Roman Empire, both lived in his house and constantly argued with each other and with him, but he did not take them seriously and laughed at them. It was also said that the contentious Xanthippe doused him with dirty water.

The satirist Lukian , who wrote in the 2nd century, mocked Socrates in his funeral talks . There the underworld dog Kerberos tells as an eyewitness how Socrates descended into the realm of the dead. According to his report, the philosopher only appeared indifferent at first when he tried to impress the audience with his imperturbability. But then, when he bent down into the abyss and saw the darkness and was drawn in by Kerberos by the foot, he howled like a little child.

In the 3rd century, the writer Aelian presented an imaginative account of the circumstances that led to the execution of Socrates. His report is worthless as a source for the historical events, but shows the colportages with which the tradition was embellished in the Roman Empire and turned into a legend. According to the anecdotal account of Aelian, Anytos, one of Socrates' enemies, was planning the prosecution with some supporters. Because of the philosopher's influential friends, however, there was a risk of failing and of being punished for false accusations. Therefore, one wanted to initially raise public opinion against him. Aristophanes, who was one of the buffoons criticized by Socrates, was paid - "unscrupulous and needy as he was" - to make Socrates a character in the comedy The Clouds . After an initial disconcertment, ridicule and malicious glee prevailed over the philosopher. He was exposed to ridicule and portrayed as a sophistic babbler who introduced new kinds of demons, despised the gods and taught his students that too. But Socrates, even among the audience of the performance, stood up demonstratively in order to be recognizable for all, and contemptuously exposed himself to the ridicule of Aristophanes and the Athenians throughout the play. - In this anecdote, Socrates appears as a stoic sage. The charges against him are woven into the only performance of the clouds that had taken place some quarter of a century earlier.

Church fathers

In ancient Christianity, the process and death of Socrates were a common parallel to the crucifixion of Jesus , but this was problematic because it could endanger the uniqueness of Christ. The philosopher was assigned a role as a religious educator, especially because of his Christian-adapted invitation to right - in the Christian sense: humble - self-knowledge. Another important aspect was the parallel between Socrates, who was wrongly persecuted for religious reasons and unshakable in the face of death, and the Christian witnesses of faith who fell victim to the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire . Justin the Martyr , an apologist and church father of the 2nd century, portrayed Socrates as a forerunner of the Christian martyrs, who had acquired a limited knowledge of the Logos, which can be equated with Christ. He tried to dissuade people from idol worship and asked them to search for the unknown true God. Like the Christians, he was accused of introducing an innovation in religion and of not believing in the gods recognized by the state. - As the conqueror of polytheism and pioneer of Christianity, Socrates appears in Clement of Alexandria . The late antique church father Augustine praised the philosopher as a revelator of the ignorance of the time.

In addition to such positive assessments, however, strongly derogatory ones were also put forward. The judgment of the Church Fathers John Chrysostom , Cyril of Alexandria and Theodoret was decidedly negative . Among other things, the legend was used by the two quarrelsome wives to make the philosophers look ridiculous.

Church writers judged the daimonion differently. Clement of Alexandria said it was the philosopher's guardian angel . Other theologians, particularly Tertullian , came to a negative view. Tertullian, who also expressed derogatory comments about Socrates in other ways and assumed that he was driven by lust for glory, saw in the daimonion an evil demon.

middle Ages

Western culture

In the Middle Ages, most of the ancient sources on Socrates were lost in the West. Nevertheless, the famous ethicist was given a respectable place in the Latin-speaking world of scholars alongside Plato and Aristotle. He was often depicted together with Plato. The illustrations in manuscripts always show him as a worthy man who teaches his students or writes down a text. Isidore of Seville and Hugo of St. Viktor saw in Socrates the founder and protagonist of pagan ethics.

Notker Labeo denied the pagan philosopher the ability to know the highest good and to find the true source of bliss, but as a rule the medieval authors expressed their appreciation. John of Salisbury glorified the "happy Socrates" as the one who could not be harmed by violence. Petrus Alfonsi praised him in his Disciplina clericalis as a warner against religious hypocrisy. According to the Summa Quoniam homines of Alanus ab Insulis , Socrates told the King of Athens that there was only one God, the Creator of heaven and earth.

Large late medieval compilations offered the educated reading public collections of material. Vincent von Beauvais compiled encyclopaedic source texts on Socrates. The in the early 14th century, compiled, wrongly Walter Burley attributed Liber de vita et moribus philosophorum , an extraordinarily popular in the late Middle Ages doxographisches manual contains an extensive chapter on Socrates.

Among the admirers of Socrates in the 14th century was the influential humanist Francesco Petrarca . He considered him the wisest of all philosophers and the embodiment of the four cardinal virtues .

In the 15th century, the basis of knowledge about Socrates was greatly broadened through the evaluation of manuscript finds and the translation work of the humanists. Plato's dialogues and his apology , works by Xenophon and the biographical-doxographical account of Diogenes Laertios were made accessible to a broad, educated public through translation from Greek into Latin. The leading Florentine politicians Coluccio Salutati and Leonardo Bruni regarded the ancient thinker as an important authority and included the Socratic tradition in their humanistic educational program. Bruni's pupil Giannozzo Manetti relied on newly developed source material when he wrote the first Socrates biography since ancient times in 1440. His work achieved widespread circulation and had a lasting impact on the image of Socrates. Manetti described the philosopher primarily as an exemplary republican-minded citizen and interpreted the daimonion as an angel. His selection and presentation of the source material was aimed at drawing the ideal image of a philosopher according to humanistic criteria and presenting the reader with Socratic practice-related ethics as a superior alternative to the scholastic school philosophy of the time .

With his concept of “learned ignorance”, Nikolaus von Kues took up the Socratic ignorance. The title of his justification apologia doctae ignorantiae (defense of learned ignorance) , written in 1449, is an allusion to Socrates' apology, the defense speech in court. One of Nikolaus' literary figures, the "layman", is an embodiment of the Socrates figure.

Arabic speaking world

Socrates was known as Suqrāṭ by medieval Arabic-speaking philosophers and theologians. He was considered a student of Pythagoras . It was positively noted that he was a monotheist and an important ascetic and opposed the Greek cult of gods. In the 9th century, the philosopher al-Kindī wrote five works on Suqrāṭ, only one of which has survived. The Persian philosopher ar-Rāzī, who was active in the late 8th and early 9th centuries, received the tradition from antiquity particularly intensively ; he took the moderate asceticism of suqrāṭ as a model. Most Arabic sayings and doxographs contain sections dedicated to the famous Athenian. Biographical reports were also widely used. The image of Socrates was strongly influenced by the rich anecdotal material that was compiled in the collections of narrative material and that was considered authentic.

Early modern age


The humanists of the 16th century held the seriousness of ethical research and action embodied by Socrates in high regard. The admiration for the ancient model found its most succinct expression in the often-quoted exclamation: “Holy Socrates, please for us!” Erasmus formulated this “prayer”, which was provocative for contemporary readers, but was not meant very seriously, as he remarked that he was restrictive can only with difficulty hold back from saying it. Like many humanists, Erasmus was of the opinion that Socrates anticipated Christian values ​​in his lifestyle.

Girolamo Cardano , in his De Socratis studio, criticized the famous thinker with devastating criticism, whom he accused of dishonesty, ignorance and an anti-educational attitude.

Michel de Montaigne saw an exemplary model in the life and death of Socrates and regarded himself as his pupil. He valued the simple humanity and unpretentiousness of the Athenian as well as his skepticism towards dogmatic claims and the avowal of ignorance. The ideal of a natural, effortlessly realized virtue, which Montaigne aspired to, he thought he found embodied in Socrates. His Socrates portrait represents his own idea of ​​a successful life.

In 1650 a new biography of Socrates, written by the Graecist François Charpentier , appeared, La vie de Socrate , which became one of the most influential representations for the following decades.

The admiring reception of the exemplary character of Socrates continued in the Enlightenment . He was now seen as a champion of reason, as a virtuous educator of the people and as a fighter against narrow-minded religious dogmatism. Anti-clerical enlighteners glorified him as an adversary of a malevolent, superstitious priesthood. Comparisons of his persecution with current conflicts were obvious. Among the numerous disseminators of the Enlightenment image of Socrates were Christian Thomasius (1655–1728), who translated Charpentier's work into German, the Deist Anthony Collins (1676–1729), who saw the Athenian philosopher as the first prominent "free thinker", and Denis Diderot ( 1713–1784), who contributed the admiring article on Socratic philosophy to the Encyclopédie . The questions to what extent Socrates had similarities with Christ and whether he could be trusted to have a natural knowledge of God were discussed controversially. The struggle between the Enlightenment and their conservative, church-oriented opponents formed the ever-present frame of reference that determined the opposing evaluations of historical events. In the 18th century the influence of the ancient model reached its greatest intensity.

In 1750, Rousseau referred to Socrates as a witness for his criticism of civilization: “Socrates extols ignorance! Do you think that our scientists and artists would induce him to change his mind if he rose among us? No, gentlemen, this righteous man would continue to despise our vain sciences. ”In Rousseau's opinion, a resurrected Socrates, like the historical, would leave his disciples“ only the example and memory of his virtue ”instead of books and regulations. However, Rousseau criticized the fact that Socrates remained a mere theoretician and did not soar to a political feat.

The Christian philosopher Johann Georg Hamann , whose Socratic Memories appeared in 1759, criticized the widespread Enlightenment images of Socrates, which he considered frozen. In reality, Socrates was neither a rationalist nor a Christian avant la lettre . Hamann countered such interpretations with the demand to understand the ancient thinker as a living human being. He is convinced that one can only understand the ingenious philosopher if one feels his spirit in oneself and relives it. Against the common glorification of reason, Hamann asserted Socratic ignorance.

Kant valued the Socratic knowledge of ignorance and the “completely new practical direction” that Socrates gave to Greek philosophy. Moreover, he had achieved an extraordinary correspondence between life and teaching; he was "almost the only one among all people whose behavior comes closest to the idea of ​​a wise man". In Kant's judgment, Socrates' “learned” ignorance was “glorious” as opposed to “common” because it was based on the fact that he had grasped the boundary between the realms of the knowable and the unknowable. Such knowledge of one's own ignorance “presupposes science and at the same time makes one humble”, while “imaginary knowledge inflates”. The great merit of Socrates, from Kant's point of view, is the exposure of false knowledge.


The Socratic method of imparting knowledge was discussed intensively in the education of the Enlightenment . In this epoch in which educational science emerged, it was considered progressive and was praised and recommended, but also criticized. Proponents stylized them into the ideal of educational practice. The goal of the Socratically oriented educators was to replace mechanical memorization with encouraging active internal appropriation of the subject matter. Kant recommended the Socratic method for school lessons, although he said it was “admittedly a bit slow”, difficult to use in group lessons and not suitable for every subject. Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi , who considered "Socratization" to be a mere fad, was critical of it . Pestalozzi found that one had dreamed of drawing children's minds and conjuring miracles out of nowhere. He found none of his contemporaries capable of a genuine Socratic dialogue.


In his youth, Christoph Martin Wieland was enthusiastic about Socrates, whose role as a people's educator he wanted to take on himself for his time. In 1756 he published his literary dialogue Conversation of Socrates with Timoclea, On Apparent and Real Beauty . For Wieland, Socrates was a cultivated, gallant, self-assured, skilfully disputing mocker, esthete and life artist and at the same time the embodiment of humanity, the approach to the ideal of human perfection.

In Francesco Griselini's tragicomedy Socrate filosofo sapientissimo , composed in 1755, the hetaera Timandra is bribed by Meletos; she is supposed to seduce Socrates so that an intrigue can succeed against the philosopher, which Alcibiades is supposed to bring up against him. However, the project fails due to the superiority of Socrates, who in turn dissuades Timandra from her way of life.

Voltaire , who was considered a new Socrates by some of his admirers, published the satirical drama Socrate, enriched with comedic elements . Here Socrates falls victim to the vindictiveness of the priest Anitus, to whom he has refused his foster daughter. The offended anitus equates his interests with those of the gods. Socrates is indeed the hero of the play, but his figure is drawn with ironic distance. The main concern of the anti-clerical author is the mockery of bigoted hypocrisy and a corrupt judiciary.

Jean-Marie Collot d'Herbois , a well-known politician of the French Revolution , decided to adapt the tragic material in comedy form . His piece Le procès de Socrate premiered in Paris in 1790. Here Socrates is a forerunner of Enlightenment deism.

In his Ode Sokrates und Alcibiades , published in 1798, Friedrich Hölderlin asked why Socrates loved the young man Alcibiades as if he were a god, and answered: "He who has thought the deepest loves the most vital."

Visual arts

The most famous modern picture of Socrates is his depiction on Raphael's fresco The School of Athens (1510–1511), where he can be seen in conversation with the young Xenophon.

Scenes in prison, especially the dying scene, were a popular subject in painting in the 17th and 18th centuries , especially in France. The most famous execution of the death scene is the 1787 oil painting by Jacques-Louis David , which is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Other pictures showing this motif come from Benjamin West (1756), Gianbettino Cignaroli (1759), Gaetano Gandolfi (1782) and Pierre Peyron (1787).

An erotic theme was popular in the late 18th and early 19th centuries: Socrates as a warning who rescued Alcibiades from a sexual entanglement. The bravery of Socrates in battle and in the face of death is the subject of a group of reliefs by Antonio Canova from the late 18th century.


In early modern opera, the comedy of the ancient legend was taken up by the two wives of Socrates. Nicolò Minato used the bigamy motif in a libretto set to music by Antonio Draghi . The first performance of this Scherzo drammatico with the title La patienza di Socrate con due moglie took place in 1680 in the imperial ballroom in Prague. The libretto was later translated into German and edited by Johann Ulrich von König . Georg Philipp Telemann used it in this version for his musical comedy Der patient Sokrates , which premiered in Hamburg in 1721 and was a great success.


Philosophical and cultural-historical perspectives of the 19th century

In 1815, Friedrich Schleiermacher , in his treatise On the Value of Socrates as a Philosopher, expressed his astonishment that "the drawing that is customarily made of this strange man" does not coincide with the historical significance ascribed to him as the initiator of a new epoch in the history of philosophy. In the tradition, Socrates appears as a "virtuoso of common sense"; his thoughts are of such a nature that any common sense must fall back on them on its own. In addition, the restriction to ethical questions attributed to Socrates is a one-sidedness that is disadvantageous for the development of philosophy. Seen in this way, Socrates does not belong in the history of philosophy, but at most in that of general education. But then his enormous influence is inexplicable. Therefore, one must assume that he did something more important than what the sources indicate. That is the introduction of the dialectic , as the real originator of which he is to be regarded.

For Hegel , Socrates is a person of world history. His work marks a major turning point of the spirit in itself: the beginning of the knowledge of the consciousness of itself as such. He is the "inventor" of morality in contrast to morality, because with him the insight that causes moral action is higher than custom and fatherland. In contrast to traditional, impartial morality, morality is associated with reflection. The historical consequences of this innovation were serious. The inner world of subjectivity that opened up with it resulted in a break with reality: it was no longer the state, but the world of thought that appeared as the true home. This introduced a revolutionary principle in Athens. Therefore, from Hegel's point of view, the death sentence is understandable, because Socrates damaged the relationship between the generations with his influence on the youth and endangered the public welfare. According to the Hegelian understanding of the state, it is up to the state to intervene against such activities. On the other hand, Socrates was also right for Hegel, for he was an instrument of the world spirit that used it to rise to a higher consciousness. Accordingly, it was an insoluble tragic conflict between representatives of legitimate concerns.

For Schelling , Socrates was the man who, through his dialectic, “created space for free life, free differentiated diversity” and “led philosophy out of the narrowness of merely substantial and unfree knowledge into the breadth and freedom of understanding, discriminating, disputing knowledge”. But he could "appear in his time only as a mind that confused them".

Søren Kierkegaard

Kierkegaard saw in Socrates the only philosopher of the past with a kindred spirit. In addition to the emphasis on the difference between knowledge and ignorance, he valued the Socratic attitude, the indissoluble mixture of joke and seriousness, which expresses itself as ambiguity and apparent madness, as well as the combination of self-confidence and modesty. For Kierkegaard, a contrast between Socrates and Plato lies in the fact that Socrates clung to uncertainty while Plato built an abstract structure of thought. According to the judgment of the Danish philosopher, the Socratic ignorance represents the superior attitude. It is based on the subject understanding himself as an existing individual and recognizing that the truth does not lie in abstract statements that exist independently of a conscious subject: "Socrates" It is infinite merit to be an existing thinker, not a speculator who forgets what exists. "

John Stuart Mill expressed his enthusiasm for Socrates in his 1859 study On Liberty . In his view, humanity can hardly be reminded enough that this man existed. For Mill, Socrates was the head and model of all subsequent virtue teachers, a master whose fame is still growing after more than two millennia. Mill believed that the Socratic dialectic, a negative discussion of the great questions of philosophy and life, is underestimated in the modern age. In his judgment, there was nothing in the educational methods of his own time that could in any way take the place of the Socratic method. Without systematic training in dialectics, there would be few great thinkers and a low average of cognitive abilities outside of the mathematical and scientific field.

Nietzsche stated that the appearance of Socrates marked a turning point in world history. His relationship with the initiator of this change was ambivalent. Nietzsche expressed his appreciation on various occasions, and in 1875 he wrote: "Socrates, if only to admit it, is so close to me that I almost always fight a fight with him." On the other hand, he described and assessed the change in a decidedly negative way. Socrates brought into the world the delusion that thinking reaches into the deepest abysses of being and can not only recognize it, but even correct it. He made a tyrant out of reason. Nietzsche considered the Socratic idea that man could rise above everything with his reason and improve the world as megalomania. While in all productive people the instinct is the creative force and the consciousness acts critical and admonishing, Socrates made consciousness the creator and instinct the critic. Nietzsche saw this as a monstrosity. He lamented the impoverishment of life that Socrates had caused by popularizing the theoretical man. With that he started a process of decadence . Nietzsche thought he was the first to recognize this. He summarized his assessment of the effects in five points: Socrates destroyed the impartiality of ethical judgment, destroyed science, had no sense for art, tore the individual out of the historical association and encouraged talkativeness.

Wilhelm Dilthey highlighted in 1883 as a special achievement of Socrates that he “examined the existing science for its legal basis” and proved that “a science does not yet exist, and indeed in no area”. For Dilthey, Socrates was a “pedagogical genius” unique in antiquity, who raised a revolutionary demand: “What is the good, the law and the task of the individual should no longer be determined by an education from the traditions of the whole for the individual: from it should develop its own moral consciousness according to its law. "

According to Jacob Burckhardt's description , Socrates was an “incomparable original figure” in whom the free personality was “characterized in the most sublime way”, and his activity was the greatest popularization of general thinking that has ever been attempted. Through him knowledge, will and belief came into a connection like never before. Moreover, he was the most dutiful citizen. Despite these merits, Burckhardt showed a great deal of understanding for the philosopher's opponents. He said that one should not be in the least surprised at the hostility which the superior debater was shown. According to Burckhardt's interpretation, the Athenians had a boundless aversion to Socrates, which ultimately led to the death sentence. His ironic style must have appeared condescending, and his habit of ridiculing inferior interlocutors in front of a youthful audience inevitably earned him a lot of hostility. After all, he had turned everyone against him, and apart from his small followers, no one wanted to stand up for him anymore.

Philosophical and cultural-historical appreciations in the 20th and 21st centuries

In Great Britain, in the early 20th century, Alfred Edward Taylor endeavored to place Socrates among the weighty representatives of idealism , which he himself advocated. He particularly valued the connection between a religious interpretation of the world and the pursuit of scientific knowledge, which he attributed to the Greek thinker. According to Taylor's interpretation of the historical events, Socrates took up a religious impulse of the Pythagoreans and appeared in this field in Athens as an innovator, which ultimately became his undoing.

According to Edmund Husserl's interpretation (1923/24), Socrates recognized the problems carelessly dismissed by the sophists as problems of fate of humanity on their way to real humanity. The philosophical pioneer interpreted the truly satisfying life as a life of pure reason, in which one criticizes one's goals in life, life paths and respective means in tireless self-reflection and radical accountability. With this one goes through a process of cognition which, as a methodical return to perfect evidence, enables real knowledge and at the same time virtue and bliss. The main point of interest is the fundamental contradiction between unclear opinion and evidence. Socrates was the first to recognize the need for a universal method of reason, the basic meaning of which he grasped as an intuitive and a priori critique of reason.

In his 1923 essay El tema de nuestro tiempo (The task of our time) , José Ortega y Gasset expressed himself appreciatively but also critically . According to him, Socrates discovered reason, and one can only speak meaningfully about the tasks of man today if one has made himself fully aware of the significance of this discovery, because it "contains the key to European history". The enthusiasm for the newly opened spiritual universe led to an effort to suppress spontaneous life and replace it with pure reason. In this way, “Socratism” created a double life in which what a person is not spontaneously replacing what he really is, namely his spontaneity. That is the point of Socratic irony, which replaces a primary movement with a reflected secondary. For Ortega this is a mistake, albeit a fruitful one, because the “culture of the abstract intellect is not a new life compared to the spontaneous one, it is not enough for itself and cannot ignore that”, rather it has to emerge from the “sea of ​​the original Nourish life forces. Although - according to Ortega - the discovery of Socrates is an "eternal achievement", it needs to be corrected, since Socratism does not know the limits of reason or at least does not draw the right conclusions from them.

In further essays in 1927 Ortega re-examined an aspect of Socratic thought that he considered problematic. In his opinion, in the pre-Socratic times there was a balanced relationship between the outward curiosity and the inward pursuit of happiness. This changed with Socrates, who was not inquisitive, but "turned his back on the universe, but turned his face to himself". Socrates had "all the characteristics of a neurasthenic ", he was the prey of strange body sensations, heard inner voices. Probably “the perception of the inner body, caused by physiological anomalies , was the great master” who taught this man to reverse the spontaneous direction of his attention, to turn to his inner self instead of the environment and to immerse himself in himself. The price for this was high, however: The one-sided focus on ethical problems destroyed the Socratics' impartiality, security of life and the urge to research. On the basis of this finding, Ortega came to the conclusion that the charge against Socrates, that he was spoiling the youth, was legally unfounded, but was justified "from the historical point of view".

Leo Strauss dealt intensively with Socratics, in particular with Xenophon's Socratic works. He saw in Socrates the founder of political philosophy and in Xenophon an eminently qualified interpreter. According to the manuscript of a lecture that Strauss gave in 1931, there is no teaching from Socrates, since he could not teach, but only ask, without knowing what the others did not know. He wanted to stay in the question because “the question is what matters; because a life that is not questions is not a decent life ”. This is not a question of self-questioning and self-examination by a lonely thinker, but always a philosophizing with others, a “questioning”, since the Socratic philosopher “takes responsibility” in the original sense and this can only happen in front of one person. For Strauss, Socrates' questions relate to right coexistence and thus to the state. It is "essentially political".

Werner Jaeger praised Socrates in 1944 as “one of the immortal figures of history who have become symbols” and “the most powerful educational phenomenon in the history of the West”. He is at the center of the history of the self-formation of the Greek man. Through Socratics, the concept of self-control has become a central idea of ​​ethical culture. Jaeger's explanation for the discrepancies between the different traditions and images of Socrates is that Socrates “still united opposites which already then or soon after his time pushed for divorce”.

Karl Popper , who described himself in his autobiography as a “disciple of Socrates”, presented in the first volume of his work The Open Society and its Enemies , published in 1945, the historical Socrates as the champion of the idea of ​​the free man, which he had made a living reality . Plato betrayed this ideal, based on humanitarian principles and realized in an “ open society ”, by turning to a totalitarian political program. In his dialogues, in which Socrates appears as the main character, Plato put views into the mouth of his teacher that he did not represent under any circumstances. Nevertheless, the real convictions of the historical Socrates, who was a good democrat, can be seen from Plato's texts, which were only partially falsified.

Romano Guardini wrote in the preliminary remark to his monograph The Death of Socrates that the special quality of this historical figure consists in the fact that it "is unmistakably itself and yet represents universally valid". Among the rare appearances of this kind, Socrates was one of the strongest.

Hannah Arendt dealt with Socrates in one of her lectures on philosophy and politics in 1954. It is “more than likely” for Arendt that this thinker was the first to systematically apply the principle of dialegesthai - the joint speaking of a thing. According to her, it was about capturing the world as it opens up to those involved: “The assumption was that the world opens up to each person differently, depending on his position in it, and that the 'equality' of the world, its commonality ( koinon , as the Greeks said: common to all), their objectivity (as we would say from the subjective point of view of modern philosophy) results from the fact that one and the same world opens up to everyone differently [...]. ”Socrates always has having to start asking, since he could not have known beforehand how things would appear to another. The Socratic “midwifery art” (Maieutik) presents itself to Hannah Arendt as a political activity, as “an exchange (in principle on the basis of strict equality), the fruits of which could not be judged by the fact that one had to arrive at the result of this or that truth ". Socrates tried to make friends of the citizens of Athens. In the exchange of friends it comes to the assimilation of the naturally different people. Friendship creates community, not among equals but among equal partners in a common world. “The political element of friendship lies in the fact,” Arendt explains, “that in a true dialogue each of the friends can understand the truth that lies in the opinion of the other.” The most important virtue of a statesman then consists in the greatest possible number and to understand the most diverse types of individual realities of the citizens and "to mediate between the citizens with their opinions communicatively in such a way that the commonality of the world becomes recognizable". Socrates apparently saw the philosopher's political function in helping to create such a common world, "which is built on a kind of friendship in which no rule is necessary".

Karl Jaspers treats Socrates in his textbook and reader, published in 1957, The great philosophers in the section on the "four authoritative people" who had "a historical effect of incomparable scope and depth". For Jaspers, alongside Socrates , these are Buddha , Confucius and Jesus. In response to the reception, Jaspers states that Socrates “became, as it were, the place in which times and people formed what was their own concern”: Some made him a godly, humble Christian, others the self-confident man of reason or a brilliant but demonic personality or the herald of humanity. But Jaspers' finding is: “He wasn't all of that.” Rather, he was the founder of a new way of thinking that “does not allow people to close themselves off”, which unlocks and calls for danger in openness. Socrates refused - according to Jaspers - discipleship and therefore tried "to neutralize the superiority of his being through self-irony". In his sphere of activity “there is free self-conviction, not confession”. Regarding the lasting significance, Jaspers notes: "Having Socrates in mind is one of the indispensable prerequisites for our philosophizing."

Jacques Derrida , in his study La pharmacie de Platon (1972), deals with the ambiguity of the Greek word pharmakon , which means poison as well as drug and remedy . He describes Socrates as a pharmakeus , a master in handling such remedies. For Derrida, Socratic speaking has in common with snake venom that both “penetrate the most hidden inwardness of the soul and the body in order to take hold of them”. The interlocutor is first - as described in Plato's Dialogue Menon - confused and paralyzed by the "poison" of the aporia , but then the power of this pharmakon is "reversed" in contact with another pharmakon , an antidote. The antidote is dialectic.

Michel Foucault went in 1984 in lectures at the Collège de France , in which he dealt with "truth-speaking", on the role of Socrates, whom he characterized as a parrhesiast . By parrhesia , Foucault understood the courage to speak the whole truth openly, although in the respective situation this involves a risk for the speaker and in some cases is life-threatening. In Foucault's terminology, the parrhesiast is different from the other truthspeakers: he is the one who bluntly speaks the dangerous truth on his own behalf, as opposed to the prophet who appears on behalf of another and the sage who holds back and is silent or in Riddles speaks, and to the teacher who passes on received knowledge without risk. For Foucault, Socrates is characterized by the fact that he is a parrhesiast, but also has a permanent and essential relationship with the three other modalities of truth-speaking. He advocates a philosophical parrhesia that is different from the political and whose concern is concern for oneself and for everyone else. His constant preoccupation is teaching people to take care of themselves. The central concept of worry means remembering oneself as opposed to self-forgetfulness and care as opposed to carelessness.

In his Socrates monograph published in 2006, Günter Figal emphasizes the timeless relevance of Socratic philosophizing: “Socrates' thinking stands between no-longer and not-yet; it remains related to what it is made of and has not yet developed into an unquestionable, self-contained form. The origin of philosophy is embodied in Socrates. This origin is not a historical beginning. Because philosophy consists essentially in asking questions, it does not leave its origin behind; whoever philosophizes, always experiences the loss of the obvious and tries to find express understanding. […] For Sören Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, but also for Karl Popper, philosophy itself is present in the figure of Socrates; For them, Socrates is the figure of philosophy in general, the archetype of the philosopher. "


Alphonse de Lamartine published his poem La mort de Socrate (The Death of Socrates) in 1823 , in which he treated the subject with a Christian accent.

In Robert Hamerling's three-volume novel Aspasia (1876), the tension between an ethical and an aesthetic ideal is discussed. Aspasia is here, according to the author, “the representative of the Greek spirit” because she “lives for the beautiful”, while in Socrates the decline of the Greek world is revealed, because “here the beautiful ends and the good begins”. In the novel, the ugly Socrates, whose love for Aspasia remains unrequited, makes a virtue out of necessity and seeks an ideal of life that is compatible with his unpleasantness. His brooding undermines the freshness and harmony of Greek life.

August Strindberg worked on a trilogy of drama Moses, Socrates, Christ , which remained a fragment. In his historical miniatures (1905) he dealt with the subject of Socrates in the three novellas The Semicircle of Athens , Alkibiades and Socrates .

The playwright Georg Kaiser created the play Der rescued Alcibiades , which premiered in 1920 and in which military heroism is ridiculed. The rescue of Alcibiades in battle, portrayed by Plato as a great deed of Socrates, is reinterpreted in a grotesque way by Kaiser: The real reason why Socrates does not flee, but stands up in battle and saves Alcibiades, is not his bravery, but a thorn, the he has kicked himself in the foot and which prevents him from running away. Bertolt Brecht adopted the motif of the thorn in 1938 in his story The Wounded Socrates , an ironic transformation of Socrates' traditional heroism.

Zbigniew Herbert wrote the drama Jaskinia filozofów ( The Philosopher's Cave , 1956), in which Socrates, the main character in prison, reflects on his life and situation.

Manès Sperber , who called himself a Socrates, began writing a novel and a play about Socrates in 1952, but stopped working the following year. Both works remained unfinished. The fragments were published in 1988 together with an essay by the author on the death of Socrates from the estate. With the drama, Sparhawk wanted to provide proof, according to him, that “a whole life is not enough to determine what wisdom means”.

Lars Gyllensten's historical novel Sokrates död ( The Death of Sokrates , 1960) depicts the events from the perspective of the people who were close to the condemned man, especially his daughter Aspasia. The family tries in vain to persuade the philosopher to escape from prison. This way out is also open to him from the point of view of his opponents; not even the main prosecutor Meletos wants his death. The relatives want to save his life because they value him as a person, not as a mediator of philosophical truth. For Gyllensten, Socrates' willingness to die is an expression of stubbornness and serves to stylize himself as a martyr. The Swedish writer disapproves of such an ideological stance.

The teaching Socrates. Painting by José Aparicio, 1811, in the Goya Museum , Castres

In Friedrich Dürrenmatt's bizarre tale The Death of Sokrates , which was intended as a draft for a play and was published in the volume Turmbau in 1990 , the subject matter is grotesquely alienated. Here Aristophanes dies in the Athens prison instead of Socrates, who is sentenced to death, who escapes to Syracuse with Plato and Xanthippe . There he has to empty the hemlock cup on the orders of the tyrant Dionysius, because he surpasses the despot in drinkability and the latter resents him. Dürrenmatt illustrates the theatrics of death when his Dionysius rents the amphitheater of Syracuse for the execution .

Visual arts

The classical Spanish painter José Aparicio Inglada depicted the teaching Socrates with a youth in an oil painting in 1811. A lithograph by Honoré Daumier from 1842 shows Socrates with Aspasia. In an oil painting by Jean-Léon Gérôme from 1861, Socrates finds Alkibiades in the house of Aspasia. Anselm Feuerbach created the monumental oil painting Das Gastmahl des Plato in 1873 , in which Socrates can be seen in conversation.

Antokolski's statue of the dying Socrates, 1875, in the Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg

A marble statue of the dying Socrates by Mark Matwejewitsch Antokolski made in 1875 is in the Russian Museum in Saint Petersburg, a copy in the Parco civico in Lugano .

By Hans Erni several drawings submitted by Socrates with Diotima.

The Berlin painter Johannes Grützke chose the death of Socrates as his theme in 1975. In his painting, the dying man is surrounded by six differently reacting men who - representing everyone - all have the artist's facial features.

The oil painting Socrates by Werner Horvath (2002) shows the portrait of the philosopher with a hemlock plant and a mosquito. The mosquito is reminiscent of Socrates' self-comparison with a horsefly .

music and dance

Erik Satie created 1917–1918 the “symphonic drama in three parts” Socrate for voice and piano or voice and small orchestra. The texts come from dialogues of Plato in the French translation by Victor Cousin . The first performance of the orchestral version took place in 1920.

Ernst Krenek composed the opera Pallas Athene weint , which premiered in Hamburg in 1955 , and wrote the libretto himself. Socrates plays a leading role as a representative of the ideal of human dignity. The political is in the foreground; the historical events reflect contemporary ones.

Georg Katzer's tragicomic opera Gastmahl or Über die Liebe , the libretto of which was written by Gerhard Müller, premiered in 1988 at the Unter den Linden State Opera in East Berlin. Here thoughts from Plato's symposium are combined with elements from Aristophanes' comedy. The historical processes including the role of Socrates are freely reshaped.


Filmmakers also took up the material on various occasions and sometimes alienated it in a funny way. The Italian film Processo e morte di Socrate , which Corrado D'Errico produced in 1939, offers a representation based on Plato's reports . Roberto Rossellini 's television film Socrate , first broadcast in 1971, deals with the last years of the philosopher's life from the end of the Peloponnesian War to his execution. In Germany in the 1960s , Josef Pieper tried to bring the figure of the ancient thinker closer to a broad public with the three television plays The Death of Socrates , Plato's Banquet and Don't Worry About Socrates .

1st century bust of Socrates in the Museo Nazionale Romano, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome


Numerous ancient portraits of Socrates show distinctive features: round skull, broad, flat face, indented nose, bald head, bulging lips, stringy hair and beard. But it is not certain that Socrates actually looked like that. It is possible that these portraits are not based on real knowledge of the appearance of historical Socrates, but rather on literary descriptions of the contrast between Socrates' noble interior and ugly exterior.

There are two or three types of ancient portraits that have survived. The first type is derived from an approximately 375 BC. The second from a statue of Socrates created in the second half of the 4th century BC. A statue probably originating from Lysippus . Whether there was still an independent third type from around 200 BC. Chr. Or this is to be regarded as a variant of the first, is controversial. An example of the first type is the bust of Socrates in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples , and of the second type the head of Socrates in the Roman Palazzo Massimo alle Terme . The third type is primarily the Socrates head in the Villa Albani in Rome.

The second type differs considerably from the first. It goes back to a monument that was created by decision of the people's assembly and placed in a public building. In addition to several replicas of the head, a repetition of the body in statuette format from Alexandria has been preserved . It shows a revised image of Socrates at this time. The archaeologist Paul Zanker connects this change with the change in the political situation. In the second half of the 4th century BC The democratic constitution of Athens was threatened by the overwhelming power of the Macedonian king and his followers in the city. A patriotic renewal program was therefore embarked on, which - according to Zanker - included updating the past, raising awareness of the political and cultural heritage. The statue of Socrates can be classified in this context. Unlike the oldest portrayals, it no longer shows the philosopher as an unsightly, provocative outsider, but as an impeccable citizen with a well-proportioned body, in a classically balanced posture with gestures that express that he paid attention to proper drapery and beautiful folds in his clothes. This external order symbolizes the internal moral quality to be expected from a good citizen. Although the face shows individual features of the firmly established, unattractive physiognomy of Socrates, it is also embellished, the head hair is fuller than in the earlier portraits. The erection of the statue in the Pompeion , a central place of religious cultivation and Ephebe training , shows that Socrates was presented as the epitome of civic virtues for educational purposes at this time.

In the Roman Empire, Socrates was often depicted on gems and cameos . He is seated on a bench in a 1st century mural from a private home in Ephesus . Representations on Roman mosaics from the 3rd century show him together with other figures. He can be seen on a floor mosaic in the Archaeological Museum of Mytilene between Simmias and Kebes , his dialogue partners from Plato's Phaedo . A mosaic from a Roman villa in Baalbek shows him in the midst of the Seven Wise Men . In Apamea a mosaic was made in 362/363, on which Socrates appears as a teacher in a circle of philosophers. This representation is perhaps related to the religious policy of the then ruling emperor Julian . Julian promoted traditional religion and philosophy and believed that Socrates had achieved more significant things than Alexander the Great .

Source editions and translations

  • Winfried Czapiewski (translator): Plato on the death of Socrates. Four writings of Plato on the person and death of Socrates: Euthyphron, Apology, Crito, Phaedo. Laufen, Oberhausen 2018, ISBN 978-3-87468-378-4 .
  • Gabriele Giannantoni (ed.): Socratis et Socraticorum reliquiae , Volume 1, Bibliopolis, Naples 1990, ISBN 88-7088-215-2 , pp. 1–373 (authoritative critical edition without translation, contains all ancient sources except Aristophanes, Plato and Xenophon; online ).
  • Gunther Eigler (Ed.): Plato: Works in eight volumes. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1977, ISBN 3-534-02574-1 (critical edition with translation).
  • Ernst Bux (translator): Xenophon: The Socratic writings. Kröner, Stuttgart 1956 (translation of memorabilia , symposium , oikonomikos , apology ).
  • Ilai Alon (Ed.): Socrates Arabus. Life and Teachings. Sources, Translations, Notes, Apparatus, and Indices. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem 1995, ISBN 966-222-605-X (edition of medieval Arabic source texts with English translation).


Overview representations in manuals

Introductions and monographs


  • Martin Hoffmann: Socrates Images in the European History of Ideas. Shaker, Aachen 2006, ISBN 3-8322-5364-5 (dissertation).
  • James W. Hulse: The Reputations of Socrates. The Afterlife of a Gadfly. Peter Lang, New York 1995, ISBN 0-8204-2608-3 .
  • Christopher Moore (Ed.): Brill's Companion to the Reception of Socrates. Brill, Leiden / Boston 2019, ISBN 978-90-04-39674-6
  • Almut-Barbara Renger, Alexandra Stellmacher: Socrates. In: Peter von Möllendorff , Annette Simonis, Linda Simonis (ed.): Historical figures of antiquity. Reception in literature, art and music (= Der Neue Pauly . Supplements. Volume 8). Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2013, ISBN 978-3-476-02468-8 , Sp. 911-932.


Web links

Commons : Socrates  - collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. Michel de Montaigne: Les essais 3,13, ed. by Pierre Villey : Montaigne: Les Essais. Livre III , 2nd edition, Paris 1992, p. 1076.
  2. ^ Karl Jaspers: The great philosophers , vol. 1, 3rd edition, Munich / Zurich 1981, p. 124.
  3. Cicero, Tusculanae disputationes 5.10.
  4. Cicero, however, did not know all the sources available to today's historians. See Wolfgang H. Pleger: Sokrates. The beginning of the philosophical dialogue . Reinbek 1998, p. 29.
  5. ^ Wolfgang H. Pleger: Socrates. The beginning of the philosophical dialogue . Reinbek 1998, p. 169 f.
  6. On this and on the original features of Socratic philosophy outlined below, Wolfgang H. Pleger: Sokrates. The beginning of the philosophical dialogue . Reinbek 1998, pp. 178-180.
  7. See Wolfgang H. Pleger: Sokrates. The beginning of the philosophical dialogue . Reinbek 1998, pp. 192-194.
  8. For individual sources see Klaus Döring: Sokrates . In: Hellmut Flashar (ed.): Outline of the history of philosophy. The philosophy of antiquity , Volume 2/1, Basel 1998, pp. 141–178, here: 143–145.
  9. Cf. Andreas Patzer: Socrates in the fragments of the Attic comedy . In: Anton Bierl , Peter von Möllendorff (Hrsg.): Orchestra. Drama, Mythos, Bühne , Stuttgart / Leipzig 1994, pp. 50–81.
  10. ^ Plato, Apology 17d and Crito 52e.
  11. Diogenes Laertios, Lives and Teachings of Famous Philosophers 2,44.
  12. Diogenes Laertios, Lives and Teachings of Famous Philosophers 2.18.
  13. ^ Plato, Theaetetus 149a.
  14. Plato, Euthydemus 297d-297E.
  15. Inscriptiones Graecae I², No. 305, line 10.
  16. ^ Klaus Döring: Socrates . In: Hellmut Flashar (ed.): Outline of the history of philosophy. The philosophy of antiquity , Volume 2/1, Basel 1998, pp. 141–178, here: 146.
  17. Cf. Alexander Demandt: Socrates before the People's Court in Athens 399 BC. Chr. In: Alexander Demandt (Ed.): Power and Law. Great Trials in History , Munich 1990, p. 9.
  18. ^ Klaus Döring: Socrates . In: Hellmut Flashar (ed.): Outline of the history of philosophy. The philosophy of antiquity , Volume 2/1, Basel 1998, pp. 141–178, here: 146.
  19. ^ Wolfgang H. Pleger: Socrates. The beginning of the philosophical dialogue , Reinbek 1998, p. 48 f.
  20. Diogenes Laertios, Lives and Teachings of Famous Philosophers 2.19. Cf. Klaus Döring: Sokrates . In: Hellmut Flashar (ed.): Outline of the history of philosophy. The philosophy of antiquity , Volume 2/1, Basel 1998, pp. 141–178, here: 146.
  21. ^ Plato, Symposium 220a.
  22. Xenophon, Memorabilia 1,1,10, quoted from Peter Jaerisch (Hrsg.): Xenophon: Memories an Sokrates , 3rd, improved edition, Munich 1980, p. 11.
  23. Aristophanes, The Clouds 359-363, quoted by Gottfried Martin: Socrates . Hamburg 1967, p. 82 f.
  24. Plato, Symposium 221d-222a, quoted by Wolfgang H. Pleger: Socrates. The beginning of the philosophical dialogue , Reinbek 1998, p. 53.
  25. ^ Wolfgang H. Pleger: Socrates. The beginning of the philosophical dialogue , Reinbek 1998, p. 57.
  26. ^ Plato, Apology 21a.
  27. Several ancient authors who were sharp opponents of Platonism or philosophy in general considered the survey to be invented : the Epicurean Kolotes von Lampsakos, against whose criticism Plutarch turned (Plutarch, Adversus Colotem 1116e – f), an opponent of the Athenaius cited Socratics (probably the grammarian Herodikos von Seleukia; Athenaios 5,218e – 219a) and the rhetor Apollonios Molon (Douwe Holwerda (Ed.): Scholia in Aristophanem , part 1: Prolegomena de comoedia, scholia in Acharnenses, Equites, Nubes , Fasc. 3 , 1: Scholia vetera in Nubes , Groningen 1977, p. 41, Scholion 144). The argument handed down by Athenaeus, which probably comes from Herodicus, is that it is not credible that the god answered such a foolish question as expected in the sense of the questioner.
  28. See Robin Waterfield: Xenophon's Socratic Mission . In: Christopher Tuplin (Ed.): Xenophon and his World , Wiesbaden 2004, pp. 79–113, here: 94 f .; Mario Montuori: The Oracle Given to Chaerephon on the Wisdom of Socrates. An Invention by Plato , in: Kernos 3, 1990, pp. 251-259; Olof Gigon : Ancient stories about the calling to philosophy . In: Museum Helveticum 3, 1946, pp. 1–21, here: 3–8; Louis-André Dorion: The Delphic Oracle on Socrates' Wisdom: A Myth? In: Catherine Collobert et al. (Ed.): Plato and Myth , Leiden 2012, pp. 419–434. Cf. Klaus Döring: Sokrates . In: Hellmut Flashar (ed.): Outline of the history of philosophy. The philosophy of antiquity , Volume 2/1, Basel 1998, pp. 141–178, here: 155; Joseph Eddy Fontenrose : The Delphic Oracle. Its responses and operations. With a catalog of responses , Los Angeles / Berkeley 1978, pp. 245–246, H 3.
  29. See Emile de Strycker: Plato's Apology of Socrates , ed. by Simon Roelof Slings , Leiden 1994, p. 74; Ernst Heitsch : Plato: Apology of Socrates. Translation and Commentary , Göttingen 2002, pp. 73 f.
  30. Cf. the speech of the fallen by Pericles in Thucydides , The Peloponnesian War 2,41,1.
  31. Xenophon, Memorabilia 3, 6, 18-20, quoted from Johannes Irmscher (Ed.): Xenophon: Memories an Sokrates , Leipzig 1973, p. 99.
  32. Xenophon, Memorabilia 3,5,28, quoted from Johannes Irmscher (ed.): Xenophon: Memories an Sokrates , Leipzig 1973, p. 95. Perikles the Younger was then one of those strategists who, by decision of the people's assembly after the sea battle the Arginus were executed.
  33. ^ Plato, Apology 32c – d.
  34. Ekkehard Martens: Socrates. An introduction . 2nd edition, Stuttgart 2004, p. 109.
  35. ^ Klaus Döring: Socrates. In: Friedo Ricken (Ed.): Philosophen der Antike I, Stuttgart et al. 1996, pp. 178–193, here: 193.
  36. See Erich Bayer, Jürgen Heideking : The Chronology of the Perikleischen Age . Darmstadt 1975, p. 171.
  37. Ekkehard Martens: Socrates. An introduction . 2nd edition, Stuttgart 2004, p. 75. Martens interprets the Asebie law of Diopeithes as an expression of fear of the "corrosive intellectuals" (p. 108).
  38. Xenophon, Memorabilia 4,2,23, quoted from Johannes Irmscher (Ed.): Xenophon: Memories an Sokrates , Leipzig 1973, pp. 19-21.
  39. Christopher CW Taylor: Sokrates , Freiburg 1999, p. 31.
  40. ^ Plato, Apology 25c.
  41. ^ Plato, Apology 29d.
  42. Plato, Apology 35c.
  43. Alexander Demandt: Socrates before the People's Court in Athens 399 BC Chr. In: Alexander Demandt (Ed.): Power and Law. Great Trials in History , Munich 1990, p. 16 f.
  44. ^ Plato, Apology 39b.
  45. ^ Plato, Apology 42a.
  46. Christopher CW Taylor: Sokrates , Freiburg 1999, p. 22.
  47. ^ Plato, Phaedo 59b – e.
  48. "Do you think that a state can exist and is not rather destroyed in which judgments that are made have no force, but are made invalid and thwarted by individual people?" ( Kriton 50a-b, quoted from Gustav Radbruch : Philosophy of law, study edition , edited by Ralf Dreier et al., 2nd edition, Heidelberg 2003, p. 85).
  49. Alexander Demandt: Socrates before the People's Court in Athens 399 BC Chr. In: Alexander Demandt (Ed.): Power and Law. Great Trials in History , Munich 1990, p. 19.
  50. ^ Günter Figal: Socrates . 3rd, revised edition, Munich 2006, p. 15.
  51. Günter Figal emphasizes in a discussion with Gregory Vlastos ( Socratic Studies , New York 1994): Sokrates . 3rd, revised edition, Munich 2006, pp. 16-18, however, the middle dialogues, especially Phaedo , Symposium and Phaedrus , provided a particularly vivid, lively picture of Socrates and should not be understood as a falsification of Socratic thought.
  52. Cf. Günter Figal: Sokrates . 3rd, revised edition, Munich 2006, pp. 96–98.
  53. ^ Günter Figal: Socrates . 3rd, revised edition, Munich 2006, p. 97 f.
  54. ^ Günter Figal: Socrates . 3rd, revised edition, Munich 2006, p. 97 f.
  55. ^ Günter Figal: Socrates . 3rd, revised edition, Munich 2006, p. 97 f.
  56. ^ Wolfgang H. Pleger: Socrates. The beginning of the philosophical dialogue . Reinbek 1998, p. 195.
  57. ^ Wolfgang H. Pleger: Socrates. The beginning of the philosophical dialogue . Reinbek 1998, p. 194 f.
  58. See Klaus Döring: Sokrates. In: Friedo Ricken (Ed.): Philosophen der Antike I , Stuttgart et al. 1996, p. 189.
  59. ^ Klaus Döring: Socrates. In: Friedo Ricken (Ed.): Philosophen der Antike I , Stuttgart et al. 1996, p. 190.
  60. Ekkehard Martens: Socrates. An introduction . 2nd edition, Stuttgart 2004, p. 118 ff., Especially p. 125.
  61. ^ Wolfgang H. Pleger: Socrates. The beginning of the philosophical dialogue . Reinbek 1998, p. 197.
  62. ^ Wolfgang H. Pleger: Socrates. The beginning of the philosophical dialogue . Reinbek 1998, p. 145.
  63. Plato, Politeia 331b.
  64. Plato, Politeia 332a-b.
  65. Plato, Politeia 338a.
  66. Plato, Politeia 338c-339b.
  67. Plato, Politeia 339e.
  68. Plato, Politeia 341a-342e.
  69. Plato, Politeia 348e – d.
  70. Plato, Politeia 351a-353e.
  71. Plato, The Republic 354b-c.
  72. Xenophon, Memorabilia 4,2,11.
  73. Xenophon, Memorabilia 4, 2, 13-21.
  74. Xenophon, Memorabilia 4,2,23, quoted from Johannes Irmscher (Ed.): Xenophon: Quellen an Sokrates, Leipzig 1973, p. 129.
  75. Xenophon, Memorabilia 4,2,25, quoted from Johannes Irmscher (Ed.): Xenophon: Memories an Sokrates , Leipzig 1973, p. 130.
  76. Xenophon, Memorabilia 4,2,26, quoted from Peter Jaerisch (Ed.): Xenophon: Memories an Sokrates , 3rd, improved edition, Munich 1980, p. 261.
  77. Xenophon, Memorabilia 4,2,29, quoted from Johannes Irmscher (Ed.): Xenophon: Memories an Sokrates , Leipzig 1973, p. 131.
  78. Xenophon, Memorabilia 4,2,34, quoted from Johannes Irmscher (Ed.): Xenophon: Quellen an Sokrates, Leipzig 1973, p. 132.
  79. Xenophon, Memorabilia 4,2,36, quoted from Johannes Irmscher (Ed.): Xenophon: Quellen an Sokrates, Leipzig 1973, p. 133.
  80. Xenophon, Memorabilia 4,2,37-38, quoted from Johannes Irmscher (Ed.): Xenophon: Memories an Sokrates , Leipzig 1973, p. 133.
  81. Xenophon, Memorabilia 4,2,39, quoted from Johannes Irmscher (Ed.): Xenophon: Memories an Sokrates , Leipzig 1973, p. 133 f.
  82. Xenophon, Memorabilia 4,2,40.
  83. ^ Plato, Apology 29d – 30a.
  84. Christopher CW Taylor: Sokrates , Freiburg 1999, p. 79 quotes Aristoteles, Nikomachische Ethik 1145b26-27: "Because nobody acts against the best, in the opinion that he acts against the best, but only out of ignorance."
  85. Ekkehard Martens: Socrates. An introduction . 2nd edition, Stuttgart 2004, pp. 113-115.
  86. Ekkehard Martens: Socrates. An introduction . 2nd edition, Stuttgart 2004, p. 117.
  87. ^ Klaus Döring: Socrates. In: Friedo Ricken (Ed.): Philosophen der Antike I , Stuttgart et al. 1996, p. 186.
  88. ^ Günter Figal: Socrates . 3rd, revised edition, Munich 2006, p. 71 f.
  89. ^ Plato, Apology 40b – 41a.
  90. ^ Günter Figal: Socrates . 3rd, revised edition, Munich 2006, p. 124.
  91. ^ Günter Figal: Socrates . 3rd, revised edition, Munich 2006, p. 130.
  92. ^ Klaus Döring: Socrates . In: Hellmut Flashar (ed.): Outline of the history of philosophy. The philosophy of antiquity , Volume 2/1, Basel 1998, pp. 141–178, here: 141 f. A comprehensive compilation of research opinions is provided by Mario Montuori: The Socratic problem. The history - the solutions , Amsterdam 1992.
  93. See also Klaus Döring: Sokrates, die Sokratiker and the traditions established by them . In: Klaus Döring among others: Sophistik, Sokrates, Sokratik, Mathematik, Medizin (= Hellmut Flashar (Ed.): Outline of the history of philosophy. The philosophy of antiquity , Volume 2/1), Basel 1998, pp. 139–364, here: 179–181.
  94. See also Klaus Döring: Sokrates, die Sokratiker and the traditions established by them . In: Klaus Döring among others: Sophistik, Sokrates, Sokratik, Mathematik, Medizin (= Hellmut Flashar (Ed.): Outline of the history of philosophy. The philosophy of antiquity , Volume 2/1), Basel 1998, pp. 139–364, here: 167, 275-277, 294.
  95. Klaus Döring: Socrates, the Socratics and the traditions they founded . In: Klaus Döring among others: Sophistik, Sokrates, Sokratik, Mathematik, Medizin (= Hellmut Flashar (Ed.): Outline of the history of philosophy. The philosophy of antiquity , Volume 2/1), Basel 1998, pp. 139–364, here: 247–257.
  96. Klaus Döring: Socrates, the Socratics and the traditions they founded . In: Klaus Döring among others: Sophistik, Sokrates, Sokratik, Mathematik, Medizin (= Hellmut Flashar (Ed.): Outline of the history of philosophy. The philosophy of antiquity , Volume 2/1), Basel 1998, pp. 139–364, here: 208–212.
  97. ^ On the stoic reception, see Anthony Arthur Long : Socrates in Hellenistic philosophy. In: Long: Stoic studies , Cambridge 1996, pp. 1–34, here: 3 f., 16–23.
  98. See also Olof Gigon: Sokrates , 3rd edition, Tübingen / Basel 1994, pp. 107-110.
  99. Klaus Döring: Socrates, the Socratics and the traditions they founded . In: Klaus Döring among others: Sophistik, Sokrates, Sokratik, Mathematik, Medizin (= Hellmut Flashar (Ed.): Outline of the history of philosophy. The philosophy of antiquity , Volume 2/1), Basel 1998, pp. 139–364, here: 167–169. On the Epicurean reception, see Anthony Arthur Long: Socrates in Hellenistic philosophy. In: Long: Stoic studies , Cambridge 1996, pp. 1–34, here: 9–11; Knut Kleve: Scurra Atticus. The Epicurean View of Socrates. In: Συζήτησις. Studi sull'epicureismo greco e romano offerti a Marcello Gigante , Naples 1983, pp. 227-251.
  100. Klaus Döring: Socrates, the Socratics and the traditions they founded . In: Klaus Döring among others: Sophistik, Sokrates, Sokratik, Mathematik, Medizin (= Hellmut Flashar (Ed.): Outline of the history of philosophy. The philosophy of antiquity , Volume 2/1), Basel 1998, pp. 139–364, here: 168 f .; Woldemar Görler : Arkesilaos . In: Hellmut Flashar (ed.): Outline of the history of philosophy. The Philosophy of Antiquity , Volume 4/2, Basel 1994, pp. 786–828, here: 796–801; Anthony Arthur Long: Socrates in Hellenistic philosophy. In: Long: Stoic studies , Cambridge 1996, pp. 1–34, here: 11–16.
  101. ^ Klaus Döring: Exemplum Socratis , Wiesbaden 1979, pp. 18–42.
  102. ^ Klaus Döring: Exemplum Socratis , Wiesbaden 1979, pp. 43-79.
  103. Klaus Döring: Exemplum Socratis , Wiesbaden 1979, pp. 37-41.
  104. Mark Aurel, Self- Contemplations 3,6.
  105. Michael Erler : Help of the gods and knowledge of the self. Socrates as a gift from the gods to Plato and the Platonists. In: Theo Kobusch , Michael Erler (eds.): Metaphysik und Religion , Leipzig 2002, pp. 387–413, here: 393–397.
  106. On the research debates on the writing of Polycrates see Michel Narcy: Polycrate d'Athènes. In: Richard Goulet (ed.): Dictionnaire des philosophes antiques , Volume Vb, Paris 2012, pp. 1246–1252.
  107. See this legends and anecdotes circle Olof Gigon: Socrates , 3rd edition, Tübingen / Basel 1994, pp 114-123.
  108. Lukian, Talks with the Dead 21.
  109. Aelian, Bunte Geschichte 2,13.
  110. See the study by Caroline Stamm: Reference to the past in the Second Sophistic? , Frankfurt 2003, pp. 167-170.
  111. ^ Ilona Opelt : The image of Socrates in Christian Latin literature. In: Horst-Dieter Blume , Friedhelm Mann (ed.): Platonism and Christianity. Festschrift for Heinrich Dörrie , Münster 1983, pp. 192–207; Ernst Dassmann : Christ and Socrates. On philosophy and theology with the church fathers. In: Jahrbuch für Antike und Christianentum 36, 1993, pp. 33–45; Michael Erler: Socrates as a religious educator. Notes on the image of Socrates in Augustine. In: Cornelius Petrus Mayer , Christof Müller (Ed.): Augustinus. Education - Knowledge - Wisdom , Würzburg 2011, pp. 29–48.
  112. Justin the Martyr, Apology 78.4–8 (= 2.10.4–8). See Klaus Döring: Exemplum Socratis , Wiesbaden 1979, pp. 148-153; Ekkehard W. Stegemann : Paulus and Socrates. In: Karl Pestalozzi (ed.): Der questionende Sokrates , Stuttgart / Leipzig 1999, pp. 115-131, here: 116-120.
  113. See Edgar Früchtel: Some remarks on the Socrates picture in Clemens Alexandrinus. In: Wolfgang von der Weppen et al. (Ed.): Sokrates im Gang der Zeiten , Tübingen 2006, pp. 57–76, here: 64–66.
  114. ^ Augustine, De civitate dei 8.3.
  115. ^ Danielle Alexandra Layne: Socrate dans le néoplatonisme. In: Richard Goulet (ed.): Dictionnaire des philosophes antiques , Volume 6, Paris 2016, pp. 417–438, here: 437 f .; Michael Trapp: Beyond Plato and Xenophon: some other ancient Socrateses. In: Michael Trapp (ed.): Socrates from antiquity to the Enlightenment , Aldershot 2007, pp. 51–63, here: 60 f.
  116. Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 5,91,5. Cf. Edgar Früchtel: Some remarks on the Socrates picture in Clemens Alexandrinus. In: Wolfgang von der Weppen et al. (Ed.): Sokrates im Gang der Zeiten , Tübingen 2006, pp. 57–76, here: 66–68.
  117. Tertullian, De anima 1, 2–6. See Klaus Döring: Exemplum Socratis , Wiesbaden 1979, pp. 154-160.
  118. Matthias Laarmann provides an overview: Socrates in the Middle Ages. In: Lexikon des Mittelalters , Vol. 7, Munich 1995, Col. 2027 f.
  119. ^ Paul Gerhard Schmidt : Socrates in the Middle Ages. In: Wolfgang von der Weppen et al. (Ed.): Sokrates im Gang der Zeiten , Tübingen 2006, pp. 77–90, here: 79.
  120. ^ Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae 2,24,5.
  121. ^ Hugo von St. Viktor, Didascalicon 3.2.
  122. Notker der Deutsche, Boethius, "De consolatione Philosophiae" Book III , ed. by Petrus W. Tax, Tübingen 1988, p. 178.
  123. John of Salisbury, Entheticus 773-806.
  124. Petrus Alfonsi, Disciplina clericalis , ed. by Alfons Hilka , Werner Söderhjelm , Heidelberg 1911, p. 2 f.
  125. ^ Alanus from Insulis, Summa "Quoniam homines" 4.
  126. Vincent de Beauvais, Speculum historiale 3, 56–58; 3.66.
  127. ^ Hermann Knust (ed.): Gualteri Burlaei liber de vita et moribus philosophorum , Tübingen 1886, pp. 108-143.
  128. Paul Gerhard Schmidt: Petraca and Socrates. In: Ulrike Auhagen et al. (Ed.): Petrarca and the Roman literature , Tübingen 2005, pp. 11–15, here: 14 f.
  129. James Hankins: Socrates in the Italian Renaissance. In: Michael Trapp (Ed.): Socrates from antiquity to the Enlightenment , Aldershot 2007, pp. 179–208, here: 180, 183–188.
  130. James Hankins: Socrates in the Italian Renaissance. In: Michael Trapp (Ed.): Socrates from antiquity to the Enlightenment , Aldershot 2007, pp. 179–208, here: 189 f .; James Hankins: Manetti's Socrates and the Socrateses of Antiquity. In: Stefano U. Baldassarri (ed.): Dignitas et excellentia hominis , Florence 2008, pp. 203-219.
  131. ^ Kurt Flasch : Nikolaus von Kues. History of a development , Frankfurt 1998, pp. 185, 255 f.
  132. ^ Ilai Alon: Socrates in Mediaeval Arabic Literature , Leiden / Jerusalem 1991, p. 19 f.
  133. Elvira Wakelnig: Socrate - tradition arabe. In: Richard Goulet (ed.): Dictionnaire des philosophes antiques , Volume 6, Paris 2016, pp. 438–446; Gotthard Strohmaier : Hellas im Islam , Wiesbaden 2003, pp. 50–58; Jean Jolivet: Philosophy médiévale arabe et latine , Paris 1995, pp. 78-89.
  134. See also Raymond Marcel: "Saint" Socrate Patron de l'Humanisme. In: Revue internationale de Philosophie 5, 1951, pp. 135–143, here: 136 f.
  135. ^ Girolamo Cardano: De Socratis studio. In: Cardano: Opera omnia , Vol. 1, New York / London 1967, pp. 151-158. See Thomas Leinkauf : Grundriss Philosophy des Humanism and the Renaissance (1350–1600) , Vol. 1, Hamburg 2017, p. 917, note 369.
  136. Pierre-Maxime Schuhl : Études platoniciennes , Paris 1960, pp. 152–166; Frederick Kellermann: Montaigne's Socrates. In: The Romanic Review 45, 1954, pp. 170-177; Floyd Gray: Montaigne and the Memorabilia. In: Studies in Philology 58, 1961, pp. 130-139; Elaine Limbrick: Montaigne and Socrates. In: Renaissance and Reformation , Vol. 9, No. 2, 1973, pp. 46-57.
  137. James W. Hulse: The Reputations of Socrates , New York 1995, pp. 88 f.
  138. See for the cultural-historical background Benno Böhm : Sokrates im eighteenth century , 2nd edition, Neumünster 1966, pp. 11–34, 134–154, 158–167, 183–189, on Thomasius pp. 29–34, on Collins p. 77-79.
  139. Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Discours sur les sciences et les arts , part 1. In: Rousseau: Schriften zur Kulturkritik , ed. by Kurt Weigand, 2nd, extended edition, Hamburg 1971, pp. 22-25. See Raymond Trousson: Socrate devant Voltaire, Diderot et Rousseau , Paris 1967, pp. 84-86.
  140. Raymond Trousson: Socrate devant Voltaire, Diderot et Rousseau , Paris 1967, pp. 88-90.
  141. ^ Benno Böhm: Socrates in the eighteenth century , 2nd edition, Neumünster 1966, pp. 265-277.
  142. Immanuel Kant: Logic. In: Kant's works (Academy edition), Vol. 9, Berlin / Leipzig 1923, p. 29.
  143. Immanuel Kant: Logic. In: Kant's works (Academy edition), Vol. 9, Berlin / Leipzig 1923, p. 44.
  144. Bettina Fröhlich, Brian O'Connor: Sokrates. In: Marcus Willaschek et al. (Ed.): Kant-Lexikon , Vol. 3, Berlin 2015, pp. 2130 f .; Wolfgang H. Pleger: Socrates. The beginning of the philosophical dialogue , Reinbek 1998, p. 227 f.
  145. ^ Brian O'Connor: Socratic. In: Marcus Willaschek et al. (Ed.): Kant-Lexikon , Vol. 3, Berlin 2015, pp. 2131 f.
  146. Gabriele Weiß: The Socratic method in pedagogy of the 18th century. In: Wolfgang von der Weppen et al. (Ed.): Sokrates im Gang der Zeiten , Tübingen 2006, pp. 143–166.
  147. Benno Böhm: Socrates in the eighteenth century , 2nd edition, Neumünster 1966, pp. 175–183, 245 f .; Erik Abma: Socrates in German literature , Utrecht 1949, p. 15.
  148. ^ Peter Brown: The comic Socrates. In: Michael Trapp (Ed.): Socrates from antiquity to the Enlightenment , Aldershot 2007, pp. 1–16, here: 12 f.
  149. ^ Russell Goulbourne: Voltaire's Socrates. In: Michael Trapp (ed.): Socrates from antiquity to the Enlightenment , Aldershot 2007, pp. 229–247, here: 236–244.
  150. Martin Puchner : The Drama of Ideas , Oxford 2010, pp. 42–45, 70 f.
  151. Friedrich Hölderlin: Complete Works , ed. by Friedrich Beißner , Vol. 1, Stuttgart 1944, p. 256.
  152. See also Wolfgang von Löhneysen : Der dying Sokrates. In: Herbert Kessler (Ed.): Sokrates. History, Legende, Spiegelungen , Zug 1995, pp. 201–259; Gabriele Oberreuter-Kronabel: Der Tod des Philosophen , Munich 1986, pp. 52–54, 60–67, 73–84, 91–94.
  153. Kenneth Lapatin: Picturing Socrates. In: Sara Ahbel-Rappe, Rachana Kamtekar (Eds.): A Companion to Socrates , Malden 2006, pp. 145–148; James Lesher: Later views of the Socrates of Plato's Symposium. In: Michael Trapp (Ed.): Socrates in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries , Aldershot 2007, pp. 59–76, here: 70.
  154. Possagno , Gipsoteca Canoviana. See also Wolfgang von Löhneysen: The dying Sokrates. In: Herbert Kessler (Ed.): Sokrates. History, Legende, Spiegelungen , Zug 1995, pp. 201–259, here: 235–238.
  155. ^ Klaus Döring: Socrates on the opera stage. In: Antike und Abendland 47, 2001, pp. 198–213, here: 198–208.
  156. Friedrich Schleiermacher: About the value of Socrates as a philosopher. In: Schleiermacher: all works , 3rd section, volume 2, Berlin 1838, pp. 287–308.
  157. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel: Lectures on the Philosophy of History (= Works , Vol. 12), ed. by Eva Moldenhauer and Karl Markus Michel , Frankfurt 1970, p. 328 f.
  158. See on Hegel's point of view Gerhart Schmidt : Hegel's judgment on Socrates. In: Herbert Kessler (Ed.): Sokrates. History, Legende, Spiegelungen , Zug 1995, pp. 275–294; Paul R. Harrison: The Disenchantment of Reason , Albany 1994, pp. 58-65; Glenn W. Most : Socrates in Hegel. In: Michael Trapp (ed.): Socrates in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries , Aldershot 2007, pp. 1-17.
  159. ^ Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling: Philosophy of Mythology , Stuttgart / Augsburg 1857, p. 284 f.
  160. ^ Rudolf Schottlaender : Sören Kierkegaard's view of Socrates. In: Philosophischer Anzeiger 4, 1929–1930, pp. 27–41.
  161. ^ Søren Kierkegaard: Unscientific postscript . Second part [1846], ed. by Hermann Diem and Walter Rest, Munich 1976, p. 347. See Harold Sarf: Reflections on Kierkegaard's Socrates. In: Journal of the History of Ideas 44, 1983, pp. 255-276, here: 257 f., 264-276; Paul R. Harrison: The Disenchantment of Reason , Albany 1994, p. 116 f.
  162. John Stuart Mill: On Liberty , ed. by Currin V. Shields, Indianapolis / New York 1956, pp. 29 f., 54 f.
  163. Relevant passages are compiled by Walter A. Kaufmann : Nietzsche's Admiration for Socrates. In: Journal of the History of Ideas 9, 1948, pp. 472-491.
  164. Friedrich Nietzsche: Collected Works , ed. by Richard Oehler et al., Volume 6, Munich 1922, p. 101.
  165. ^ Andreas Becke: Socrates. In: Christian Niemeyer (Ed.): Nietzsche-Lexikon , Darmstadt 2009, p. 328 f. See Ernst Sandvoss: Sokrates and Nietzsche , Leiden 1966, p. 4 f .; Gerhart Schmidt: Nietzsche and Socrates. In: Nietzsche - controvers 4, 1984, pp. 7-33; Michael Silk: Nietzsche's Socrateases. In: Michael Trapp (ed.): Socrates in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries , Aldershot 2007, pp. 37-57.
  166. ^ Friedrich Nietzsche: Complete Works. Critical study edition in 15 volumes , ed. by Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari , Volume 8, Munich 1980, p. 108.
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  173. José Ortega y Gasset: Vitality, Soul, Spirit. In: Ortega y Gasset: Gesammelte Werke , Vol. 1, Stuttgart 1954, pp. 317-350, here: 326 and Greek ethics. In: Ortega y Gasset: Gesammelte Werke , Vol. 2, Stuttgart 1955, pp. 343–355, here: 351–355.
  174. ^ Leo Strauss: Cohen and Maimuni. In: Strauss: Philosophy and Law - Early Writings , 2nd, revised edition, Stuttgart / Weimar 2013, pp. 393–436, here: 411 f.
  175. ^ Werner Jaeger: Paideia , Berlin / New York 1989 (1st edition of Part II 1944), pp. 575, 590, 619.
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  178. ^ Romano Guardini: Der Tod des Sokrates , 3rd, expanded edition, Godesberg 1947, p. 11.
  179. ^ Hannah Arendt: Socrates. Apology of plurality , 2nd edition, Berlin 2016, p. 47.
  180. ^ Hannah Arendt: Socrates. Apology of Plurality , 2nd edition, Berlin 2016, pp. 48–50.
  181. There is also a time-critical aspect for Arendt, see Hannah Arendt: Sokrates. Apologie der Pluralität , 2nd edition, Berlin 2016, p. 52: "This portrayal of equality has as a polemical point the criticism of the constantly growing differentiation of citizens in an agonal society."
  182. ^ Hannah Arendt: Socrates. Apology of Plurality , 2nd edition, Berlin 2016, p. 53 f.
  183. ^ Karl Jaspers: The great philosophers , Vol. 1, 3rd edition, Munich / Zurich 1981, pp. 105, 123-127.
  184. Jacques Derrida: Dissemination , Vienna 1995, pp. 130–144. See Paul R. Harrison: The Disenchantment of Reason , Albany 1994, pp. 195-199.
  185. Michel Foucault: The courage to truth. The government of the self and the others II , Berlin 2010, pp. 24–37, 42–48, 101–126, 138, 154 f., 158.
  186. ^ Günter Figal: Sokrates , 3rd, revised edition, Munich 2006, p. 12.
  187. See Sandra Sider: Lamartine's “La mort de Socrate” and Plato's Phaedo. In: Romance Notes , Vol. 20, No. 1, 1979, pp. 58-64.
  188. See Erik Abma: Sokrates in der Deutschen Literatur , Utrecht 1949, pp. 51–59.
  189. See Martin Puchner: The Drama of Ideas , Oxford 2010, pp. 76–79.
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  191. ^ Manès Sperber: Socrates. Roman, Drama, Essay , Vienna / Zurich 1988, p. 9.
  192. ^ Elisabeth Herrmann: Lars Gyllensten. In: Heinz Ludwig Arnold (Ed.): Kindlers Literatur Lexikon , 3rd, revised edition, Vol. 6, Stuttgart / Weimar 2009, p. 756.
  193. Friedrich Dürrenmatt: Turmbau , Zurich 1990, pp. 143–156. Thomas Strässle offers an introduction : Socrates and the mask. Friedrich Dürrenmatt's handling of the Socrates material. In: Wolfgang von der Weppen et al. (Ed.): Sokrates im Gang der Zeiten , Tübingen 2006, pp. 187–224.
  194. Daumier's Socrate chez Aspasie .
  195. ^ Gérôme's painting , now in the collection of Terence Garnett, San Mateo , California.
  196. Feuerbach's painting in the Alte Nationalgalerie , Berlin. Socrates seated fifth from the right, behind him the boy Plato.
  197. See for this painting Eva-Maria Kaufmann: Die Weisheit des Sokrates. The philosopher as a subject of the fine arts. In: Wolfgang von der Weppen et al. (Ed.): Sokrates im Gang der Zeiten , Tübingen 2006, pp. 105–142, here: 131–133 (with illustration).
  198. Horvath's painting .
  199. ^ Klaus Döring: Socrates on the opera stage. In: Antike und Abendland 47, 2001, pp. 198–213, here: 208–213.
  200. Volker Riedel : Reception of Antiquity in German Literature from Renaissance Humanism to the Present , Stuttgart / Weimar 2000, p. 366.
  201. See on the filmic reception Almut-Barbara Renger, Alexandra Stellmacher: Sokrates. In: Peter von Möllendorff, Annette Simonis, Linda Simonis (ed.): Historical figures of antiquity. Reception in literature, art and music , Stuttgart / Weimar 2013, Sp. 911–932, here: 930 f.
  202. ^ Klaus Döring: Socrates . In: Hellmut Flashar (ed.): Outline of the history of philosophy. The philosophy of antiquity , Volume 2/1, Basel 1998, pp. 141–178, here: 145.
  203. On the ancient portraits of Socrates see Gisela MA Richter : The portraits of the Greeks , London 1965, Vol. 1, pp. 109–119; Ingeborg Scheibler : To the oldest portrait of Socrates . In: Münchner Jahrbuch der bildenden Kunst , 3rd part, Vol. 40, 1989, pp. 7–33; Ingeborg Scheibler: Socrates in Greek visual art. Catalog of the special exhibition of the Glyptothek and the Museum for Casts of Classical Works , Munich 1989; Luca Giuliani : The oldest Socrates portrait. A physiognomic portrait against the physiognomists. In: Wilhelm Schlink (Ed.): Portraits. The European tradition of portrait art , Freiburg i. Br. 1997, pp. 11-55.
  204. See Diogenes Laertios, On Lives and Teachings of Famous Philosophers, 2:43.
  205. Inventory number 6129.
  206. Inventory number 1236.
  207. Inventory number 1040.
  208. London, British Museum , inventory number 1925. II-18.1.
  209. See Paul Zanker: Die Maske des Sokrates , Munich 1995, pp. 62–66.
  210. ^ Almut-Barbara Renger, Alexandra Stellmacher: Sokrates. In: Peter von Möllendorff, Annette Simonis, Linda Simonis (ed.): Historical figures of antiquity. Reception in literature, art and music , Stuttgart / Weimar 2013, Sp. 911–932, here: 915; Jörn Lang: Socrate d'Athènes. Iconography. In: Richard Goulet (ed.): Dictionnaire des philosophes antiques , Volume 6, Paris 2016, pp. 446–453, here: 452.
  211. Eva-Maria Kaufmann: The wisdom of Socrates. The philosopher as a subject of the fine arts. In: Wolfgang von der Weppen et al. (Ed.): Sokrates im Gang der Zeiten , Tübingen 2006, pp. 105–142, here: 110–112.
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on May 18, 2008 .