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Socrates Killed Himself March 25, 2013

Posted by cantueso in philosophy.
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Socrates had received a death sentence and was in prison. His friends wanted to bribe the authorities to help him escape, but he refused.

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Before he died Socrates said that this world is a poorly reflected image of the ultimate reality that may become accessible to the soul once it is freed.

Socrates then gave his famous description of what the Earth looks like as seen from space:

socrates-earth.jpg

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Next he drank hemlock and drank it freely, willingly. Everybody agrees that he did it very very bravely and a little earlier than expected, and all along seemed to be in a happy, light mood.

He could have escaped, but didn´t.

This is hemlock.

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Later Plato wrote down how Socrates died :

death of socrates

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David Socrates death

The painting by Jacques-Louis David about the death of Socrates is from the time of Napoleon. It is now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and at Wikipedia:  http://tinyurl.com/czt4ed  I think it is awful.

The scans are from “Great Dialogues”.  Plato had been a student of Socrates’ and later wrote the book.

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Context Timeline

507 bc Athens becomes democratic
490 bc the Persians attack Greece and suffer defeat at Marathon
481 bc the Persians attack again and suffer naval defeat at Salamis
470 bc birth of Socrates
437 bc birth of Plato
399 bc execution of Socrates
384 bc birth of Aristotle
356 bc birth of Alexander the Great
323 bc death of Alexander

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Best short + clear presentation, about 3 pages, see  → http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/athenians.html

Greece, the Acropolis under a GNU license at http://en.wikivisual.com/index.php/Acropolis

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Comments»

1. Ion Danu - October 14, 2007

In my opinion, he was just sick and tired of all the hustle and he fetch the occasion to die as an hero and escape old age indignities as well…

2. cantueso - October 14, 2007

!!!
By changing the end of a story that is famous for its end, you do away with the story so that your newly invented ending is not needed anymore.

3. 100swallows - October 28, 2007

You are the one who has changed the ending of the story, Cantueso. The story goes that Socrates was executed, not that he commited suicide. The law prescribed that form of execution—precisely it skipped the executioner that your Unamuno wants to eliminate. You say that forcing a man to do that dirty work is the most objectionable thing about state execution—well, here is execution without him.

You might better call Seneca a suicide because he cut his own veins under the unjust order of a demented emperor.
But Socrates was condemned by law properly instituted. He respected that law and taught respect for it. Plato thought he was innocent but a majority of those 500 judge/jurors found him guilty. Wouldn’t Kant would have drunk the hemlock too, though he believed the sentence was unfair? That Socrates was very willing to die because of his own philosophy of liberation by death is another issue.

Remember that in the Crito Socrates gives reasons for NOT committing suicide. Which? That you belong to the gods, not to yourself. You wrong them by destroying their possession. It would seem from the dialog that he is not in favor of suicide, does not consider his own death a suicide.

4. cantueso - October 28, 2007

To 100swallows:

“You are the one who has changed the ending of the story, Cantueso. The story goes that Socrates was executed, not that he commited suicide.”

!!! That is a word play. Execution is to killing what Revenue Service is to taxman: a term meant to dim the citizen’s understanding. The locution “commit suicide” is almost funny, it is so kitsch.

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” You say that forcing a man to do that dirty work is the most objectionable thing about state execution—well, here is execution without him.”

!!!
I hope I did not say *forcing a man to do the dirty work…”
I hope I said “bribing a man”. The death penalty depends on the ability of a State to BRIBE a man. Ideally, a State cannot find anybody among the citizens willing to take that bribe. They all refuse :-D even in Texas.
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” You might better call Seneca a suicide because he cut his own veins under the unjust order of a demented emperor.”

I don’t know that story.
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” But Socrates was condemned by law properly instituted. He respected that law and taught respect for it. “

Really? So he did consider himself guilty of the offenses he was accused of !? That of course changes everything. !!!
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“Plato thought he was innocent but a majority of those 500 judge/jurors found him guilty.”

I read that Socrates thought that he could have changed the vote if only he had had more time.
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” Wouldn’t Kant have drunk the hemlock too, though he believed the sentence was unfair?”

I think so, but I am not sure. I would not be surprised. His definition of the enlightenment makes me sick it is so foolish and his imperative does not work.
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” Remember that in the Crito Socrates gives reasons for NOT committing suicide. Which? That you belong to the gods, not to yourself. You wrong them by destroying their possession. It would seem from the dialog that he is not in favor of suicide, does not consider his own death a suicide.”

I have seen, but not read “Crito”.
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Anyway, the basic question is whether in these things you can simply obey some Kant, some “law”, some Pope or some “State”.

What about Cardinal Newman, quoted even by JP2? He says that a man cannot disobey his conscience even if this means he has to disobey the pope. A cardinal! But of course the condition is that this man does all he can to get the pertinent information.

5. 100swallows - November 9, 2007

You are looking at this from the wrong end and through traumatic 20th century memories. It is anachronistic to imagine the Greek City-State in terms of some modern Superstate silently controlling untold millions by computer or TV.

That Greek City-State would have been more like a modern small town in the US, where lots of people know each other and know who is in control. In a town like that citizens would be bound to respect each other and accept majority decisions as law.

At any rate this “suicide” word comes with a nihilistic connotation of “to hell with it all”, and that definitely was not Socrates’ line.

6. Psystu - September 10, 2009

I think he was wrong to commit suicide, and should have left when he had the chance, there is NOTHING honerable about killing yourself.

7. lollipop - December 8, 2009

@ Psystu

You say he should have left. Do you mean he should have fled after allowing his friends to bribe the guards?

8. thag - December 8, 2009

@ cantueso:

” But Socrates was condemned by law properly instituted. He respected that law and taught respect for it. ”

“Really? So he did consider himself guilty of the offenses he was accused of !? That of course changes everything. !!!”

*That Socrates felt he had done no injustice does not change that in the Crito he taught respect for law. Of course, he places this argument in the mouth of someone else, the Laws themselves. It isn’t clear that Socrates did not escape because he respected the law; what is clear is his fidelity to the philosophic teaching that evil cannot be returned for evil. The argument is transmogrified into a mere respect for law, because Socrates is trying to exhort to Crito, who is no philosopher and does not understand Socrates’ conceptions of justice. Crito’s opinion is exactly that of “the many.” Respect for law is a sort of path that, although lower than Socratic philosophy, leads one to the correct conclusion most of the time.

However, I cannot speak for 100swallows’ interpretation of the Crito. I don’t recall that Socrates said one harmed the gods by killing themself.

Plato thought he was innocent but a majority of those 500 judge/jurors found him guilty.”

“I read that Socrates thought that he could have changed the vote if only he had had more time.”

It is true that there was a law that only allowed Socrates’ trial to go on for one day. Socrates says such law is “imprudent.” But Socrates also points out that there has been a longstanding bias built up against him, accrued over years and years, in no small part due to the play The Clouds, which portrayed Socrates as a sophistic philosopher who studied ridiculous questions of natural science. It isn’t clear the court would have overturned the rule with more time.

9. cantueso - December 9, 2009

To Thag:

My point was that he should not have killed himself, but let the Authorities do the demeaning job of bribing a man to accept the shame of killing anonymously.

There is the problem. In this context we could again quote Unamuno, the Spanish philosopher, who wrote to the King of Spain:

“Sir, abolish the death penalty, not to save the criminal, but to save the executioner.”

Indeed.
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However

Though I refrained from saying so, I do think he should have fled, because he knew that the State was corrupt and you do not obey laws issued by a corrupt authority. By obeying those laws, he strengthens them.

In that regard read Sophocles’ Antigone. Or Cardinal Newman.

10. lollipop - December 15, 2009

Look up http://chandrag.wordpress.com/2009/12/

She is very good at “these numbers” (Hamlet?)

11. snowy - January 13, 2010

So then what count as suicide can anyone consider that Captain Oates committed suicide?

12. cantueso - January 13, 2010

No. Captain Oates’ death is never considered suicide. He thought that he could help the other members of the expedition survive. Ethically his situation was similar to that of soldiers in a war.

Socrates had to deal with the law.


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