A History of Greek Philosophy / SOCRATES
SOCRATESThe crisis of philosophy—Philosophic midwifery—The wisest of men—The gadfly of Athens—Justice, beauty, utility—Virtue is knowledge—The dialectic method—Instruction through humiliation—Justice and utility—Righteousness transcending rule
The sophistic teaching having forced philosophy to descend into the practical interests and personal affairs of men, it followed that any further step in philosophy, any reaction against the Sophists, could only begin from the moral point of view. Philosophy, as an analysis of the data of perception or of nature, had issued in a social and moral chaos. Only by brooding on the moral chaos could the spirit of truth evoke a new order; only out of the moral darkness could a new intellectual light be made to shine. The social and personal anarchy seemed to be a reductio ad absurdum of the philosophy of nature; if ever the philosophy of nature was to be recovered it must be through a revision of the theory of morals. If it could be proved that the doctrine of individualism, of isolation, which the analysis of a Protagoras or a Gorgias had reached, was not only unlivable but unthinkable,—carried the seeds of its own destruction, theoretical as well as practical, within itself,—then the analysis of perception, from which this moral individualism issued, might itself be called to submit to revision, and a stable point of support in the moral world might thus become a centre of stability for the intellectual and the physical also.
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