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Three Millennia of Greek Literature
The Greeks Us / Greece in West  

Augustine, Socrates fought foolishness, Plato perfected philosophy

From The City of God, tr. by M. Dods 


The Original Greek New Testament

   SOCRATES is said to have been the first who directed the entire effort of philosophy to the correction and regulation of manners, all who went before him having expended their greatest efforts in the investigation of physical, that is, natural phenomena. However, it seems to me that it cannot be certainly discovered whether Socrates did this because he was wearied of obscure and uncertain things, and so wished to direct his mind to the discovery of something manifest and certain, which was necessary in order to the obtaining of a blessed life- that one great object toward which the labour, vigilance, and industry of all philosophers seem to have been directed- or whether (as some yet more favourable to him suppose) he did it because he was unwilling that minds defiled with earthly desires should essay to raise themselves upward to divine things. For he saw that the causes of things were sought for by them- which causes he believed to be ultimately reducible to nothing else than the will of the one true and supreme God- and on this account he thought they could only be comprehended by a purified mind; and therefore that all diligence ought to be given to the purification of the life by good morals, in order that the mind, delivered from the depressing weight of lusts, might raise itself upward by its native vigour to eternal things and might, with purified understanding, contemplate that nature which is incorporeal and unchangeable light, where live the causes of all created natures.

It is evident, however, that he hunted out and pursued, with a wonderful pleasantness of style and argument and with a most pointed and insinuating urbanity, the foolishness of ignorant men, who thought that they knew this or that, sometimes confessing his own ignorance and sometimes dissimulating his knowledge, even in those very moral questions to which he seems to have directed the whole force of his mind. And hence there arose hostility against him, which ended in his being calumniously impeached, and condemned to death. Afterwards, however, that very city of the Athenians, which had publicly condemned him, did publicly bewail him, the popular indignation having turned with such vehemence on his accusers that one of them perished by the violence of the multitude, whilst the other only escaped a like punishment by voluntary and perpetual exile.

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    Cf. Whitehead, Wide opportunities for experience  Russell Lowell, Fecundating minds  Emerson, Disclosing in every fact a germ of expansion  Heidegger, Through a foundational poetic and noetic experience of Being  W.K.C. Guthrie, Life of Plato and philosophical influences  *  Plato anthology  W. Davis, A Day in Old Athens  Papacy

Three Millennia of Greek Literature

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