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A History of Philosophy in Epitome by Schwegler

The positive complement of the Sophistic principle

its untruth is that it established

the accidental will and notion of the individual upon the throne. To carry out now the principle of freedom and self-consciousness to its truth, to gain a true world of objective thought with a real and distinct content, by the same means of reflection which the Sophists had only used to destroy it, to establish the objective will, the rational thinking, the absolute or ideal in the place of the empirical subjectivity was the problem of the next advent in philosophy, the problem which Socrates took up and solved. To make the absolute or ideal subjectivity instead of the empirical for a principle, is to affirm that the true measure of all things is not _my_ (_i. e._ the individual person's) opinion, fancy and will; that what is true, right and good, does not depend upon my caprice and arbitrary determination, or upon that of any other empirical subject; but while it is _my_ thinking, it is my _thinking_, the rational within me, which has to decide upon all those points. But my thinking, my reason, is not something specially belonging to me, but something common to every rational being; something universal, and in so far as I am a rational and thinking being, is my subjectivity a universal one. But every thinking individual has the consciousness that what he holds as right, as duty, as good or evil, does not appear as such to him alone but to every rational being, and that consequently his thinking has the character of universality, of universal validity, in a word--of objectivity.
This then in opposition to the Sophistic philosophy is the standpoint of Socrates, and therefore with him the _philosophy of objective thought_ begins. What Socrates could do in opposition to the Sophists was to show that reflection led to the same results as faith or obedience, hitherto without reflection, had done, and that the thinking man guided by his free consciousness and his own conviction, would learn to form the same judgments and take the same course to which life and custom had already and unconsciously induced the ordinary man. The position, that while the man is the measure of all things, it is the man as universal, as thinking, as rational, is the fundamental thought of the Socratic philosophy, which is, by virtue of this thought, the positive complement of the Sophistic principle.

With Socrates begins the second period of the Grecian philosophy. This period contains three philosophical systems, whose authors, standing to each other in the personal relation of teacher and pupil, represent three successive generations,--SOCRATES, PLATO, ARISTOTLE.



1. HIS PERSONAL CHARACTER.--The new philosophical principle appears in the personal character of Socrates. His philosophy is his mode of acting as an individual; his life and doctrine cannot be separated. His biography, therefore, forms the only complete representation of his philosophy, and what the narrative of Xenophon presents us as the definite doctrine of Socrates, is consequently nothing but an abstract of his inward character, as it found expression from time to time in his conversation. Plato yet more regarded his master as such an archetypal personality, and a luminous exhibition of the historical Socrates is the special object of his later and maturer dialogues, and of these again, the Symposium is the most brilliant apotheosis of the Eros incarnated in the person of Socrates, of the philosophical impulse transformed into character.

Socrates was born in the year 469 B. C, the son of Sophroniscus, a sculptor, and Phaenarete, a midwife. In his youth he was trained by his father to follow his own profession, and in this he is said not to have been without skill. Three draped figures of the Graces, called the work of Socrates, were seen by Pausanias, upon the Akropolis. Little farther is known of his education. He may have profited by the instruction of Prodicus and the musician, Damon, but he stood in no personal connection with the proper philosophers, who flourished before, or cotemporaneously with him. He became what he was by himself alone, and just for this reason does he form an era in the old philosophy. If the ancients call him a scholar of Anaxagoras, or of the natural philosopher, Archelaus, the first is demonstrably false, and the second, to say the least, is altogether improbable. He never sought other means of culture than those afforded in his native city. With the exception of one journey to a public festival, the military campaigns which led him as far as Potidaea, Delion, and Amphipolis, he never left Athens.

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