Answer to Question #176939 in History for Feby Abraham

Question #176939

Explain how Socrates embodied the beliefs and ideals of their respective civilization and culture. There are many ways to approach this question, but be sure to analyze your thinker’s core ideas and place them in their appropriate historical context.

Expert's answer

Although he never outright rejected the standard Athenian view of religion, Socrates' beliefs were nonconformist. He often referred to God rather than the gods, and reported being guided by an inner divine voice.

The Greeks at the time of Socrates and Plato had experienced a criticism of the tales and the morality of the gods in their dramas performed in public amphitheaters.  There was a raising of questions concerning the moral foundation that was disturbing the order.  Chaos was threatening!  There was a noticeable breakdown of traditions.  There was a decline in respect for both the tradition and the laws.  The Greeks were familiar with speculation about the nature of the universe that did not involve the deities.  They had experienced a development in technology that afforded a much higher quality of life than known by their ancestors.  Through trade, travel and warfare they had come to know of other peoples, their history and cultures; their belief systems and values.  The Greeks were undergoing a shift in their worldviews and along with that a change in their values, their ethical orientation and conceptual frameworks.  In these ways the Greeks of 400 BC are like the peoples of advanced technological societies today in a post-modern era. 

Greek culture was mythopoetic, based upon myths and transmitted through poetry.  These tales had an imaginative character and an emotional one as well.  The myths proclaim a truth, which transcends reasoning.  These myths try to bring about the truth that they proclaim: the moral truths.  The myths are a form of action or ritual behavior, which must proclaim and elaborate a poetic form of truth.  The logic of the events, the order of causality, is anthropomorphic.  If one asks "why" things are as they are , then the answer will be in the form of "who" is responsible or the agent behind the events.    The function of these myths, as in most cultures, is to explain, unify, and order experience.  The myths dispel chaos.  They reveal a structure, order, coherence and meaning not otherwise evident.  


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