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Socrates (about 470 - 399 years BC) was a famous ancient thinker who taught his philosophy in Athens. In the history of philosophy, there is no probably more well-known figure than Socrates. Even in ancient times, he was the embodiment of wisdom and the ideal of a sage in the minds of people. Socrates made the knowledge of "nature" of the human the subject of philosophy, its main task and main purpose. He considered this knowledge possible only due to self-knowledge in accordance with the principle discover yourself. There are the theme of human, the problem of life and death, good and evil, virtue and vice, right and duty, freedom and responsibility, individual and society at the heart of Socratic thought. In this paper, I will evaluate Socrates' claim that "the unexamined life is not worth living" (Apology 38a) in the context of his theory of self-knowledge.
The aspiration for self-knowledge was typical for early Greek philosophy, but only Socrates made the statement "discover yourself" a formula of wisdom and the main part of his teaching. Socrates saw the task of philosophy in the study of ethical and cognitive aspects of human life and activity. Socrates believed that people need the knowledge of their selves and their affairs, understanding the purpose of their activity, a clear recognition what is good and evil, beauty and ugliness, truth and error. The road of self-knowledge leads one to understand his/her place in the world. A person who knows him/herself knows what is good for him/her and distinguishes what can be done and what cannot be done. Socrates believed that consistent knowledge of ones own self is the foundation of understanding of ethical principles. Socrates emphasized the importance of conscience, the "inner voice," which he called demon and which was his guarantee of the comprehension of truth. Demon, according to Socrates, had a divine origin. Socrates believed that it is through this "demon" that gods allocated people and informed them about the meaning of the universe.
The ancient philosopher was convinced that the only way of self-cultivation is to penetrate in own "me", ones own inner world. No less important is the right choice of values, the right way of thinking and acting. According to the teachings of Socrates, firstly it is necessary to consider the nature of knowledge. For self-knowledge, figuring out what is knowledge itself is particularly important. Knowledge (awareness), according to Socrates, makes people noble. Due to Socrates, a person who really knows what is good and what is evil will not do bad things.
Based on this idea, Socrates brought the problem of knowledge to a new level by making the subject of philosophical analysis knowledge itself. The true knowledge is to help people discover the absolute truth. Thus, self-knowledge leads to the knowledge of objective truth that does not depend on peoples opinion. True knowledge, as Socrates understood it, is intended to give people correct guidelines for everyday life. Therefore, the value of all knowledge is to learn how to intelligently guide human affairs. The road of self-knowledge leads one to understand his/her own place in the world, to the elucidation of what he/she is as a person. Socrates believed that a persons inner world is not empty. The sage said that stupidity is not when a person knows not much, but when a person does not know him/herself and at the same time, he/she supposes that he/she knows him/herself. Socrates was convinced that ignorance, or rather the knowledge of own ignorance, might result in knowledge. In other words, ignorance is the prerequisite of knowledge since it stimulates the search and makes one reflect and look for the truth. After all, the person who does not doubt the truth of his/her knowledge and believes that he/she is very well-versed in all things does not need to search, to think, and to reflect.
Based on the idea that the highest form of loyalty to others is loyalty to ones own moral conscience, Socrates called for the responsibility of each of us for own life. Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living (Plato), meaning by this that every member of society must realize the true value of life, and not just their own, but the lives of other people. Self-awareness was particularly important for Socrates since only people who understand their mental essence, which is in virtuous life, can create an effective society, in which justice, honesty and humanity in relation to other people will prevail.
Self-knowledge for Socrates had a definite meaning. To really know oneself is to know oneself as both a social and a moral being, and not only as a person, but as a human being generally. The main content and the goal of Socrates philosophy were ethical issues. Socrates started from the awareness of the lack of his knowledge in the form of a skeptical thesis: "I know that I know nothing." Socrates considered doubt as a great way to self-knowledge.
He taught that only this way might lead to the truth of understanding justice, law, piety, good, and evil. As an objection to Socrates idea, one can use the ideas of materialists and sophists who also offered their ethical theories. Materialists denied the existence of the divine reason in the world spoken of by Socrates. In turn, sophists doubted the existence of objective truth (for example, the objective truth of good or evil), arguing that the concepts of good and evil as well as other ethical concepts are relative. Every person understands what is good and evil based on his/her own principles of life.
To Socrates, life had value only in the case when a person knew humans true essence. In that case, a person should not even be afraid of death. Not by chance the last words of Socrates were the following: The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways I to die, and you to live. Which is better God only knows (Plato).
The life of Socrates is one of the most striking episodes in the history of European culture. Socrates developed the principles of rational thinking. He also approved in the peoples minds the belief in objective truth and the ability of each person to comprehend on their own. Socrates has found his own way to comprehend the truth. He emphasized that the purpose of his philosophies was to assist people to find "themselves." To Socrates, the meaning of human life was in philosophizing, in constant self-knowledge, and the eternal search for own self. These Socrates thoughts sharply separated him, for example, from the sophists, many of whom were his contemporaries. The doubt "I know that I know nothing" was, according to the teachings of Socrates, a way that might lead to self-knowledge "discover yourself."
Socrates was convinced that a person who does not know his/her own essence cannot live a full life as his life is not worth anything. Self-knowledge was essential to Socrates, because he saw in it not only the internal harmony where people live in harmony with themselves, but also the outer harmony, where people live in harmony with others. One should not forget that a person in the teachings of Socrates is a social creature, whose main task is to coexist with other people harmoniously. According to Socrates, it is necessary to appeal to self-knowledge and the human spirit in order to find it in the basis of religion and morality. Doubt served to Socrates is a prerequisite for access to own me, to the subjective spirit, for which further way led to the objective spirit, namely to the divine mind.