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The Life of Xenophon and the Death of Socrates, Essay Example

Pages: 2

Words: 440

Essay

1.Recount some of the major biographical details of Xenophon’s life and of his involvement with Socrates.

The root of the Socratic Problem is that Socrates himself was not in the habit of writing down his thoughts, and preferred speaking and conversation for sharing his ideas and philosophies. The written records we have about Socrates, therefore, were written by others, some who knew him well, and some who did not. Aristophanes wrote Clouds, a play that featured Socrates as a comic, ridiculous figure. Plato wrote about Socrates and presented him as intelligent and charismatic. Xenophon also wrote about Socrates, and his portrait of Socrates, like the others, offered insight into the great philosopher while also telling us something about the author as well.

Many details of Xenophon’s life are unknown, but there are some facts that have survived over the centuries. It has been estimated that he was born sometime around 441 B.C.E., though the exact date of his birth is uncertain. Xenophon was born into a well-off family, and he likely had a good education when he was growing up. He had an interest in government and politics, and felt that good government must bring together strength and enlightenment. Although Xenophon clearly admired and valued intelligence, many of his critics claim that he was not particularly smart, and even that he represented Socrates poorly because he was unable to truly understand the philosopher’s ideas. Xenophon’s father’s name was Gryllus; when he later had two sons he gave his father’s name to one of them. By his own account, Xenophon was an accomplished military tactician, and he was actually engaged in a military operation in Persia when Socrates was condemned to death and subsequently executed.

2. Explain the reasons why Socrates seems to choose death according to Xenophon.

Although Xenophon was not present at the trial of Socrates, he clearly felt a responsibility to write about him, perhaps to counter the negative public perception of the philosopher that was common among many Athenians. In his Apology, Xenophon describes a conversation between Socrates and Hermogenes in which Socrates discusses the possibility that he will be put to death. According to Xenophon, Socrates did not fear death, and in a way he even welcomed it. Socrates was concerned that if he lived a much longer life, he would lose his eyesight and suffer other health effects, and would die a miserable death. If he were executed by the court, however, he would leave this life with his faculties and his health mostly intact.

Works Cited

Navia, Lewis E. (2007). Socrates: A life examined. Prometheus Books. Amherst, NY.

Navia, Lewis E. (2002). Socratic testimonies. University Press of America. Lanham, MD.

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