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History of Philosophy
Socrates and the Socratic Schools
by Turner, William (S.T.D.)

In this second period of its history Greek philosophy reaches its highest development. It is a comparatively short period, being comprised within the life spans of the three men who so dominated the philosophic thought of their age that their names, rather than the names of schools or cities, are used to mark off the three subdivisions into which the study of the period naturally falls. We shall, therefore, consider
  • I. Socrates and the imperfectly Socratic Schools.
  • II. Plato and the Academics.
  • III. Aristotle and the Peripatetics.
The problem with which this period had to deal had already been formulated by the Sophists, -- how to save the intellectual and moral life of the nation, which was threatened by materialism and scepticism. Socrates answered by determining the conditions of intellectual knowledge, and by laying deep the scientific foundation of ethics. Plato, with keener insight and more comprehensive understanding, developed the Socratic doctrine of concepts into a system of metaphysics, gigantic in its proportions, but lacking in that solidity of foundation which characterized the Aristotelian structure. Aristotle carried the Socratic idea to its highest perfection, and, by prosecuting a vigorous and systematic study of nature, supplied what was defective in Plato's metaphysical scheme. The central problem was always the same; the answer was also the same, though in different degrees of organic development, -- concept, Idea, essence. The view adopted was neither entirely subjective nor entirely objective, -- the concept doctrine, which was the first and simplest answer, being the typical formula for the union of subject and object, of self and not-self.


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