greek fatalism and socrates

the book can be downloaded at

Assignment #4


For the first part of this assignment you are to read in your book about Greek fatalism and Socrates. Your written assignment is the following:

Answer the following questions in no less than two pages giving reasons for your conclusions:

1. What is Greek fatalism and how did fatalism find its way into all aspects of Greek life?

2. Is believing in fate the same as believing in a myth or myths? If so, how? If not, then why not?

Now, using your search engine I want you to research Socrates. Simply type the key words ‘Socrates’ apology’ in your search engine and you will find many active sites. However, I will not accept anything that comes from Wikpedia Encyclopedia. Wikpedia is considered a bad joke among academics and if yo are interested in why you may search for this controversy through Google or Yahoo. However, once again, no submissions that reference Wikpedia. You will find many sites on-line and those that end with ‘edu’ infer they are from a university or college. This is acceptable.

Please read pages 56-72. This will cover Socrates. Then, go to the Apology website that you find in your search. You will learn about Socrates’s trial and his eventual death by the state. Once you have read the apology you will need to complete the following as indicated below:


You have just finished looking over early Greek philosophy ending with Socrates. While Socrates effected perhaps the most profound shift in philosophical thinking in Greece, it’s obvious that it didn’t go over too well because he was put to death.

But Socrates completely changed classical education; by the time of the Roman Republic, in fact, Socrates’s skepticism became the dominant aspect of classical education in Greece and Rome. In particular, Socratic skepticism led to the single most popular educational exercise in Roman and Greek schools, arguing in utremque partem , or arguing both sides of a question. Here’s how it worked. The teacher gave the students a question that has two sides, for instance: “Was Polyphemos justified in eating Odysseus and his men?” One student would be assigned one side of the question (Polyphemos was justified) and another student was assigned the other side of the question. They would then prepare their arguments and then publicly argue the case in front of the rest of the class. Then they had to switch sides, that is, the first student would have to argue the position opposite his own while the second student also took a position opposed to his first. In other words, each student had to argue both sides of the question. It didn’t matter which side was right. All that mattered was which student could best argue both sides of the question. This is called ‘reasoning’.

While this kind of exercise is a far cry from what Socrates had in mind, you can see it starts from the same foundation: that nothing is certain. If nothing is certain, that means that there is no right or wrong answer to any question; there are only well-argued answers and poorly-argued answers.

Your job is to take a position at Socrates’s trial: is he guilty of the charges brought against him or is he innocent?This is the only question you will need to answer. In other words, you will serve as either a prosecuting attorney or a defense attorney. However, you don’t get to choose your side. Instead, your side will be assigned to you. If your first name begins with an odd-numbered letter (a,c,e,g,i,k,m,o,q,s,u,w,y), then your job is to prosecute Socrates, that is, to construct a convincing argument why he should be found guilty of the charges that Meletus and company have brought against him. If your first name begins with an even-numbered letter (b,d,f,h,j,l,n,p,r,t,v,w,z), then you will act as Socrates’ defense attorney, that is, you should persuasively argue that Socrates is innocent of the charges brought against him.

Your Argument

The most important evidence you can use, and that you must use, to make your argument are the words that Socrates speaks in his own defense; in other words, your primary evidence is the text of The Apology (you can find it online at the website I gave you or at other sites). If you are prosecuting Socrates, you must use Socrates’s words against him. Does he prove the allegations against himself? Does his answer show that he is, indeed, undermining the moral character of Athens? If you are defending Socrates, then you should use his words to prove that the charges are groundless.In addition, you may use the submissions of others in the class as evidence; for example, if you are defending Socrates, you may respond to one of the claims of someone who is prosecuting him.

The whole issue revolves around Socrates’s relentless questioning. His basic position is that no one knows anything at all except himself, and he knows one and only one thing: that he knows nothing. As a result, he has spent his life questioning people. He continues to asks questions until he catches them in a contradiction or inconsistency, at which point he has proven that they don’t know the answer. This is a radically skeptical position; imagine proving to your parents that every thing they know and every opinion they have is wrong. That’s in a nutshell what Socrates did. So the heart of your argument will revolve around this radical questioning: does such radical skepticism and questioning undermine society and morality, or does it improve society and morality?


To do well, you will need to provide a strong argument either in defense of Socrates or in favor of his prosecution; this argument must be no shorter than four pages. You should begin with a clear thesis statement, and your argument should be based primarily on the words of Socrates himself from the text of the Apology.


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