The Role Of Wisdom In Socrates 'Euthydemus'

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I argue that Socrates espoused an expectation of happiness that was essentially unachievable since it relied, chiefly, upon the telos of wisdom, the character of which he never explicitly defined, and the qualification of which, by all accounts general to his culture, he defied. Furthermore, I argue that Socrates could only claim happiness in terms of the search for wisdom and not in terms of the telos of wisdom-qua-wisdom. This is important since it indicates a fundamental contradiction in the Greek notion of the importance of results (rather than processes), as later qualified by Aristotle. The vast majority of the Western World is quick to identify Socrates as happy. Plato’s Euthydemus is generally considered to be the first philosophical…show more content…
He very deliberately departs from the cultural notion that good fortune is the most significant impetus of individual prosperity in three ways (Euthydemus 278-282). Firstly, Socrates argues that luck is essentially an unrepeatable characteristic of any particular situation, and at the whims of random chance, birth, or other men. Secondly, as Daniel Hagen pointed out earlier this year, he demonstrates how particular learned skills, when applied at graded levels from novice to master, necessarily demonstrates wisdom (Euthydemus 280d7-281b4). Thirdly, he argues that goodness in one’s life should not be measured in the accumulation of material items, but in the accumulation of wisdom. Socrates shows a relation between goods and wisdom when he argues that aggregate individual wisdom is improved over one’s lifetime and this improvement may be quantified in terms of material goods acquired. In essence, he argues that greater acquisition of goods only comes through correctly applied wisdom, thus it is the wisdom itself (not the material goods) that is most important. Socrates concludes by arguing (in Apology, not Euthydemus) that misfortune and other men may take away all the material goods of a wise man, including his life, but they can never take his acquired wisdom (Apology 29d2-30b4). It is on this final point that we find one of the chief rationales to call Socrates a happy man—because his death cannot negate his accumulated wisdom, and since happiness is the telos of wisdom, Socrates must be a happy man. Add to this his own argument describing how, in fact, he finds happiness in his forthcoming

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