Socrates and Descartes are some of the greatest Greek philosophers of their time as they greatly impacted western and modern day thoughts or philosophy. They are known as fathers of philosophy as a result of their philosophical inquiry which forms the basis of modern day thoughts. Socrates was an inscrutable individual and one of the philosophers who demonstrated enigma during his lifetime. He changed the manner in which philosophy is conceived, although he did not write anything. The Socratic teaching method or elenctic is one such thought that survived throughout several years. Descartes, on the other hand, started his inquiry on First philosophy through doubting everything, something that led to his famous claim of 'Cognito ergo sum'. This philosophical statement from Descartes became a strong foundational element to Western rationalism ideologies (Descartes 57).
Socratic Method is an open system involving philosophical inquiry that allows an individual to interrogate things from several vantage points. It starts with a teacher asking a simple question and in the event that the student answers back, the teacher responds with related questions that drive the student into deep thoughts to offer an answer. It refutes an argument through proof of falsehood or application of indirect modes of proof at the conclusion stage. Since Socrates wrote nothing, the majority of information touching on his doctrine and personality is found in his conversations and Plato's dialogues (Scott 65).
Socrates used this teaching in Athens on issues touching on philosophy and law. This is because it invokes various thoughts from the student that results into a clearly thought answer or response. Socratic methods are one the greatest achievement in the history as it makes philosophical inquiry open to everyone and common human enterprise. Instead of delving so much on allegiance to a particular philosophical analytic technique, specialized vocabulary, or school of thought, it emphasizes critical thoughts. Socrates used this technique in Athens to engage people over the meaning or definition of some ideas, cross-examine them until a clear meaning that cannot be refuted came out for some philosophical questions at that time. Things were changing fast in the Athenian community, and Socrates was in great need of individuals who could sit and reason together in whatever issue was emerging in the society at that time (Scott 98). There was a need to analyze societal problems, reason by analogy, think critically into an individual's own argument, and put forth your thoughts to others to understand. This was of great significance since participants were able to develop, articulate, and defend various positions that at first looked imperfect or defined by intuitions.
Socrates, a renowned Greek philosopher, was charged with three primary crimes or offences. The first charge related to the accusation of corrupting young people, second related to the refusal to acknowledge gods already recognized by the state, and third was introduction of new gods. The rational of the charge of corrupting young people was to protect minors or youths from exploitation by adults. Socrates was also charged for doing injustice by investigating things in the earth and under heavens. Although, Socrates made the weaker argument appears stronger, he says, and it is true that he does not know everything below the heavens or on earth. There was no justifiable rational for punishing Socrates by encouraging his students to uphold and follow his footsteps against the radical democracy of the state. In relation to crimes of not acknowledging the gods recognizing by the state and introducing his own strange divinities, I find no rational. Every individual in the society should be given the freedom to decide what religion or beliefs they are going to ascribe to or follow. It was, therefore, not in order or right for the state to impose matters of religion or belief to individuals of autonomy such as Socrates. There was no problem, and they ought to be no punishment for following principles against the will of the people. Therefore, Socrates was not guilty of any of the charges because he did not contravene the Constitution or directly violate any laws of the land, and all this was a result of radical democracy.
The things that Socrates did were so valuable for the society as he introduced principles and things which later became beneficial to the society. For instance, he introduced the Socratic teaching method which is still widely used in contemporary society. Socrates also introduced principles of democracy such as voting through ballot that was not practiced earlier in the society. Some aspects of rules of natural justice and fair trial also became evident during his trial in regards to the justification of the charges and the chance to defend oneself. The modern man then continues to benefit by leading Socratic lifestyle (Scott 62).
"Cognito ergo sum" translates to 'I think, therefore, I am' and it is one of the philosophical statements coined by Descartes. This is a philosophical statement to the effect that an object or person must exist before they can be said to think. It argues that no one can verify that anything else exists, and anything cannot verify that the first objects were capable of independent existence. Thus, for someone or something to exist, they must have the ability and capacity to think. If that person or thing can think, then certainly they do exist. This philosophical statement from Descartes became a strong foundational element to Western rationalism ideologies Descartes 57). This statement is also the basis of the theory of dualism evident during his time and today. The intermingling of body and mind and thinking substance demonstrates Descartes' argument of genuine human being. Descartes also described as the father of contemporary philosophy came to the realization that no one could analyze the problem at the common sense level without probing the micro-level (Dicker 154). Descartes used skepticism extremely in his work as he is interested in the nature of reality. Descartes systematically analyzes the things that are real and those which are mere illusions. To create sufficient and adequate understanding of reality, he uses the wax example.
Descartes use the technique of doubting everything that he believed to discredit other different types of knowledge. He argues that the only it is without doubt that the only he believes to exist is nothing else but his own mind. He argues that other types of knowledge results from the deception of the devil so that people can believe what they perceive. This argument forming his basis, Descartes concluded that other types of knowledge are irrelevant or are not worthy. These types of knowledge are the delusions of the dreams devised by the devil to see that human beings suffer. He argued that the very moment that he will cease to think is exactly the same moment that he will cease to entirely exist. Descartes does not believe that the information that human beings receive is accurate. The method he employs is discrediting some other types of arguments is the thinking test (Descartes 119). He first threw out things that he thought he had some knowledge on and refused to believe everything inclusive of the most basic premises prior to satisfaction of proof. Through this method of demolition and reconstruction, he thought other arguments were useless, and there was no need to tear them down. Descartes thrived on what seemed as a strong foundation to him which is the notion that sense perception transmits accurate information (Dicker 197).
Descartes employs this method because he believes that the body is a machine which, although built and put together will fail to function or move in the absence of mind. He advances mechanistic view, which is the argument that the body is totally independent of the mind. He uses this method because he believes and can explain the manner in which spirits go to the brain cavities, extent to the nerves and reshape the muscles for the body to move. He then compares the body to other different mechanical objects such as fountains and clocks. However, he concludes that the body of human beings was unique in the sense that it was built in an extraordinary manner compared to other man-made devices.
According to Descartes, for someone or something to exist, they must have the ability and capacity to think. If that person or thing can think, then certainly they do exist. Descartes, therefore, uses this theory or argument to prove that indeed he does exist. He exhibits strong abilities that are devoid of devil's dreams and delusions when it comes to thinking. He demonstrates the difference between the body and the mind in the sense that the mind is perfectly indivisible while the body is completely divisible. He argues that the mind and the body are two different things which are interconnected and related. For instance, that any part of the body can be removed or amputated without taking away or affecting the mind. The nexus between the body and the mind is what constitutes a human being according to Descartes (Dicker 240).
Descartes came to realize that corporeal reality does not exist and that it cannot be that God is playing games or tricks on him. That is not enough to say that God will not intentionally deceive him because he believes in Him. He notes that the mind of a human being is capable of perception and thought something he explains using a piece of work. Descartes essentially notes that there are particular characteristics that are ordinarily used to identify wax. It must look, smell, and feel like wax, and it must be wax for an individual to reach a conclusion that it is wax. However, when wax is melt, it always burns and turn black at the same time. It melts and gives a different odor, but it remains wax and there is no problem in identifying it. Descartes then argues that these are inherent characteristics of wax. They are similar to tools of the mind or perception which makes the mind deduct what something is or looks like. In terms of philosophical underpinnings, Descartes concludes that the perfection does not strictly flow from the senses and that the reasoning mind in the one that makes the judgment. Physical objects such as bodies are only properly perceived by the intellect because the sense is capable of being deceived (Descartes 67).
Descartes, Rene. Meditations on First Philosophy,1988. Print.
Scott, Gary A. Does Socrates Have a Method?: Rethinking the Elenchus in Plato's Dialogues and Beyond. University Park, Pa: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2003. Print.
Dicker, Georges. Descartes: An Analytical and Historical Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. Print.