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The Nature of Philosophy

Part A: Short Essay Question

Together with the sophists, Socrates opened a new era of the history of ancient philosophy, turning from cosmology and natural philosophy to the problem of a man, namely to the problem of the human mind. At certain periods of time, it was something similar to a philosophical revolution. His strong interest in analyzing traditional human concepts to ensure their clarity and his intentions to keep all the best and crush the worst things in them caused confusion and fear among his contemporaries. Thus, Socrates was accused of popularizing atheism, corrupting the youth, undermining the existing political system, and even of introducing some new deities. Plato described the process of Socrates’ acquisition in detail in his research entitled Apology. The essay explores the use of the term ‘gadfly’ used to refer to Socrates in the Apology and its place in the discipline of philosophy as well as its relationship with the other academic and intellectual pursuits. The essay also evaluates Socrates’ argument that the unexamined life is not worth living.

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In the modern political science, “gadfly” denotes a person that interferes in the political life of a state by means of writing articles, novels, or treatises. This meaning comes from ancient Greece and the Apology of Socrates, which Aristippus, Xenophon, and other ancient philosophers wrote under the influence of Socrates. The Apology of Socrates is the only work of Plato written not in a dialogue form. Plato delivers to Socrates powerful speeches which are able to raise important arguments and literally transform the philosophy. In this workSocrates referred to himself as “gadfly:” “I am the gadfly of the Athenian people” (Plato, 2004, n.d.). The thinker underlined in his speech that he is “given by God” (Plato, 2004, n.d.) to the Athenians, and they will never have another gadfly in case they decide to expel him. Considering these words, it is clear that Socrates believed that he was sent to the Athenians from heaven to act as a “gadfly” (Plato, 2004, n.d.) and to interfere in their political life, since the ancient philosopher considered the Greek state “a great and noble steed” that does not understand the duties (Plato, 2004, n.d.).

The metaphor “I am that gadfly, which God has attached to the state” (Plato, 2004, n.d.) precisely determined the discipline of philosophy and changed its relationship with other academic and intellectual fields of science, such as political science and ethics. It helped a phenomenon of ‘gadfly’ emerge in the succeeding politics, which permitted to interfere in the political life of another country due to various treatises and articles. Nonetheless, this new approach, in my opinion, established a solid basis for modern journalism. Besides, acting against the ethical norms, a concept of being “gadfly” changed the ethical concepts in the political and societal spheres in general.

Socrates’ argument, which consists in a famous metaphor, claims that “the unexamined life is not worth living” (Plato, 2004, n.d.). This statement underwent many modifications and was the reason why this outstanding philosopher was accused of corrupting the youth. To my way of thinking, these words represent a difficult choice between two alternatives: a choice of a noble death or a disgraceful life. This metaphoric phrase reflects the option Socrates was forced to choose: to live the rest of his life in silence or to leave Athens. He did not want to leave his native town, so this matter became a question of pride and honor to him. Hence, Socrates chose death from the sentence which missed a valid argumentation. The scholar was not able to remain silent and to observe the political situation in his country and the structure of the government. This choice embodied an unexamined life for him. As a result, unwilling to abandon an unexplored life, Socrates did not have any other alternatives rather than to kill himself. Despite the Plato’s logic, the readers still lack strong argumentation. The Socrates’ prosecutors stated that he was engaged in natural philosophy. Socrates himself emphasized that he was not involved in it. It can hardly be considered a logical reason as mere denial is not yet the proof of its absence. At the same time, the interpretation of his wisdom as knowledge of the fact of the absence of any knowledge also has ascertaining evidence, rather than argumentative character in the Apology. I suppose that Socrates did not simply claim that an examined life is better than its alternative, because he was passionately devoted to his principles and beliefs. He could not remain passive in his hometown and stop writing clandestine treatises that his followers could find and study later. Thus, it is possible to assume that Socrates certainly knows from his life experience what it meant to live freely, devoted to your values and principles. If the philosopher could not say that the examined life is just more useful, then he really believed that only a free life is worth living. Consequently, “the unexamined life” (Plato, 2004, n.d.) denotes a life limited by choices and rules imposed by others without any legitimate reasons. It means an activity totally deprived of freedom and a possibility to create.

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In conclusion, in terms of modern philosophy and rules of argumentation, the Apology certainly gets the highest points. The readers can see a majestic inflexible thinker, who was sentenced to death because of unfounded allegations. Talking about the logical aspect of the treatise, it is evident that Plato did not pay enough attention to the forms of the arguments. For this reason, Socrates’ main argument against any accusations was only the negation of the latter. The Apology has a strong metaphoric influence on humanity. The phrase “the unexamined life was not worth living” expressed by Socrates served a basis for numerous debates. At the end, the philosopher chose to die rather than live the unexamined life. Despite the choice or even due to the choice, Socrates remains for people a fully-fledged symbol of the core methods and principles of philosophy. The vital power of this image breaks purely logical arguments and gains great philosophical and moral significance to every unprejudiced researcher of the ancient philosophy.

Part B: Logic Questions

Question 1

There is a difference between an invalid deductive argument and a strong inductive argument. A deductive argument is a deductively valid statement that confirms the truth of the conclusion after the correct assumptions of the argument. It is important to remember that assumptions of a deductive argument must provide strong evidence for the conclusion. Thus, in case of the correct assumptions, the conclusion cannot be false. The following phrase represents a deductive argument:

It is windy in San Francisco.

If it is windy, she will not take her swimming suit.

So, she will not take her swimming suit this time.

If an argument is invalid, then the reasoning is not true. For example, the following statement is invalid:

People are rational. People are unserious. Then unserious people are rational.

An invalid deductive argument is considered to be a bad argument because it cannot prove that the statement itself is correct, and might even indicate that the reasoning is false.

An inductive argument, on the contrary, establishes or increases the probability of the conclusion. There is no generally accepted opinion which inductive argument is accurate. Usually the assumptions are strong enough to believe that the conclusion is false. An inductive argument with enough strength could be showed in the following example:

Every time I passed the neighbor’s dog, it did not try to bark at me.

So, when I walk this road tomorrow, the dog will not bark at me.

It is right to consider an inductive argument to be a good argument, since it has valid argumentation (Sober, 2001, p.8), despite the fact that it is not as strong as, for instance, a valid deductive argument (Sober, 2001, p.9). The strength of the inductive argument depends on a situation and combination of assumptions. However, in comparison to the invalid deductive argument it is typically regarded as “strong.”

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Question 2

The following argument is deductively invalid:

All cynical people are disgruntled.

Some meticulous people are cynical.

Therefore, some disgruntled people are not meticulous.

It is deductively invalid because the conclusion “Therefore, some disgruntled people are not meticulous” bases upon a false assumption that “Some meticulous people are cynical.” According to the rules of argumentation, a false statement in a combination with a true statement leads to the wrong conclusion (Sober, 2001, p.11). Thus, as not all meticulous people are cynical, it is not necessarily true that disgruntled people are not meticulous.

In my opinion, the best example of a valid argument with all true premises and a false conclusion is the conditional argument: “If water flows and the sun shines, the sky is blue.”

All three statements are correct from the logical point of view; however, the conclusion is invalid, because the assumptions do not relate to each other.

Question 3

I would like to choose the alternative that “The possession, ownership, and sale of handguns should be outlawed.” As far as I am concerned, it is very important to carefully regulate the laws on the firearm, since its uncontrolled use may increase the number of crimes such as murders and robberies. It is a serious problem for the fact that uncontrolled proliferation of weapons may also lead to the situation when lethal gun may be in possession of a child, people with unstable mind, and former prisoners or dangerous killers. The possession, ownership, and sale of handguns should be prohibited, because lack of proper control of these factors increases the chances of instability in the country. Unregulated use of a weapon should be banned, because it is not the best option for the holder to protect himself as it is extremely difficult to react properly with the gun in hands, especially when under stress. Furthermore, nowadays there are better solutions for self-protection as electric shocker, for instance.

Argument construction:

Unauthorized possession, ownership, and sale of handguns are dangerous if they are not controlled.

Unauthorized operations should be outlawed.

The possession, ownership, and sale of handguns should be outlawed.

This argument has a conditional form.

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