Socrates, The Predecessor Of Christ -- By: Gabriel Campbell
BSac 74:294 (April 1917) p. 194
Socrates, The Predecessor Of Christ
It is the sentiment of a noted modern philosopher that to comprehend perfectly a drop of water, its ultimate atoms, its attractions, repulsions, all its hidden powers of operation, would demand a knowledge of the entire universe. Tennyson has expressed a similar thought when he says: —
“Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
Hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower — but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.”
If such breadth of knowledge be required to analyze thoroughly a drop of water or a tiny blossom, it must be preeminently essential in the study of a human being, such a personality especially as Socrates, that we fix our eyes not exclusively upon the individual, but consider as well the age in which he lived and the people with whom he was interwoven, the circumstances by which he was fenced in and the problems with which he was called to struggle.
To this it may be objected that Socrates was an eccentric man and far from being a type of the men of his time; that for this reason his characteristics must be studied in and by themselves. Such a conclusion would be erroneous. The fact is this old philosopher was an uncommonly perfect product of
BSac 74:294 (April 1917) p. 195
the thought of his day. Most of his contemporaries were the mere slaves, nay the flexible tools, of fashion and sophistry. Socrates, it is said, was directed in all things, in all times and places, by sound reason. Careful examination confirms the opinion that even his oddities were the outcome of philosophizings too deep, ‘tis true, for the comprehension of the multitude. Alcibiades testifies that Socrates was a Silenus only “superficially,” that “to those who looked deeper his soul was a shrine of most excellent, beautiful, even worshipful divinities.” The Delphic oracle had made response: “Sophocles is wise, Euripides wiser, but of all men Socrates is the wisest.” In our own day Mr. Mill declares, “Socrates was the wisest of the wise Greeks.” Cicero testified that “Socrates brought philosophy down from heaven”; and Xenophon assures us that Socrates “never wronged any one,” “never preferred the agreeable to the good,” “always had the sanction of the gods,” and was in very deed “the best and happiest man possible.” And Plato, who occupies the master’s seat among the philosophers of all ages, whom, it is said, but one man in a century fully comprehends, whom usage has called “the divine Plato “; what was his estimate of Socrates?
The last ten years of Socrates’s li...
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