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Current time:0:00Total duration:10:57

Video transcript

ancient Greece was not even a cohesive Empire was made up of many city-states led by Athens and Sparta but despite its fragmentation it's made innumerable contributions to not just Western civilization but civilization as a whole and those are contributions in terms of forms of governance like democracy contributions in medicine contributions in the arts in the in mathematics in the sciences but perhaps their most famous contribution is in terms of philosophy and if you're going to talk about philosophy in ancient Greece the most famous three philosophers are Socrates Plato and Aristotle now before we get into the first of them and really the teacher of Plato who has been the teacher of Aristotle let's get a little bit of context on this time period so as we enter into the fifth century BCE a couple of things are emerging first you have a new Athenian democracy then as you get into that century the Persians invade try to conquer Greece several times but unsuccessfully but then the Greeks start fighting amongst themselves let on one side by Athens on the other side by Sparta and that's the Peloponnesian War which ends with Sparta being victorious but all of the Greek city-states being weakened dramatically now between the end especially the first part of the greco-persian Wars and the end of the Peloponnesian War it was actually a time of Athenian prosperity they were leaving this semi Empire they were investing in the arts and it's often called the Golden Age of Athens and that's the world in which Socrates emerged like many philosophers Socrates led a very interesting life and it's worth noting what we know about him does not come directly from his writing we don't have surviving accounts of his writing it comes mainly through the writing of his students Xena faun and most notably Plato we also get some parody of Socrates from eros deniz that Socrates himself did not appreciate much but what we know is that he started in life he was a stonemason he even acted as a soldier a hoplite during the Peloponnesian War but he's of course most famous for being a philosopher and for being a teacher and his teaching style the Socratic method is still viewed as something of a best practice today rather than lecturing students to instead ask incisive questions that force a student to deepen their thinking and get closer to the root of an issue and to learn how to think rather than just having knowledge transmitted to them now what's also notable about Socrates and his many students including Plato and Aristotle is that they took a departure of how to think about the world from most of the ancient world most of the ancient world was focused on the gods and the metaphysical explaining everything and while the ancient Greeks did have a large pantheon of gods Socrates and his fellow philosophers tried to figure out how the world works why we are here somewhat independent of the gods they tried to reason it through they tried to talk it through think about it from a rational point of view and to get a flavor of that here is a quote true wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life ourselves and the world around us so unlike many ancient societies that just try to explain everything through the metaphysical or through the gods here you have Socrates saying though an ideal true wisdom is when you appreciate how little we know this form of intellectual humility now Socrates lived during this Golden Age of Athens a time when democracy was flourishing the age of Pericles but he himself was a little bit skeptical of unfettered or pure democracy he was worried well what if the people voting aren't educated to make the types of decisions maybe they can be manipulated by a demagogue someone who just tells them exactly what they want to hear and so he was a bit of a controversial figure especially as you get to the end of the Peloponnesian War remember Athens loses the Peloponnesian War it went from being this powerful head of this Delian League something of an empire this wealthy city and now it's a subjugated state it's tired from war and so you can imagine there's a lot of political infighting and Socrates ends up being one of the casualties he is actually put on trial by his fellow Athenians this is a depiction of the trial of Socrates and it shows Socrates defending himself from the accusations brought against him fusing to recognize the gods acknowledged by the state importing strange divinities of his own corrupting the young and his defense which both Xenophon and Plato write about called the apology he's bewildered he says where is all of this coming from now it is true he did not invoke the gods when he's trying to explain the universe and yes he was trying to teach the young to think but by no means if you look at what he was doing or at least our modern accounts coming through Plato and Xenophon does it beam like he was trying to undermine the state in some way but needless to say it comes to a vote and maybe he's a victim of his own fears of a pure democratic process but amongst the 500 Athenians voting 280 say that he is guilty and 220 say that he is not guilty he's given a chance to think about what his penalty should be and the charges at least in the Athenians Minds were quite serious but Socrates famously says an unexamined life is not worth living and so even though many historians think that he might have been able to get exile if he asked for it he was sentenced to death and this is a painting done much much later of what that death of Socrates might have looked like but you showed you see here Socrates about - or maybe he just drank the hemlock which is the poison which will kill him so even though he had to die for these pretty spurious allegations his legacy lives on and it lives on most famously in his student Plato now Plato is famous for many things there's this notion of a Platonic ideal form that what you're talking about a circle or a ball or a dog or a chair that there's an ideal form that is independent of what your senses are telling you or what the chair in front of you might be but that's an imperfect version of that ideal form and the word Platonic in general you will hear applied to many different concepts some of the meanings having changed over time the other thing that Plato is famous for is the emotion of an academy the place where he taught his students was a little field outside the walls of Athens named for the Athenian hero Academy and so it be that area became known as Plato's hada me and ever since then places of learning have often been referred to as academies just like Khan Academy but Plato was also concerned like his teacher Socrates with the nature of how we should be ruled there will be no end to the troubles of states or indeed of humanity itself till philosophers become rulers in this world or till those we now call kings and rulers really and truly become philosophers and political power and philosophy thus come into the same hands so like Socrates he's weary of how they have been governed and remember we're now after the period of the Peloponnesian War the city-state's of Greece especially Athens have been dramatically weakened so a lot of people might be thinking including Plato well is there a better way to govern ourselves now Plato's most famous student is Aristotle and like his teacher Aristotle is famous for many things and explored many dimensions of the universe but he is probably most famous for being the tutor of Alexander the Great when Alexander the Great was young Philip of Macedon Alexander the Great's father as he conquers the weakened city-states after the Peloponnesian War he also conquers Aristotle's hometown of seguirá and he enslaves the population and so when he goes to Aristotle to tutor his young son who ends up being called Alexander the Great eventually our Sol says okay my fee will be free the people of my town his town is freed he tutors a young Alexander when Alexander's in his early teens and he also gets support for a center of learning he creates a Lyceum which is his version of Plato's Academy and just like you saw with Socrates and you see with Plato Aristotle continued this tradition of a focus on learning and a humble acceptance of all that there might be in the world this rationality that we now see in modern that you didn't see from a lot of the ancients who are focused on the metaphysics and the gods it is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it and I'll leave you there but the big takeaway is going from Socrates to Plato to Aristotle there were many other Greek philosophers you have the seed of what you could call modern rationality roughly 2,000 years later you have the European Renaissance that starts re-emerging many of these same ideas all the way providing a bridge into the Enlightenment and now our modern hopefully fairly rational view of the world