Socrates


Socrates
(Suqrat)
(470–399 bce)
   Although Socrates is viewed as the ‘father’ of philosophy in western histories, he occupies a somewhat more peripheral intellectual status in the Islamic tradition. His philosophy is generally not distinguished from Plato’s, and he is typically cast as an austere figure of great moral integrity. This is primarily a function of the transmission of sources from Greek to Arabic. First, only a few Platonic dialogues were available in the Islamicate context. Prominent among them was the Phaedo, an unusually ascetic dialogue in which the dying Socrates argues for the immortality and general superiority of the soul over the body. Second, the popular portrait of Socrates passed down through later Greek biographies and wisdom texts was profoundly influenced by the Cynics and Stoics, whose philosophical schools were selectively modeled upon the more rigorous and demanding aspects of Socrates’ life. In this literature, Socrates is virtually indistinguishable from the Cynic Diogenes, who scorned worldly pleasures, social conventions and political power. Third, certain biographical details of Socrates’ personality resonated powerfully with the religious ideals of the Muslim community, prompting further selective emphasis. Islamic authors generally viewed Socrates as a moral exemplar who teaches us philosophy as a way of life (e.g. al-Kindi and Abu Bakr al- Razi) or as a pre-Muslim forebear who tacitly exemplifies certain Muslim qualities, or even as a kind of prophet (al- Tawhidi and Ibn Sina). On the whole, he functions more as a symbol of ethical integrity and the demands and rewards of the philosophical life, than as a substantive thinker in his own right.
   See ethics; al-Kindi; Plato; al-Razi, Abu Bakr
   Further reading: Alon 1991; Plato 1997; al-Razi 1993

Islamic Philosophy. . 2007.

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