The heroic love of Socrates
This reflective essay draws upon classical heroes in Plato's dialogues to distinguish the role of love in Socrates' philosophical approach to death. By comparing the mythic "labours" of heroes who also risked death, the essay emphasizes that while Socrates shares some interesting parallels, his philosophizing is unique because it arises out of love. In examining Socrates' love, his calmness in facing death springs from his humility in not presuming ultimate proofs or wisdom. In the dialogues, Socrates approaches death with calmness and hope. Like the heroes, the gods bid him to risk death in performing a "labour." Distinct from heroes, however, Socrates sees this labour as philosophy. The essay argues that Socrates' love interplays with the ignorance of ultimate truths. Socrates ignorance and lack of absolute proof of death, truth, and moral goodness allow him to seek wisdom lovingly by caring for everyone. By examining Socrates' uniqueness within the context of mythic themes, the role of love in caring for everyone's moral well-being is exemplified by Socrates' labour and is central to philosophy. The essay finds that Socrates' example of loving wisdom by caring for others and discussing virtue, yet lacking proof, allows him to embody a calm hope even towards death. In short, Socrates can love wisdom, care for everyone's well-being, and seek moral goodness, as humans lack ultimate goodness. In not assuming proof or wisdom, Socrates can pursue this love by caring for others, rousing them to care for their moral well-being and love truth.
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