Date: Jun 13, 2019
Category: Philosophy Essay
Socrates and Boethius

The Antique period in world history was marked by the introduction and implementation of the fundamental philosophical, ethical, and aesthetical principles. Philosophy of Antiquity, more commonly referred to as classical philosophy, is claimed to be closely connected with democracy, which, in its turn, is treated as a purely political concept. To get the gist of democracy as a political and at the same time philosophical notion, it is necessary to refer to the Antique period. Basically, it is important to understand the relations between philosophers and their contemporaries.

Socrates had lived and worked in Athens in the fifth century BC. No works were left by the philosopher himself. The image of Socrates as a philosopher and individual has been reconstructed from the works by Plato and Xenophon. Both, Plato and Xenophon, were the apprentices of Socrates. The Apology of Socrates by Plato is the documentation of the speech Socrates delivered at the trial defending himself. The work by Plato is considered to be closely connected to the eponymous piece by Xenophon. Another composition by Xenophon, which is dedicated to Socrates, is titled Memorabilia and portrays Socrates as a respectable, wise, consistent, and balanced thinker. The Clouds, a comedy by Aristophanes wrote in 423 BC treats Socrates as an object of mockery, ridicule which is, in my considered opinion, a sarcastic and unjust criticism of Socrates on part of Aristophanes, the acknowledged master of antique comedy. Thus, it is possible to assume the following: by the time of Socrates’ prosecution, the Athenian community was split into societies of those, who supported and shared the ideas of Socrates, and those, who rejected them. Thus, it is possible to assume that the issue under consideration is, by all means, the matter of the epoch.

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The trial of Socrates took place in Athens in 399 BC. The Athens’ defeat in the Peloponnesian War was the background of the trial. Symbolically, the military conflict between Athens and Sparta implied the collision of two regimes, namely democracy and stratocracy. This fact is important to consider since Socrates himself had shared the ideals of Spartan life and type of government. According to Aristophanes, young people who adhered to the Spartan principles of conduct were “Socratizing”. By the end of the fifth century BC, Athens, the homeland of Socrates, were a polis, a city-state. The status of the city-state presupposed that Athens had the right of its own legislation, jurisdiction, and deities. Thus, Socrates was accused of apostasy and tainting the minds of the young. The philosopher was sentenced to death by poisoning himself with hemlock. The official charges were as follows: “corrupting the young, and by not believing in the gods in whom the city believes, but in other daimonia that are novel”. There were 501 members on the jury; 280 of the juries stood for conviction, and 221 opposed it. Apparently, Socrates did not plead guilty, after which the philosopher was sentenced to death.

Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius is claimed to be the last of the Romans and the first of the Scholastics. Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius was a Roman scholar, philosopher, and statesman. Boethius’ magnum opus is titled De consolatione philosophiae (Eng. Consolation of Philosophy). Boethius is claimed to belong to the cohort of the so-called Neoplatonic philosophical school. Boethius’ interests concentrated merely on the theory of music, mathematics, the art of rhetoric, and theology. Cassiodorus is the author of the biography of Boethius. According to Cassiodorus, Boethius was a proficient orator, an author of a pastoral poem, and the translator of the following works on philosophy: Categories and On Interpretation by Aristotle, and Isagoge – an introduction to Plato’s Categories written by Porphyry. Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius is the acknowledged author of the number of theological tractates (On the Trinity, On the Two Natures, On the Catholic Faith), and many other works such as On Division, On Definition, On Topical Differences, On Rhetorical Connexion, The Distinction of Rhetorical Loci, Introduction to Categorical Syllogisms, On Categorical Syllogisms (2 books), and On the Hypothetical Syllogism (2 books).

Commenting on Isagoge by Porphyry, Boethius had reconsidered the nature of universals. Thus, Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius had introduced the notions of ‘animus’ (“activities in mind”), ‘intellectus’ (“intellect”), ‘ratio’ (“reason”), and ‘imagitio’ (“imagination”). Having introduced his own understanding of the aforementioned mental processes and reconsidered their importance, Boethius distinguished between ‘mens’ (“mind”) and ‘anima’ (“soul”), understanding and thought. Understanding and thought, in their turn, are the basic concepts in understanding the nature of genera and species. Basically, Boethius had given an impulse to the evolvement of formal logic, its fundamental concepts, and conditioned the environment for the studies of the origin of life and understanding the evolution.

Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius became a consul under King Theodoric in the year 510. On the one hand, Boethius had advocated for the Roman model of Catholicism. On the other hand, a growing rivalry between the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Byzantium presumably might have made the philosopher to find a way of pacifying the parties. Boethius was accused of collaboration with Byzantine Empire and treason of the King Theodoric the Great, the king of Ostrogoths. Basically, the charges against Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius consisted in philosopher’s colluding with Justin, the ruler of the Byzantine Empire. After his detention at Pavia, Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius was executed in 524 without a trial.

The trial against Socrates marked the crisis of democracy as such in its primeval understanding and Athenian democracy in particular. Prosecution of Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius, in its turn, commemorated the final stage of transition from Antiquity to Middle Age. The nature of charges brought against Boethius, presumably, might be attributed to the strengthening of vassalage, which is a purely social phenomenon and another step forward to class society. Socrates’ trial, in its turn, marked the crisis of society as a whole. Moreover, the prosecution of Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius may be regarded as the implicit sign of schism that happened in 1054.

Taking into consideration all the facts aforementioned, it is possible to presume that the prosecution of Socrates had a social background. Unlike Socrates, Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius was prosecuted on purely political ground. Socrates stood the trial in the court of Athens, whilst Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius was imprisoned and executed without the case being tried in court. In both cases, accusations are unfounded.