Did Socrates’s philosophical lifestyle have the potential to “wake up” Athenians in a way that could have been useful to that society?

Socrates compared Athenians to a dazed, sluggish horse that could possibly be awakened by the persistent biting of an (annoying!) fly. This idea of Socrates as a transformative “philosophical gadfly” inspired many who have read about Socrates’s life and death.

Your formal writing assignment this week is to write a 600-900 word essay that answers each of the following questions:

  1. Did Socrates’s philosophical lifestyle have the potential to “wake up” Athenians in a way that could have been useful to that society?
  2. Does the importance of being awoken in that way justify the extreme manner that Socrates chose to live and die?
  3. Do you agree that (to use a famous phrase from the eighteenth century Prussian philosopher Immanuel Kant), awakening an individual–or an entire society–from “dogmatic slumbers” is a constructive and useful role of raising probing philosophical questions? Is there a significant opportunity for philosophers or others to play this kind of constructive role in our own society?

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