On what Socrates hoped to achieve in the agora: the Socratic act of turning our attention to the truth
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This thesis wants to say that Socrates was a teacher of his fellows. He engaged with them through dialogue because he cared for their wellbeing, or as he might have put it: for the state of their souls. He was an intellectual and he had an intellectualist view of people and reality. He felt that right-mindedness was reasonable; and thus he believed that learning and developing understanding brought people closer to being virtuous; to goodness; and so to mental health. Socrates was a philosopher, and he considered this to be the most prudent and exalted approach to life. He taught his fellows how to be philosophers, and he urged them as best he could to take up the philosophical stance. His form of care for others was ‘intellectualist’. He cared ‘for the souls of others’ and for his own with intellectual involvement because he believed that this was the most appropriate way. He had a view of the human soul that produced intellectualist views of what wellbeing is and how it is achieved. He himself was a humble and able thinker, and was fully devoted to being virtuous and to helping his fellows to do the same. This thesis addresses the question of what Socrates did in the agora (his aims) and how he went about doing it (his methodology). Our answer might seem obvious. One might wonder what is new about saying that Socrates was a philosopher, and that he cared for the souls of his fellows and that he urged them to become virtuous. Perhaps nothing of this is new. Nevertheless, we find that making this ‘simple’ statement about Socrates is not that simple at all. We find that in Socratic scholarship there exist a plethora of contrasting voices that make it rather difficult to formulate even such a basic description of what Socrates did. We do not wish to create a novel and different reading of Socrates. We do not think that this is even possible after civilization has been interpreting Socrates for millennia. We do not see innovation for its own sake as desirable. We prefer clear understanding to the eager ‘originality’. Therefore rather, our aim with this work is to defend and clarify a very basic picture of Socrates as an educator. We see this work as clearing away clutter so as to begin our life-long study of Socratic thought and action: by laying a foundation with which we can read Socratic works and discern their meaning.