Socrates question on god


What was Socrates idea of God? What does Socrates say about the idea of the good in the republic? How did he act on this idea? Also, how would you know that his idea of God is correct?

Rachel Mercedes Quintans

Posted 2016-05-02T05:00:30.547

Reputation: 31

1Right, those are big questions, namely, Socrates idea of (1) God, (2) the good, (3) in speech vs in deed, and (4) validating an idea. People write entire books on any one of those. – Ronnie Royston – 2017-09-23T16:25:06.940

2This seems like several questions in one. Although they are all related to each other, you might edit to make it more clear what your primary question is. – Chris Sunami supports Monica – 2016-05-02T14:13:40.703



Proof in God is found through our universal life experiences. I dont have proof that King arthur is real. Or Socrates. Or Buddha. Even Science is live and learn. Or many other historical experiences that others attest to experiencing, yet some are skeptical. Belief in God does not depend on our vision, but by our experiences which are based on faith. Absolute truth cannot be defined by limited human experience or intellectualism.

Annette Crews

Posted 2016-05-02T05:00:30.547

Reputation: 11

Well said. But I feel it is not right to say that our experiences are based on faith or to suggest we must take such a pessimistic view on the limits of human experience, powers of reason.and capacity for vision. This pessimism is common in monotheism but not necessary if we follow the mystical theology. Maybe there are reasons to be cheerful... – None – 2018-06-28T12:33:39.947


What was Socrates idea of God?

We do not know what the historic Socrates thought and spoke by himself. Because Socrates did not leave any writings.

All we know about Socrates is mostly from Plato's and for a lesser part from Xenophon's writings. Possibly the Socrates from Plato's early dialogues resembles the historic Socrates. In Plato's Apology Socrates tells us that the god Apollon at Delphi declared Socrates to be the wisest man. Socrates says, that from this time on he tries to verify this declaration by testing the knowledge of his fellow companions. Hence Socrates claims that his mission in Athens is triggered by the god Apollon.

What does Socrates say about the idea of the good in the republic?

The answer to this question is given by the parable of the sun in section 508d ff. from Plato: The Republic. Like the sun makes all things visible and keeps everything alive, so the idea of the good makes all other ideas recognizable for the human mind.

How did he act on this idea?

According to Plato Socrates' mission is to go around showing his fellow companions how to recognize the power of the ideas and to teach them to apply this knowledge to become more virtuous, e.g., see 212b from Plato: Symposion.

Also, how would you know that his idea of God is correct?

There is no proof for the existence of Socrates's god or any other god.

Nevertheless one can try to follow Socrates' advice to make aware one's own limits. And to strive for knowledge and acting accordingly. That's a kind of enlightenment.

Jo Wehler

Posted 2016-05-02T05:00:30.547

Reputation: 17 204

Based on what little we know of him I don't believe that Socrates was a theist. Is there any evidence to the contrary? I'd agree with your comment that to strive for knowledge and act accordingly is a kind of enlightenment and it is usually said to be the way to get there. . – None – 2018-06-28T12:21:25.380

@PeterJ Yes, there is some evidence that Socrates was a theist. In Plato's Apology Socrates refers to Apollo, the god of the Delphic oracle, as the trigger of his own lifelong mission, cf. 20e,8;33c,5. Even when the apology was written by Platon and not by Socrates, the best hypothesis is that the Apology is not Plato's fiction but refers to the real apology at court of the historical Socrates. Note. We do not have any text written by Socrates. Nearly all information about Socrates is from Plato's work. – Jo Wehler – 2018-06-28T15:39:54.637

@JoWehler - Fair enough. I can see a reason for assuming he was a theist. But philosophers in theistic societies often use 'God' or 'Gods' as a manner of speaking. Generally his reported views seem consistent with a 'mystical' interpretation so I take references to Apollo with a pinch of salt. Regrettably we'll never know the facts. – None – 2018-06-28T16:06:53.037

1"There is no proof for the existence of Socrates's god or any other god." Many of us who believe in God would obviously disagree :-) . – James Kingsbery – 2016-05-02T18:24:01.440

1@James Kingsbery As far as I know, even the maiority of Christian theologians do no longer claim that the existence of their god can be proved - I know that some rare exceptions exist. And concerning the Greek gods like Apollon there are even fewer apologists of their existence. – Jo Wehler – 2016-05-02T19:42:00.427

1Most Christian recent theologians I've read have said something along the lines of (1) the existence of God is not a question amenable to scientific investigation, so one does not answer it the same way one answers whether eg the Higgs-Boson exists, (2) while one does not present a mathematical proof, one can provide "proof" that God exists in the sense one might present proof in a trial. – James Kingsbery – 2016-05-02T19:55:51.673

1@James Kingsbery Please give me a "proof" for the existence of god which stands up in a trial; thanks. – Jo Wehler – 2016-05-02T20:07:18.470

Right, the point is that one doesn't present "proofs" in trials, they present a body of evidence. This is how most theologians I've read present the existence of God - using a body of evidence, not with one singular gotcha moment. – James Kingsbery – 2016-05-02T21:09:37.300

1@James Kingsbery You wrote one can provide "proof" that God exists in the sense one might present proof in a trial. Please provide me such a "proof", thanks. – Jo Wehler – 2016-05-02T21:15:56.443


Socrates posits the same connection between God and the Good as the Buddha, Jesus, Lao Tzu and Krishna (in the Bhagavad Gita) did. Unfortunately it's not as simple as the way the 4 letter word, "good," appears. If it were there would be no Analogy of the Cave or Jesus's teachings on children entering Heaven. The "good" and "God" are the same, and genuine belief in one is belief in the other. No proof of "God" is thereby required since it is irreducible to a choice about life itself: is "good" the dominant force, the true cause of all "good" experiences in life, or is it not? The first affirmation has, for all intents and purposes, "proved" God and the second has "disproved" God. Socrates tried to show, logically, how any other choice, other than a belief in the "good," is illogical because all beings want to be happy; ie, we all want the "good" for ourselves but we don't all realize the proof that provides for the "good" in itself.


Posted 2016-05-02T05:00:30.547


If you have references to others who take a similar view this would support your answer and give the reader a place to go for more information. Welcome! – Frank Hubeny – 2019-05-10T15:28:26.067

Thanks for the welcome! Thanks for your work moderating. I don't know of another work that argues this specifically but I can add a sampling of quotes from the source texts to get someone started writing it perhaps. lol. – None – 2019-05-11T16:55:25.900

Socrates sees the “good” and the Divine as inseparable and describes them both interchangeably, in a similar manner to many Eastern spiritual texts. He also commonly describes the “good” synonymously with more concrete virtuous ideals like “justice.” “Because the good penetrates everything, it has the power to regulate everything.”– Cratylus “It is governor and penetrator of everything else, it is rightly called ‘just.”— Cratylus “In God there is no sort of wrong whatsoever; he is supremely just.” —Theaetetus – None – 2019-05-11T16:59:48.113

Temperance is“to obey the rulers and to rule [over] the pleasures of drink, sex, and food for themselves.” –Republic ch.3 “the just man never harms anyone, since everything he does is for the benefit of all.” –Clitophon – None – 2019-05-11T17:00:33.077

“what gives truth to the things known and the power to know to the knower is the form of the good.” R. ch.7 “Both knowledge and truth are beautiful things, but the good is other and more beautiful than they.” R. ch.7 “Not only do the objects of knowledge owe their being known to the good, but their being is also due to it, although the good is not being, but superior to it in rank and power. . . . one [is the] sovereign of the intelligible kind and place, the other of the visible.” R. ch.7 Because the good penetrates everything, it has the power to regulate (kerannutai) everything. Cratylus – None – 2019-05-11T17:03:45.937

Many other quotes from Eastern scriptures could be included here, outlining the importance of virtuous behavior in their science of spirituality. Quotes from the Gospels of Jesus would show that the New Testament contains nearly identical recommendations. The point I am making here, overly briefly perhaps, is that “being good and doing good leads to the best of possible lives” is clearly a central aspect to the teachings of Socrates and to the major spiritual gurus of the East. – None – 2019-05-11T17:04:05.507


It is difficult to discern Socrates views on religion because he didn't leave us any writings and Plato, who immortalised him in his Socratic Dialogues, was a metaphysician who believed in many things transcendent. It is generally thought however that in the early dialogues one encounters the real, historical person rather than the literary character that Plato uses to speak through. So, according to those...

What was Socrates idea of God?

Regarding religion, Socrates was mostly a man of his times and like his contemporaries, he probably believed that parallel to the physical world there is another, populated by mysterious beings, personal like ourselves, but with powers far greater.

What might be important however is not what is common to his ideas but uncommon, and that seems to be the idea that the Gods are somehow moral, and will refuse to do evil. This goes against the post-moral god of Heraclitus or the hedonistic and impulsive ones of Homer.

How did he act on this idea?

He acted upon this belief by always following the "divine sign", the daemon as he called it. In his last speech, the Apology, Socrates makes it clear that he was following the will of the gods, and that considering this his death would not be a burden, at least not to him. Had he thought that gods did not relate to virtue he would not have made their will his life's mission.

Also, how would you know that his idea of God is correct?

You wouldn't. It's a purely metaphysical argument, however, it is a precursor to Christianity that eventually conquered the Greco-Roman world, albeit 400 years later, and was one of the first religions to believe that gods had anything to do with morality (Zoroastrians being another). So you could take the question with them...

Mike M

Posted 2016-05-02T05:00:30.547

Reputation: 252

I feel you do Socrates a disservice here but I won't argue since we're all just guessing. Let's just say another view is possible. For instance, I find Socrates' view consistent with that of Heraclitus. It's a shame he left no writings in which he speaks for himself. – None – 2018-06-28T12:26:32.190

Heraclitus believed that God is "day and night, war and peace, satiety and famine." This is a typically mystical view that presents God as infusing everything, the good and the bad alike, the saint and the criminal. Socrates sought a relationship between God and Virtue which Heraclitus... or Lao Tzu, or the Buddha, or Rumi for that matter would probably find laughable. – Mike M – 2018-06-28T12:53:34.783

Hmm. I'm not so sure. I endorse the views of all the people you mention but perhaps my interpretation is over-generous or wrong. I can't see a reason to alter it but know that in respect of Socrates it's just speculation. – None – 2018-06-28T16:12:41.377