Its well known that Plato was from the aritocratic elite of Athenian society. In his writings Socrates figure as his pre-eminent philosophical spokesperson.

There is a adage, which might be a truism that Philosophy can only be engaged by a social strata that has leisure. Yet Socrates is historically seen as a stone-mason, an artisan and a man who work works with his hands; it is arguable that the nature of his social origin and his position in the philosophical firmament of Plato that marked him as an antogonist with Nietzsche.

It seems from all this that Socrates occupies an ambiguous social position.

What would have been his social position in the context of the Athenian polity (and not in terms of the contemporary European situation)?

1 Answer 1


From Wikipedia:

Socrates initially earned his living as a master stonecutter... Several of Plato's dialogues refer to Socrates' military service.... In 406, he was a member of the Boule [group of governing aristocrats].

Socrates repeatedly describes himself as being poor, for example in the Apology:

if I had been like other men, I should not have neglected all my own concerns or patiently seen the neglect of them during all these years... And I have a sufficient witness to the truth of what I say—my poverty.

While we don't know for sure what his life was like, it seems likely that he was born relatively well off but retired and lived a life of poverty to focus on discussing philosophy.

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