Topics Worth Investigating

  1. Do people act wrongly because they are ignorant or because they do not have the will to do what they know they should do? In your analysis, carefully consider the difference between theoretical knowledge and practical knowledge.

  2. Thomas Common wrote in his preface to his 1907 introduction to Friedrich Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil "many people, in spite of Socrates, instinctively choose the bad, when it is most profitable to themselves." Do people knowingly and deliberately choose evil? How would Socrates respond to this view? Can it be argued that if one acts against reason, then one does not have the unqualified knowledge to know the proper basis for action?

  3. In his trial, Socrates is accused of being a Sophist,[1] i.e., he "makes the worse argument the stronger." Can a highly skilled person use rhetoric and logic to prove conclusions which are not true? Are the uses of logic and argument to be trusted for methods of knowledge?

  4. Søren Kierkegaard, in his On the Concept of Irony,[2] points out that a rigid society produces persons who share common thoughts and values. These social stereotypes no longer have to think for themselves, instead they rely on dogmatic answers. Would a sociologist agree that Socrates' use of irony[3] and satire poked holes in conventional wisdom and undermined the common person's dogmatic answers? Is Kierkegaard right in his claim that it is terrifying for us to take personal responsibility for ourselves? Is Socrates being prosecuted solely because he was a constant irritation and threat to the status quo?



Originally in ancient Greece, a sophist was considered a wise and knowledgeable person who inquired into ethics and nature. With Plato, many sophists were itinerant thinkers who often taught the art of rhetoric for use in the Athenian courts.


Søren Kierkegaard. The Concept of Irony: With Constant Reference to Socrates. New York: Octagon, 1978.


Socrates usually understated his insight, pretended ignorance, and used subtle sarcasm intended to be understood by his followers, hence the origin of the expression "Socratic irony." Ed.