A Man for Our Times
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A brilliant portrait of the Greek philosopher who personified philosophy.
Socrates was undeniably one of the greatest thinkers of all time, yet he wrote nothing. Throughout his life, and indeed until his very last moment alive, Socrates fully embodied his philosophy in thought and deed. It is through the story of his life that we can fully grasp his powerful actions and ideas.
In his highly acclaimed style, historian Paul Johnson masterfully disentangles centuries of scarce sources to offer a riveting account of a homely but charismatic middle-class man living in Athens in the fifth century b.c., and how what this man thought still shapes the way we decide how to act, and how we fathom the notion of body and soul. Johnson provides a compelling picture of the city and people Socrates reciprocally delighted in, as well as many enlightening and intimate analyses of specific aspects of his personality. Enchantingly portraying "the sheer power of Socrates's mind, and its unique combination of steel, subtlety, and frivolity," Paul Johnson captures the vast and intriguing life of a man who did nothing less than supply the basic apparatus of the human mind.
From Publishers Weekly
© Publishers Weekly
The *actual* Socrates is in there somewhere
It is ironic that Johnson should write a book where he criticizes Plato repeatedly for twisting the fundamental ideas and putting words into Socrates’ mouth that are Plato’s, rather than those of Socrates, but then writes an entire book where Johnson does the same thing, many times over. Which is a pity, because it sadly mars an otherwise interesting and concise book about one of history’s great figures. If one can look beyond the almost comically desperate flights of fancy about Socrates’ presumably miraculous monotheism-bordering-on-proto-Christianity, one will find an otherwise worthwhile summary of the profound contributions the great sage made to Greek philosophy.