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The Death of Socrates (Profiles in History) First American Edition Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674026834
ISBN-10: 0674026837
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Editorial Reviews

Review

As imagined by Wilson, The Death of Socrates is therefore very much a story about a life of becoming that compels us, centuries later, to follow the example of Socrates, a philosopher who managed to be mythic and reflective and irritating in almost equal measure. (Larry T. Shillock Bloomsbury Review 2008-01-01)

This book is both scholarly and written with commendable clarity and punch. Professional philosophers and amateurs alike will find in it considerable food for thought. (Mark Vernon Philosopher's Magazine 2008-01-01)

Emily Wilson's The Death of Socrates is an exceptionally lucid introduction to this famous trial and death...Not only does Ms. Wilson carefully reconstruct the circumstances of the philosopher's demise but she also asks, rather refreshingly, the implicitly obvious but mostly overlooked question of "why the death of Socrates has mattered so much, over such an enormously long period of time and to so many different people." The history of the interpretation of Socrates' death, it turns out, is in large part the history of philosophy itself...The man who has been condemned to death for corrupting the sons of the city ends by instructing his executioners about how to raise his own. He goes to his death without the comfort of a Christian afterlife or any promise of a posthumous reputation, but only with faith in his own reason. After 2,400 years, it's still a resounding epitaph. (Thomas Meaney Wall Street Journal 2007-11-24)

About the Author

Emily Wilson is Assistant Professor of Classical Studies, University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of Mocked with Death: Tragic Overliving from Sophocles to Milton.
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Product Details

  • Series: Profiles in History
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; First American Edition edition (October 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674026837
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674026834
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #614,793 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. Adams on November 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I suspect there are few others in history besides Christ who have had more books written about his death and its meaning than Socrates. From Plato, his student and other contemporaries such as Xenophon, through many centuries where he was adopted by other skeptics of the prevailing social order such as Erasmus, who called him a saint, the trial and circumstances of the death sentence imposed on him, and his willingness to carry it out have resulted in many adopters of his cause.
As a libertarian myself, I have always thought that much of what Socrates was ultimately about was to force people to ask questions about "established" wisdom; one of the most threatening things that can be done in any social order. Doing this at a time when there were many gods supposedly looking after ancient Athens was really no different than those who went to their deaths in Stalin's gulags; a timeless threat to those who rule by consensus or complete control.

Wilson has obviously spent many years researching her subject and has come up with her own theories about just why Socrates was given the death sentence, and they deserve just as much deference as many others which have been equally well "established" by others who studied the man and the era.
This is a really great book about a wonderful topic and one of the few I have read on the subject that i plan to keep in my library.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found Professor Wilson’s book invaluable in the course of writing a novel, Sophronikos, Son of Sokrates, not so much because of what I didn’t know about the historical figure Socrates, nobody really knows much about him; I found it invaluable because of Wilson’s candor early on. She acknowledges a conflict that so many modern fans of Socrates must have—a conflict between their admiration of a man who relentlessly pursued Truth and their disappointment in him because of his ostensible lack of attention to his family: “I find Socrates’ family life—of lack of it—particularly difficult to admire,” Wilson says. “It is hard to respect a man who neglected his wife and sons in order to spend his time drinking and chatting with his friends about the definitions of common words.” So immediately I felt that I had in hand a work by someone who had given thought to the man “in the round,” as theater people might say.

We can level complaints at Wilson because of that statement, that maybe one shouldn’t judge Socrates with modern sensibilities, that maybe things were different back in the day, that maybe we’re actually talking Plato here rather than Socrates; but when a modern reader does some digging, he or she will certainly, at some point, be struck by this apparent “lack” in our icon Socrates. He had three sons, a wife or two (we’re not really sure how many wives), and for whatever reasons, he chose to drink poison and off himself when, according to tradition, friends and admirers had provided him an opportunity to escape. And this to me as a writer was something that I was very interested in; that “lack” must have had a direct and deep impact on his oikos. Wilson is one of the few scholars I came across who have directly criticized him because of this, and for that I commend her.
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Format: Hardcover
Well researched book on the use of Socrates' death in history as symbolic fact and metaphor. I take issue with author's reference of prisoners' rights to a proper hearing when applied to terrorist combatants held at Guantanamo. They are military POWs and as such are not entitled to the same rights as U.S. citizens; is there any dispute to their guilt in fomenting and engaging in combat - certainly not the courageous kind their culture is unfamiliar with - against U.S. soldiers? Otherwise an impressive scholarly work.
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Format: Hardcover
This witty, erudite book forces us to look again at one of the founders of Western civilisation. Going beyond hagiography, this book is highly readable and scholarly, accessible to students but serious and original enough for specialists. I recommend it highly.
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