The Contributions Of Socrates The Greek To Psychology

We explain the legacy that this thinker has given to Psychology and science in general.

Philosophy is the mother of all sciences. Let us deal with the specialty we are dealing with and whatever the object of study, like philosophy, science is based on the search for truth and knowledge, or on its practical application. In this way, we often find concepts and perspectives from philosophical thought in scientific theories. 

One of the best known and most important classical philosophers is Socrates, whose contributions have been contributed to the generation of different techniques and ways of thinking about the functioning of the world and the mind. Let’s see in this article some of the main contributions of Socrates to Psychology.

Socrates, the philosopher

One of the greatest Greek philosophers (in fact the philosophers before him are sometimes referred to as pre-Socratics), Socrates was born in Athens during 470 BC, to a mother midwife and father a sculptor. Although the details of his life are doubtful, the different writings indicate that this humble family man had from childhood a great wit, training in different disciplines such as literature and music.His participation in different wars as an infantry soldier is known, such as that of the Peloponnese, and that he married a woman named Xantipa.

With regard to his thinking as a philosopher, Socrates stood out for focusing his attention on the field of morals and ethics. He considered that the human being tends to the good and that all vice is the product of ignorance. He believed that good, love, goodness, and ethics were based on universal definitions. His position was opposed to the relativism advocated by the sophists. He also believed that the philosopher should seek wisdom in virtue, being necessary to achieve it recognize one’s own ignorance. 

He did not consider himself wise, and believed that most people believed they knew more than they really did. For this reason, he used irony and dialogue in order to expose the contradictions of his interlocutors and make others see the level of knowledge that they actually possessed.

His thought

Despite believing in the existence of universal definitions, he is considered a precursor of  inductism, in the sense that he considered that universal concepts should be obtained from the simple to the complex, from the particular to the general. Each one must ask their own questions and form their way of seeing the world, reaching a greater and greater understanding of how it works.

His use of maieutics is also famous, which is based on answering other people’s questions with other questions so that the individual himself can elaborate his own answer.

This philosopher did not write or transcribe his reflections, considering that each individual must form his own ideas. His work has come to us through the different disciples, and especially through  Plato, who reflected and deepened in his work on some of the concepts stipulated by Socrates.

Socrates was tried and sentenced to death by hemlock poisoning, accused of corrupting the young and not accepting the deities proper to the Athenians. He died in 470 BC

Socrates’ contributions to psychology

The progressive advance of science and its search for objectivity can make it difficult for many to observe the relationship between the current state of matter, in this case  psychology and philosophy. However, Socrates’ contributions to both this and other sciences is of great value and importance. Here are some of these contributions.

1. Interest in the psyche

Socrates and his disciple Plato worked and reflected on the existence of the psyche, what they considered the soul. The influence of this fact on the current science of psychology is evident, its birth being the product of reflection on the contents of our mind derived from these and other authors.

2. Ethics and morals

Socrates focused his thinking on ethics and morals. The behavior of the individual in society and the formation of patterns of behavior, attitudes and values ​​are some of the many aspects with which psychology deals.

3. Inductive method

Socrates is considered one of the forerunners when it comes to the creation of the inductive method, by pretending that people have access to the knowledge of the truth through their experience instead of starting from assumed knowledge and taken for granted. This method is of great importance in turn when generating the scientific method, characterized by hypothetical-deductive reasoning.

4. Socratic method

Socratic dialogue is a strategy based on the maieutics of Socrates that is still used even today in the practice of psychology, being basic in multiple therapies. It is based on asking inductive questions: the therapist asks different questions in order to make the subject reflect and find their own answer to what was raised.

5. Precursor of constructivism

Constructivism is based on the creation of knowledge through the generation of shared knowledge that in turn depends on the subject being able to make sense of the material learned. Socrates considered that it was necessary to teach not what to think, but how to do it. This consideration is linked to the search for constructivism for the student to generate their own learning process, thanks to the application of various aids offered by the medium. Thus, as Socrates proposed, the teacher must help the student to generate to create their own knowledge.

6. Use of irony: Confrontation

Socrates was characterized by making use, in his dialectical method, of irony. It was intended to make the subject see the contradictions in his speech that he considered wise and refute his biased arguments in order to make him aware of his true level of knowledge. 

In therapy,  a similar strategy is sometimes used , confrontation, in which the subject is exposed to the contradictions in his speech or between his speech and his behavior in order to make him aware of them. 

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