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Paper Topic:

Comparison of Socrates and Thoreau

How do Socrates and Thoreau approach the project of gaining knowledge wisdom and spiritual growth ? How are they the same and how are they different ? And , who has the best approach , and why

According to tradition Socrates was the son of stonecutter , and as a young man decided to spend his life seeking wisdom . Professing to be completely ignorant himself , he began conversing with leading Athenians asking questions that invariably led his respondent into contradictions and confusion . The respondents were furious at being humiliated in this manner , and Socrates made an enemy

of many a person of power and influence in Athens . However , he won the admiration of many young men who became his pupils . Socrates did not open a school or take fees for teaching , but lived in poverty , in contrast to the Sophists , who were paid teachers . In the public mind , Socrates was identified as an eccentric Sophist and was presumed to hold in contempt the traditional religious beliefs , as the Sophists did , although in fact he was very pious . Socrates was a conscientious citizen and did military duty in the Peloponnesian War , which Athens finally lost to Sparta and its allies HYPERLINK "http /www .questia .com /SM .qst ?act adv contributors C 20C 20W 20Taylo r dcontributors C C W Taylor " Taylor , 2000 . He believed that power should be held only by those who possessed wisdom , and it was plain to all that he questioned the competence of Athens ' political leaders after the death of the great statesman Pericles in 429 . When Athens lost the war , its citizens sought someone to blame . Socrates had been the teacher of both Alcibiades , a general who had turned traitor , and Critias , a self-serving political leader who had hundreds of Athenians put to death . It seemed obvious that Socrates had been a bad influence . The old philosopher was charged with impiety and the corruption of youth and was brought to trial before a tribunal of 501 citizens . Socrates ' trial imprisonment , and death are described in detail , although it cannot be known with what accuracy ( HYPERLINK "http /www .questia .com /SM .qst ?act adv contributors C 20C 20W 20Taylo r dcontributors C C W Taylor " Taylor , 2000

On the other hand , Thoreau was a naturalist and author . His writings that advocate nonviolent resistance to the state when it is unjust have had great influence , especially in the 20th century . In fact , Mohandas K . Gandhi adopted many of Thoreau 's ideas and named his movement for India 's self-rule after Thoreau 's essay Civil Obedience

Thoreau believed that opposition to public injustice should include breaking unjust laws , and he lived according to his convictions . On at least one occasion he helped fugitive slave escape arrest . On another he went to jail rather than pay a Massachusetts poll tax that contributed to support of the Mexican War and the extension of slavery In his writings in Walden , he describes freshly and vividly the changing seasons and other natural events and scenes that he observed...

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