Socrates on Self-Improvement: Knowledge, Virtue, and Happiness




2023.01.3 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews

Nicholas D. Smith, Socrates on Self-Improvement: Knowledge, Virtue, and Happiness, Cambridge University Press, 2021, 182pp., $99.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781316515532.

Reviewed by Nicholas R. Baima, Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, Florida Atlantic University

When faced with anything painful or pleasurable, anything bringing glory or disrepute, realize that the crisis is now, that the Olympics have started, and waiting is no longer an option; that the chance for progress, to keep or lose, turns on the events of a single day. That’s how Socrates got to be the person he was, by depending on reason to meet his every challenge. You’re not yet Socrates, but you can still live as if you want to be him.

Epictetus, Enchiridion 51.2–3, trans. Dobbins

For Plato’s Socrates, happiness (eudaimonia) requires virtue, and virtue requires knowledge. Unfortunately for the non-divine, the Socratic dialogues do not present an optimistic outlook regarding the human pursuit of happiness….

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