A large number of students assembled in Sever 11 yesterday afternoon to hear Dr. Tarbell's lecture on Socrates. He said that there is no really known figure of Socrates, yet from the symposia of Xenenhon and Plato we are enabled to gain some idea of his face with its rolling lips and peculiar nose. Socrates was born in 464 or 465 B. C. and died in 399. His life was contemporaneous with the age of Pericles and the Peloponnesian war, and it was in this war that he showed his sturdy constitution which enabled him to endure hardships and even excesses without detriment.
The principal point to consider is what impression Socrates made upon his people. He was no writer so all information about him must be obtained from such works of his disciples as the Memorabilia and Apology of Plato. For more than a generation Socrates was a familiar figure in Athens engaged in free and gracious teaching. There are two points in his instruction which must be considered; his subject matter and his manner. To understand Socrates' manner, he must be marked off from the so called Sophists. Until the fifth century BC. education was of a most ordinary character consisting of reading, writing, a little music, and gymnastics. These were not sufficient for an education, so before the middle of the fifth century, a class of men sprang up which gave extra instruction. These were called Sophists, or, as Professor Sidgwick calls them "professors of rhetoric and art of conduct." Their whole life was spent wandering about from town to town imparting knowledge by means of lectures and long discourses to those who would pay. Socrates' life was diametrically opposite to this; he did not go about but stayed at home, he received no compensation for his instruction for he considered it a desecration to impart his gifts for money, and so he lived a live of poverty. He considered lectures no fit means of instruction, so imparted his knowledge by engaging in conversation with another in the market place. His was a questioning method.
In regard to his subject matter. Cicero says Socrates brought philosophy down from heaven to earth. Socrates did not agree with his predecessors who tried to solve the material universe; all this was folly and mere fancy to him. He believed that the natural sciences were reserved by the gods for themselves and that all attention should be placed on that which deals with conduct. He was not a systematic thinker like Plato and Spinoza. His great achievement was that he taught the importance of clearness in thinking on ethical questions which is called his inductive process of thinking. So it was after nearly seventy years of such noble teaching that he was condemned to death on the ground of religious heresy and corruption of the youth, a man, as Plato says, the best that that generation has ever seen.