Acclaimed historian and best-selling author Paul Johnson’s books have been translated into dozens of languages. In Socrates: A Man for Our Times, Johnson draws from little-known resources to construct a fascinating account of one of history’s greatest thinkers. Socrates transcended class limitations in Athens during the fifth century B.C. to develop ideas that still shape the way we think about the human body and soul, including the workings of the human mind.
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This isn't exactly an introduction, because much of what Johnson discusses will require prior knowledge and familiarity with Socrates and this period of Greek history. However, this work is nowhere near scholarly quality either. This can only be a review or refresher - yet it is a review of the author's highly biased ideas of what he wants Socrates to represent. The author's style is at once narcissistic, pompous, and vague.
Johnson rebukes Plato for using Socrates as a mouthpiece for his own ideas, yet does so himself ad nauseum throughout the entire book. Socrates in Johnson's hands is little more than a puppet used to validate Johnson's own ideology. Johnson's sycophantic rendering of Socrates is selective hero worship, not genuine scholarship.
The narrator is perfectly adequate to the task and the book is easy to listen to and can be absorbed in a single sitting because it lacks the kind of substance that would require rest and reflection.
Skip this drivel - check out Plato's Dialogues so that you can form your own ideas and come to your own conclusions about Socrates.
- Megan Hewins
History, context, and analysis: Great listen!