February 10, 2017
My introduction to Peter Kreeft’s work took place via his magnum opus Socratic Logic – A Logic Text Using Socratic Method, Platonic Questions, And Aristotelian Principles Edition 3.1. With that book Kreeft set the bar extremely high for his own work given the phenomenal job he did in the creation of that book. Thankfully, that type of high quality standard travels with him to this other book.
Philosophy 101 By Socrates – An Introduction To Plato’s Apology by Peter Kreeft PhD is an indispensable introduction into the realm of Philosophy.
Although notably not as long as Kreeft’s book cited initially, this book still packs a punch. The author creates what one may call a ‘user-friendly’ guide to Philosophy.
Given its length, the book can be read rather quickly. Additionally, Philosophy 101 by Socrates is distilled to serve as a jump-off point for the reader/learner to venture forth into other philosophical topics. Not only is it possible to use this book as a portable classroom, but it can be useful for homeschooling and even college classrooms.
Arguably the main strength of the Kreeft thesis is that philosophy takes no prisoners. It questions everything. Like a curious kid asking why in their nascent stage, it seeks truth – not belief – within every crevice it dares to delve into. This may be problematic for individuals that do not want their beliefs question.
Kreeft shows how Socrates ‘philosophy operates in the following passage:
“Socrates is the apostle of reason. He demands that we give logical reasons, grounds for beliefs, and follow the logical consequences of our beliefs, taken as premises or hypotheses, to their logical conclusions through a number of logically compelling steps.”
Such incisiveness will undoubtedly get to the core of the issue far more often than not if employed correctly.
And yet, as Kreeft implies, philosophy isn’t an antithesis to certain disciplines, such as religion. In fact, Kreeft goes to show how faith and reason can coexist if used trenchantly:
“One of the main functions of philosophy as practiced by Socrates is a critique of religion, finding reasons for (or against) faith. These reasons often claim only probability rather than certainty; and even when they claim certainty, they may be mistaken) for man is not God and infallible); but it is surely a gain to use binocular vision, reason and faith, and to make at least somewhat clearer and/or more reasonable the ideas most people find the most important in their lives.”
As an introduction to philosophy and Socrates simultaneously, one would be hard-pressed to find a better book than this. In that Kreeft does an exceptional job in showing how Philosophy and Socrates interweave, especially given how Socrates planted many of the seeds for this whole discipline with his life’s work.
Using Plato’s Apology as a jump-off point, Kreeft undertakes the task to show the reader many of the ways philosophy can be understood by using forty different descriptions of the subject. It was particularly interesting seeing the range of descriptions that Kreeft was able to come up with – some of it which might shock the reader – and how he was able to seamlessly show how apt those descriptions were to the act of philosophizing.
Subsequent to that Kreeft gives readers a cursory analysis of parts of the Euthyphro, as well as Phaedo, which are both dialogues by Plato, the latter of which details Socrates’ last days. There are various purposes for the dialogues and the commentary that follows, and these merge swiftly with the overview of philosophy that Kreeft undertook.
One of the main strengths of this book is its ability to narrow complex topics into practical – but not overly simplified – gems of information that the reader can glean. By contrast, many other philosophy books tend to overcomplicate philosophy, which turn readers off, or to oversimplify philosophy, which ends up not showcasing the latitude that philosophy can employ when used trenchantly.
This practical primer of philosophy also helps readers realize the importance of the art of cross-examination, which Socrates is the father of. Coupled with that, and more importantly, by its very precision cross-examination employs in philosophy, Kreeft helps readers gain an understanding of the thorough depth which philosophy will go to in search for truth. This journey in search for Wisdom will percolate into all disciplines, and can only strengthen an individual’s repertoire.
Drawing on all the data above, the book should be an integral component in education. What the book offers is a template for what’s possible by philosophy’s employment, and not having these skills/knowledge in life emblematic of a surgeon at the operating room without a scalpel.
Sources & References:
 Peter Kreeft Ph.D., Philosophy 101 By Socrates – An Introduction To Plato’s Apology, p. 104.
 Ibid., p. 141.