A Man for Our Times

Additional Formats
  • Ebook
  • ISBN 9781101545195
  • 224 Pages
  • Penguin Books
  • Adult


A brilliant portrait of the Greek philosopher who personified philosophy.

Socrates was undeniably one of the greatest thinkers of all time, yet he wrote nothing. Throughout his life, and indeed until his very last moment alive, Socrates fully embodied his philosophy in thought and deed. It is through the story of his life that we can fully grasp his powerful actions and ideas.

In his highly acclaimed style, historian Paul Johnson masterfully disentangles centuries of scarce sources to offer a riveting account of a homely but charismatic middle-class man living in Athens in the fifth century b.c., and how what this man thought still shapes the way we decide how to act, and how we fathom the notion of body and soul. Johnson provides a compelling picture of the city and people Socrates reciprocally delighted in, as well as many enlightening and intimate analyses of specific aspects of his personality. Enchantingly portraying "the sheer power of Socrates’s mind, and its unique combination of steel, subtlety, and frivolity," Paul Johnson captures the vast and intriguing life of a man who did nothing less than supply the basic apparatus of the human mind.


Praise for Socrates by Paul Johnson:

“An admirably concise view of a remarkable life whose influence remains central to the foundations of Western thought.”
Publishers Weekly

“[Johnson’s] genuine love of the demos makes him an all-too-rare figure in today’s chattering classes.”
First Things

“Johnson writes more concisely than most scholars and brings to his prose a wealth of anecdote and asides unknown to most academics. His Socrates comes alive not through arguments over Platonic dating or Pythagorean influence, but by wit and allusion to Jane Austen novels, Samuel Johnson, John Maynard Keynes, firsthand remembrances of Winston Churchill’s speeches and Richard Dawkins. A valuable overview.”
Washington Times

The New Republic

“With effortless erudition, Paul Johnson brings to life the world of the great philosopher.”
Women’s Wear Daily

“A succinct, useful exploration of life in ancient Athens and of the great philosopher’s essential beliefs.”
Kirkus Reviews

“A wonderfully readable account of life in Athens, its political quarrels, and its failures. As good as a murder mystery, Johnson’s narrative is exciting.”
Library Journal

“Enlightening…. Johnson disentangles centuries of scarce and questionable sources to offer a riveting account of a homely but charismatic middle-class man whose ideas still shape the way we decide how to act, and how we fathom the notion of body and soul.”
History Book Club

“Johnson is an accomplished historian and writer with a fluid, unpretentious style and an honest voice. These gifts, which have made his 12 previous books enjoyable and popular, are no less evident in Socrates.”
The Washington Independent Review of Books

“This snappy biography goes down easy while offering a full portrait of Socrates—the man, the thinker, the celebrity—and the world he lived in.”
Zócalo Public Square

“Spectacular…a delight to read.”
The Wall Street Journal
PRH Book Clubs Survey