SOCRATES (469-399 BC). Socrates, the Athenian philosopher, was one of the most prominent figures of ancient Greek culture. He devoted himself to discussing
philosophy with people from all walks of life in the city’s public venues, but, unlike the sophists, refused payment for his teachings. As he left no written work, knowledge of his teachings has reached us through the writings of his students, foremost amongst them Plato.
Socrates represents a turning point in philosophy, breaking with the earlier cosmologies to focus on man. Convinced that “no one voluntarily does evil” and seeking to found ethics on knowledge, Socrates would
steer his interlocutors towards uncovering the truth that all men innately possess, with his skilful use of dialectic, maieutic and inductive methods of inquiry, the cornerstones of logic. His penetrating criticism of the moral conventions of Athenian society, however, was
misunderstood. As a result, he was brought to trial in his old age on charges of impiety and sentenced to death. Faithful to his convictions to the very end, he turned down pleas to flee from Athens, preferring instead to submit to the verdict handed down by his city.
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