Socrates (470-399 BC) was a Greek Athenian philosopher. He was one of the most prominent figures of the Greek and global spirit and culture, and one of the founders of Western philosophy.
He constitutes a reference point for Ancient Greek philosophy, as all the Greek philosophers before him were called Pre-Socratic. He had a large circle of loyal friends, mostly youngsters from aristocratic families, from all over Greece. Some of them became known as founders of philosophical schools of various directions. The most famous were Plato, Antisthenes and Euclid. The main sources that describe his life are first of all his student Plato, the historian Xenophon, the philosopher Aristotle and the comedy writer Aristophanes.
At the age of 17 he met the philosopher Archelaus, who transmitted to him his passion for philosophy and persuaded him to dedicate himself to it. Socrates considered philosophical engagement as a divine command, and was characterized as God-inspired, because he mentioned his powerful instinct as an internal impulse that dictated him what actions he should follow. In fact, he was saying that he heard in him a voice that prevented him from doing what was wrong, which he called “demon“.
His philosophical research was attended by many, especially young people, who enjoyed listening to him talking and discussing about social, political, moral and religious issues. Consequently, a group was formed around him, but it was not a school, because Socrates did not teach systematically, but he used to chat, everywhere in the city, with people of every social class and, unlike the sophists, he did not get money from his students.
He avoided engaging in politics and preferred to follow his own independent route. Only exception when homeland was called. So, he took part in three campaigns during the Peloponnesian War.
In 399 BC the philosopher was confronted with the Court of Heliaia. There, he was accused for disrespect for the gods and corruption of young people. The philosopher was sentenced to death. The feasibility of his accusation was considered to be his teaching, which influenced young people, and due to the liberalism that distinguished it, it was considered subversive. The true motivation, however, was his rivalry with important men of the time.
From Plato‘s dialogue “Kriton” it seems that, Socrates could be saved if he wanted, since his students were able to help him escape. He refused to, though, persisting on his philosophical views and, as a law-abiding citizen and true philosopher, he waited peacefully for his sentence, and drank the poison as the law prompted.
Socrates did not leave any writings, so it is very difficult to precisely define the content of his philosophy. What is known about Socrates came mainly from what his students wrote about him, as well as some writers who focused on studying his personality.
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