Socrates A Closer Look At The Greatest

Socrates: A Closer Look At The Greatest Thinker Essay, Research Paper


Who is Socrates? Socrates was a Greek philosopher. He was the best of his time (400’s BC), and is considered one of the wisest people of all times. Also, he was the first of three of the greatest teachers of ancient Greece. He was born and died in Athens. He was a short philosopher, who wore only a white robe at all times and all seasons. Socrates wasn?t interested in money nor fame. He wrote no books and most the information known about him comes from his students: Plato and Xenophon. He lived and based his teachings on principles and morals. He is well known for viewing philosophy as a pursuit of proper and for saying that philosophy was necessary to all men. He is also known for introducing two new methods: the Socratic Method and Socratic Irony. His philosophy and teachings have affected today?s way of thinking and contemporary philosophy in many ways

Early Life

Socrates lived thousands of years ago. There are no true records saying when he was really born, but Diogenes Laertius said, in his citation of Apollodrus? Chronology, that Socrates was born in the fourth year of the 77th Olympiad and on the sixth day of the month called Thargelion.1 Plato said that he died at the age of 70 in 399, therefore being born on 469 BC (just ten years after the death of Confucius). He was the son of a sculptor named Sophroniscus, and a midwife named Phaenarete.

There is not a lot of information about Socrates? education. Plurach wrote that a fortuneteller once told his father to let Socrates do whatever he wanted, ?allow him free play without forcing anything on him?.2 He made sure he got the appropriate elementary education. He was taught literature, music, gymnastics, and sculpture.3 Later, Socrates became interested in Geometry, the language and dialectics of the Sophists, the speculations of the Ionian Philosophers, and the general culture of Athens. In the Parmenides, Socrates, when he was very young, went to hear Zeno read a treatise and talks with him and Parmenides. Plato wrote that Socrates mentioned seeing Parmenides use the question-answer method (which he later used himself). In the writing the Meno, Socrates says that Meno was his teacher, in the words of the writer, he said that Meno was as bad a teacher to him as Gorgias was to Meno.4 He often referred to Prodicus as an expert on words. In the Symposium (by Plato), Socrates says that in the area of LOVE, he was taught by Diotima of Mantineia. No one knows who she was or what she was (angel or human). He also said that he learned rhetoric from Aspasia and that he was taught music by Connus. Socrates was also taught by Anaxagoras, Damon, and Archealus (Archealus was the teacher of Anaxagoras, and was the first to bring natural philosophy to Athens).5 Diogenes said that Socrates became so good in Ethics, that he is now said to be the one who invented it. Although he had so many teachers, Socrates wasn?t satisfied with his teachers. Therefore, he began to look for his own methods of searching the knowledge of the good.

Athens, Greece Birth Place

Later Life

Socrates was married to a woman named Xanthippe. She was a rude, ill tempered woman. She and Socrates had a son named Lamprocles. It is also believed that Socrates had a second wife (according to sources recovered by Laertius and Aristotle)? her name was Myrto.6 She had two other sons called Sophroniscus and Menexenus. Both wives were married to him at the same time because of Athens policy on increasing the population. It is not really known if he really had that second wife, but more than one source say that he did. Socrates was also involved in the military. He fought in a big war called the Archidamian War. According to Plato, he was very brave in the Siege of Potidaea, which was from 431-430 BC, and he was also very brave in the Battle of Delium (424 BC).7 He was very successful in the military. Socrates spent all, if not most, of his life in Athens. He said that he liked to learn from people, and that they were easier to find in the city than in the country. The only time he travelled was in the military, when he fought in the battles.

Socrates got involved with politics as little as possible. He followed the laws of Athens, but still stayed away from politics. He thought that it was too dangerous for a ?lover of justice and truth? like himself.8 If he was into politics and opposed injustice and illegality, he would be put to death a lot sooner. As a result of this, he chose to fight injustice as a private citizen. However, when his group came into government, as the president, he was forced to take votes.

In 423 BC, Aristophanes wrote a comedy called the Clouds. Socrates was the main character of the play. In the play, Socrates was supposed to worship clouds and other scientific wonders, instead of the gods that the people from Greece worshipped. Additionally, the play said that Socrates was the owner of a thinking shop were young people were taught the wrong things about the religion of Athens. The Athenians took this play seriously, and believed what it said about Socrates? believes. Throughout the years, the Athenians began to dislike Socrates, because of the way he criticized the state and because of his religious believes. In 399 BC, Socrates was brought to trial for neglecting the gods of the state, introducing new religions, corrupting the morals of the young, and the Sophists thought bad of him because of the way the Clouds criticized him.9 He had a chance to escape the trial by getting exile, but he didn?t take it. The Apology, by Plato, is a defence speech Socrates supposedly gave at the trial. Socrates tried to tell the people of the trial that the things said on the clouds weren?t true. He also explained why he believed what he believed. Shamefully, this wasn?t good enough for the people, so he was sentenced to death. Again, Socrates had a chance to escape, his followers and students planned an escape of the prison cell, but he didn?t take it. He served his penalty as he was suppose to. He died by drinking a cup of Hemlock.

It is said that on his last day all his friends were there including his wife. Xanthippe was there with their youngest son on her arms. There was a painting done on the seventeenth century showing his last day:

Thoughts, Ideas, & Philosophy

Socrates had many thoughts and ideas. He thought differently than others. He thought that knowledge was essential to a person. Socrates was once told by a fortune teller that he was the smartest man in Greece. He did not believe this, so he went to ask people (who were supposed to be smart) questions, to see if he really was the smartest man in Greece. He asked things like what is knowledge, why do people do wrong, and so on. This became known as the Socratic Method. He believed that by asking these type of questions, and cross examining the people he would be able to get the answer from them. Socrates also believed that no one knowingly does wrong. Which he thought meant that if a person does not know what is right, then that person will do wrong, but in the other hand, if the person knows what is right will do right. He once learned the motto ?know thyself?. To his point of view, this meant that in knowing oneself, ne saw the possibility of knowing what is really good. He thought that virtue was knowledge. He said that if people have the wrong idea of virtue, love, morality, or any other ethical idea, He said that they can?t be trusted to do what is right. The soul to him was ?the seat of both, waking consciousness and moral character. He also thought that a man?s nature showed him how to act correctly and in harmony with knowledge. He believed a person?s evil and wrong actions come from ignorance and the failure to investigate why people act as they do. As a result of this he said ?the unexamined life is not worth living.? Socrates also introduced the idea of Universal Definitions, which said that although individual things may vary and be constructed differently the definitions of how they are similar are permanent. One of his most famous philosophical ideas is that the necessity of doing what one thinks is right even in the face of universal opposition, and the need to pursue knowledge even when opposed.


Socrates taught anywhere, the marketplaces, gymnasiums, and streets. He went up to people (without knowing who they were) and asked them all sorts of questions. He developed the Socratic Method, also now known as dialectics. This was the method of teaching that involved asking questions and then cross-examining the answers the people give. Socrates was the teacher of two very famous philosophers and historians. One was Plato, who wrote the most about him; and the other one was Xenophon, who was one of the most famous historians of all times. His method of teaching involved living with his pupils (this is why he is regarded of being homosexual, which is not true at all, and there is no fact that supports that). Socrates also influenced people like Crito, Hermogenes, Simmias, Cebes, Cynic, Aristipus, Phaedonias, and many more. Xenophon says that although he did not charge any prices for what he taught, others who he taught went out and charged really high amounts of prices. Xenophon also said that Socrates went to crowds and said ?Where do people become good and honorable… then follow me… and learn.? This is how many of his students came to him.10

Socrates has affected the world and the philosophy in many ways. The Socratic Method is know a well known way of teaching today. His theories of moral life are being followed by many people today. His philosophy and teachings has affected Western Philosophy a lot. It was him who modified it. His followers, who were strongly influenced by him, began many things that had to do with philosophy. For example, Cynic, another philosopher, after being influenced by Socrates, formed the Cynic Schools of Philosophy11. This school based its teaching on Socrates? teachings. Furthermore, Arisitipus, another philosopher influenced by Socrates, formed the Hedonist School. More and more people followed the philosophy of Socrates and went out and taught it to others (free or not free) and so on.


In conclusion, Socrates was one of the greatest philosophers of all times. He wrote no books and wasn?t interested in money. He was just interested in that the people (of at least Athens) would be wise and had morals. Socrates was brave, smart, and lived his life by principles. He was an intellectual man who wasn?t embarrassed nor shy. Socrates was admired greatly by a lot, but by some, he was hated. Socrates criticized a lot, but never hurt anyone. He never broke the laws, although he was not into politics, but the Athenian Mob didn?t look at it that way. His philosophy influenced philosophy greatly. It was a shame that the royalty of Athens was so unfair, and Socrates had to end his life like he did. Because after all, Socrates was just a good man.


1. Gulley, Norman. ?The Philosophy of Socrates.? Macmillan and Co. LTD; 1968. New York City, NY.

2. Strauss, Leo. ?Xenophon?s Socrates.? Cornell University Press; 1972. London, England.

3. Taylor, A. E. ?Socrates.? Butler & Tanner Co; 1926 London, England.

4. O?Brien, Michael. ?The Socratic Paradoxes and the Greek Mind.? University of North Carolina Press; 1967. Durham, NC.

5. Taylor, A. E. ?Plato.? Butler & Tanner Co; 1926 London, England.

6. Yartz, Frank. ?Ancient Greek Philosophy.? Mac Farlan Publishing Co; 1984. Jefferson, NC.


1. Anderson, Kent & Freund, Norm. ?Socrates.? Sept. 14, 1996. Http://

2. Beck, Anderson. ?Socrates? 1996 Http://

3. Kalogrianitis, Socratis. ?Socrates (469-399 BC).? December 28, 1995.

Bibliography (cont.)

4. Marvin, Chris & Sikernitsky, Frank. ?Socrates: Greek Philosopher (469 – 399 BC).? 1995. Http://

5. No Author ?Socrates (470-399)? United States of America; 1994. Http://

6. ?Socrates (470 – 399 BC)…? May 24, 1997. Http://



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