SOCRATES OF ATHENS (Greece, BC 469 - BC 399).
Greek philosopher, born in Athens, Greece. Little is known of his early life. By Plato's account, he devoted his last 30 years to convincing the Athenians that their opinions about moral matters could not bear the weight of critical scrutiny. His technique, the Socratic method, was to ask for definitions of such morally significant concepts as piety and justice, and to elicit contradictions from the responses, thus exposing the ignorance of the responder and motivating deeper enquiry into the concepts. His profession to know none of the answers himself is ironic: he most probably held the doctrines that human excellence is a kind of knowledge; thus, that all wrongdoing is based on ignorance, that no one desires bad things; and that it is worse to do injustice than to suffer it. He was tried on charges of impiety and corruption of youth by zealous defenders of a restored democracy in Athens. Found guilty, he was put to death by drinking hemlock. His personality and his doctrines were immortalized in Plato's dialogues; his influence on Western philosophy is incalculable.
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