(ca. 470399 BC). Philos.; b. Athens, Greece; rendered military service from time to time; twice defied govt. ruling which he regarded as unjust; criticized follies and vices of the govt. and inanities of the popular theol. of his day; convicted of charges of corrupting the youth and of being unfaithful to the religion and gods of the state; chose death by poison hemlock rather than suggest a lesser penalty.
Aristophanes (ca. 448ca. 380 BC; Athenias play-wright) caricatures him, probably playfully, in The Clouds as petty, bourgeoise, antidemocratic. Xenophon (ca. 434ca. 355 BC; hist. and essayist; b. Athens, Greece; disciple of Socrates) describes him in Memorabilia as a practical man of action. Plato* (disciple of Socrates) idealizes him as a hero of dialectic. Aristotle* credits him with being the first to seek natural definitions or universal principles, but only in moral matters. The accuracy of the image thus secured is subject to debate.
Socrates developed a method of inquiry and instruction (known as the Socratic method) by questions and answers; it led to the notion that virtue is teachable, evil the result of ignorance, and the virtues one.
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