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Philosopher Biography Project Paper

Socrates was a classical Greek philosopher who was born in 470 BC and died at 399 BC. He is popularly known as one of the founders of Western Philosophy. Socrates did not really leave a lot of philosophical writings for scholars to study but a lot of records on him were taken largely from the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon. Socrates’ greatest contribution was in the field of ethics. He is credited on the Socratic method also known as elenchus. This is a tool used in discussions where a series of questions are asked not for the sake of getting an answer per question, but to be able to draw out insights on the whole topic.

This leads to general self-knowledge. The fields of epistemology and logic have also benefited from the ideas and contributions of Socrates. Scholars have tried to put together descriptions of Socrates based on the writings of his students and of his contemporaries. Some have depicted him as a champion of the oral mode of communication. A play written by Aristophanes entitled The Cloud portrays Socrates as a clown who teaches his students how to cleverly find their way out of debt. Plato recorded that Socrates’ father was Sophroniscus, a stone mason, and his mother was Phaenarete, a midwife. He married Xanthippe who bore him three sons.

They were named Lamprocles, Sophroniscus and Menexus. Socrates devoted himself to discussing philosophy and records have not confirmed what he really did for a living. Many knew that he engaged in public teachings and debates. He could have accepted payments for teaching in a sophist school, though it has also been described that Socrates suffered from poverty. There is also a probability that Socrates also did stonemasonry like his father. An account by Plato mentioned that Socrates served in the military. This could have been a task he had to do in answer to a call of duty, as there were also battles that happened during his lifetime.

Socrates lived at the era where there was a transition from the peak of the Athenian hegemony to the time of the Peloponnesian War where they were defeated by Sparta and its allies. Recovering from this defeat, the political leaders of Athens proposed democracy. Socrates was noted to strongly criticize democracy, which was being introduced as an efficient form of government. He often got into trouble regarding his ideas related to Athenian politics and society. Political leaders questioned his motives despite his strong claim that he was loyal to Athens.

He also strongly advocated justice and was constantly in pursuit of goodness. Plato thought that these political convictions may have been the source of Socrates trial that eventually led to his execution. Socrates was sentenced to death by the jury because he was found guilty of corrupting the minds of the youth of Athens. Earlier, he was offered exile from Athens or commit to silence as his penalty. Socrates refused these and continued with his personal mission where he maintained that public discussion of the great issues of life and virtue is a necessary part of any valuable human life.

His famous line of “The unexamined life is not worth living. ” summed up his strong belief that it was better to keep on with the fight for goodness rather than remain silent. Socrates showed that he would rather die than give up philosophy. The jury happily granted him that wish and Socrates was sentenced to death by drinking a poisonous mixture. Xenophon narrates that as Socrates was sentenced to die, he did not anymore struggle to break free. He believed that it was actually the right time for him to die.

Plato dramatically depicted the end of Socrates’ life as a picture of a man willing to face death rather than choosing to abandon the pursuit of truth or philosophical inquiry. This has inspired many people and has become a model for all future philosophers. There are events in life that push us to make decisions, to decide between pursuing something or not, choose between what is good and evil, between life and death. We may often be presented with situations where we can decide between the conventional or the pursuit for truth and change. It is in this process of choosing that our lives become philosophical, as philosophical as Socrates’.

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