Born: c. 469 BC in Deme Alopece, Athens
Died: 399 BC (at age 71) in Athens, Greece
Nationality: Greek
Famous For: Leader of Western Philosophy

Socrates was a Greek philosopher who is considered to be the father of Western philosophy and an important figure in the development of philosophy. Socrates left no actual writings concerning his life. The only sources of his anonymous life were the dialogues of Xenophon and Plato and the plays of his Greek contemporary.

Early Years of Socrates

Socrates was born in 470 BC in Athens, Greece. His father was an Athenian stone mason and sculptor. Since he was from a poor family, he only received a basic education and learned craft at a tender age. It is believed that Socrates worked as a mason for a number of years before devoting his life to philosophy.

Many contemporaries differ greatly in their account of how Socrates supported himself as a philosopher. Some contemporaries state Socrates earned from teaching, while others write that he denied receiving any payment, citing poverty as a proof.

Leading Western Thought and Philosophy

Socrates’ contribution to Western intellectual thought was his Socratic methodology, which he utilized on different occasions to examine concepts such as goodness and justice. His method involves solving a problem through breaking it into questions. The answers to those queries brought forward the answer that the seeker needed. The formulation of hypothesis in today’s scientific method was drawn from Socrates’ conflict resolution approach.

Socrates was arraigned in court for corrupting the minds of Athenians. During the trial, he used his method to illustrate how judges were wrong-headed. Socrates did believe in immortality of the soul and stated that God sent him as the divine envoy. He also stated that moral excellence cannot be taught because successful servicemen could not produce kids of their qualities. According to Socrates, virtue was a divine legacy rather than just parental nurturing.

Socrates’ Personal Life

Socrates married Xanthippe, a woman who was said to be very young for him. They had three children – Lamprocles, Sophroniscus and Menexenus. Little is known about Socrates’ wife. It is said that she was not happy with his second career and complained that he was not supporting the family. Socrates even admitted that he had little to do with the upbringing of his sons and expressed more interest in intellectual development of young Athens.

The Death of Socrates

Socrates was a social and moral critic and questioned Athenian society and politics. Among the reasons for his charges was his reasoning, which was myopic to many. He was accused of corrupting the minds of young Athenians. Consequently, the judge sentenced him to death.

Socrates’ death was briefly described by the Phaedo of Plato. It was mentioned that the jailer who was in charge of the prison asked him to escape, but Socrates turned down the pleas. He did not fear death which could merely harm the body and had no authority over the soul.

Socrates’ Legacy

One of the immediate impacts of his death was the establishment of the new philosophical schools by his students. Aristotle, Plato’s protégé, was also an important figure in Classical Era and established his school in 335 BC.