The Death of Socrates by Jacques Louis David

Perhaps the greatest of the philosophers, possibly an enlightened being in the order of a Christ, Buddha, Krishna or Mohammad, Socrates is regarded as the father and fountainhead of ethics or moral philosophy, and of philosophy in general. Socrates most important contribution to Western thought is his dialogical method of enquiry, known as the Socratic method where one finds truth by eliminating what one knows to be false by following a line of enquiry to a contridiction. Socrates believed that his wisdom sprung from an awareness of his own ignorance. He knew that he knew nothing, and that all error came out of ignorance. Socrates believed that the best way for people to live was to focus not on accumulating possessions, but on self-development. Socrates believed that “ideals belong in a world that only the wise man can understand” making the philosopher the only type of person suitable to govern others. Socrates views angered the leaders of Athens and he was accused of being anti-democratic and corrupting the youth of the country. Though neither charge demanded the death sentence the number of jurors who voted to condemn him to death was actually larger than the number who voted to convict him in the first place. In other words even jurors who believed he was innocent condemned him to death. If he was not anti-democratic before, this most certainly convinced him, and others of the flaws in a democratic system. Though Socrates left no writings of his own his exploits have been chronicled by a number of ancient writers, formost among them Plato whose works are based on the teachings of Socrates.

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