"As for me, all I know is that I know nothing, for when I don't know what justice is, I'll hardly know whether it is a kind of virtue or not, or whether a person who has it is happy or unhappy." - attributed to Socrates in Plato's The Republic
In 427 B.C., the Ancient Greek city-state of Athens was flourishing. Approximately 80 years earlier, the Athenians had formed the first self-representative democracy in history, the Peloponnesian War against Sparta had only just started, and Socrates was only beginning to lay the foundation of what would become Western philosophy.
None of Socrates' works survived antiquity, so most of what is known about him came from the writings of his followers, most notably Plato. What is known about Socrates is that he seemed to make a career out of philosophy, and Plato was intent on following in his footsteps. Yet for all of the influence of Socrates' life on his followers, it was Socrates' death around 399 B.C. that truly shaped them. Plato was so embittered by Socrates' trial in Athens that he completely soured on Athenian democracy, and Aristotle would later criticize politicians who relied on rhetoric; when Aristotle's own life was threatened, he fled Greece and allegedly remarked, "I will not allow the Athenians to sin twice against philosophy."
©2015 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors