Most Influential Person in History- Socrates Philosophy in ancient Greece was merely a type of argument, until a pioneer named Socrates showed the world a new way of thinking. Socrates was born in 469 BC in Athens (where he lived all his life) as the son of Sophroniscus, a stonemason, and Phaenarete. In his life, Socrates changed common philosophy, which was a study of why the way things are, into a consideration of the virtue and health of the human soul. Rather than writing books and recording his thoughts himself, he orally passed on his thoughts to many young people of his time, one of which is Plato. Socrates felt so strongly bout his beliefs, that he lived by them, and in doing so, became the first martyr in history to die for philosophical beliefs.
By teaching Plato his concepts and beliefs, Socrates greatly influenced Western thought and philosophy. Socrates’ thoughts were more associated with man, instead of nature and man’s surroundings. He also lead discussions about man’s feelings, soul, and actions. Philosophers before Socrates speculated about the natural universe, but Socrates made them realize their absence of any agreed standard of truth. In doing so, he gave philosophers a common ground to base their thoughts on. Also, he felt that man is good in nature but can produce wrong. For example, “Socrates believed that to do wrong is to damage one’s soul, and that is the worst thing one can do”(Grolier).
From this he concluded that one should never return wrong, and it is worse to do wrong than to be wronged. Socrates felt that revenge was evil and would bring a man to his downfall. It was his belief that self-conscious philosophy with correct morals would produce worthy results. Socrates influenced Western thought through his unique method of thinking. Socrates introduced a concern for detailed method in thought, and added an interest of logic in argument.
Socrates stressed that if man could retain knowledge than he should be able to give definitions and details. These details should be used in argument as a reason for many thoughts. Socrates also believed in a unity of virtues, and that they all lead to knowledge. In his arguments Socrates always insisted on a definition that universally covers it’s subject. This insight showed reason in thinking, not just arguing without proof. This was the greatest importance for the subsequent development of philosophy, because it led to the concept of a “Universal.” This universal was defined by Socrates as “a general quality that may be present in many individually existing things”(Americana, 439).
Another important belief of Socrates, was his implicit assumption that any person to whom he talks, has within them the resources to answer questions correctly. And therefore Socrates believed that he could teach by merely asking the right questions. Schools following the “Socrates Era” were based on this idea of learning through questioning. These characteristic thoughts of his, were Socrates’ most significant influences on philosophy. Socrates had thoughts and ideas in his time (ancient Greece) which were considered strange to many.
His thoughts and ideas eventually got him killed. “In 399 BC , at the age of 70, he was accused of impiety and of corrupting the youth of the city by questioning tradition. Convicted, he was sentenced to death by drinking poison”(Grolier). Many think that Socrates was too smart for his time, which resulted in his death. By his distinct thoughts and teachings, Socrates greatly influenced Western Philosophy and thought. Bibliography “Socrates.” Encyclopedia Americana (1985), XXIII, 439. “Socrates.” Encyclopedia Britannica (1988), X, 241.
“Socrates.” Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia (1995).