Today is the estimated date of birth of the Greek philosopher Socrates. He is best known outside philosophy for being condemned to death by an Athenian people’s court and choosing to die by drinking hemlock. He had been charged with impiety and with corrupting Athenian youth through his teachings and had been given the opportunity to go into exile. However, he chose to die as sentenced because he believed he would otherwise dishonor the agreement he had willingly made to abide by the laws of Athens.
Perhaps his most important contribution to Western thought is his dialogical method of inquiry, known as the Socratic Method or method of elenchos, which he largely applied to the examination of key moral concepts such as the Good and Justice, concepts used constantly without any real definition. It was first described by Plato in the Socratic Dialogues. For this, Socrates is customarily regarded as the father of political philosophy and ethics or moral philosophy, and as a fountainhead of all the main themes in Western philosophy in general.
In this method, a series of questions are posed to help a person or group to determine their underlying beliefs and the extent of their knowledge. The Socratic method is a negative method of hypothesis elimination, in that better hypotheses are found by steadily identifying and eliminating those which lead to contradictions. It was designed to force one to examine his own beliefs and the validity of such beliefs.
My Favorite Quote (recorded by Plato in The Apology):
The unexamined life is not worth living for a human being.