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I Socrates The most interesting and influential thinker in the fifth century was Socrates whose dedication to careful reasoning transformed the entire enterprise Since he sought genuine knowledge rather than mere victory over an opponent He familiarized himself with the rhetoric and dialectics of the Sophists the speculations of the Lonian philosophers and the general culture of Periclean Athens Socrates employed the same logical tricks developed by the Sophists to a new purpose the pursuit of truth Thus his willingness to call everything into question and his determination to accept nothing less than an adequate account of the nature of things make him the first clear exponent of critical philosophy Although he was well known during his own time for his conversational skills and public teaching Socrates wrote nothing so we are dependent upon his students especially Kenophon and Plato for any detailed knowledge of his methods and results The trouble is that Plato was himself a philosopher who often injected his own theories into the dialogues he presented to the world as discussions between Socrates and other famous figures of the day Nevertheless it is usually assumed that at least the early dialogues of Plato provide a fairly accurate representation of Socrates himself Socrates profoundly affected Western philosophy through his influence on Plato Born in Athens the son of Sophroniscus a sculptor and Phaenarete a midwife he received the regular elementary education in literature music and gymnastics Initially Socrates followed the craft of his father according to a former tradition he executed a statue group of the three Graces which stood at the entrance to the Acropolis until the 2nd century AD In the Peloponnesian War with Sparta he served as an infantryman with conspicuous bravery at the battles of Potidaea in 432-430BC Delium in 424BC and Amphipolis in 422BC Socrates believed in the superiority of argument over writing and therefore spent the greater part of his mature life in the marketplace and public
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