Socrates, a Greek philosopher from 469-399 B.C. is credited for laying the foundation of modern philosophy. Little is known about his life besides what is recorded by his students, which describes him as being fairly impoverished and fairly strange. Socrates also did not write any of his philosophy, again leaving it to his students to record his ideas.

Socrates did not actually teach his ideas; instead he called himself ignorant and thus wise for understanding his own ignorance. He believed that “the only true knowledge is knowing you know nothing.” In that vein, he stressed the importance of knowing oneself, since the more one knows about themself the more they can make decisions that will bring them real happiness for human choice is centered on achieving happiness.

Socrates expanded the field of philosophy to include not just studying the outside world but also examining oneself and values.

Instead of teaching, he asked all kinds of people questions to learn more about human ethics and minds. His concept of the Socratic method involves the teacher not directly providing information but instead guiding the student to the answer through a series of questions that either results in the desired result or a ‘deeper understanding of the limits of knowledge’.

In 399 B.C. Socrates was accused of failing to honor Athenian gods and corrupting the youth. Instead of choosing exile, he accepted execution through a forced suicide, supposedly drinking the hemlock easily in the company of his friends. He became known as a symbol for living and dying for one’s beliefs.