What is Socrates best known for?

Socrates was one of the most important figures in the history of philosophy and is best known for his contributions to the field of philosophy.

Note that he was not a professional philosopher in the modern sense, neither was he a teacher or a scholar in the conventional sense, but he was a respected figure who engaged in philosophical discussions with anyone who would listen. 

Socrates did not write any books or treatises, but his ideas were recorded by his student, Plato. This is the reason we know about Socrates, mainly through the writings of Plato and other ancient sources.

Socrates was particularly known for “The Socratic method” a method that involves asking questions to uncover underlying assumptions and explore the nature of a given concept or idea.

The Socratic method, or Socratic questioning, was a key element of Socrates’ philosophical approach. It involves a series of questions and answers, in which Socrates would question his interlocutors to uncover their assumptions and beliefs. 

This method was designed to help people think critically about their ideas and to challenge accepted truths.

The Socratic method can be broken down into three main steps:

– First, Socrates would ask his interlocutor a question about a specific topic.

– Second, the interlocutor would answer the question, and Socrates would then ask follow-up questions to further look into the implications of the answer.

-Third, through this process of questioning, Socrates would gradually lead the interlocutor to a point where they recognized the limits of their knowledge and could no longer give a clear answer. 

At this point, Socrates would conclude that true wisdom is knowing that you don’t know everything and that the process of seeking knowledge is more important than having all the answers.

This method was often frustrating for those who engaged in discussion with Socrates, but it also allowed them to reflect on their beliefs and consider alternative perspectives.

The Socratic method has been used in various forms throughout history, both in philosophy and in other fields. 

In philosophy, the method has been used by thinkers such as Plato, Aristotle, and Descartes. 

In education, the method has been used in the Socratic seminar, which is a type of discussion-based learning. 

In law, the method has been used in the Socratic method of legal education, which is based on questioning and argumentation. 

In medicine, the method has been used in medical education to help students develop critical thinking skills.

In general, the Socratic method stimulates critical thinking and encourages a deeper understanding of complex concepts. 

However, the method has also been criticized for being too abstract and theoretical, and for not always leading to concrete solutions. 

Some have also argued that the method is not always effective in real-world situations, where there may be time constraints or other limitations. Nevertheless, the method continues to be used and studied in various fields.

The Socratic method remains a key tool for critical thinking and inquiry which is what Socrates is best known for.

Socrates’ beliefs and pursuit of wisdom

Socrates is often associated with the pursuit of wisdom, or “philosophy,” as he called it. 

The very word “philosophy” is derived from the Greek words “philo,” meaning love, and “sophia,” meaning wisdom. So, philosophy literally means “the love of wisdom.” 

And for Socrates, the search for wisdom was not just an intellectual exercise, but a way of life. He believed that the pursuit of wisdom was the most important thing a person could do and that it was essential for living a good and virtuous life.

In his view, true wisdom was not about having all the answers, but rather about questioning and examining one’s own beliefs. He famously said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” This idea of lifelong learning and self-examination was central to Socrates’ philosophy. 

He believed that wisdom could only be attained through rigorous questioning and self-reflection and that it was a never-ending process.

Socrates also believed that the pursuit of wisdom required humility and openness to change. He argued that those who thought they had all the answers were often the least wise, as they were closed off to new ideas and unable to see their own biases. 

In contrast, those who were willing to admit that they did not know everything were more likely to learn and grow. 

Socrates saw the pursuit of wisdom as a process of constant growth and learning, rather than a destination that could be reached.

So, in short, the pursuit of wisdom was at the heart of Socrates’ philosophy, and he was well-known for that.

Socrates’ challenging of traditional Greek values

Socrates challenged traditional Greek values in a number of ways.  One of the most significant ways was his rejection of the traditional Greek conception of virtue. 

In traditional Greek society, virtue was seen as something innate and unchanging, and it was associated with a person’s social status or rank. 

However, Socrates believed that virtue was something that could be cultivated and developed through reason and reflection. 

He rejected the idea that virtue was simply a matter of social standing, and instead saw it as something that was accessible to everyone, regardless of their background or social position.

This view was seen as radical and dangerous by many in Athens, who believed that it undermined the traditional values of their society. 

Read Also: What Socrates taught the most

Socrates was even accused of corrupting the youth of Athens with his teachings. But despite the controversy, Socrates remained committed to his view that virtue was not static, but rather something that could be developed through self-reflection and reason.

Socrates’ defense of philosophy against the charge of impiety

When Socrates was put on trial for impiety (the charge of being disrespectful to the gods), he used his defense to defend not only himself but also the value of philosophy itself. 

He argued that he was not guilty of impiety, but rather that he was doing the work of a philosopher, which was to question and challenge accepted beliefs and ideas. 

In his view,  questioning was not disrespectful to the gods, but rather a way of seeking truth and wisdom. He argued that the real impiety was found in those who blindly accepted traditional beliefs without questioning them.

He famously said,  “The unexamined life is not worth living,” suggesting that true wisdom and fulfillment could only be found through a life of questioning and reflection. 

This was the essence of philosophy for Socrates and he saw it as a sacred and noble pursuit, rather than a crime or a form of disrespect. 

In the end, this defense was not enough to save him from execution, but it had a lasting impact on the development of philosophy and critical thinking in society.

Socrates’ death and legacy

The death of Socrates has always been remembered as a defining moment in the history of philosophy.  

Socrates was found guilty of impiety and sentenced to death. Rather than flee or attempt to escape his punishment, he accepted his fate with dignity and grace. 

His last words before drinking the hemlock (a poisonous drink) were, “The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways–I to die, and you to live. Which is better, God only knows.” 

These words have become legendary, and they capture the courage and conviction of Socrates even in the face of death.

After his death, the legacy of Socrates lived on through his students, particularly Plato who went on to found the Academy, a school of philosophy that would have a profound impact on Western thought. He also wrote a number of works, including the “Dialogues,” which recorded and explored the ideas of Socrates. 

Through these works, the ideas of Socrates would continue to inspire generations of thinkers and continue to shape the course of philosophy. 


The influence of Socrates on Western philosophy has been a thoughtful and lasting one. Many philosophers have been influenced by his ideas, including Plato, Aristotle, and many others. 

The influence of Socrates can be seen not only in philosophy but in many other aspects of our world including science, ethics, and politics.

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