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History
IN OUR TIME'S GREATEST PHILOSOPHER VOTE
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GREATEST PHILOSOPHER

 
Socrates (469-399 BC)

 Listen to Karen Armstrong explain why she chose Socrates

'The unexamined life is not worth living.'

Socrates. The man who popularised the term philosopher, Socrates influenced philosophy so much that all previous thinkers have come to be known as Pre-Socratic. Despite this he declared "All I know is that I know nothing".

Socrates was a man of great intellectual brilliance, moral integrity, personal magnetism, and physical self-command. Not one to cloister himself away he would debate with anyone, young or old, rich or poor.

In this way he challenged the moral complacency of his fellow citizens, embarrassing them with the contradictions of their lives and the way they used words without really thinking about them.

By the age of seventy, Socrates had got under the skin of his fellow Athenians so much that they condemned him to death for impiety and corrupting the youth of the city.

Under coercion he killed himself by drinking a cup of hemlock and, according to Plato’s account, died in a dignified manner after discussing the meaning of life and death with his friends.

This greatest of philosophical martyrs even wrote himself a fitting epitaph - "the unexamined life is not worth living".

Read The Trial of Socrates on Project Gutenberg

Read about Socrates on Wikipedia


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 Listen to Karen Armstrong say why you should vote for Socrates

 
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In Our Time
Thursday 9.00-9.45am, rpt 9.30-10.00pm. Melvyn Bragg explores the history of ideas. Listen again online or download the latest programme as an mp3 file.
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