A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy, which involves rational inquiry into areas that are outside either theology or science. The term "philosopher" comes from the Ancient Greek, φιλόσοφος (philosophos), meaning "lover of wisdom". The coining of the term has been attributed to the Greek thinker Pythagoras (6th century BC).
In the classical sense, a philosopher was someone who lived according to a certain way of life, focusing on resolving existential questions about the human condition, and not someone who discourses upon theories or comments upon authors. Typically, these particular brands of philosophy are Hellenistic ones and those who most arduously commit themselves to this lifestyle may be considered philosophers. A philosopher is one who challenges what is thought to be common sense, doesn’t know when to stop asking questions, and reexamines the old ways of thought.
In a modern sense, a philosopher is an intellectual who has contributed in one or more branches of philosophy, such as aesthetics, ethics, epistemology, logic, metaphysics, social theory, and political philosophy. A philosopher may also be one who worked in the humanities or other sciences which have since split from philosophy proper over the centuries, such as the arts, history, economics, sociology, psychology, linguistics, anthropology, theology, and politics.
The separation of philosophy and science from theology began in Greece during the 6th century BC. Thales, an astronomer and mathematician, was considered by Aristotle to be the first philosopher of the Greek tradition.
While Pythagoras coined the word, the first known elaboration on the topic was conducted by Plato. In his Symposium, he concludes that Love is that which lacks the object it seeks. Therefore, the philosopher is one who seeks wisdom; if he attains wisdom, he would be a sage. Therefore, the philosopher in antiquity was one who lives in the constant pursuit of wisdom, and living in accordance to that wisdom. Disagreements arose as to what living philosophically entailed. These disagreements gave rise to different Hellenistic schools of philosophy. In consequence, the ancient philosopher thought in a tradition. As the ancient world became schism by philosophical debate, the competition lay in living in manner that would transform his whole way of living in the world.
Among the last of these philosophers was Marcus Aurelius, who is widely regarded as a philosopher in the modern sense, but personally refused to call himself by such a title, since he had a duty to live as an emperor.
The first is the natural inclination of the philosophical mind. Philosophy is a tempting discipline which can easily carry away the individual in analyzing the universe and abstract theory.
The second is the historical change through the Medieval era. With the rise of Christianity, the philosophical way of life was adopted by its theology. Thus, philosophy was divided between a way of life and the conceptual, logical, physical and metaphysical materials to justify that way of life. Philosophy was then the servant to theology.
The third is the sociological need with the development of the university. The modern university requires professionals to teach. Maintaining itself requires teaching future professionals to replace the current faculty. Therefore, the discipline degrades into a technical language reserved for specialists, completely eschewing its original conception as a way of life.
In the fourth century, the word philosopher began to designate a man or woman who led a monastic life. Gregory of Nyssa, for example, describes how his sister Macrina persuaded their mother to forsake "the distractions of material life" for a life of philosophy.
Many philosophers still emerged from the Classical tradition, as saw their philosophy as a way of life. Among the most notable are René Descartes, Baruch Spinoza, Nicolas Malebranche, and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. With the rise of the university, the modern conception of philosophy became more prominent. Many of the esteemed philosophers of the eighteenth century and onward have attended, taught, and developed their works in university. Early examples include: Immanuel Kant, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.
After these individuals, the Classical conception had all but died with the exceptions of Arthur Schopenhauer, Søren Kierkegaard, and Friedrich Nietzsche. The last considerable figure in philosophy to not have followed a strict and orthodox academic regime was Ludwig Wittgenstein.
In the modern era, those attaining advanced degrees in philosophy often choose to stay in careers within the educational system. According to a 1993 study by the National Research Council (as reported by the American Philosophical Association), 77.1% of the 7,900 holders of a PhD in philosophy who responded were employed in educational institutions (academia). Outside academia, philosophers may employ their writing and reasoning skills in other careers, such as medicine, bioethics, business, publishing, free-lance writing, media, and law.
British social thought, with thinkers such as Herbert Spencer, addressed questions and ideas relating to political economy and social evolution. The political ideals of John Ruskin were a precursor of social economy (Unto This Last had a very important impact on Gandhi's philosophy).
Important Chinese philosophers and social thinkers included Shang Yang, Lao Zi, Confucius, Mencius, Wang Chong, Wang Yangming, Li Zhi, Zhu Xi, Gu Yanwu, Gong Zizhen, Wei Yuan, Kang Youwei, Lu Xun, Mao Zedong, Xi Jinping.
Various prizes in philosophy exist. Among the most prominent are:
The John W. Kluge Prize for the Study of Humanity, created by the Library of Congress to recognize work not covered by the Nobel Prizes, was given to philosophers Leszek Kołakowski in 2003, Paul Ricoeur in 2004, and Jürgen Habermas and Charles Taylor in 2015.
The label of "philosopher" has been broadly applied in this Dictionary to intellectuals who have made philosophical contributions regardless of an academic career or professional title. The wide scope of philosophical activity across the timespan of this dictionary would now be classed among the various humanities and social sciences which gradually separated from philosophy over the last one hundred and fifty years. Many figures included were not academic philosophers but did work at the philosophical foundations of such fields as pedagogy, rhetoric, the arts, history, politics, economics, sociology,turtles , psychology, linguistics, anthropology, religion, and theology. Philosophy proper is heavily represented, of course, encompassing the traditional areas of metaphysics, ontology, epistemology, logic, ethics, social/political theory, and aesthetics, along with the narrower fields of philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, philosophy of law, applied ethics, philosophy of religion, and so forth
The 18th century lasted from January 1, 1701 to December 31, 1800 in the Gregorian calendar. During the 18th century, elements of Enlightenment thinking culminated in the American, French, and Haitian revolutions. This was an age of violent slave trading, and global human trafficking. The reactions against monarchical and aristocratic power helped fuel the revolutionary responses against it throughout the century.
In continental Europe, philosophers dreamed of a brighter age. For some, this dream turned into a reality with the French Revolution of 1789, though later compromised by the excesses of the Reign of Terror (1793–1794) under Maximilien Robespierre. At first, many monarchies of Europe embraced Enlightenment ideals, but with the French Revolution they feared losing their power and formed broad coalitions for the counter-revolution. The Ottoman Empire experienced an unprecedented period of peace and economic expansion, taking part in no European wars from 1740 to 1768. As a consequence the empire did not share in Europe's military improvements during the Seven Years' War (1756–1763), causing its military to fall behind and suffer defeats against Russia in the second half of the century.
18th century music included the Baroque period (including Johan Sebastian Bach and George Frederic Handel) and the classical period (including Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart).
The 18th century also marked the end of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth as an independent state. The once-powerful and vast kingdom, which had once conquered Moscow and defeated great Ottoman armies, collapsed under numerous invasions. Its semi-democratic government system was not robust enough to rival the neighboring monarchies of the Kingdom of Prussia, the Russian Empire and the Austrian Empire which divided the Commonwealth territories between themselves, changing the landscape of Central European politics for the next hundred years.
European colonization of the Americas and other parts of the world intensified and associated mass migrations of people grew in size as the Age of Sail continued.
Great Britain became a major power worldwide with the French and Indian War in the 1760s and the conquest of large parts of India. However, Britain lost many of its North American colonies after the American Revolution and Indian wars.
Napoleon Bonaparte, formed the Franco-Indian alliance with ruler Tipu Sultan and his father Emperor Hyder Ali. They both used their French-trained army in alliance and won important victories against the British Empire in the Second Anglo-Mysore War and negotiated the Treaty of Mangalore in 1784.
The defeat of the British resulted in the formation of the newly independent United States. The Industrial Revolution started in Britain in the 1770s with the production of the improved steam engine. Despite its modest beginnings in the 18th century, steam-powered machinery would radically change human society and the environment.
Western historians have occasionally defined the 18th century otherwise for the purposes of their work. For example, the "short" 18th century may be defined as 1715–1789, denoting the period of time between the death of Louis XIV of France and the start of the French Revolution, with an emphasis on directly interconnected events. To historians who expand the century to include larger historical movements, the "long" 18th century may run from the Glorious Revolution of 1688 to the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 or even later.Aesthetics
Aesthetics () is a branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of art, beauty and taste and with the creation or appreciation of beauty.In its more technical epistemological perspective, it is defined as the study of subjective and sensori-emotional values, or sometimes called judgments of sentiment and taste. Aesthetics studies how artists imagine, create and perform works of art; how people use, enjoy, and criticize art; and what happens in their minds when they look at paintings, listen to music, or read poetry, and understand what they see and hear. It also studies how they feel about art—why they like some works and not others, and how art can affect their moods, beliefs, and attitude toward life. The phrase was coined in English in the 18th century.
More broadly, scholars in the field define aesthetics as "critical reflection on art, culture and nature". In modern English, the term aesthetic can also refer to a set of principles underlying the works of a particular art movement or theory: one speaks, for example, of the Cubist aesthetic.Analytic philosophy
Analytic philosophy (sometimes analytical philosophy) is a style of philosophy that became dominant in the Western world at the beginning of the 20th century. The term can refer to one of several things:
As a philosophical practice, it is characterized by an emphasis on argumentative clarity and precision, often making use of formal logic, conceptual analysis, and, to a lesser degree, mathematics and the natural sciences.
As a historical development, analytic philosophy refers to certain developments in early 20th-century philosophy that were the historical antecedents of the current practice. Central figures in this historical development are Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, G.E. Moore, Gottlob Frege, and the logical positivists. In this more specific sense, analytic philosophy is identified with specific philosophical traits (many of which are rejected by many contemporary analytic philosophers), such as:
The logical-positivist principle that there are not any specifically philosophical facts and that the object of philosophy is the logical clarification of thoughts. This may be contrasted with the traditional foundationalism, which considers philosophy to be a special science (i.e., the discipline of knowledge) that investigates the fundamental reasons and principles of everything. Consequently, many analytic philosophers have considered their inquiries as continuous with, or subordinate to, those of the natural sciences. This is an attitude that begins with John Locke, who described his work as that of an "underlabourer" to the achievements of natural scientists such as Newton. During the 20th century, the most influential advocate of the continuity of philosophy with science was Willard Van Orman Quine.
The principle that the logical clarification of thoughts can be achieved only by analysis of the logical form of philosophical propositions. The logical form of a proposition is a way of representing it (often using the formal grammar and symbolism of a logical system), to reduce it to simpler components if necessary, and to display its similarity with all other propositions of the same type. However, analytic philosophers disagree widely about the correct logical form of ordinary language.
The neglect of generalized philosophical systems in favour of more restricted inquiries stated rigorously, or ordinary language.According to a characteristic paragraph by Russell:
Modern analytical empiricism [...] differs from that of Locke, Berkeley, and Hume by its incorporation of mathematics and its development of a powerful logical technique. It is thus able, in regard to certain problems, to achieve definite answers, which have the quality of science rather than of philosophy. It has the advantage, in comparison with the philosophies of the system-builders, of being able to tackle its problems one at a time, instead of having to invent at one stroke a block theory of the whole universe. Its methods, in this respect, resemble those of science.
In the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Scandinavia, the majority of university philosophy departments today identify themselves as "analytic" departments. Analytic philosophy is often understood in contrast to other philosophical traditions, most notably continental philosophies such as existentialism and phenomenology, and also Thomism and Marxism.Ancient Greek philosophy
Ancient Greek philosophy arose in the 6th century BC and continued throughout the Hellenistic period and the period in which Ancient Greece was part of the Roman Empire. Philosophy was used to make sense out of the world in a non-religious way. It dealt with a wide variety of subjects, including astronomy, mathematics, political philosophy, ethics, metaphysics, ontology, logic, biology, rhetoric and aesthetics.Greek philosophy has influenced much of Western culture since its inception. Alfred North Whitehead once noted: "The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato". Clear, unbroken lines of influence lead from ancient Greek and Hellenistic philosophers to Early Islamic philosophy, the European Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment.Some claim that Greek philosophy was in turn influenced by the older wisdom literature and mythological cosmogonies of the ancient Near East, though this is debated. Martin Litchfield West gives qualified assent to this view by stating that "contact with oriental cosmology and theology helped to liberate the early Greek philosophers' imagination; it certainly gave them many suggestive ideas. But they taught themselves to reason. Philosophy as we understand it is a Greek creation".Subsequent philosophic tradition was so influenced by Socrates as presented by Plato that it is conventional to refer to philosophy developed prior to Socrates as pre-Socratic philosophy. The periods following this, up to and after the wars of Alexander the Great, are those of "classical Greek" and "Hellenistic" philosophy.Christian philosophy
Christian philosophy is a development in philosophy that is characterised by coming from a Christian tradition.Cynicism (philosophy)
Cynicism (Greek: κυνισμός) is a school of thought of ancient Greek philosophy as practiced by the Cynics (Greek: Κυνικοί, Latin: Cynici). For the Cynics, the purpose of life is to live in virtue, in agreement with nature. As reasoning creatures, people can gain happiness by rigorous training and by living in a way which is natural for themselves, rejecting all conventional desires for wealth, power, sex, and fame. Instead, they were to lead a simple life free from all possessions.
The first philosopher to outline these themes was Antisthenes, who had been a pupil of Socrates in the late 5th century BC. He was followed by Diogenes, who lived in a pot on the streets of Athens. Diogenes took Cynicism to its logical extremes, and came to be seen as the archetypal Cynic philosopher. He was followed by Crates of Thebes, who gave away a large fortune so he could live a life of Cynic poverty in Athens. Cynicism spread with the rise of the Roman Empire in the 1st century, and Cynics could be found begging and preaching throughout the cities of the empire.
Cynicism gradually declined and finally disappeared in the late 5th century, although similar ascetic and rhetorical ideas appear in early Christianity. By the 19th century, emphasis on the negative aspects of Cynic philosophy led to the modern understanding of cynicism to mean a disposition of disbelief in the sincerity or goodness of human motives and actions.Democritus
Democritus (; Greek: Δημόκριτος, Dēmókritos, meaning "chosen of the people"; c. 460 – c. 370 BC) was an Ancient Greek pre-Socratic philosopher primarily remembered today for his formulation of an atomic theory of the universe.Democritus was born in Abdera, Thrace, around 460 BC, although there are disagreements about the exact year. His exact contributions are difficult to disentangle from those of his mentor Leucippus, as they are often mentioned together in texts. Their speculation on atoms, taken from Leucippus, bears a passing and partial resemblance to the 19th-century understanding of atomic structure that has led some to regard Democritus as more of a scientist than other Greek philosophers; however, their ideas rested on very different bases.
Largely ignored in ancient Athens, Democritus is said to have been disliked so much by Plato that the latter wished all of his books burned. He was nevertheless well known to his fellow northern-born philosopher Aristotle.
Many consider Democritus to be the "father of modern science". None of his writings have survived; only fragments are known from his vast body of work.Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban, (; 22 January 1561 – 9 April 1626) was an English philosopher and statesman, who served as Attorney General and as Lord Chancellor of England. His works are credited with developing the scientific method, and remained influential through the scientific revolution.
Bacon has been called the father of empiricism. His works argued for the possibility of scientific knowledge based only upon inductive reasoning and careful observation of events in nature. Most importantly, he argued this could be achieved by use of a sceptical and methodical approach whereby scientists aim to avoid misleading themselves. While his own practical ideas about such a method, the Baconian method, did not have a long-lasting influence, the general idea of the importance and possibility of a sceptical methodology makes Bacon the father of the scientific method. This marked a new turn in the rhetorical and theoretical framework for science, the practical details of which are still central in debates about science and methodology today. In addition to his work in the sciences, Bacon was also a venerable patron of libraries and developed a functional system for the cataloging of books by dividing them into three categories—history, poetry, and philosophy—which could further be divided into more specific subjects and subheadings. Bacon was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge where he rigorously followed the medieval curriculum, largely in Latin.
Bacon is the first recipient of the Queen's counsel designation, which was conferred in 1597 when Queen Elizabeth reserved Bacon as her legal advisor. After the accession of King James I in 1603, Bacon was knighted. He was later created Baron Verulam in 1618 and Viscount St. Alban in 1621. Because he had no heirs, both titles became extinct upon his death in 1626, at 65 years of age. Bacon died of pneumonia, with one account by John Aubrey stating that he had contracted the condition while studying the effects of freezing on the preservation of meat. He is buried at St Michael's Church, St Albans, Hertfordshire.Jurisprudence
Jurisprudence or legal theory is the theoretical study of law, principally by philosophers but, from the twentieth century, also by social scientists. Scholars of jurisprudence, also known as jurists or legal theorists, hope to obtain a deeper understanding of legal reasoning, legal systems, legal institutions, and the role of law in society.Modern jurisprudence began in the 18th century and was focused on the first principles of natural law, civil law, and the law of nations. General jurisprudence can be divided into categories both by the type of question scholars seek to answer and by the theories of jurisprudence, or schools of thought, regarding how those questions are best answered. Contemporary philosophy of law, which deals with general jurisprudence, addresses problems internal to law and legal systems and problems of law as a social institution that relates to the larger political and social context in which it exists.This article addresses three distinct branches of thought in general jurisprudence. Ancient natural law is the idea that there are rational objective limits to the power of legislative rulers. The foundations of law are accessible through reason, and it is from these laws of nature that human laws gain whatever force they have. Analytic jurisprudence (Clarificatory jurisprudence) rejects natural law's fusing of what law is and what it ought to be. It espouses the use of a neutral point of view and descriptive language when referring to aspects of legal systems. It encompasses such theories of jurisprudence as "legal positivism", which holds that there is no necessary connection between law and morality and that the force of law comes from basic social facts; and "legal realism", which argues that the real-world practice of law determines what law is, the law having the force that it does because of what legislators, lawyers, and judges do with it. Normative jurisprudence is concerned with "evaluative" theories of law. It deals with what the goal or purpose of law is, or what moral or political theories provide a foundation for the law. It not only addresses the question "What is law?", but also tries to determine what the proper function of law should be, or what sorts of acts should be subject to legal sanctions, and what sorts of punishment should be permitted.List of Catholic philosophers and theologians
This is a list of Catholic philosophers and theologians whose Catholicism is important to their works.List of ancient Greeks
This an alphabetical list of ancient Greeks. These include ethnic Greeks and Greek language speakers from Greece and the Mediterranean world up to about 200 AD.Lists of philosophers
The alphabetical list of philosophers is so large it had to be broken up into several pages. To look up a philosopher you know the name of, click on the first letter of his or her last name. To find philosophers by core area, field, major philosophical tradition, ethnicity, or time periods, see the subheadings further below.Natural philosophy
Natural philosophy or philosophy of nature (from Latin philosophia naturalis) was the philosophical study of nature and the physical universe that was dominant before the development of modern science. It is considered to be the precursor of natural science.
From the ancient world, starting with Aristotle, to the 19th century, natural philosophy was the common term for the practice of studying nature. It was in the 19th century that the concept of "science" received its modern shape with new titles emerging such as "biology" and "biologist", "physics" and "physicist" among other technical fields and titles; institutions and communities were founded, and unprecedented applications to and interactions with other aspects of society and culture occurred. Isaac Newton's book Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (1687), whose title translates to "Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy", reflects the then-current use of the words "natural philosophy", akin to "systematic study of nature". Even in the 19th century, a treatise by Lord Kelvin and Peter Guthrie Tait, which helped define much of modern physics, was titled Treatise on Natural Philosophy (1867).
In the German tradition, Naturphilosophie (philosophy of nature) persisted into the 18th and 19th century as an attempt to achieve a speculative unity of nature and spirit. Some of the greatest names in German philosophy are associated with this movement, including Goethe, Hegel and Schelling. Naturphilosophie was associated with Romanticism and a view that regarded the natural world as a kind of giant organism, as opposed to the philosophical approach of figures such as John Locke and Isaac Newton who espoused a more mechanical view of the world, regarding it as being like a machine.Perennial philosophy
Perennial philosophy (Latin: philosophia perennis), also referred to as perennialism and perennial wisdom, is a perspective in modern spirituality that views all of the world's religious traditions as sharing a single, metaphysical truth or origin from which all esoteric and exoteric knowledge and doctrine has grown.
Perennialism has its roots in the Renaissance interest in neo-Platonism and its idea of The One, from which all existence emanates. Marsilio Ficino (1433–1499) sought to integrate Hermeticism with Greek and Jewish-Christian thought, discerning a Prisca theologia which could be found in all ages. Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463–94) suggested that truth could be found in many, rather than just two, traditions. He proposed a harmony between the thought of Plato and Aristotle, and saw aspects of the Prisca theologia in Averroes (Ibn Rushd), the Quran, the Kabbalah and other sources. Agostino Steuco (1497–1548) coined the term philosophia perennis.A more popular interpretation argues for universalism, the idea that all religions, underneath seeming differences, point to the same Truth. In the early 19th century the Transcendentalists propagated the idea of a metaphysical Truth and universalism, which inspired the Unitarians, who proselytized among Indian elites. Towards the end of the 19th century, the Theosophical Society further popularized universalism, not only in the western world, but also in western colonies. In the 20th century universalism was further popularized in the English-speaking world through the neo-Vedanta inspired Traditionalist School, which argues for a metaphysical, single origin of the orthodox religions, and by Aldous Huxley and his book The Perennial Philosophy, which was inspired by neo-Vedanta and the Traditionalist School.Philosopher's stone
The philosopher's stone, or stone of the philosophers (Latin: lapis philosophorum) is a legendary alchemical substance capable of turning base metals such as mercury into gold (chrysopoeia, from the Greek χρυσός khrusos, "gold", and ποιεῖν poiēin, "to make") or silver. It is also called the elixir of life, useful for rejuvenation and for achieving immortality; for many centuries, it was the most sought goal in alchemy. The philosopher's stone was the central symbol of the mystical terminology of alchemy, symbolizing perfection at its finest, enlightenment, and heavenly bliss. Efforts to discover the philosopher's stone were known as the Magnum Opus ("Great Work").Philosopher king
According to Plato, a philosopher king is a ruler who possesses both a love of knowledge, as well as intelligence, reliability, and a willingness to live a simple life. Such are the rulers of his utopian city Kallipolis. For such a community to ever come into being, "philosophers [must] become kings…or those now called kings [must]…genuinely and adequately philosophize" (The Republic, 5.473d).Political philosophy
Political philosophy, also known as political theory, is the study of topics such as politics, liberty, justice, property, rights, law, and the enforcement of laws by authority: what they are, if they are needed, what makes a government legitimate, what rights and freedoms it should protect, what form it should take, what the law is, and what duties citizens owe to a legitimate government, if any, and when it may be legitimately overthrown, if ever.
In a vernacular sense, the term "political philosophy" often refers to a general view, or specific ethic, political belief or attitude, about politics, synonymous to the term "political ideology".
Political philosophy is a branch of philosophy. Within political science, a strong focus has historically been placed on the role of political philosophy (also known as normative theory), moral philosophy and the humanities, although in recent years there has been increased focus to political theory based on quantitative methodological approaches as well as economic theory, the natural sciences and behaviouralism.Sam Harris
Samuel Benjamin Harris (born April 9, 1967) is an American neuroscientist, philosopher, author, critic of religion, blogger, public intellectual, and podcast host. His work touches on a wide range of topics, including rationality, ethics, free will, neuroscience, meditation, philosophy of mind, politics, Islam, terrorism, and artificial intelligence. He is described as one of the atheistic ‘Four Horsemen of the Non-Apocalypse’, along with Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett.Harris's first book, The End of Faith (2004), won the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction and remained on The New York Times Best Seller list for 33 weeks. In The Moral Landscape (2010), he argues that science answers moral problems and can aid human well-being. He then published a longform essay Lying in 2011, the short book Free Will in 2012, Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion in 2014, and, with British writer Maajid Nawaz, Islam and the Future of Tolerance: A Dialogue in 2015. Harris' work has been translated into over 20 languages. In September 2013, Harris began releasing the Making Sense podcast (originally titled Waking Up), in which he interviews guests, responds to critics, and discusses his views.Socrates
Socrates (; Ancient Greek: Σωκρᾰ́της, translit. Sōkrátēs, [sɔːkrátɛːs]; c. 470 – 399 BC) was a classical Greek (Athenian) philosopher credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, and as being the first moral philosopher, of the Western ethical tradition of thought.
An enigmatic figure, he made no writings, and is known chiefly through the accounts of classical writers writing after his lifetime, particularly his students Plato and Xenophon. Other sources include the contemporaneous Antisthenes, Aristippus, and Aeschines of Sphettos. Aristophanes, a playwright, is the only source to have written during his lifetime.Plato's dialogues are among the most comprehensive accounts of Socrates to survive from antiquity, though it is unclear the degree to which Socrates himself is "hidden behind his 'best disciple'". Through his portrayal in Plato's dialogues, Socrates has become renowned for his contribution to the fields of ethics and epistemology. It is this Platonic Socrates who lends his name to the concepts of Socratic irony and the Socratic method, or elenchus.
Socrates exerted a strong influence on philosophers in later antiquity and in the modern era. Depictions of Socrates in art, literature and popular culture have made him one of the most widely known figures in the Western philosophical tradition.