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Socrates (470 B.C. - 399 B.C.) was a Greek (Athenian) philosopher and one of the most important founders of the Western philosophical tradition.

His most important contribution to Western thought is his method of enquiry, known as the method of elenchos, which is a foundation for much of later Western philosophy. This method usually involves questions about the definitions or logoi (singular logos) of key moral concepts. Socrates was particularly interested in what are often called the five cardinal virtues (held to be such by Socrates' Greek contemporaries), namely, piety, wisdom, temperance, courage, and justice. Such questions challenged implicit moral beliefs of the interlocutors, who, in answering such questions, were often led to realize inadequacies and inconsistencies in their beliefs. Socrates himself professed to be ignorant on such matters--but made wise by the keen awareness of his ignorance.

Socrates left no writings; we know his work only from the writings of his contemporaries, like Aristophanes, his immediate followers Plato and Xenophon, and the next generation followers such as Aristotle.

Socrates, according to some historians, was a stone mason, as was his father; his mother was a midwife. Plato's dialogues report that he was married to Xanthippe, who bore him three children. He carried out his military duty courageously, but devoted most of his time to talking to whoever would listen, either in a marketplace or in the homes of rich patrons.

Socrates lived during a time of transition from the height of Athenian Empire to her defeat by Sparta and its coalition. Socrates' practice was often resented by influential figures of his day, whose reputations for wisdom and virtue were debunked by his questions. As Athens was seeking to recover from the humiliating defeat, upon the instigation of three leading figures at the time, the Athenian public court tried Socrates for impiety and corrupting the young, found him guilty as charged, and executed him by ordering him to drink hemlock - see The Trial of Socrates.

Socrates (born February 19, 1954; Brazil) is also the nickname of a Brazilian football player, who is one of the best midfield players in football history. A noted intellectual, and heavy smoker, he will always be remembered for his contribution to the World Cup competitions of the 1980s.