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Socrates was a citizen of Athens who lived in the 400s B.C. and died in 399 B.C.. He was a moral philosopher who articulated his ideas through dialogues in public spaces as well as at private parties. He is often incorrectly identified with the Sophists, a group of philosophers who encouraged their followers to question the authority of the Athenian state and particularly to reject the idea of absolute morality in favor of self-interest. Socrates thought that morals should be questioned, but that through the process of questioning, true morality would be revealed. Socrates was often parodied and his thought was oversimplified by many leaders in Athens, who, in the context of the civic turmoil of the Peloponnesian War, wanted to squelch any opposition to the state. Socrates was convicted by a jury and sentenced to death for "corrupting the youth of Athens." He chose suicide by drinking hemlock. His legacy was considerable, however. His pupil Plato, whose writings provide some of the only written accounts we have of Socrates's teachings, would go on to be a seminal figure in Western thought.
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