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I chose to write about Plato and Socrates and compare their philosophical views on love, methods of acquiring knowledge, and existence. In the fifth century B.C.E., the center of Western civilization was Athens, a city-state and a democracy. This period of time was some three centuries after the first Olympic Games and the start of alphabetic writing, and approximately one century before Alexander the Great demonstrated that it is possible to conquer the world or what passed for it then. Fifty thousand citizens of Athens governed the city and the city’s empire. Athenians did not settle disputes by brawling but rather by discussion and debate. Power was not achieved through wealth or physical strength or skill with weapons; it was achieved through words. Rhetoricians, men and women with superior skill in debate, created plausible arguments for almost any assertion and, for a fee, taught others to do it too.
At the same time in the fifth century B.C.E., there also lived a stonemason with a muscular build and a keen mind, Socrates. He wrote nothing, but we know quite a bit about him from Plato’s famous dialogues, in which Socrates almost always stars. Socrates did not merely engage in sophistry he was not interested in arguing simply for the sake of arguing he wanted to discover something important, namely, the essential nature of knowledge, justice, beauty, goodness, and, especially, traits of good character such as courage. The method of discovery he followed bears his name, the Socratic Method. To this day, more than twenty centuries after his death, many philosophers equate proficiency within their own field with skill in the Socratic (or dialectic) method.

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