The philosophy of Socrates is mostly documented through the writings of one of his students, Plato. As one of the few Greek philosophers who didn't leave any written contributions, Socrates believed in challenging the status quo. His philosophy is primarily based on the idea that dialogue can uncover knowledge and that individuals only commit virtuous acts if they are aware of what is good and what is evil.
As a student of the philosophy of Socrates, Plato revealed some of the ideas of his former mentor in his own philosophical teachings. Socrates held the belief that he himself was unaware of the truth and did not possess any tangible knowledge. The philosopher thought that conventional knowledge was not necessarily the truth. He also held the conviction that truth and knowledge had to be discovered.
According to Socrates, one of the ways to discover truth and knowledge was through two-way communication. Discussions about widely accepted and practiced beliefs as well as traditions and institutions helped uncover and challenge the premises behind them. The discussions were not meant to discredit or shame a particular person or belief. Rather they were a means of questioning what had previously been blindly accepted as truth.
Many at the time found the philosophy of Socrates to be controversial. Some of this was due to the fact that although Socrates openly questioned conventional theories and beliefs, he did not have an alternative answer to them. His process of opening up the possibility that another alternative existed caused those who benefited from conventional thinking to become upset with his influence. Socrates did not believe in gaining material profit from his philosophical work and he ended up taking his own life to avoid public execution.
An important aspect of the philosophy of Socrates is the fact that he believed that individuals do not commit harmful acts out of temptation or spiritual weakness. Socrates thought that harmful and wrongful acts stemmed from an unawareness of what good and evil were. Essentially, individuals did hurtful things because they did not have the knowledge and tools to know any better.
Socrates strongly opposed the idea that certain behaviors should be done to please an external deity or god. He thought that morality or good doing should not be defined by the supposed teachings of a spiritual icon. The Greek philosopher upheld the idea, however, that individuals should not deliberately act out against the laws of the government.