Socrates (469-399 BCE) believed that knowledge was based on what was true universally, at all places and times. He firmly defended the academic freedom to think, question, and teach.
Socrates stressed the ethical principle that a person should strive for moral excellence, live wisely, and act rationally. Moral excellence, Socrates believed, was far superior to the Sophists' technical training.
Socrates did not believe that knowledge or wisdom could be transmitted from a teacher to a student because he believed the concepts of true knowledge were present, but buried, within the person's mind.
A truly liberal education would stimulate learners to discover ideas by bringing to consciousness the truth that was latent in their minds.
Socrates encourages students to use critical self-examination to find and bring to consciousness the universal truth that was present in each person's mind. As a teacher, Socrates asked leading questions that stimulated students to think deeply about the meaning of life, truth, and justice.
In answering these questions, students engaged in rigorous discussions, or dialogue, in which they clarified, criticized, and reconstructed their basic concepts.
The Socratic method is challenging for both teachers and students.