Socrates Essay, Research Paper
An Apology From Socrates’ The Apology is Socrates’ defense at his trial. As the dialogue begins, Socrates notes that his accusers have cautioned the jury against Socrates’ eloquence, according to Socrates, the difference between him and his accusers is that Socrates speaks the truth. Socrates distinguished two groups of accusers: the earlier and the later accusers. The earlier group is the hardest to defend against, since they do not appear in court. He is all so accused of being a Sophist: that he is a teacher and takes money for his teaching. He attempts to explain why he has attracted such a reputation.
The oracle was asked if anyone was wiser than Socrates was. The answer was no, there was no man wiser. Socrates cannot believe this oracle, so he sets out to disprove it by finding someone who is wiser. He goes to a politician, who is thought wise by him self and others. Socrates does not think this man to be wise and tells him so. As a consequence, the politician hated Socrates, as did others who heard the questioning. “I am better off, because while he knows nothing but thinks that he knows, I neither know nor think that I know” (Socrates). He questioned politicians, poets, and artisans. He finds that the poets do not write from wisdom, but by genius and inspiration. Meletus charges Socrates with being “a doer of evil, and corrupter of the youth, and he does not believe in the gods of the State, and has other new divinities of his own.” In his examination of Meletus, Socrates makes three main points: 1) Meletus has accused Socrates of being the only corrupter, while everyone else improves the youth. Socrates then uses an analogy: a horse trainer is to horses as an improver is to the youth. The point is that there is only one improver, not many. 2) If Socrates corrupts the youth, either it is intentional or unintentional. No one would corrupt his neighbor intentionally, because he would harm himself in the process. If the corruption was unintentional, then the court is not the place to resolve the problem. The other possibility is that he does not corrupt them at all. 3) In frustration, Meletus accuses Socrates of being “a complete atheist,” at the same time he claims Socrates teaches new gods. Thus, Meletus contradicts himself. Socrates argues that fear of death is foolish, because it is not known if death is a good or an evil, thus there is no reason to fear death.
Socrates claims that his mission is in service to God. This is to condemn people’s pursuit of money, honor, and reputation, while ignoring wisdom, truth, and the improvement of the soul. When talking about politicians, he states that he was a Senator once, and opposed the majority when several generals were brought to trial. He points out that several of the “corrupted youth.” And their fathers were present, but none of them were accusing him; rather, they were there in his defense. Socrates refuses to ask for pity. He does not throw himself on the mercy of the court. Many would bring in their children to win pity. However, he does mention that he has three young children. He tells the jury about their responsibility to ignore the appeals to pity and judge the truth. Despite Socrates’ speech, the jury finds him guilty as charged.
Throughout the Apology, Socrates believes himself to be a “teacher, “though he does not say that of himself. He finds reputed wise men and questions them. If Socrates finds that they believe themselves to be wiser than they really are, he points out their mistake, thus educates them and himself.. Socrates tells a story about an oracle, which he states that he believes in, and says that since an oracle is a divine thing he must believe in divinities. Socrates used reason to question Meletus and led him to state inconsistent statements: (1) Socrates corrupts the youth intentionally. (2) Nobody intentionally harms himself. (3) People who corrupt society ultimately harm themselves. If (1) Socrates corrupts the youth intentionally and (3) people who corrupt society ultimately harm themselves, then (2) must be false. However, if (2) nobody intentionally harms themself and (3) people who corrupt society ultimately harm themselves is true, then (1) must be false (since Socrates cannot be corrupting the youth intentionally). If that is the case, then the court is not the proper place to discuss it.
He seems to be appealing to pity in a very subtle way. Speaking about his children, he asks the jury “punish them…if they seem to care about riches or anything, more than about virtue; or if they…are something when they are really nothing.” Once again, he seems to be instructing or teaching the jury about his beliefs. Socrates uses reason, once again, to convince himself that death is not an evil. “…the state of death is one of two things: either a dead man wholly ceases to be and loses all consciousness or, as we are told, it is a change and a migration of the soul to another place.”