Is It Surprising That Socrates Was Found
Guilty Essay, Research Paper
In the play The Last Days of Socrates by, Plato, Socrates is found guilty of the charges brought against him. Taking into account the articles Euthyphro, the Apology, and I.F. Stone s article, When Free Speech was First Condemned, it is not surprising that Socrates was found guilty. In Euthyphro, and in I.F. Stone s article, Socrates shows the reader that he is aware that his charges are severe and perhaps it is better for him to be convicted. It seems to the reader that Socrates is actually trying to be convicted. In The Apology, Socrates claims of wisdom, impatience with the jury and arrogance cause the jury to convict him, and sentence him to death. Socrates attitude makes his defense weak and therefore it is not surprising he was convicted and found guilty.
Socrates understood that the charges against him would prove to be difficult to over come, he even explains to the jury that he is doubtful of his success. Euthyphro tells Socrates that a charge of improvising on the subject of the gods is easily misrepresented before the general public, a charge that Socrates must defend. Then the two men agree that a criminal would not in his right mind admit that he did wrong, and then ask for no penalty. So based on his conversation with Euthyphro, Socrates concludes that his case is a matter of who did it, what he did, and when he did it, not whether the act was right or wrong. His conversation with Euthyphro leads Socrates to conclude that it is difficult to ascertain what is holy and unholy, right or wrong. Therefore, Socrates plans on defending his case by answering the questions of who, what and when because it would be impossible to prove instead if he was right or wrong. Socrates chosen method of defense is not familiar to the Athenians. It is customary in the Athenian court that the plaintiff pleads his case to try and sway the jury s emotions. Socrates tells the jury that he, at his age and reputation, will not do this. So Socrates chooses a defense that he knows will not be taken well with the jury. As expected, the jury finds Socrates method of defense too oblique for them to be compassionate under. Socrates knew that his method of defense would not sway the jury. His decision to still use such a defense leads the reader to believe that Socrates wanted to be convicted. Later in the Apology, Socrates shows the jury that the charges against him are immense, and shows his lack of confidence in his case. He says:
I should like this to be the result, gentlemen, assuming it to be for your advantage and my own; and I should like to be successful in my defense; but I think that it will be difficult, and I am quite aware of the nature of my task. However, let that turn out as God wills; I must obey the law and make my defense. (39, The Apology)
This is his first sign of lack of confidence but he continues to repeat this theme throughout the trial. He is doubtful that he was able to sway the jury in the short time. A man who is arguing his defense for his life surely should not show this kind of demeanor, lacking confidence and giving up before the trial was over. It seems Socrates knew he was going to be convicted and was blaming it on the system, instead of his actions. The jury would have been outraged at this kind of behavior. Socrates is being tried for not conforming to the system he is now ridiculing. But Socrates in his ultimate wisdom decides to continue his arguments in the fashion that he and Euthyphro agreed, answering the questions of who, what and when instead of proving right and wrong. He spends the majority of his time arguing why people hate him, instead of dismissing his own charges. I.F. Stone agrees with this, saying if Socrates had argued free speech, the jury would have acquitted him. In other words, if Socrates had argued that he was right in the actions he was being convicted for, he would have been acquitted. The Athenians were open to such ideas as free speech and the right to assembly, and they might have shown compassion for Socrates. A sway of thirty votes would have created a tie, setting Socrates free. Socrates himself is surprised at the outcome. I.F. Stone explains:
Socrates clearly expected a large and decisive majority against him. I think he had good reason to be surprised by the close vote. His lifelong teaching had been consistently hostile to Athenian democracy, and his thought and opinions had attracted the kind of jet set youth who had twice overthrown the democracy in the decade and a half before his trial If the Athenian demos, the common people, had been as benighted and biased as Socrates believed them to be, his case would have been hopeless. But the closely divided jury shows his case was not hopeless- that the jury was troubled about convicting him. (Stone 60)
Stone s opinion is that Socrates thought he would lose anyway, so why should Socrates waste his time begging for mercy. Socrates was surprised at the outcome because he had been annoying the people of Athens all his life, and he felt he was doing the same at his trial. Perhaps Socrates wisdom did not go as far as he had hoped. However, after his conviction, Socrates still uses his arrogant thinking telling the jury he would rather die as a result of his defense, than live as a result of begging. So Socrates was aware that his task of acquittal was difficult. But he chose to argue in his own style, his greatest enemy being himself. The charges brought against him would have been dropped if he had argued in favor of himself. Instead, his attitude proved to be detrimental to his case and his life as well. However, Socrates lack of defense was not the only factor in his conviction.
Socrates claims of wisdom in The Apology also cause the jury to choose conviction. Socrates angered the jury in his claims of wisdom. These claims might have been appreciated more if he had not suggested that the whole jury is ignorant except himself. The jury knows that Socrates is a nuisance to the city, and that he claims to be the most wise, but Socrates does not fail to remind them. Socrates repeatedly claims that he is the wisest because he knows that he knows nothing. So the jury hears Socrates calling them ignorant, which is certainly not helpful to his case. But after the insults, Socrates acts like he is humble when he is not. He explains that it is his duty to search for one wiser than he, claiming that it is assisting god. So Socrates tries to dismiss the charge of worshiping other deities by asserting that he is doing god a favor by annoying everyone. He explains:
This, I do assure you, is what my god commands; and it is my belief that no greater good has ever befallen you in this city than my service to god; for I spend all my time going about trying to persuade you, young and old, to make your first and chief concern not for your bodies or for your possessions, but for the highest welfare of your souls, proclaiming as I go, Wealth does not bring goodness, but goodness brings wealth and every other blessing, both to the individual and to the state. (53, The Apology)
Socrates insults the jury by telling them that he actually serves the god that they say he blasphemes. The jury would not appreciate such a claim. So in his eyes, Socrates thinks the jury should believe he was sent on a mission by god. And this mission should included annoyance and diminishing confidence. This is not a stable argument because of Socrates delivery of the defense. Socrates says that his mission in life is to prove the oracle wrong, and prove he is not the wisest man. But his language and use of diction makes the explanation seem belittling to the jury. It seems that Socrates goes around rubbing his intelligence in others faces, instead of proving the oracle wrong. Then Socrates takes a step further to assure the jury that if he is put to death, they will not find another like him. The jury may have found this statement a relief. Socrates is not defending his position well. He believes the jury is annoyed with him. Claims of divine guidance and the promise of not another like him would cause the jury to vote for death, thanking god for the opportunity to rid their city of such a cancer. However, Socrates boasting of wisdom is not the only factor that would lead the jury to conviction.
Socrates was also extremely impatient and arrogant throughout the trial. Every time his prosecutor Meletus spoke, Socrates would reply in a sarcastic and often abrupt manner. It seems logical that a man on trial would show respect for a man such as Meletus. After all, the peers of Meletus were members of the jury. The jury could draw the conclusion that since Socrates was not respectful to Meletus, and then he would also show disrespect to them. Instead of using his intelligence to combat Meletus accusations, Socrates seemed to answer to quickly. His hastiness made him appear to be the very nuisance that he was being tried for. He would get off to the side and explain situations that were not pertinent to his case. Instead of denying the charges, it seemed as though he danced around them. Socrates arrogance had a similar effect. In his explanation of why people hated him, he actually incriminates himself further.
Socrates dismisses the skills of poets, artists, and craftsmen, claiming they only appear to be inspired by the gods. Surely some of the jurors were members of these trades and would take offence. Socrates then explains that anyone with a smattering intelligence could figure that one can believe in the gods and other supernatural things. The gods are all the people of Athens know, so they obviously, in Socrates eyes, must have no intelligence not being able to comprehend such a thing. Socrates does not do well for his case to insult the jury. Socrates then goes on to say that his penalty should be to be maintained by the state. Socrates is following his plan laid down in the conversation with Euthyphro; a guilty man would not ask for any penalty. But the jurors do not hold the same view, and assume that Socrates is again acting sarcastic, or even mocking. His arrogance is certainly felt by the jury, setting Socrates argument back even further. It even appears that Socrates is saying all he is to evoke the rage of the jury, and have them decide on capital punishment. The final clich is Socrates explanation of death. Socrates says that death is not to be feared, and only fools fear death. Obviously the jury consists of mortal men, each one afraid of death. So this statement would further anger the jury, appearing that Socrates had called them fools. Socrates comes off as having arrogance where perhaps it would be beneficial to him to be humble. Whether it was his intent or not, Socrates, impression on the jury was one of inpatients and arrogance.
In the play The Last Days of Socrates by, Plato, Socrates is found guilty of the charges brought against him. Taking into account Euthyphro, the Apology, and I.F. Stone s article, When Free Speech was First Condemned, it is not surprising that Socrates was found guilty. Euthyphro, and in I.F. Stone s article show the reader that Socrates was aware that his charges are severe and perhaps it is better for him to be convicted. It seems that Socrates is actually trying to be convicted using a nontraditional defense. In The Apology, Socrates claims of wisdom, impatience with the jury and arrogance cause the jury to convict him, and sentence him to death. Socrates attitude makes his defense weak and therefore it is not surprising he was convicted and found guilty. If I were on the jury, I would have convicted Socrates. Every emotion the jury felt, I felt with them. Reading the story of Socrates made me angry that a man could be that arrogant and must be asking to be convicted.