Socrates Defense and Trial
Plato’s work Apology provides readers with a great description of Socrates’ genius. The work shows the arguments made by the philosopher in order to defend him from some false accusations. Although Socrates failed to defend himself in front of people who accused him of their hatred and ignorance, his arguments were strong and appealed to the logical thinking. They were representing Socrates as a person whose ideas had gone beyond his time. The fact the philosopher being still charged showed the limitations of some people of his era. The people who accused him knew he was innocent. It showed that his words were strong enough to appeal even to the most critical audience.
It is important to state that the charges against Socrates were the results of some prejudices developed about philosophers throughout a long period of time. They were jealous or did not understand the reasons for his popularity among young men following the thinker. It made them dislike a man in the first place. Besides, since Socrates’ way of arguing was different than anybody else, and whenever he participated in any discussion, he made his opponent admit the mistake in the end. It angered some people being ridiculed and humiliated after the failed attempts to defeat Socrates in a verbal debate. As a result, just as his popularity was increasing, the number of haters was growing too.
Thus, the critics accused Socrates of being a physicalist, or the person who disrespects Greek gods, because one believes that everything is physical and can be explained with rational thinking (an idea that contradicted ancient Greek mores). Thus, Socrates was charged for impiety he supposedly showed to Greek traditions. Also, the philosopher was accused of being a sophist or the person who turned weak arguments into strong ones while tricking his opponents. He was made guilty due to corrupting young people. As a result, he presented the arguments in order to show that he had been innocent in all situations (Plato 24).
In the beginning, Socrates explains his actions and methods while having discussions and communicating with people. He states that he understands the reasons for his accusations. He brings the story on the Delphic Oracle naming Socrates the wisest person. The philosopher states that he considers himself very ignorant. His understanding of his own limitations makes him wise. He states that most people “think [they] know something when they do not” (Plato 27). When stating this, he shows that people often consider themselves too smart. It makes them vulnerable when accepting the truth or defeat in a mental battle. They think of themselves as experts and being very wise while still missing a lot of knowledge. Socrates, on the contrary, knows his limits. He also states that people dislike him because of the following thing. He shows them their own limits and ignorance. The philosopher does not try to please anybody by overlooking their flaws.
In order to defend himself against the accusations of his impiety, Socrates speaks about Apollo. He states that his behavior actually benefits this god. Socrates points out that Apollo is a god of knowledge. The philosopher does everything in order to increase the skills in people. Besides, Socrates shows that he is very poor. He has never asked for money to be paid for his services. It is a proof that his behavior is actually servitude for Apollo (Plato 30). Socrates adds that, “If I convinced you by my supplication [to the god] to do violence to your oath of office, I would be teaching you not to believe that there are gods …. This is far from being the case, gentlemen.” (Plato, 32).
Interestingly, Socrates adds that Apollo leads the philosopher to various occasions. He does not say things that contradict the truth. Socrates credits Apollo as one of the major reasons he has not become a politician. However, the philosopher remained a simple person. He did not want to become a part of a cruel political system.
When defending himself against the accusation of corrupting young people, Socrates constructs his argument in two parts. Firstly, he shows what corruption is. He is not corrupt because his actions do not meet the definition of corruption. Then, he shows the examples of this and talks about his communication with youth in order to show the differences between the examples (Morris 73).
Later on, Socrates proceeds to another part of his argument. He states that there are two options. It makes the philosopher innocent from corrupting the youth. He states, “Either I do not corrupt the young or, if I do, it is unwillingly, and you are lying in either case” (Plato 29). In case the first part of the argument is true, it frees Socrates of all charges. If the second part is true, then, another trial has to be held since Socrates is unaware of his influence on the youth (Morris, 73). Socrates says that if he harmed the youth on purpose, he would suffer from it as a result. In case he did not do it on purpose, he merely needed the education not to corrupt youth any further (Morris, 73). Socrates creates an analogy with horse trainers who will not harm horses. Similarly to that, Socrates will not do anything against the youth (Morris 73).
He also says that his art is a benefit for a city because he makes thinkers keep on thinking instead of making their minds rest and degrade. He compares himself to the horsefly that makes the horse move. Thus, Socrates as well makes the city evolve and think. The philosopher adds that his acts are dictated by gods. They are the blessings for Athens.
Socrates’ arguments are clear and appeal to the logic and truth. He is found guilty due to some ignorance and inability of some influential people to acknowledge their defeat. Thus, Socrates is sentenced to death. Still, this decision does not scare the philosopher because he states that any person should not be afraid of death.
In the speech toward people striving for his death, he states as follows. He will die soon either way since he is already seventy. However, people who have voted for his death will always be responsible for murdering him. He also adds that if he is a sophist and appeals to emotions, he will have made them like him. However, he did not do that proving he was not a sophist. He did not fear their punishment. Besides, he is positive that his legacy will be carried on.
To people who defended him, Socrates says that death means either a change of place or a deep sleep. Therefore, there is nothing to be scared of. This testimony shows that Socrates was a strong and confident person. He was not afraid of people’s judgments and was able to carry some responsibility for his acts though it was unfair and lethal. Socrates’ assumptions show the ignorance and hatred of his enemies. They also show a logical flow of his arguments that can be disproved. The fact that people still were voting against him was merely a result of their hatred and not logical analysis of words. They did not try to disapprove of his arguments. Plato’s work leaves many mistakes for readers. Yet, it shows that the author left them on purpose in order to show the limitations of the philosopher’s haters. Socrates’ arguments could be extremely effective if used in front of the other audience being more open. They could not have so many negative feelings against the philosopher. The fact was that many people voted to free him and even his greatest critics realized their mistakes with his death. It shows the effectiveness of his arguments. However, still, people could not change their minds publicly because they did not want more humiliation. Still, Socrates’ argumentation is a good example of logical thinking that can be responded to. Since the philosopher wanted to strengthen a particular point, he also showed he had not needed the people’s pity or sorrow. Thus, when he saw that people would rather stay limited the way they had been, he accepted this as a failure of their own senses. He did not argue with the punishment he had received.