An Analysis of the Accusations against Socrates in Plato's The Apology

Categories: Plato

Introduction

The Apology is Socrates’ defense speech that was presented to the jury after he was presented in a court of law for allegations of being a corruptor of youths, a non-believer of the gods of the land, and sophistry (Danzig 13). He begins by swearing to Zeus that he will tell the truth and let the judges decide his fate. Socrates then states that he suspects that the minds of the judges have already been poisoned by the speeches put forth by his enemies.

Socrates continues his speech by saying that his passion for sophistry has been fired by his enemies envy and malice. Socrates argues that the enmity and accusations began long ago after he obeyed the oracle and started the hunt for the wisest man. Socrates states that he was challenged to engage into this search because he believed that the gods never lie. He engaged in the hunt to prove it himself and help other people realize their mistakes and shortcomings in their professions.

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He states that he has searched for wisest man in the whole land and found that all knowledgeable people of the land think that they are wise, but they are wrong.

Socrates was a distinctive and atypical philosopher. He had unique oratory skills, teaching abilities, and unique thinking that made him look wiser as compared to fellow philosophers (Herrmann and Büttner 26). Moreover, he behaved and argued in ways that were out of the ordinary, hence building a lot of influence on his followers.

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In addition to this, he was an open person who loved challenging fellow scholars. This made him travel far and wide in search of other theorists whom he would exchange ideas with. His smartness displeased many people who eventually became tired of his pride (Miller, Platter, and Plato 43). From the reading of the Apology, it is evident that Socrates was innocent of the indictments that led to his death and was innocent of corrupting the youth, being a sophist, and non-believing in the gods of the land.

Accusations on Corrupting the Youths

In regard to the first indictment, it is evident that Socrates was innocent of corrupting the youth. The apology indicates that he was a great philosopher and a teacher who imparted his students with great ideas and critical ways of thinking (Herrmann and Büttner 65). This made other philosophers to envy his talent and skills, hence plotting to kill him in order to neutralize his fame. In the speech, he states that some young men of the wealthier class were attracted to his teachings because they enjoyed watching and listening to the wise ways that he used to expose the ignorance and foolishness of the citizens.

Socrates claims that the tactics made him an enemy of the people who ended up regarding him as a dangerous character and misleader of the youth. He further emphasizes that his enemies would never get the courage to support their claims against him. This was a clear indication of the jealousy and ignorance that existed among the wise men of Athens. From the statement, it is evident that Socrates was innocent of derailing the youth as he only wanted to prove to the people that humility was better than an empty pride in knowledge (Penner et al. 31).

The instance when Meletus became silent after he was questioned by Socrates was a clear indication that he was pressing charges for matters that did not concern him. In addition, he shows lack of knowledge about the charges by giving false answers that were aimed at impressing the judges. Consequently, his statement that the judges improved the youths of Athens was afalse statement as they were not in a close proximity with the jury at all times. This discussion clearly shows that Maletus’ accusations against Socrates did not have a solid proof that Socrates was guilty of derailing the young men of Athens (Danzig 28).

Apart from the above arguments, it is evident that Socrates was innocent of corrupting the youths because there were only three accusers in the court. Socrates states that Meletus started supporting the accusers after being vexed by the poets. He, therefore, appeared in court to defend the interests of the poets rather than presenting legit accusations against Socrates. Meletus ensures that he accuses Socrates of vices that will lead to execution to help the poets get rid of Socrates. On the other hand, Anytus is said to have joined the accusers after being vexed by politicians and craftsmen. He, therefore, accused Socrates to ensure that he is executed so that he cannot be a threat to them anymore. Lycon is also cited as a representative of the rhetoricians and presents their opinions in court to ensure that Socrates is executed. In addition to this, if Socrates was a corrupter of the youths, then there would be more than three accusers in the court. Socrates states that most of the youths liked him and spend most of their time listening to his teachings.

From another context, it is unwise to blame one person for the corruption of all the youths in Athens. As a matter of fact, the influence of one individual cannot overwhelm the influence of the judges and all residents (Miller, Platter, and Plato 96). In addition, Socrates did not teach all the youths in Athens as implied by Meletus. Therefore, the accusations were aimed at ensuring that the judges, senators, citizen assembly, and the general public ganged up against Socrates. The Apology or any other evidence does not show any signs of corrupt youths in Athens at the time.

Accusations on Not Believing in Gods of the Land

Socrates was accused by Meletus of not believing in the gods of the land. This was a fallacious accusation because the apology gave many instances that showed that Socrates had strong beliefs in the Supreme Being. The first instance was depicted when Socrates decided to test the wise men’s level of wit after Chaerephon told him that Apollo’s oracle confirmed that there he was wiser than him. Consulting with the oracle was the first proof of belief in gods and divinities. In addition to this, his action of going for a hunt of a wiser man than himself is a show that the believed in the oracle and needed to proof it (Penner et al. 41). His courageousness was enough proof that the accusations were groundless.

Socrates states that God ordered him to be a philosopher who performed good deeds by searching into his soul. He further argued that refusing to heed God’s words and instructions was a better reason for his trial and death as compared to the empty accusations that were leveled at him. He discussed about a voice that guided him from doing actions that would harm others. He argues that the voice allowed him to help others by giving advice and shunning cheap politics (Plato and Jowett 38). This is a great show of belief and trust in gods and divinities, hence showing that Socrates was not an atheist.

The evidence was enough proof that Socrates did not teach his followers to disobey the gods and divinities. It was clear that he taught them about oracles and gods as the powers helped him in making decisions in life. He states that “For if, O men of Athens, by force of persuasion and entreaty, I could overpower your oaths, then I should be teaching you to believe that there are no gods, and convict myself, in my own defense, of not believing in them” (Danzig 46). This statement was a clear indication that Socrates had a strong belief in gods. In addition to the above arguments, Meletus did not give any evidence that proved that Socrates was a non-believer. In addition, the claim that Socrates does not believe in the godhead of the sun and moon were futile as they were extracted from the book of Anaxagoras the Clazomenian (Penner et al. 67). This is a clear indication that Meletus based his accusations on evidence from unreliable sources and was out to cause the fall of Socrates.

Accusations on Being a Sophist

Socrates was a wise and noble man who busied himself with helping others and advising them. Socrates states that all his deeds were controlled by a voice which appeared to him since he was a child. The voice was a divinity which controlled him from engaging in politics and state affairs regardless of the fact that he was the wisest man. Lack of engagement in political and state affairs is a clear sign that Socrates is not after fame and publicity. He is out to challenge people into realizing that they need to improve on their skills and expertise in their undertakings (Plato and Jowett 96).

Socrates obeyed commands that were given by oracles and the voice without consideration of the financial gains or loses (Danzig 59). For instance, he decided to go for a hunt for the wisest person in Athens after being told by an oracle that his search will not yield any results. He states that “God orders me to fulfil the philosopher’s mission of searching into myself and other men, I were to desert my post through fear of death, or any other fear; that would indeed be strange, and I might justly be arraigned in court for denying the existence of the gods, if I disobeyed the oracle because I was afraid of death: then I should be fancying that I was wise when I was not wise” (Warne 64). This is a clear indication that he is after helping people according to the gods’ commands and instructions and does not evaluate the possible outcomes before engaging in what he has been instructed to do.

Socrates argues that people were happy to be associated with him because he treated them well. He states that people only stay close to those they benefit from (Herrmann and Büttner 113). The argument shows evidently that Socrates was after helping people in the society and not obtaining favors and benefits from them. In addition to this, Socrates states that banishing him from Athens will only help him to continue practicing philosophy in order to annoy the administration. This is a clear show that he is driven by a selfless philosophy and the desire to help others.

Apart from the above arguments, it is also clear that Socrates was not a sophist but a helper in the community when he states that he believes that the good of man is virtue. He argues that the greatest virtue a man can have is that of examining his life and that of others. He states that self-evaluation and that of others helps one to improve his moral and social status hence boosting society morals. He also states that people should not be weary of his challenges because unexamined life is always boring a not worth living. From this, argument, it is then evident that Socrates was not a sophist, but rather an honorable member of Athens town.

A group of young men from the higher classes followed him in order to hear and see how he proved the wise men wrong. Socrates argues that in doing this, he helped the youths discover that it is better for one to admit that he is not wise rather than pretend and derail others. The argument puts emphasis on the fact that Socrates did not request people to him rather he was followed by individuals most of whom he does no know their origin (Plato and Jowett 128). It is also a show of his intentions to help others and not extort favors and other financial gains from them.

Conclusions

In conclusion, it is evident that Socrates is innocent of the accusations that were arraigned on him in court. The allegations were a planned way of bringing him to an untimely death hence neutralizing his fame. From his argument in the apology, Socrates shows that he is a morally upright citizen of Athens and who is out to help people improve in their wisdom.

From the Apology, it is evident that Socrates was a wise and harmless man. He was able to stand in court and refute all the accusations leveled at him and challenge Meletus to refute his own accusations in a wise and brave manner (Danzig 69). Additionally, he accepts to be sentenced to death and be killed even though he knows that all the accusations were wrong. This is a show of bravery and boldness which is an important virtue for the leaders and wise people. Moreover, he was a noble man who spoke his mind and followed his beliefs in a wise and harmless manner. He was not supposed to be killed, but rather hailed for his bravery and boldness in facing his challenges. Finally,he was a great philosopher and teacher of the youth whose death brought a great loss in philosophy and the world in general.

Works Cited

  1. Danzig, Gabriel. Apologizing for Socrates: how Plato and Xenophon created our Socrates. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2010. Print.
  2. Fagan, Patricia and John Russon. Reexamining Socrates in the Apology. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2009. Print.
  3. Gentzler, Jyl. Method in ancient philosophy. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2001. Print.
  4. Herrmann, Fritz-Gregor and Stefan Büttner. New essays on Plato: language and thought in fourth-century Greek philosophy. Swansea: Classical Press of Wales , 2006. Print.
  5. Miller, Paul Allen, Charles Platter and Plato. Plato’s Apology of Socrates: a commentary. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2010. Print.
  6. Penner, J E, et al. McCoubrey & White’s textbook on jurisprudence. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. Print.
  7. Plato and Benjamin Jowett. Apology. Lanham: Start Publishing LLC, 2013. Print.
  8. Warne, Christopher. Arguing with Socrates: an introduction to Plato’s shorter dialogues. New York: Bloomsbury Pub. Plc, 2013. Print.

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An Analysis of the Accusations against Socrates in Plato's The Apology. (2021, Oct 11). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/an-analysis-of-the-accusations-against-socrates-in-plato-s-the-apology-essay

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