Critique on Plato’s Apology of Socrates Essay
Critique on Plato’s Apology of Socrates
Socrates was a great philosopher of his time. There came a point in his life when his beliefs were questioned and his teachings doubted. He was charged for evil deeds and wrong doings. His accusers said he made people see the worse as better and passed them on as truths. They also said that he corrupted the youth and that he did not believe in the gods recognized by the state. Socrates addressed the Athenians in defense of his philosophical life. He appealed to the Men of Athens to hear him out and exercise caution in judging him because he had all the answers for them. He said he was a wise man and his wisdom came from the oracle.
He believed in gods contrary to what they accused him of. He taught the youth of virtues and denied he corrupted them. He never feared death as much as he feared the unjust… The Athenians wanted to know how Socrates became a famous wise man and where he got his wisdom from. A philosopher like Socrates engaged people in discussions. He gave learned opinions and answers to the most puzzling and difficult questions that often confronted ordinary minds. When these people were convinced and enlightened they went away with nothing but praises and admiration for Socrates, reasons why they called Socrates, a wise man.
Many people came to him to learn more. It can not be said that wisdom is something one is born with. In the case of Socrates his wisdom came from the oracle. He had divine guidance in his teachings. One with a divine guidance taught not only what was good and what was right but also lived by those tenets. The oracle was also what kept Socrates from arrogance. Socrates knew he was wise because he knew that the wisdom he possessed meant little or was nothing compared to God’s infinite wisdom. A philosopher may be wiser than any man, but is never wisest, as only God is.
Socrates was asked why he did not share his wisdom with the state and gave it sound advice. The oracle was the inner voice or the conscience of Socrates. When he was a child the oracle prevented him from doing what he intended to do. The oracle never ordered him to do anything which was why he never entertained the thoughts of becoming a politician. He will never be any good to the state by becoming one. Good and righteous men in politics did not live long to do more good. Towards the end of the trial, when Socrates was sentenced to death, Socrates mentioned the oracle again.
The oracle did not oppose what he said or stopped him from leaving the house which was unusual if something bad was to happen. In the end, Socrates was happy to die because the oracle had meant it for him. A philosopher was sought after for wise counsel and Socrates who sought the counsel of the oracle. The oracle symbolized the Divine Guidance which was the source of wisdom of Socrates. It strengthened his defense because it proved that his wisdom came from the divine and not from evil. Socrates tried to convince the Athenians that he believed in gods.
At the start of the trial began with a reference to God under whose name he said he will make his defense. God symbolized the highest authority that Socrates subjected himself to. He respected a just and righteous authority. Socrates warned the Athenians that should they harm him, they will sin against God. God had a purpose for him in the Athenian affairs of the state. He was to shake the state up whenever it was in stupor. If they killed him after the trial the state will forever be in stupor as there will be no one to shake it up.
He was not one to go against the state over any matter because God meant him to help keep order and not chaos. He must to speak up whenever that state was in neglect of its duties. He knew what his responsibilities were to the state and knew that he must keep them, for God. God was the authority over and above the state. Socrates gave the state its due place, an authority under God and originated from God. God was acknowledged by everyone as just and righteous. To believe in God meant that Socrates conformed to the ways of God and it followed that he was just and righteous also.
The impact of this in his defense was that Socrates, first of all was not an atheist as alleged by his accusers. Second, he was respectful of authority, God and the state. Third, he was a good man who kept the ways of God. God as the Supreme Being is the symbol of the highest, just and righteous authority. Socrates was given the chance to go free on the condition that he stopped teaching and speaking to people. He refused outright because he would be negligent of his mandate from the oracle to go and teach Virtues to men. Virtues symbolized knowledge.
It is a virtue to know right and wrong and to make enlightened choices of right over wrong. He had promised God that he will continue to teach for as long as he was able. He taught the people to put more value on the enrichment of the soul, the pursuit of truth and wisdom instead of gaining material wealth, fame and glory. A person with virtue knows his real worth, he never underestimates neither does he overrates himself. He reminded them that their souls must take precedence over their persons and their possessions. He taught virtues to anyone who came to him, young or old, bad or good, rich or poor.
As a teacher he counseled them to lead good and righteous lives. He was like a caring parent or brother. Those among the young who had heard him speak became sensible adults. The charges against him were wrong. He never corrupted the youth with the kind of teaching he did. There was nothing greater for him than to obey the command of God to teach the people about virtues. The knowledge that a philosopher shares with his students is a good defense for the philosophical life, while disproving that he was a corruptor of the youth.
Virtues or knowledge that he shared should convince the Athenians that Socrates was a virtuous man who sought the enlightenment of others. Teaching others so that they may not be ignorant and so that they may lead virtuous lives can not be said as evil deeds. Taking others to the path of righteousness can not be called corruption. Socrates should be vindicated of the charges against him as they were baseless and purely lies. Socrates was never sorry for the kind of life he lived even if it eventually led him to his death. Death was symbolic of the good for Socrates.
Death to save a friend, death in defense of a right, death for one’s moral convictions was all good deaths. A person who feared death lacked wisdom, because he feared the unknown. Socrates feared committing injustice and wrong more than he feared death. When he was a senator, the generals were on trial for leaving the bodies of the slain in a battle. They were all tried at the same time, which he opposed because it was illegal. He was the only one in opposition. In spite of the threats of impeachment and arrest he stood his ground. He took the risk for law and justice. Those were in the days of democracy.
His resolve never wavered even during the oligarchy. When Leon from Salamis was to be executed he with four others was ordered to bring the Salaminian to the rotunda. He refused and instead went home. He faced possible death without fear. What he feared most then was to side with injustice. When threatened with death or enticement of being saved from death even if it meant doing wrong, he would rather die a thousand times. For Socrates death is good. He philosophized that it was a state of deep sleep or one of blankness. Either way it is a restful state. It is a state that we never experience in most of our nights.
He likened it to a journey which all of us will take at some point in our lives. In death we will once again see those friends and heroes who have gone before us. There will also be those victims of fate worst than his with whom he will be able to compare notes with. In the trial of Socrates, death was associated with good. Socrates was never afraid to die for he was sure something good was bound to happen to him. That should dampen the desire of his accusers to ask death for Socrates. Why wish the best for someone whom you wanted punished for misdeeds. The oracle symbolized divine guidance.
It proved difficult for Socrates to claim that his wisdom came from the oracle from the god of Delphi. His only credible witness was a dead man. A brother of the dead man was present in court but he did not volunteer as witness. Socrates did not call him as witness to corroborate his story. The oracle called him wise. His wisdom was attainable for the ordinary man. He did not claim that he had extraordinary wisdom for that would not be true. The teaching of Socrates was about righteousness, justice and humility. These are works of goodness that logically will originate only from the divine.
God is a symbol of authority. What God commanded Socrates to do he followed. Between the God and state, Socrates placed God first. A philosopher has respect for authority and that should convince the Athenians that Socrates was a good man. He would very likely pass on this virtue to others. Virtue is a symbol of knowledge. Socrates shared his philosophies with others so that they may be enlightened. He taught only the good as his wisdom was from the divine source. In his trial he made the Athenians know that his accusers know nothing of what they were accusing him of.
As they were non-believers, with whom he had not shared his wisdom, his accusers remained ignorant. Death is the symbol of something good and pleasant, something one should not fear just like Socrates. The Men of Athens will see Socrates as a man of courage who was not scared of death and an enlightened disciple of the divine who treated death as a journey, a deep slumber or a crossover. In the trial of Socrates we found a man with a strong faith in God, despite accusations of atheism. He chose right over wrong all the time even at the threat of death and harm.
He lived what he preached carried a meaningful and purposeful life. He wanted to convince the Athenians that teaching the right values and exalting the virtues in people was no corruption. An evil doer would do no such thing. No amount of pressure or threat or enticement would compromise his values. He kept God’s command to him to continue teaching at all cost to him. This came from a true believer of God and not from an atheist as Meletus had accused him to be. A philosopher would teach only things that would be of value to people as well as those things that will do the person enormous good.
A philosopher’s measure of value puts the spiritual over and above the physical and the material. That is what separates the ordinary man from the philosopher. The wants of the ordinary man is of this world and the philosopher’s is of the higher realm. There were many lessons learned from the arguments of Socrates in his defense. They let us into the mind of a philosopher with its depth, humor, eloquence, drama and wit. It is difficult to understand a philosopher because he is in a level all by himself. His logic is simple and clear at the start but he can be confusing towards the end.
It is amusing how they turn one’s argument against his own like what he did to Meletus. Socrates’ arguments are too profound for the ordinary mind to follow. A philosopher’s life is too dull to wish for oneself and too unappealing to desire. He goes for the simple and uncomplicated. He is not attached to the material. He can work with no pay and treasures the fulfillment in doing the job for God and fellowmen. It is enough remuneration for a philosopher that others learn of truth and wisdom from him. Socrates helped us understand the life of a man for others, as a philosopher actually is.
Socrates was a man with a strong faith in God. He placed God above all else. God represented the authority in his life. He would do anything God commanded him to do, out of great respect. A philosopher who regards God in such high esteem is worthy of trust. He could pretend to know so much because people hold his every word as truth. Socrates was not that kind of philosopher. He could assume power like a god but Socrates did not. He thought of himself as wise because he accepted that his wisdom and power were not the ultimate. Philosophers have all the answers. Their knowledge is deep and expansive.
They can talk about anything and everything. They spoke with authority. They have the gift of knowledge. They derive their wisdom from the Supreme Being who is all-knowing. As such they speak only of the just and the righteous. They share the knowledge with the people who go to them for their good counsel. They lead simple lives without the unnecessary trappings. They care for their soul more than their physical and material concerns. The share with their fellow men what they valuable possession, knowledge. Socrates was all the above. The Philosophers were brave men who fear wrong more than they fear death.
There was no way they would be swayed from their convictions because of the threat of punishment. Neither will they stop from doing what is right to be saved from harm. They will die for a friend, be hanged for a good cause and beaten for their beliefs. The Philosophers were no ordinary mortals. They endured because of their faith, their tenacity and wisdom. They may have been misunderstood but they have been understood more. Their legacies live on, long after they are gone. Works Cited “Socrates’ Defense. ” 1994-2000. Apology by Plato. Translated by Benjamin Jowett. 10 May 2008 http://classics. mit. edu/Plato/apology. html.