Plato – Socrates Essay
Plato – Socrates
Apology, in greek, means ‘to give defense’ (###). In Plato’s Apology, Socrates is blamed for numerous acts and elegantly defends himself in front of the court. To start off, he was first accused of studying astrology and demonology and passing his knowledge and beliefs to other people. His first response to this was blatantly asking who has heard him speaking of such acts: “…should tell each other if anyone of you has ever heard me discussing such subjects to any extent at all” (19d).
He also claims that if anyone has heard of him charging fees for his teachings, that that is a lie as well. Socrates continues by saying that god at Delphi claims that he is the wisest man in Athens, and he challenges anyone who believes they are wiser. Even though Meletus refuses to believe the words that Socrates speaks, he continues to listen as Socrates further explains his viewpoint. Socrates continues by saying that the reason behind his unpopularity lies behind his ability to analyze others. He criticizes the politicians, the poets, and the craftsmen for their apparent wisdom.
Socrates first examines the Politicians, saying that “…I found that those who had the highest reputation were nearly the most deficient…” (22a) meaning that they possessed little to no wisdom. Next, Socrates examined the Poets. He simply stated that the poets had no clue what they were writing about. He believes that their poems come from sheer inspiration and natural talents, and their wisdom has nothing to do with it. Finally, Socrates speaks about the craftsmen. He shares his belief that the craftsmen are very wise, but they only possess knowledge of their crafts. Secondly, Socrates was accused of corrupting the minds of the young.
Meletus originally claimed that only Socrates is guilty of corrupting the minds of the youth. Socrates asks Meletus a few questions such as: Who improves the young? In which Meletus responds by telling Socrates that the law is held responsible for improving the law. Socrates then follows up by asking who contains the knowledge of the law? : Where Meletus answers with the jurymen, audience, members of council, etc. Socrates then summarizes all of the premises for Meletus by concluded that everyone in Athens besides Socrates improves the young. Socrates continues his argument with an analogy.
He uses an anaglogy involving a horse trainer. He states that there are very few horse trainers who are experts in their field, and their job is to improve them to the best of their abilities. If an ordinary person, one whom isn’t trained on horses, were attempt to train a horse, they would simply only make matters worse. What Socrates is trying to say here is that ther are very few ‘trainers’ that train people, and contrary to Meletus’s beleifs, Socrates is one of those trainers. Socrates quickly turns the boat around towards Meletus and claims that he has never given any thought towards the youth.
He then continues to upgrade his argument by saying that most people, if not all, would rather live in a town full of good people rather than bad: “Do not the wicked do some harm to those who are ever closest to them, whereas good people benefit them? ” (25c). This quote shows how he agrees with the previous statement that most people would rather live with good people. He states here that bad people will harm the ones that are closest to them, whereas good people will only bring them goodness. Socrates then follows up on his argument by repeating Meletus’s thoughts that he, Socrates, intentionally corrupted the minds of the young.
He concludes by saying that, usually, when people harm another person, a harmful return should be expected. Therefore, if he intentionally harmed the youth, then he would be expected to be harmed as a result. He asks Meletus “…namely that if I make one of my associates wicked I run the risk of being harmed by him so that I do such a great evil deliberately, as you say? ” (25e). Here, Socrates explains that if he were to harm another person, then he would be subjected to harm himself, and what person would subject themselves to harm in the first place?
Socrates finalizes his attack on the second charge by saying that he’s either innocent of corrupting the youth, or he did so unintentionally. If he was found guilty, however, then he should rather be taught than to be subjected to the court. `In my eyes, Socrates argument was relatively strong here. During his speech, Socrates quickly turns to focus of his argument to the inconsistency of the charge and his belief in new spiritual things. He addresses Meletus’s belief in spiritual things by saying that it is a contradiction to atheism.
Socrates justifies his beliefs by saying that you can’t believe in human activities but not believe in humans, or believe in flute-playing but not believe in the existence of flutes. Therefore, Socrates concludes by saying that you can’t believe in spiritual activity but not believe in spirits. He also makes his argument stronger by mocking the court in a sense with strong irony. In the beginning of The Apology, Socrates was being charged of impiety, using rhetoric to potentially acknowledge the truth behind the lies of the law.
Reading about Socrates, it is clearly shown that he is quite fond of exposing the truth, making him a prime example of a rhetorician. In order to turn his case around in the court, Socrates uses rhetoric to defend himself. Since he saw no way out of the situation, he decided to complement his character and keep to his traditional ways. However, towards the end of the argument, Socrates seems to lose focus and his argument becomes less and less stable. In Crito, Socrates was given the death sentenced, and when the opportunity arised for an escape, he refused.
Crito gave him numerous reasons as to why Socrates should escape. First, Socrates would be abandoning his wife and children. Secondly, people are willing to pay his way out of jail, that way he wouldn’t be in debt. Also, if he didn’t escape, Crito worries what people would think of Socrates’ companions. He is worried that the situation would reflect badly on them, that they did nothing to help Socrates escape. As well as deserting his wife and children, Crito believes that Socrates will also be deserting himself. After all he has believed in and persevered through, Crito doesn’t want Socrates to give up now.
Finally, People are willing to risk themselves to help him escape from prison. Crito thinks that since Socrates has so many reasons to escape, that he should quickly act upon the situation. After Crito delivers his five reasons as to why Socrates should escape, Socrates states two different premises as to why he should stay in jail and accept his punishment. First, he defends himself against Crito’s speech. He first questions whether or not he should remain in prison and accept all punishments against him, or agree with Crito and escape.
He states that if he were to escape from prison, then he would be saying that it is acceptable to perform injustice acts. He then corrects the statement by saying that no matter what the issue is, it’s unacceptable to wrong against any man. Following up, Socrates states that if one were to agree over something, then under no circumstances should that agreement be broken or cheated on. While Socrates is living in Athens, he is agreeing to all of the rules and regulations that the law presents. If he doesn’t agree with the laws, then he has the choice of leaving in pursuit of a new city or challenge the law itself.
If he doesn’t perform either of these acts, then he is subjective to the laws of the city. Socrates then combines all of these premises to come to the conclusion that he should accept his punishments and refrain from escaping. Socrates then lays out his second premise by first stating that if he were to escape, he will then destroy the Law of Athens and the City, something that he promised not to break upon living in the City. At the age of consent, Socrates turned into a man, thus agreeing to the rues and regulations of the city.
The law originally allowed his parents to wed and deliver Socrates, and then in turn allowed Socrates to wed and have children. So far, the Law of Athens have done nothing but help the upbringing of Socrates and his children. However, he then states that if the Law and the City’s ruling was unjust, then if Socrates were to escape, he wouldn’t be breaking the Law of Athens. The problem here is that the only way Socrates would be able to prove his ruling unjust is if he was on an equal footing with the Law of Athens or if he did not promise to abide by the Law of Athens and all of its rulings.
If he was on an equal footing with the City, then whatever the city would do to Socrates, Socrates could do the city, which is inaccurate. After all, the city is responsible for the upbringing of Socrates and his family. Since he isn’t on an equal footing, and he did promise to follow all of the rules and regulations of the City, Socrates concludes by saying that the ruling of the jury was accurate. Socrates addresses the first three arguments of Crito by saying that they are irrelevant to whether or not his escaping is right or wrong.
Secondly, Socrates says that although that remaining arguments are valid, the do not give good enough reasons. In Crito, the city is wronging Socrates by order of execution. Therefore, by complying to the wrong accusation, is Socrates committing an unjust act as well? With all of the arguments Socrates has made so far (one has to keep his promise, one should follow the rules of the Law, one should never commit wrongdoing), he cannot admit it. Another validation issue in Socrates’ argument is the potential contradiction with The Apology.
In The Apology, Socrates states that under no circumstances will he obey any order to stop philosophizing: “Gentlemen of the jury, I am grateful and I am your friend, but I will obey the god rather than you, and as long as I draw breath and am able, I shall not cease to practice philosophy.. ” (29d). Another example that seems to be contradictory in his beleifs in Crito is the story of Leon form Salamis. Socrates was ordered to bring in Leon for a possible execution, but instead headed home.
“Then I showed again, not in words bu in action, that, it if were not rather vulgar to say so, death is something I couldn’t care less about, but that my whole concern is not to do anything unjust or impious” (32c-e). Here, Socrates shows how he refused to do something that he believes to be unjust. Relating this back to his situation in Crito, Socrates was being punished for being unjust, thus putting him in the same position as Leon. In Crito, he shows his obligation to obey the Law of Athens, even if that meant he was going to stop philosophizing as well as being wrongfully executed.
In Phaedo, Cebes and Socrates have a long a thorough conversation of the existence of the soul. Cebes’s argument is that the soul is recycled through different bodies. However, the more times the soul is reused, then more it is damaged. Cebes believes that when the soul eventually runs out, it will result in the death of a birth. He finishes his argument by telling Socrates that unless you can prove that the soul is immortal, every man must be fearful of his soul and what will happen to it if it is reensouled.
Thus, if anyone was to face death with confidence would be considered unwise. Socrates follows up with his New Method of Hypothesis. Here, he states that everyone is participating in a certain form, whether it’s the form of tallness, the form of beautiful, etc. : “I assume the existence of a Beautiful, itself, of a good and a Great and all the rest” (100b). He believes that the form of Beautiful is made up of participates, and that they all come together to create the form. Socrates also comes up with the Exclusion of Opposites.
Here, he states that everything that is condisered a ‘universal fact’, will never have both itself and it’s opposite simultaneously. Socrates uses the example of the Form of Tallness, saying that one can’t possess both the Form of Tallness and the Form of Shortness. What he means here is that you can’t be both tall and short at the same time. He continues on by saying that certain states of affairs have opposites, but their character is made up of the opposite that they possess.
As his argument goes on, Socrates states that the soul brings to body life as well as anything that it possesses. If this is true, then that would mean that the soul is immortal, always reensouling another body. This is unlike what Cebes said, since he was convinced that the more times the soul possessed a new body, then the sould would become weaker and eventually cease to exist. Following up on Socrates’s argument, if the soul never dies, then that you mean that it is imperishable. In conclusion, Socrates can say that the soul is abiding.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 26 November 2016
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