Socrates

Philosophy versus Sophistry:
(Plato's Apologia of Socrates)

The Complete Text of the Apology
  1. Two Kinds of Charges:

    1. The Informal Charge

      1. Aristophanes ("The Clouds") -

        "Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example."

        1. Investigation of the physical world
        2. Intentional use of bad reasoning
        3. Socrates is a Sophist (i.e., he takes money for teaching others how to use bad reasoning)

        This "informal" charge is inadvertanly brought on by Aristophanies and his play "The Clouds." The character "Socrates" in that play is precisely this kind of nature philosopher! The problem for the real Socrates is to convince the jury that he bears little resemblance to the character of the comedy.

      2. Socrates' Defense:

        1. He does not speculate about the natural world
        2. He accepts no money, and the young follow of their own will

        Having claimed that he is not guilty of either set of charges, Socrates offers an alternative account of why Meletus, Anytus and Lycon have brought these charges against him.

    2. The Oracle at Delphi

      1. The Riddle
        1. Socrates believes he has no significant wisdom
        2. The Oracle (for Apollo) says "no one is wiser than Socrates"
        3. It's inappropriate for God to lie

      2. Socrates' Investigation of the Riddle: (elenchus)

        1. The Politicians
        2. The Poets
        3. The Craftsmen

        Socrates discovers that none are wise concerning virtue, and in the process of his investigation he makes enemies by publically demonstrating that those who claim to be wise are not. Thus, the real reason he's been brought before the court is because he's made enemies in all parts of the community by exposing those who pretend to be wise when they are not.

    3. The Formal Charge -

      1. The Affidavit sworn by Meletus:

        "Socrates is guilty of corrupting the minds of the young, and of believing in deities of his own invention instead of the gods recognized by the state."

        1. Corrupting the youth
        2. Introducing new gods

      2. Socrates' Defense: Socrates cross-examines Meletus

        1. Socrates can not intentionally corrupt the youth
        2. Socrates can not be an atheist

        Both of these arguments against Meletus are excellent examples of Socrates' method of argument called 'elenchus' in Greek, or "cross examination." Notice that Socrates himself does not put forward any specific claims, but merely uses the claims of Meletus to demonstrate an inconsistency in the prosecutor's case. This seems to be the way Socrates always argues with his opponents. If we look at other dialogues from Plato's Socratic Period, we find Socrates using the same style of argument. This allows him to claim that he does not have significant wisdom on one hand, while at the same time also claiming that his interlocutor doesn't have significant knowledge either!

        The elenchus is quite different from what is commonly called the "Socratic Method" which we will see demonstrated in Plato's dialogue the Meno. There we will see Socrates guiding his interlocutor to the correct answer through a series of leading questions. This is sometimes also referred to as the dialectic method of argument. The dialectic method, however, is probably a platonic invention and not part of Socrates' style of Philosophy. It is therefore a misnomer to call it the Socratic Method.

  2. Socrates is commanded by Apollo to DO Philosophy

  3. The Verdict: Guilty

  4. The Sentence:

    In the courts of Athens, the prosecution would suggest one puninshment and the defense would offer a counter punishment. Then the jury would decide between them. Meletus, for his part, has put forward the death penalty, so it's Socrates' turn to offer a counter penalty.

    1. Maintaince at the Prytaneum, or
    2. Fine (one minae = aproximately six months of wages; bumped up to 30 minae at the behest of Socrates' friends)

    This is an important, and very interesting, part of the trial. Socrates has been found guilty by a narrow margin, which likely means that he can sway the jury to leniency in the penalty phase. So Socrates begins his address to the jury by suggesting lifetime maintaince at the Prytaneum. The Prytaneum is the place in Athens where former victors of the Olympic games received daily rations of food, this is the reward they received from the city for their victory. In essence, Socrates has suggested as his penalty free meals for the rest of his life! It is clear that he doesn't think he will get this because he quickly goes on to explore banishment, which he rejects, then a monetary fine. We have to ask ourselves, why did Socrates do this? The effect it has on the jury is obvious; when the second vote is taken, some of those who had voted to acquit Socrates a moment before, now voted to put him to death.

    One possible explaination, the one given by Xenophon in fact, is that Socrates is trying to get himself killed. But this seems inconsistent with everything else we know about Socrates. I think a better explanation is that Plato is showing us that Socrtates is a flawed character. He is not perfect, and his sarcasm sometimes gets the better of him. The matter is open for interpretation, however, and you must struggle with this question and come to an answer for yourself.

  5. Socrates accepts death:

    1. Socrates' divine voice did not stop him

    2. Death ought not to be feared because it can only be one of two things:

      1. Either death is an annihilation of the soul (everlasting unconsciousness)
      2. Or, death is a migration of the soul from this world to another.

      3. If death is an annihilation of the soul, then it is like a dreamless sleep.
      4. A dreamless sleep is good (or at the very least, it cannot be bad).
      5. (C1) Therefore, if death is like a dreamless sleep, death is good.

      6. If death is a migration of the soul from the world of the living to the world of the dead, then Socrates can philosophize with the souls of the dead.
      7. It would be good for Socrates to philosophize with the souls of the dead.
      8. (C2) Therefore, if death is a migration of the soul, death is good.

      9. If death is either an annihilation or migration of the soul, then it is good.
      10. If death is good, it ought not be feared.
      11. Death is either an annihilation or migration of the soul.
      12. (C3) Therefore, death ought not be feared.

  6. What is 'Philosophy' for Socrates?

    1. A way of life

    2. A search for:

      1. wisdom, which is ...
      2. knowledge of good and bad, that teaches us ...
      3. the right way to live

In other words, Philosophy is not a pastime, or sport, or mere entertainment. It is something one does with the whole being. It is, for Socrates at least, the most important way to live one's life.


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