Plato wrote the Apology because Socrates was sentenced to death for dissuasion against state religion and corrupting young people. In the beginning, it seems like he is trying to split his accusers into two groups (old and new) to show that he has been accused many years of his life and the new accusers should be the only ones looked at because the old accusers did not appear in court. He was also allowed to cross-examine his accusers and make his own defense.
Usually, at that time in Athens, the accusers say what they wanted the sentence to be and if it was death, it was natural for the accused to ask to be banished. However, he refused to disobey laws and already said that he did not want to live in another foreign countr. Socrates focused mainly on themes of interest are ignorance, death and sophistry. Sophists were traveling teachers that sold their services to rich parents and promised to teach their kids important things that would help them advance in life.
They are defined as men of wisdom and that is exactly what Socrates tried to distinguish himself from (Allen 39-40). It seems that sophists can make humans great because there was an example given by Socrates that said if your two sons were colts and calves, we could get an overseer for them and hire them and he would be either a horse-trainer or a farmer (Allen 40). Socrates denies the knowledge of having human excellence and claims to only have a certain type of wisdom and he never did charge for his services. So overall, Socrates identifies himself as an anti-sophist, although some of his techniques are suggestive of otherwise. The second most stressed theme would be the term ignorance. Socrates frequently confesses that he is ignorant .
Socrates says that he only has human wisdom and he claims that he knows that he is not wise: I know that I am not wise at all; what then does God mean by saying I am wisest? In the oracles saying, no one is wiser than Socrates (Allen 40-44). Socrates knows that he is not wise and doubts what the oracle says and sets out to test it. He sets out to find someone that is wiser than he is. First, he went looking among the politicians and philosophers and then he found out that poets were the worst interpreters of their own writing and therefore was not wiser than he was (Allen 41-42). He finds someone who is wise and he thinks that the person is wise also but it turns out that the man was not wise at all and by unrevealing that he is not lead to a bad reputation and hatred of Socrates.
Then he says that he is much wiser than the man is because he does not pretend to possess much knowledge so in other words his wisdom lies in acknowledging his own ignorance. Socrates sums his theory up by saying that the oracle was right and that human wisdom is worth little or nothing (Allen 43). The oracle intended to apply, not to Socrates, but to all men who knew that their wisdom is worth nothing (Allen 43). The third most stressed theme is death. This began with Meletus (second class of accusers) saying that Socrates is an atheist and he was corrupting the youth: I mean that. You acknowledge no gods at all (Allen 47).
Meletus goes on how that Socrates is an atheist and says, not when he says the Sun is a stone and the Moon earth which means Meletus has confounded Socrates with Anaxagoras, which said these things (Allen 47). Therefore, Socrates put Meletus down and said no one should believe him and that Meletus probably cannot even believe in himself: You cannot be believed, Meletuseven, I think, by yourself (Allen 47). Someone asked Socrates Are you ashamed that now you may be put to death and he had a reply that mainly said let no man fear death or anything but disgrace (Allen 49). He faced death where at times he was stationed in wars in Potidaea, Amphipolis and Delium.
Every time Socrates proposes a punishment, he reasons himself into a worse punishment. Now, when Socrates was sentenced to death, he does not weep and does not become angry because he thought that would bring shame on him and that would be worse than death itself. It seems that he will not make any condition in order to save his own life for he does not know whether death is good or evil. His philosophy of reason allows him to look at death in a way that he does not have to be afraid of it. Socrates holds on to what he believes in even if the consequence is death.
He says, that death, if I may be rather blunt, was no concern to me once again showing no fear (Allen 53). Concern for him is not nearly as important as the pursuit of the true and goodness and it is better to suffer injustice, through ignorance, than to cause it. Socrates uses reason to convince himself that death is not evil (Allen 60-61). He says, Death is one of two things. Either to be dead is not to exist, to have no awareness at all, or it is, as the stories tell, a kind of alteration, a change of abode for the soul from this place to another.
I believe he says that because both of those states of being are bad so therefore death should not be feared. Another reason why he is for death is because he says it is a gain and it is like taking a journey where the stories that are told are true and the people who claim that they are judges will come to find that there is a much greater judge after death and he is willing to die many times after if this is all true (Allen 61). Because this speech gave Socrates view on choosing his honor and his commitments to truth and morality even when it cost him his life, this speech by far the best I have ever read it falls right in line with my beliefs. However, Socrates, as he constantly set about himself, claimed that he is ignorant of the underworld, but he claimed it to be a better place — just one fallacy in his argument. Although this slight mistake may have broader implications affecting his argument and weakening it to the point of its demise, it is negligible in the sense that it went completely unnoticed by his accusers; thus proving the effectiveness of the argument.
- Sophists, Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2000.
- http://encarta.msn.com. Microsoft Corporation. Allen, Reginald. (1980). Socrates and Legal Obligation.
- Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P. 37-62. Mack, Maynard (Ed.). (1997). The Norton Anthology: World Masterpieces Expanded Edition in One Philosophy Essays.