04 February 2008


...not mine, Socrates' as recorded by Plato.

So Socrates is dragged into court by a man named Meletus. Meletus accuses Socrates of not believing in the gods of ancient Greece—knowing that it would bring shame and penalty to Socrates. Moreover, he accuses Socrates of teaching this heresy to the youth of Athens as well as accepting payment for the education.
Socrates demonstrates the earliest known legal defense in history. I'm told it is still studied today. It is quite a piece of work how he turns Meletus' accusation on its head. First he uses inclusion to show that Meletus accuses Socrates alone of corrupting the youth. He uses the analogy of horsemanship to illustrate this. Only a few people can tame a horse, but Meletus seems to say that only one man can corrupt what everyone else trains. Not only is this contrary to experience, it assumes that there is only one impious man, namely Socrates. Surely this is nonsense evil men surely existed or else the jury itself would not have been a precedent to call upon.
Next Socrates attacks Meletus' charge of atheism. He asks whether one can believe in spiritual things and not believe in spirits. Pluralism collapsed Meletus' argument. Of course spiritual things are derived from spirits, just as children of gods come from gods. Meletus cannot rebut this reality without being an atheist himself.
Next Socrates defends his modest appearance before the jury. He defends his virtuous life while refusing to fear death. He appears in court alone to defend himself without calling witnesses, allowing the jury to judge him on the basis of his own words. Strangely much of his argument is attributed to a sort of inspiration from a god. He appeals to vision he received from this deity in a very personal way. I am shocked to find this in ancient literature. The jury, however, convicts Socrates of atheism and sentences him to death.

Now my apology. I have only read the Apology that Plato records. I have not read anything about Socrates—in fact I'm trying hard not to go to secondary literature. I am in a History of Philosophy course because I have no substantial exposure to philosophy. These posts on readings from Cahn's Classics of Western Philosophy 7th ed. are my own thoughts before the presentation of the lecturer. I admit my status of a novice--yet I’m trying not to remain a dilettante.

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