Socrates and Athenian People

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Wisdom can be defined in various ways, reflecting on past experiences, having profound knowledge in a subject area, or even sophists being labeled as wise—ironically. Plato’s The Apology is an account of Socrates’ trial where he challenges various charges against him; inventing new deities, not recognizing the gods of the state and corrupting the youth of Athens. Through a sequence of arguments, Socrates belittles his own significance, seemingly self-effacing, in hopes of disproving the premises of his accusers. Through a sequence of arguments, Socrates lays claim to him being an exemplary citizen by means of Socratic wisdom, being reflective enough to know our own limitations in our knowledge. Socrates’ conviction of criminal meddling offers a reflective outlook on the true nature of human wisdom.

Socrates initiates his primitive argument by contending that the charges made by Meletus are not only false but have led prejudices to be raised against him. He demonstrates this premise through his reflection of the charges laid out against him. Meletus’ general accusations were that Socrates was a sophist and physicalist. The charges made against him are two-fold, one being “investigating the things under the earth and the heavenly things” and second, making weaker speeches stronger (19b). Firstly, the charge implies impiety for which Socrates later refutes by explaining his actions were commissioned through the oracle of Delphi.

In response to the charge of impiety he relates the obedience of Athenian men being stationed by a ruler to his obedience of the god stationing him and ordering him to, “live philosophizing and examining” himself and others (28d-28e). Furthermore, he contends his premise by continuing to relate it to the Athenian lifestyle of men having to go to be stationed by rulers even if they run the risk of dying (28d). This implies that for Socrates not to obey the Delphic Oracle would mean a terrible deed would have been committed on his behalf and an injustice to society.

By relating this premise to that of his Athenian audience, Socrates’ use of Ethos seeks to further his premise through use of credibility and ethics by Athenian means. Here, Socrates has seemingly won one over on Meletus by questioning this point of the charge. Logically, it is impossible for Socrates to be atheistic and commit impiety if he believes in god stationing him. By Socrates initializing this counterargument to Meletus, he sets up the stage for addressing the second part of the charge, corrupting the Athenian youth.

Following the premise concerning impiety, is that of corrupting the youth, or “non-conformity”. Meletus’ second accusation concerns Socrates alone corrupting the youth. To this, Socrates states, “Does it seem to you to be so also concerning horses? That all human beings make them better, while one certain one is the corrupter? Or is it wholly opposite to this, that one certain one is able to make them better” (25b). Here, Socrates argues that it is absurd to say that only he alone corrupts the youth. In turn, this implies that everyone else helps the youth; however, just as there are few horse trainers, there are few in the position to “train” the youth. Contrary to Meletus’ assertion, Socrates’ premise proves that he is indeed one of these “trainers”.

Although Socrates refutes all of the points Meletus charges him with, Socrates realizes he will be found guilty. Rather than submit and bow down to those of authority, Socrates believes it is his duty to question people in their wisdom and expose those thought to be knowledgeable. This notion of questioning would not at all be seen as a crime by today’s standards but, instead was an act of vengeance of the Athenian power-holders of the society for speaking with mere rhetoric rather than actual knowledge.

For this reason, Socrates states, “and this is what will convict me, if it does convict me: not Meletus of Antyus, but the envy and slander of the many. This has convicted many other good men too, and I suppose it will also convict me” (28a). Socrates’ belief in doing things that are unjust being worse than death is what lead him to try and make a space for young Athenian men to challenge, refute and question authority rather than let their voices go unheard. Even being found guilty, it was his persistent belief that a life that does not examine anything, is a life not worth living.

Through all of the premises aforementioned, it cannot be denied that Socrates suffered a great injustice at the hands of the Athenian justice system. Socrates became a symbol of knowledge and wisdom that had to be disposed of by the oligarchy to maintain and legitimatize their oppressive rule. Socrates’ logical sequence conveys that there is a need for a gadfly to wake provoking thoughts throughout all walks of life.

Cite this paper

Socrates and Athenian People. (2021, Mar 28). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/socrates-and-athenian-people/

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