Plato, an ancient Greek philosopher, mathematician, and pupil of the philosopher Socrates, relays his interpretation of Socrates’ defence against the Athenian council in, An Excerpt from Plato’s Apology. In the writings, (which may be biased being as Plato was an admirer of Socrates), Socrates attempts to dispel the charges laid against him. Throughout the excerpt, there is much acknowledgement surronding the scuttlebut in cirulation emcompassing Socrates, why and how he earned he vile names, his everlasting support of philosophical studies, and the importance of finding and improving the sole.
All developing the thesis of Socrates’ attempt to prove that he is not a conceited, boastful philosopher but in reality there is a method to his madness. A main idea of Plato’s apology, is the focus on the rumors surrounding Socrates and his teachings. Meletus accuses the philosopher of corrupting the youth as oppose to bettering them. Socrates is also arraigned with being a sophist, making the bad look good, not believing in god – or at least not recognizing the gods worshiped by society and finally, being an outright ‘evil-doer’.
During his speech, Socrates first addresses Aristophanes (A playwright of Athens), and his pursuit to make Socrates out to be a bit of a trash-talker who claims he can walk through air along with other absurdities. Socrates claims that although he is a teacher of philosophy, he does not charge. Even though frowned upon Socrates admires anyone that possess such great knowledge and is able to charge for their teachings. In a modest manner he states, “Had I the same, I should have been very proud and conceited; but the truth is that I have no knowledge of that kind. This is important because it aids in the proving of Socrates innocence, being that if he was indeed such a pompous, conceited philosopher he would not be able to admit his lack of knowledge. Throughout the excerpt Socrates makes reference to many stories in effort of proving to the jury before him how he acquired such an atrocious reputation. Socrates mentions that he believes the only reason he was put on trial was because Meletus does not like him for possessing such unique wisdom.
A second critical idea brought forth in the writings is how Socrates can prove that he is the wisest man in the whole world. This goes into the explanation of the Delphic Oracle telling Socrates that he is. After not believing what the god says, Socrates decides to conduct his own experiment in attempt to prove the Oracle wrong. Socrates travels to find a man more wise than him. In his travels he studies men that are known for their wisdom but he finds flaws within each of them; and when he does Socrates tries to educate the men on why he cor cate the men on why he considers them to be not-so wise.
Socrates’ outspokenness results in him embarrassing the test subject and the consequence of his actions lead to a firm hatred toward the philosopher by many. This means that Socrates is left with many enemies and a newfound belief that he is indeed the wisest man in the world. In describing such endeavours, it is clear how Socrates earned such a negative reputation. Socrates states, “i am better off than he is – for he knows nothing and thinks that he know. i neither know nor think that i know. It is evident that Socrates is aware of his ignorance, and in this statement is his claim to such unfathomable wisdom.
Lastly, a major theme of this text is Socrates’ willingness to die for his beliefs. The philosopher states that even in the face of death, he will never stop practicing philosophy. Socrates will stand by his beliefs. His opinion is that he does not allow himself to fear death for how can anyone fear what they do not know? Therefore the council does no good in attempting to impose the fear of his execution, it is evidentially no deterrent for the philosopher.
Socrates never truly apologized for his actions, for he believes he did not do anything wrong. He merely defends himself. He cares for being knowledgeable over having popularity, success, or wealth. Socrates claims that a life unexamined is worth nothing and truly believes that he is the wisest man in the whole world. Socrates says that if he was given the ultimatum to leave, unharmed but be forced to abandon his faith of philosophy that he would not do it. He claims that his teachings are more valuable than money or any other possessions.
Socrates concludes his speech with saying, “and either acquit me or not; but whatever you do, know that I shall never alter my ways, not even if I have to die many times. ” To conclude, the importance of this piece of literature is that it eventually leads to the death of a well-known philosopher. The thesis throughout the defense against the Athenian council is not to prove his innocence, but to explain his actions and reasonings behind his logic. After being put on trial, Socrates defence is evident that it is not indeed an apology but an explanation.