The Apology, written by Socrates student Plato, is a narrative of Socrates addressing the Athenss Court of Justice for which he states he is on trial for being an evil doer, and a curious person, who searches into things under the earth and in heaven, and he makes the worse appear the better cause; and he teaches the aforesaid doctrines to others (Harwood 201). In another passage in the Apology Socrates states others accuse him of not believing in the gods of the state, but in other divinities, and of corrupting the youth.
The Apology begins with Socrates asking to be allowed to speak in his accustomed manner as he addresses the jury, referred to as the Athenians. He also asks the jury to answer the question, whether what he says is just or not (Cumming 22). He begins with replying to the older false accusations of his older accusers, whom he felt have or will have more of an influence over the juries verdict. Since Socrates is in his seventies, most of the jury is younger than him. The old accusers are the ones who educated the jury in their youth, and by doing so, Socrates feels they have biased the jury against him with their lies.
Socrates also feels that his later accuser, Meletus, a minor poet with fervent religious convictions relied on this prejudice when he brought his indictment (Cumming 23). In his defense, Socrates then refers to a comedy play, Aristophanes, in which he states he is falsely portrayed as a nature philosopher. Although Socrates had been associated and was familiar with the nature philosophers school of thought as a youth, he wants the jury to believe him when he says he never embraced this philosophy.
He also denies taking money to educate others in his philosophical thinking. He then addresses questions, which he feels are forming in the jurors minds. But, Socrates, what is the trouble with you? What has given rise to these prejudices against you? You must have been doing something out of the ordinary (Cumming 25). Socrates went onto speak about the wisdom he possessed, which may have prejudiced men against him. He spoke of the reply of the Oracle Delphi priestess to his deceased childhood friend Chaerephons question, Who was wiser than I (Socrates) (Cumming 25).
Socrates relates that the oracle replied no one meaning Socrates was the wisest. Now he did not want the jury to feel him conceited or telling an untruth, so he offered up Chaerephons brother to be a witness and went on to explain himself further. He himself did not understand this reply by the oracle and went about to understand the meaning. He tells of investigating this and setting out to prove the god wrong by visiting other known wise men in the community. He was going to find a wiser man than he.
When he visited the first wise man, a politician, he came to realize this highly thought of individual in the community was not wise at all. Then Socrates tried to prove to the gentleman that he was not wise. Upon leaving Socrates thought to himself, I am wiser than this man: neither of us knows anything that is really worth knowing, but he thinks that he has knowledge when he has not, while I, having no knowledge, do not think that I have (Cumming 26). Socrates then sought out others who were considered wise. He conversed with poets and asked about the meaning of their work.
He found the poets were not able to convey the meaning. Then he conversed with artisans and found that although they knew much about their art and felt the wiser, they too were ignorant in higher matters. This journey to find a wiser man than he, made many enemies for Socrates. He then addresses the jury on his learned lesson. He felt that God was the wisest and only used use of Socrates name as though to say, He among you who is the wisest who, like Socrates, knows that his wisdom is really worth nothing at all (Cumming 28).
Socrates felt he was commanded by god to go out and test and examine men who felt themselves wise, and when he found that the man was not wise, he was to point this out. This was his reasoning for not taking part in public matters or to have looked after his private affairs, thus living in poverty. Socrates brings up another point in his defense, which is directed at the upper class. The young men in this class have nothing to do, so they like to listen to Socrates examine the pretenders as Socrates refers to the men who feel they are wise (Harwood 203).
The young men also begin to question others (the poets, artisans, craftsmen, politicians, and rhetoricians) and thus become to realize that there are many who think they know something, but in reality know either very little or nothing at all. This angers the aforementioned that are questioned, but they are not angered at themselves, but at Socrates. This confounded him, and this was a reason why he felt his three accusers had set upon him (Harwood 203).
Meletus, had a quarrel with him on behalf of the poets; Anytus, on behalf of the craftsmen and politicians, and Lycon, on behalf of the rhetoricians (Harwood 203). Socrates then moves on to his second accusers who he feels are represented by Meletus, and who he refers to with a bit of sarcasm, as that good man and true lover of his country, as he calls himself (Harwood 203). Meletus charge against Socrates would read: Socrates is a doer of evil, who corrupts the youth; and who does not believe in the gods of the state, but has other new divinities of his own (Harwood 203).
Socrates sets out to show the jury that Meletus is the doer of evil and only pretends to care about state matters. Meletus is questioned by Socrates and is asked who is the improver of youth if Socrates is the corrupter. Meletus replies the laws, which Socrates does not accept as an answer, he wants a persons name. Meletus then replies the judges, the assembly, the senators etc. Socrates deducts that according to Meletus then, everyone but Socrates improves the youth, and he (Socrates) is the only corrupter.
He jests that wouldnt it be grand if only one person in their society was a corrupter. Socrates then asks Meletus various questions, I will ask you another question-by Zeus I will; Which is better, to live among bad citizens, or among good ones? Meletus replies among good ones. Is there anyone who would rather be injured than benefited by those who live with him? Meletus replies certainly not. And when you accuse me of corrupting and deteriorating the youth, do you allege that I corrupt them intentionally or unintentionally?
Meletus replies intentionally (Harwood 204). Socrates then uses Meletus answers to these and the following questions to infer that Meletus must be lying. For if what Meletus claims is true, Athens then owed it to Socrates to educate him on the errors of his ways, not prosecute him. Socrates asks, What man would intentionally/voluntarily corrupt a neighbor and make him an evil doer, and thus in turn endanger his own life (Cumming 32)? Socrates then replies to the accusation that he does not believe in the gods of the states.
He asks Meletus, Is there any man who believes in the existence of things pertaining to men and not in the existence of men (Cumming 33)? To which Meletus replies, there is not my friend (Cumming 33). Socrates uses this reply to then question how Meletus can then say that Socrates does not believe in the gods. However, Meletus agrees that Socrates believes in divine things. But, if Socrates believes in divine things, then surely he must also then believe in divinities? And with this, Meletus agrees that divinities are either gods themselves or the children of the gods.
So how can Socrates be found guilty of corrupting the youth or not believing in the gods of the state? Socrates felt a person should live their life in a just and good way. He asks that the jury not acquit him with the condition that he change his ways, for he would not be able to change his way of life just to spare his life. Just as he could not desert his post when he was stationed in the battles of Potidaea to save his life, or when he disobeyed unjust orders to bring Salaminian to the Thirty so he could be put to death, he can not desert his principles now to preserve his life.
Socrates addresses the jury in his conclusion. According to Socrates he will not make a spectacle of himself and plea for his innocence, or bring his family and friends before the jury to plea for pity. A respectable man, in his mind, would not lower himself to this, thus losing his respect and dignity. Socrates makes a note of asking the jury to not think him indignant and/or not to let this interfere with their verdict. He acknowledges that this might, but hopes that they will believe the truths he has spoken at his trial and see through his accusers accusations.
He is found guilty by 281 votes to 220 and he is sentenced to death. Socrates views death as neither good nor evil (Cumming 42). Either death is a state of nothingness and utter unconsciousness, or, as men say there is a change and migration of the soul form this world to another (Apology). He was an old man who was close to natural death, so views his death sentence easier to accept than if allowed to live, but made silent. He beliefs are so that he asks his judges a favor of them.
When my sons are grown up, I would ask of you, O friends, to punish them; and I would have you trouble them, as I have troubled you, if they seem to care about riches, or anything, more than about virtue; or if they pretend to be something when they are really nothing,-then reprove them, as I have reproved you, for not caring about that for which they ought to care, and thinking that they are something when they are really nothing. And if you do this, both I and my sons will have received justice at you hands (Apology).