The apology Term Paper

This essay has a total of 1259 words and 5 pages.


the apology





At the elderly age of seventy, Socrates found himself fighting against an indictment of
impiety. He was unsuccessful at trial in the year 399 B.C. The charges were corrupting the
youth of Athens, not believing in the traditional gods in whom the city believed, and
finally, that he believed in other new divinities. In Plato’s Apology, Socrates
defends himself against these charges. He claims that the jurors’ opinions are
biased because they had probably all seen Aristophanes’ comedy The Clouds. The
Socrates portrayed in Aristophanes’ Clouds is an altogether different character than
that of the Apology. The two different impressions of Socrates lead to quite opposite
opinions with regard to his guilt. In The Clouds, Socrates’ actions provide evidence
of his guilt on all three charges. However, in the Apology, Socrates is fairly convincing
in defending his innocence on the first two charges, but falls short on the third charge.
Socrates, in The Clouds, is portrayed as an idiot who thinks he’s walking on air and
is interested primarily in gnats’ rumps. He is delineated as a natural
philosopher/sophist. He is hired to teach Pheidippides to make the “worse
argument”, the argument that is really incorrect and unjust the
“better”—to his father’s creditors— so that Strepsiades,
Pheidippides’ father, will not have to pay his debts. While this in itself is
corrupt, it was that he changed Pheidippides from the time he entered Socrates’
“Thinkery” into a corrupt scoundrel, completely devoid of morality that was
even more deplorable. At the beginning, Pheidippides is a respectful son who loves his
father, but after “graduating” from the Thinkery he is beating his father with
a stick (lines 1321-1333). Socrates was so successful in corrupting Pheidippides that he
even attempts to justify his behavior using rhetorical techniques learned from Socrates.
In response to his father questioning his actions he claims “Yes by God;
what’s more, I’ll prove it’s right to do so…with unbeatable
arguments.” He has obviously been extremely corrupted if he could talk in this
manner to his father. Not believing in the traditional gods, which is the second charge
fits the Aristophanic Socrates perfectly. Socrates explicitly frowns upon the gods when he
exclaims, “what do you mean, ‘the gods’? In the first place, gods
aren’t legal tender here” (lines 247-248). Later, when explaining the elements
to Strepsiades, Socrates exclaims “Zeus you say? Don’t kid me! There’s
no Zeus at all” (lines 368-369). He is undoubtedly saying that he does not believe
in the traditional gods. The claim that Socrates believed in new divinities, the third
charge, is clearly seen when he “enter (s) into communion with the clouds, who are
our deities” (lines 253-254). Socrates proves methodically how it could not be Zeus
who causes phenomena such as rain, thunder, and lightening, but rather is merely the work
of the Clouds. For, if it were indeed the work of Zeus, then he would bring rain in
absence of any clouds. The fact that the clouds are always present during precipitation
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