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The Apology, written by Socrates’ student Plato, is a narrative of Socrates addressing the Athens’s 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 Chaerephon’s 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 Chaerephon’s 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
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Socratic dialogues, Socrates, Dialogues of Plato, Ancient Greek philosophers, Philosophy, 1st millennium BC, Ancient philosophy, Meletus, Apology, Chaerephon, Plato, Ion
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