According to your reading of the Apology, who is/was Socrates?
There are many ways to approach this broad question, and you’re free to describe in your own ways, the impression Socrates made on you after reading his defense speech. Your answer does not need to be long but I encourage you to think hard and answer with care. I would like you to form your answer based on evidence from the text, either citing a specific quote or turning our attention to a particular page/passage.
Some possible ways to think about this question:
- avoid simply identifying him as a philosopher (a term he never uses of himself): if you choose to go this route, be specific about the kind of philosopher he is and why you chose this word
- feel free to use adjectives to describe Socrates, but substantiate your adjectives with quotations/mentions of the text
- perhaps try to understand who Socrates was in relation to other figures (historical, fictional, divine) mentioned in the defense speech
- perhaps try to understand who Socrates was in relation to Athenian culture more generally (as it is presented in the text or what you have learnt about it thus far)
- does Socrates’ language/style tell us anything about his practice, his way of living?
55 thoughts on “Discussion Forum: Week 5”
In the introduction of Apology, Plato outlines the charges that were placed against Socrates stating that he “was accused of (1) heterodoxy as regards state religion and (2) corrupting the youth” (91). From this piece of evidence we can gather that Socrates was somewhat influential, but a controversial figure. From these charges, we can make the assumption that he would challenge the status quo and ask questions that many older citizens would not want him to. Further on in section 4 of the introduction it is stated that an argument that Socrates uses to back himself up is that “nobody intentionally does wrong” (95). He tries to argue that if he did influence the youth he did it unintentionally and, therefore, isn’t doing any wrong. This way of thinking portrays Socrates as a man who isn’t able to admit that he makes mistakes.
Furthermore, in his speech, Socrates states that “nobody knows about death whether it is the greatest of all good things for mankind, but they fear it as if they know full well it’s the greatest of evils.” (151). This paints Socrate’s as someone who thinks of himself as better than others, the way that he speaks about other peoples opinions in relation to his own is very condescending. He outlines that no one should fear death as no one has the wisdom of what happens in the afterlife but he himself doesn’t know either, yet he is confident that his opinion is the correct one and that there is nothing to fear in the unknown.
Socrates was an in-depth thinker that radically contemplated Athenian life and death, and his difference in perspective threatened Athenian authority in such a way that many may have found scary. When I think of Socrates as a challenger, I find two examples that stick out. First of all, in his defense, Socrates mentions that many wise, respected men are actually foolish, and he challenges their intellect by saying they are not aware of their own ignorance. This concept challenges the Athenian conventions of who is respected, and this is very threatening to the authority of well respected men in Athens. Secondly, in the end of the Apology, Socrates challenges the very notion of the death penalty by deconstructing the two possibilities after death: if death is just sleep, it will be a benefit, and if death sends one to another place, it is not as different as his current situation. This logic upends Athenian authority because he belittles and minimizes the most serious form of Athenian punishment which, if people agreed, could hypothetically motivate people to defy the law and not fear trial and death, as Socrates does not care about the punishment for his actions (as death was attempted to scare him into exile in exchange for his silence).
I agree that Socrate’s thoughts death could pose a threat to other Athenians, as they would have been viewed as very unconventional ideas. Socrates’ challenge of the notion of death expresses his disdain for the Athenian punishment of death, but I also think it highlights parts of Socrates’ own character. Socrates is not afraid to die in part as an act of defiance, but also because of his stance on morality. He contends, “-nothing can be bad for a good man, either alive or dead, and his affairs are not ignored by the gods” (191-192). This line makes it apparent that Socrates believes that “being a good person” is what matters most in the eyes of the gods. However, his belief in the justness of the gods contradicts earlier in the play when he was accused of not acknowledging the gods. I think that Socrate’s used the gods in the end of the play as further means to mock the Athenians, by using their own belief system to defend himself. This scene implies that Socrates was a master at manipulating his words to make himself appear as a more righteous and worthy individual.
I agree with you that Socrates upends Athenian authority. And this scares the rich powerful men that normally have the power in Athens. Socrates is charged for not acknowledging the gods(111) because of the ways he analyzes Athenian life. Even with the way Socrates investigates life, I still believe he is a religious man like many of the Athenians. His speech references the gods many times and while that might be an attempt to deny the accusation against him, the way Socrates uses it is very normal. Socrates uses the phrase “not, however by Zeus”(107) in regards to the validity of the arguments against him, this reminded me of the way Aristophane’s plays called to Zeus. This similarity makes me believe that this is how the Athenians spoke of the gods and used them in everyday discussions. Socrates continues to call on Zeus and other gods(139) in this defense. I believe that while Socrates did say some things that could be interpreted as antigods, he like the other Athenians use them as integral parts of their lives and conversations. Socrates was controversial because he spoke against some of the cultural norms, however I believe he still valued and took part in the religious aspect of Athenian culture.
I also found it really interesting how Socrates undermines Athenian authority by trivializing their most severe form of punishment and belittling those who are responsible for his fate. In doing so, he may have sealed his own fate as the Athenian power structure can’t allow someone to laugh in the face of their authority and go unpunished, but the message he sends might still have the desired effect on the Athenian people. Furthermore, his nonchalant attitude towards his execution and his choice of death over silence is a powerful statement addressing the hypocrisy he is trying to decry in Athens.
The most interesting part of Socrates’s speech was his arguing style. It was very smart and compelling which I appreicted but also self-indulging. Socrates’s speech contained many examples of his hubris.
The two words that he kept on repeating were “truth” and “lie”. I’m paraphrasing but his argument was simple: “I am telling you the truth, they are lying about me” but his hubris made it hard for me to feel sympathy and connect with him. Socrates said, “I am really the sort of person who has been gifted to the city by the god” (pg. 157). Later, “If anyone claims he ever learned anything from me or heard anything in private that none others have heard, be well assured that he’s not telling the truth” (pg. 163-165). Since Socrates was found guilty, his arguments based off intelligence were not enough to overcome his reputation and personality.
I agree with Ben’s comments. Thought the reading, it is clear that Socrates presents his defense in a very intellectual manner. However, like Ben, it was hard for me to look past Socrates’ condescending attitude, to see his argument objectively. One example of this was when Socrates, said “‘If you keep silent and lead a quiet life, Socrates, won’t you be able to carry on living away from us in exile?’ This is the most difficult thing of all to convince some of you of. You see, if I say that this is to disobey the god and because of this it’s impossible to lead a quiet life, you won’t be convinced, on the grounds that I’m pulling a fast one”. Here, Socrates clearly creates an intellectual separation between himself and the rest of Athenians where the Athenians are beneath him. Socrates then uses this separation to explain that it is impossible for Athenians to understand his arguments. Socrates’ condescension must be frustrating for Athenians, as it is for me, and likely is the reason why Socrates was killed.
From his speech in Plato’s Apology, Socrates seems to be a self important, condescending individual. Even while on trial, with a looming possibility of execution, he chooses to criticize those around him rather than plead with them for his safety. He repeatedly mentions interactions with others in which his conclusion was that he considered himself the wiser, and goes so far as to speak through the voice of a god, saying “This man is the wisest among you” (127). His ego is further demonstrated in the comparisons he makes between himself and famous figures. Socrates states he is similar to none other than Achilles, “the son of Thetis,” in his rant on not fearing death (147). Evidently such tactics did not prove useful, since he was sentenced to death by the jury, but his self assuredness remains through it all.
Socrates seems to be a really complex thinker who cared deeply about the place he was from and the systems that he lived in, and more specifically, cared about critiquing them and holding them to a high standard. There were a few different quotations that stood out to me about that idea of him, one of the most interesting ones was on page 113: “Well then, my fellow Athenians, I must make my defense and I must try in a short time to rid you of this prejudice that you have acquired over a long time…All the same let this go whichever way it pleases the god. I must obey the law and submit my defense.” At least in the way that Plato is portraying Socrates, this passage makes him seem, at his core, like a concerned citizen. He positions himself within Athenian society and calls himself an Athenian, and then makes it clear that his goal and purpose in his defense is to change the mindset of the Athenians to what it was before, one of less prejudice. He ends this passage saying that he will accept whatever comes from this. This passage is a smaller example of his language and position throughout the whole speech that illustrates this larger idea. I think because of the situation he was in, this speech and this position in the speech makes him seem like maybe an arrogant person, as well.
Socrates was a person who was not afraid to deviate from social norms. On pages 127-128, Socrates explains that he is wise because he can admit when there are things that he does not know. He draws a contrast between himself and others by claiming that people “are conspicuous in giving the impression of knowledge, but actually knowing nothing” (p. 129). Despite being somewhat of an outsider, Socrates is self-assured. Before he is executed, Socrates professes, “Well you too, members of the jury, must be optimistic in the face of death and keep in mind this one thing that is true: that nothing can be bad for a good man, either alive or dead, and his affairs are not ignored by the gods” (pp. 191-192). Socrates demonstrates his confidence by expressing that, although the jury treated him unfairly, he will emerge victorious in the end.
“I do very much beg and implore this of you: if you hear me making my defense using the same arguments that I normally use both in the Agora at the money-changers’ tables, where many of you have heard me, and elsewhere, don’t be surprised and don’t heckly me because of this.” Socrates appears to be speaking like a common person here, or attempting to be, we can see this when he references how he is often seen out and about, therefore he isn’t extremely wealthy or extremely poor. We can also assume he is a relatively public figure as he references the fact that many people have heard him speak, but also that he is very true to his arguments. He is not a liar or fake in the sense that his everyday argument will be the same as his defense in front of the court.
“there is no way whatever I can appear to be clever at speaking-that’s what seemed to me to be the most shameful thing about them, unless, that is, these people use the phrase ‘a clever speaker’ for someone who tells the truth.”: Socrates doesn’t see himself as a “clever speaker”, rather a speaker of the truth. It seems that he speaks with a plain vocabulary, and doesn’t come off as elite or wise with his words.
“At least it seems I’m wiser than this man in just this one minor respect, that I don’t even think I know what I don’t know.”: Lastly, from this quote we can take away the idea that he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. He believes that this is what makes him wise, this is the reason why people don’t like him. Otherwise, he feels like he is similar to the everyday individual in terms of intelligence.
I found it interesting that Socrates indirectly calls the oracle at Delphi as a witness in his trial. He does so by claiming the oracle said “no one was wiser” (121) than him, as substantiated by the brother of Chaerephon, the witness to these events. By claiming he was called the wisest mortal by the oracle at Delphi, he is associating himself with the god Apollo, challenging the religious commitment of the jurors. Seemingly, to indict Socrates for spreading wisdom when Apollo himself supported his teachings would be blasphemous. Therefore, the jurors must have rejected this account of the oracle, despite the support of a reputable witness. Plato is providing a piece of evidence that calls into question the legitimacy of the verdict in defense of Socrates.
hi ella! I don’t know if you noticed but there is a prompt this week.
Hey Keira! Thanks for pointing that out! Do you know how to delete a post?
There should be something next to you post that says edit and if you press that, you can delete your post
Socrates is a wise man who will do whatever it takes to avoid being found guilty and get himself on the people’s side. For instance, I find it interesting how often Socrates refers to and brings up the Gods, not only to make what he claims as the truth seem more credible to his audience, but also in an attempt to relate to the people of Athens and shorten the distance between him and them, since he is currently seen as an outsider. Also, since he is accused of not acknowledging the Gods, it makes sense that he defends himself by bringing them up throughout his apology. For instance, on page 107, at the very beginning of his speech, he says “from me you will hear nothing but the truth–not however, by Zeus, men of Athens, arguments tricked out with phrases…”. This statement shows alone how intelligent and wise Socrates is, but also how desperate he is to attempt to be on society’s “good side”.
I also found it interesting how one of Socrates’s main lines of defense was referencing the Gods. He utilizes the Gods to align himself with something that everyone repsetcs, in order to be deemed more relatable to the people. I also think he references the Gods so much to evoke some sort of empathy for himself. Additionally, I think he tries using the Gods as a defense mechanism against of the accusation against him that he is a paigan, and does not acknowledge the Gods.
Socrates’ is a person who does not feel satisfied with his answer until he has gone extremely, unnecessarily in-depth. I find him very entertaining to read because he spends far too long on each point, but the content of his explanations are quite interesting. I particularly liked the parts where he asked questions that were impossible to refute, such as “And do we not regard the spirits as either gods, or the children of gods?…If I then do acknowledge spirits…you are…saying that I don’t believe in gods and yet on the other hand again I do believe in gods, if indeed I do believe in spirits” (Pg 145.) Here he is accusing the accusers on very technical terms by going into the definitions of words. It is nonsensical but at the same it makes a lot of sense. This makes me think Socrates was a very cunning man who knew how to twist words around, whether with bad intentions or simply because that was how he expressed his philosophies.
I find it interesting that Plato represents Socrates in a series of dichotomies. Socrates claimed he is the wisest man in Attica not because he knows more, in fact, he admits ” and indeed they understood things I did not, and in this respect, they were wiser than me” (126); instead, it is because he acknowledges what he does not know is what makes him wise. One can see how Socrates’ beliefs would be detrimental to the establishment; he sets the groundwork that everything can be questioned, yet he himself speaks of only the truth, presumably because of his ‘wisdom’ and ‘intellectual morality’. His almost blatant disregard for making himself be likable and the process, in general, shows conviction in his own beliefs and his jaded attitude towards the social politics of Athens.
In my opinion, Socrates as an arguer is overrated. His arguments against Meletus can be quickly disproven or shown ignorant by simple counterexamples. First, he argues that it is odd that he, and only himself, is a corruptor of the youth, when the jurors and assemblymen, all of whom come from the public, are good influences on the youth. “Athenians all make them finer and better except me: I’m the only one who corrupts them.” Yet, this is entirely possible. It is the same as claiming that a murderer is a good person because most other people are good. There can be just one bad apple in an orchard. His argument that Meletus gave “adequate proof that [he has] never had any concern for the young” and that he is “clearly revealing [his] indifference because [he] has never had any care for the things for which [he] has brought [himself] here” is a total non-sequitur. Maybe there is some context upon which I am missing, but just because Socrates claims that Meletus’s argument doesn’t hold water doesn’t mean that Meletus does not truly care about the issue.
Socrates is not a philosopher for he is not wise in the realm of philosophy. In fact, as he proclaims, he is not wise at all. He admits that he knows nothing and feels superior to those who believe they are wise in areas in which they are naïve. In this sense, he can be perceived as arrogant, which leaves a bitter taste in many Athenians. Socrates, however, is a thinker; a man who questions everything and sticks his nose into matters that are meant to be tucked away. He does not seek to know everything, however; he seeks to question everything, especially the laws and customs of Athens. Even in his own trial, he questions the grounds in which he is being prosecuted stating “…it’s not the law to bring people here for such misdemeanors but take them aside and give them a good talking to and put them straight… it’s the law to bring those in need of punishment, not instruction” (Plato 139). Socrates does not hesitate to criticize the very system that ends up killing him. This is who Socrates is; a man who’s greatest gift is questioning that which is unquestionable in the imaginations of most Athenian citizens. In this sense, it is also his greatest weakness as it leads to his demise.
One quote that stood out to me was when Socrates states “You see I know very well that wherever I go, the young will listen to me talking just as they do here. And even if I
drive them away, they themselves will talk their elders round and
drive me out, but if I don’t drive them away their fathers and relatives will do it on their behalf” (179) This quote stood out to me because it shows the conceited side of Socrates. In this section, Socrates made it seem like even if they exile him, his teachings will still spread because his philosophy is that good. Granted, maybe Socrates’ philosophy may be as good as Plato portrays because it is widely renowned to this day, but then again Socrates was Plato’s mentor so it could be biased. Either way, I still enjoyed this interpretation of Socrates and I felt like this one section did not reflect the way he was portrayed throughout the play, but instead gave the readers a different view point.
I think it is interesting to draw conclusions about socrates based on the apology, since it is written by Plato. In my opinion The Apology presents Socrates as a symbol to the Athenians. He is a person who is willing to question the norms and stand against those in power, which is seemingly all positive but his annoying personality leads people to disagree with him. One quote I think points out his righteous attitude which causes people to find him annoying is when he says “He could not harm me, for I do not think it is permitted that a better man be harmed by a worse.” In this quote Socrates self righteous nature shows through. I believe if he had had a better personality and way of going about his life, he could have been seen a positive symbol of power.
Interesting point, Keira. I’m firmly in the “Socrates is annoying” camp. I mean, the way he peppers Meletus with leading questions on pages 14-16 and then concludes on 17 that Meletus is wrong, a liar, and too stupid will drive anyone up a wall. I don’t think Socrates could have had a better personality, though. His annoyingness (his pestering, his flipping of stated facts on their heads) is part of what makes him a good teacher.
As stated by Plato in the introduction of Apology, Socrates had been accused of crimes such as heterodoxy of state religion and corrupting the youth. It’s clear from these changes that Socrates was viewed as controversial in Athenian society. However, he must also persuasive in his ideas simply because of the nature of his “crimes”. He fully believes that his crimes are not punishable by law, which seems reasonable as ancient Athens does not seem to follow a set of laws and regulations. Socrates also talks much about where life meets death and the common fear surround the latter. He states “nobody knows about death whether it is the greatest of all good things for mankind, but they fear it as if they know full well it’s the greatest of all evils” (151). His use of “they” suggests that he does not think the same as others, revealing an ego and perhaps come superiority complex. Socrates comes across as condescending and overconfident in his statements, which may or may not be justified by his wisdom.
To me, Socrates seemed to be an agitating and subversive person on purpose. He wanted to challenge the societal norms of Athens whenever he found that they weren’t up to par, shown on pages 153-155. Socrates made it his mission to annoy and bother those who he considered thought too highly of themselves without having any real wisdom to back it up. I believe that Socrates never really wanted to be acquitted and judged as innocent during his trial, because the behavior he shows throughout his defense goes against a desire to win. He purposefully irritates the jury and his prosecutors through his arguments, his suggestions for his penalty, and his farewell speech. He never changes his attitude towards the jury, the people who decide his fate, even when it would be in his best interest to do so. He continues to irk the people of Athens all the way up to the final page of the text, in which he says “But if death is a kind of migration from here to another place… what greater good could there be than this, members of the jury?”. Socrates doesn’t see his death as something to avoid, but as something to celebrate, as he will end up in a place with true heroes and intellectuals from the past. The joy of putting Socrates to death is taken from those who wanted and voted for it with this sentence.
Socrates’ has the personality of the kid at school that nobody likes. He has tricks that make you feel sympathy for him at first. His speech starts out with a reminder that he may speak differently since he is not accustomed to the manner of speech in court. This establishes him as an outsider to athenian customs and is a ploy to get the jury to give him a break. He states “men of athens, I do very much beg and implore this of you If you hear me making my defense using the same arguments at the agora and the money changers table … don’t be surprised and don’t heckle me because of this” (108). His defense for his actions is that he was convinced by the oracle that he was wise because he knew he was stupid. Instead of trying to figure out to be better, he put others down to bring up his own belief of his intelligence. Finally, when the jury decides they had enough of Socrates’ antics, he doesn’t realize or even pretend that what he did was wrong. During his sentencing, he plays the victim and thinks that his actions are only worth a fine instead of being remorseful. Ultimately, I can understand why the jury sentenced Socrates’ to death so they didn’t have to deal with him anymore. The apology paints socrates as a nuisance, an outsider, and a thorn in the side of athenian society.
I find it interesting/ funny Socrates’ attitude throughout this apology and a quote that really captures it all is “Being the kind of person I say I am, you’ll not harm me more than you’ll harm yourselves. For neither Meletus nor Antus would harm me: they couldn’t: for U don’t think it is allowed by divine law for a better man to be harmed by an inferior.” page 25 Going on to tell them that if they were to put him to death it would be their loss as they will never find another like him. Socrates’ ego and superiority complex are very prevalent. Yes, Socrates, in my opinion, is guilty of his crimes but I think he plays an important role in challenging the social norm and having Athenians question everything but where he lacks is the evidence to support his ideas. His annoyance and consistent bothering of Athenians was his own downfall for I think that with changes to his personality his outcome would not have been death nor would he even have been put on trail. To cause a change in one thought annoyance is not the way to go about it.
Socrates was an influential yet highly controversial public figure in Ancient Athens. From reading the apology, which is written by Plato, I gathered that Soctrates was not afraid to question the government and the typical ways of Athenian life. Yet, he is an outsider and deeply wants to be well liked by Athenian citizens. In response to his controversial beliefs, Socrates faced the charges of corrupting the youth and introducing new gods. Even when he is put on trial and is facing a possible death sentence, he remains strong in his beliefs and maintains a conceited attitude. He draws a comparison between himself and gods, specifically Achilles, by asserting that he does not fear the looming punishment of death. Socrates was an anomaly in Ancient Athenian society as his complex way of thinking provoked many people around him to having strong feelings towards him and his beliefs.
After reading Plato’s Apology, it is quite obvious that Socrates is a very complex thinker who produces many important ideas and arguments. However, what stood out to me most was that he is egotistical. He obviously knows his own genius and likes to let it be know, however, I question his methods and his insistence of him always being right. He seems very unmovable in his own ideas and thus unwilling to adapt to suggestion or opposing ideas. In one particular quote Socrates states, “for if you put me to death, you won’t easily find another like me… I really am the sort of person who has been gifted to the city by the god.” Here he exemplifies a sort of hubris that although many people in the city are in opposition to his ideas and suggestion, they are simply wrong and should realize their own mistake. Socrates seems to never acknowledge the other side of an argument and instead insist that the opposition see their fault, even proclaiming here that as soon as he is gone, the people will understand why he is so important. This naivety is quite an interesting aspect of Socrates’ character.
I did not fully understand what the professors meant regarding how annoying and outspoken Plato’s Socrates was. Particularly during his cross-examination of Meletus, I was struck with how his questions did not serve as an opportunity for Meletus to speak, but instead served as an opportunity for Socrates to prove his point and explain how Meletus’ way of thinking was incorrect. When he does not give the answer Socrates has prepared an argument for, he continues pushing the issue until he gets him to give the answer he expects. He seems a difficult person to deal with based on the readings, and his arrogance and absolute belief in his own way of thinking makes it not surprising that he was convicted. It seems, to me, that a public trial would be the time to self-reflect, and try to admit some fault, so as to seem more worthy of forgiveness to the jury.
S- “Then come on and tell these people: who makes them better? It’s clear you know: after all you do care. Having discovered who it is who corrupts them, me, as you claim, you bring me forward and accuse me in front of these people. So come on and say who makes them better and point out who it is. Do you see Meletus, you’re silent and have nothing to say? And yet don’t you think it’s a disgrace and sufficient evidence of what I’m saying that you’ve never cared about this. Well tell us, like the good man you are, who makes them better?”
M- “The laws.”
S- “But that’s not what I’m Asking, my very good friend, but who is the person who first and foremost knows that the laws actually are?”
M- “The Jurymen here, Socrates.”
S- “How do you mean, Meletus? Are these people able to educate the young and make them better?
S- “Do you mean all of them, or only some and not others?
M- “All of them.”
S- “Well done, by Hera! You’re saying there’s no shortage of people to help.”
S- “ It seems then that the Athenians all make them finer and better except me: I’m the only one who corrupts them. Is that what you’re saying?”
M- “That’s exactly what I’m saying.”
S- “Ha! You are condemning me to a great misfortune… The fact is, Meletus, that you’re giving adequate proof that you’ve never had any concern for the young and you’re clearly revealing your indifference because you’ve never had any care for the things for which you have brought me here.”
When first starting the reading it is so conversational and confident I love reading it. Sacrotes is very quick witted and has a compelling and complex argument. He has high intellect and using the public tries to defend himself. He uses terms like poking fun of his accusers, using the phrase “clever” thinker to his aid saying he is not a “clever” but rather truthful. I also think that his use of repetition is very clever, it makes it more casual but serious and demanding. He uses “fellow Athenians, or men of Athens” which he is talking directly to the Athenian people. He is not just publicly speaking but calling upon their attention. Again taking a term and using it to add to his own command\power. Then although he is at the mercy of the people he states that he first believes his own words but creates an internal question would they treat another outsider that was unaware of the culture the same. After repetitively connecting with them(public) with terms such as fellow Athenians. He takes a stance manipulating them by saying hello I am just one of you all please listen, to then saying why treat me like an outsider causing me to defend myself. He manipulates them. Overall I like his style of writing.
I think it is really interesting to place judgements on Socrates based on what Plato has to say about him, especially since Plato is far from a historian in the way that we understand the term today. Socrates is a teacher in the sense that he teaches his fellow Athenians a different point of view, even if that leads them to hate him. Socrates was ahead of his time, but in his time he was just insufferable. In his own trial, Socrates antagonizes himself in the form of self defense, further pushing the claims of the accusers. On the point of youth corruption, Socrates rebuffs this by claim, not by saying he did not do it, but instead saying that he could not be the only one. He says, “it seems then that the Athenians all make them finer and better except me: I am the only one who corrupts them. Is that what you’re saying?” When Meletus says yes to this question, Socrates then brings up a point relating to the act of horse training. While the point may have been sound for equestrianism, it does not translate the same for people in the eyes of his accusers. Following this anecdote, Socrates claims that Meletus is really at fault because based on the horse argument, Meletus obviously could not have cared about the minds of the youth. Socrates was a great thinker and obviously made an impact on the people around him, but his incessant pestering sadly left a bad taste in the mouth of his Athenian peers.
I think the main thing that sticks out for me is Socrates’ conviction in everything he says. I imagine that any who knew him must have felt his conversational presence. Even on the trial determining his fate, he comes across as very at ease, like a teacher very much in control of his classroom. As such, I don’t know if I even see him as a philosopher in this text as much as a wise teacher attempting to explain truth to his students. I could honestly see how this could be very infuriating, and I can see how his personality could be polarizing.
Before reading through Apology, I had an admiration for Socrates and his work as a philosopher. After reading Apology, I still hold those views but do question his character as he is evidently portraying himself here as a self-centered individual clearly displaying his hubris. A good exhibition of this is on pages 155-157, where Socrates states that he doesn’t find it right “by divine law for a better man to be harmed by an inferior” and goes on to explain how finding him guilty and sentencing him to death will only hurt the Athenians as they would be removing a crucial individual. I also want to point out that I find it interesting that he utilizes this sort of rhetoric in his defense, especially considering that he would be explaining this to a group of jurors who are older Athenians that are definitely angry with him, and his speech does not help his case at all. Overall, Apology changed my opinion of Socrates by clearly showing the absurdity of his character and how easily he portrays himself as “better” than his fellow Athenians.
“Whatever does the god mean? And what on earth is he hinting at? I assure you I’m conscious that I’m not wise in any way great or small. So whatever does he mean by declaring that I am the wisest?… It’s probable, of course, that neither of us knows something without knowing it, whereas I, just as I don’t know, I don’t think I do either.” (119-123)
I think out of all the quotations through this reading this very first one stuck with me the most simply because of how telling it is of who Socrates is. I feel as though you understand that Socrates doesn’t believe himself to be superior at all, that he is no wiser than the average person but the average person does believe themself to be wiser than those around him, in his mind all humans exist on the same plane of wiseness. I found this striking because it easily explains his actions, motives, and behavior: he simply wanted to learn from others. He believes that he can garner a better understanding by examining the individual rather than surrendering to larger bodies and their omnipotent views. I believe that this makes Socrates very human, so I would say from the reading I understood Socrates to just be a student of the world who was searching to understand the other people around in a manner that not many cared to do nor saw the importance of his curiosity.
I think that Socrates was overly arrogant, which is shown by how he repeatedly insults the people who would decide his fate: “And he seems to mean this man, Socrates, adding the use of my name, thus making an example of me, just as if one were to say: ‘This man is the wisest among you, you mortals, who, like Socrates, has recognized that he is in truth of no value when it comes to wisdom'” (127). While he tries to defend this criticism of the people by stating that it is simply an indication that human wisdom is not worth much, his word choice and the way he attempts to differentiate himself from others by stating his self-awareness implies that Athenians’ wisdom, is worth even less than nothing. This indicates that Socrates does not care about the results of the trial because it would be determined by people whose opinions he does not value.
One thing that stuck out to me about Plato was even at this terrible time he still believed in himself and believed he was doing what was right for the people. A quote on page 115 says ” Although for that matter I do think it’s good if one is able to educate people, as georgias of Leotini, Prodicus of Cios and Hippias of Eliis do”. This quote reveals a lot about plato and shows that he is a man of the people and wants nothing more than to spread his knowledge. I think he is also very well spoken with how he says this and defends himself.
My impression of Socrates is that he seems rather full of himself. In page 155 he says “For neither Meletus nor Anytus would harm me: they couldn’t; for I don’t think it’s allowed by divine law for a better man to be harmed by an inferior.” which I interpreted as him saying he is inherently better than others. The word choice as well as the context of him being in trial speaking to other Athenians suggests that he almost assumes he will not be charged. This suggested to me that he is self-centered and smug about his position in Athens.
My impression of Socrates is that he is deeply convinced of his method of questioning and truth seeking and stubborn about it to the point where it is to his detriment. In the first part of the Apology I thought that his insistence that the exposing of different high up men of Athens was an attempt to fulfill the prophecy of the Oracle was a clever inclusion by him to subtly refute the charge of not showing proper reverence to the gods. But as I read on, Socrates goes through different professions and describes how he realized he was wiser than them even though they knew more than he did because they thought they knew about things that they didn’t, I started to doubt that. Socrates states that whenever I consider someone isn’t [wise], I assist the god and demonstrate that he isn’t…[I] am desperately poor on account of my service to the god.” Socrates genuinely believes that exposing random Athenian citizens in “gotcha” questionings is a divine gods-given mission and that people disliking him because he publicly humiliates them for their ignorance or hypocrisy makes him a religious martyr.
I’d like to start by discussing who Socrates thinks he is. In defense of his devotion to the gods, Socrates decrees that “it does not seem to be in human nature for me to have neglected all my own affairs, and put up with my household being neglected for so many years now, but to be doing your business constantly…” (Apologia, 31). Here, he proclaims that he is a servant to the city and the gods and that his job is to ensure Athens does not fall to “wise” men who speak eloquently while saying nothing. His self-given position requires questioning everyone to ensure Athenians do not simply follow and instead think deeply about their beliefs, actions, and choices.
From Socrates’ self-claimed identity, I believe he is democracy’s devil’s advocate. Socrates recounts the mob mentality of the democratic majority in the trial of ten generals and the failed oligarcical rule of the Thirty to emphasize that Athenian democracy is precious and requires critical thinking on behalf of its citizens. In truth, he likely does this to appeal to the feeling of self-importance of the jurors, but it contributes to his prior argument about distrusting self-identifying wisemen. This also builds the foundation for his claim that he must talk with everyone in the city. I believe he sees himself as the lover of the beloved Athenian public, and his goal is to bestow critical thinking.
The majority of what we believe to be true about Socrates comes from his student Plato. As far as we are aware, Socrates never wrote anything. Because he created one of the few remaining versions of Socrates’ defense, Plato is particularly significant to our comprehension of the Socrates trial. After reading Plato’s apology text, I gathered that Socrates is very vain and quite fearless. In the apology, it is evident that Socrates wants to be well-liked by the citizens of Athens and he does so in a way that makes him sound conceited while trying to convince the citizens of Athens that he is not. On page 119, Socrates says, “Please, my fellow Athenians, don’t make such a rumpus, not even if I seem to you to be saying something arrogant.” He claims that his “bad reputation” comes from a lack of wisdom and tries to get the citizens of Athens to feel bad for him and see him as a victim. For this reason, I think that Socrates was a bit manipulative, but also very intelligent in the way that he speaks to the people of Athens.
On the surface level, Socrates was an outsider to Athens and obviously highly controversial. He comes off as wise yet almost petty, with calmness to his demeanor that I can easily see could be interpreted as both supreme control or crude arrogance. That said, I do think he is driven to do what is right, as he stands strong in his belief that his actions are for the best of the people. Still, you can’t blame Athenian society for going against the self-righteous man that wished to teach all of Athens a new way of life. He talks down on Athenians with such hubris that even if his ideas were sound, they had little hope of being welcomed if they came from his mouth.
Socrates was a respectable man who stood for his principles. It didn’t matter whether he was talking to his friend or defending himself for his life in front of an audience, Socrates never abandoned his principles. At the same time, though, the state is standing its ground and sticking to its principles too. Perhaps this reflects a common trait of strong principles amongst the Greek populace. In the end Socrates’ not so subtle arrogance doesn’t pay off, but the reader can enjoy his flair and verbal trickery.
Plato wrote “The Apology” with regard to justice. We see this through Socrates’s experience in his trial. Socrates had a clean conscious and thus was able to accept death, but he should not have had to because he was not necessarily guilty. I think this is really interesting because it brings to light the shortcomings of society as a whole that continues today. There are still people falsely convicted of crimes today.
Socrates was a self-proclaimed orator, as he never wrote anything down. On page 107, Plato writes that Socrates says “I myself would agree I’m an orator, but…these people then, as I say, have said little or nothing that is true, but from me you will hear nothing but the truth.” (107) Throughout this whole text, Socrates is very defensive and disputes all of the charges against him. This shows he is a stubborn man. The dialogue is literally derived from the Greek word “apologia”, which can be translated as defense. Therefore, the title can be translated as a speech made in defense. This title can correlate to Socrates’s character.
After reading Plato’s Apology, my opinions on who socrates was have definitely changed. Now, more than anything else, I see Socrates as a challenger. First, Socrates is not only challenging some of what was considered universally agreed upon information at the time, but he is challenging the most important people who spread these ideas. Furthermore, what I found to be most compelling is how he goes as far as challenging the value of his existence itself. The exchange I found most interesting was the exchange between Socrates and Meletus on the bottom of page 139 and top of page 140. In this passage, Meletus is claiming that socrates teaches a denial of the gods, but Socrates points out the Meletus has an entirely unexamined and relatively uninformed view of what Socrates is actually teaching, and in all of my years of study of Socrates, I most understood his place as an outcast in Athenian society though this exchange, as the somewhat dogmatic views of Meletus are exposed.
From his “apology,” I would say that Socrates is a manipulator. As many have mentioned above, it is clear that he has quite the ego from this writing. While this is called an apology, I’m not sure I see him actually apologizing for anything. He starts out his speech by saying how people call him a “clever speaker.” He recognizes that this is not a compliment because it implies that he is not telling the truth. He rebuts this and says how he is an orator of the truth. If so many people are wary of his words, it tells me that in some ways he must be speaking in a way that is almost too good to be true. Words like this would likely be most accepted by the youth (hence his charges). Even just from his opening statement it is clear to me that he is a narcissistic manipulator
After reading the Apology, Socrates stands out to me as an exemplary voice of democratic thought. Sure, he is certainly a bit arrogant and annoying, but his willingness to question those in power is a virtue that brings about meaningful discussions and new ideas about the way Athenians understand their world. Socrates understands that there cannot be progress if people continue to think in circles. A quote that perhaps most exemplifies the importance of his skepticism comes at the very end: “But the fact is that the time is already approaching for me to go to my death, and for you to live; and which of us goes to a better fate is unclear to everyone except the god.” Here, Socrates is using the extreme example of humans not knowing what comes after death—only the gods know this. Similarly, there could be many other things that humans, or powerful Athenians, do not understand, but nonetheless claim to understand. Socrates makes clear that not understanding is certainly a possibility, and nothing to be ashamed of. What is shameful, though, is pretending to know something, not accepting criticism, and thereby misleading people as a person in a position of power.
From my reading of The Apology, I took a few things away about Socrates’ character and personality. Firstly, I find him incredibly unapologetic in his “apology”, which is understandable because he clearly does not believe that he has done anything wrong. In fact, his demeanor is pretty condescending because he clearly believes that he is much more aware of the world than his persecutors are, and therefore he shouldn’t be persecuted in the first place. One of the common forms of punishment in classic Athens, which I learned about in my first Ergon, was that the convicted individual is often asked to present their own punishment they think they should receive. When asked this, Socrates says that if he were to get what he deserves, that he should be honored with a feast because of the great services he has provided all for free. He proves to me how full of himself he is in the quote “you know full well that if you do put me to death, being the kind person I say I am, you’ll not harm me more than you’ll harm yourselves” (Plato, 155).
I wanted to talk about Socrates as really more of an idea than a person. This idea came to me from his first line, where he says that he himself did not know who he was after his accusers spoke of him. He then said he would show the Athenians the truth, but was ultimately put to death.
It appears that Socrates now and then was a different person for different people. In modern culture we accept him as smart or a legendary thinker. Perhaps that is who he was in Greece. But he also seemed to be a nuisance and a pain in the sides of the Athenians. Furthermore, to some (as we talked about in class) he was emblematic of the failure of Athenians. Ultimately I think Socrates was some combination of all his identities. A truth-seeker / nuisance / athenian parasite / aristocrat and likely more. However, it was certain pieces of his identity that seemed to become conflated with the whole of him for both ancient Athenians and the modern Psyche.
What stood out to me about Plato’s portrayal of Socrates was his hipocrisy in his critique and cross-questioning of the Athenian state. While Socrates acknowledges his position of challenging the norms in Athens, he claims to be doing so because he was instructed by the Gods to do so. I believe that his back-and-forth contentions serves only to hurt his case in this trial as it further frustrates those involved.
Socrates was the Eminem of his time. In his song “My Name Is”, Eminem states “god sent me to piss the world off”. Eminem says stuff simply, and while some of his ideas and lyrics are highly questionable, he makes some fairly valid points. Socrates worked in much the same way. Socrates pissed off many Athenians who found him exceedingly frustrating and counter-cultural. In the Apology, Socrates claims he doesn’t use carefully crafted high sounding words to form his argument, but rather just says what comes to him (like an Eminem freestyle). Socrates was also put on trial for his supposed corruption of the youth, much like how Eminem was accused of corrupting the youth in the early 2000s. And much like Eminem had to deal both with identifiable haters and with the abstract haters who he could only call out as a collective rather than as individuals, Socrates also had to address both his identifiable accusers (“Anytus and his cronies”) as well as his unnamed, abstract accusers who had been defaming his name for years.
Something that stuck out to me in Socrates’s Apology that wasn’t specifically outlined in the text is how clearly Socrates was an immensely influential figure in Athenian society during this time. When I began reading the text, I was struck by the unusual wording of the first few pages, namely the choice to omit an introduction and go straight into the defense. I then realized that while aimed at the general public, the speech was composed in such a way that it would only make sense if all those listening had some degree of familiarity with the man and the charges against him. I feel that this text displays quite well the level of—for want of a better word—celebrity that Socrates held in ancient Athens. He was, simply put, a man that required no introduction. The first two pages in particular really show how influential Socrates was during this time: he doesn’t even really introduce himself, he simply begins by rebutting his accusers’ arguments and starts to set up his defense. This alone showcases how well-recognized and significant he was in Athenian society that he could begin this way without losing or confusing any of the audience.