A Critique Of Socrates

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A Critique Of Socrates’ Guilt In The Apology Essay, Research Paper A Brief Comment on the Query: “Is Socrates Guilty As Charged?” History of Political Thought 47.230 B Mini-Essay for Discussion Group #3 In any case of law, when one is considering truth and justice, one must first look at the validity of the court and of the entity of authority itself. In Socrates case, the situation is no different. One may be said to be guilty or not of any said crime, but the true measure of guilt or innocence is only as valid as the court structure to which it is subject to. Therefore, in considering whether Socrates is ‘guilty or not’, we must keep in mind the societal norms and standards of Athens at the time, and the legitimacy of his accusers and the validity of the crimes

that he allegedly committed. Having said this, we must first look at the affidavit of the trial, what exactly Socrates was being accused with: “Socrates does injustice and is meddlesome, by investigating the things under the earth and the heavenly things, and by making the weaker speech the stronger, and by teaching others these same things.”1 In breaking this charge down, we see that it is two-fold. Firstly, Socrates is charges with impiety, a person who does not believe in the state gods of Athens and, not only that, but by its literal meaning, does not believe in the authority of gods at all. To this, Socrates seems baffled. He states that the reason behind the ‘criminal meddling’, the questioning of people’s wisdom, was commissioned to him by the gods through the

Oracle of Delphi. As Socrates said, “…but when god stationed me, as I supposed and assumed, ordering me to live philosophizing and examining myself and others…that my whole care is to commit no unjust or impious deed.”2He even seems to win a victory over one of his accusers, Meletus, in questioning this point. As Socrates points out, it is impossible for him to be both atheistic and to believe in demons, or false gods, for if he believes in the latter, then that would contradict his not believing in gods at all (since even demons are considered to be at least demi-gods). The second part of the charge was that Socrates was attacking the very fabric of the Athenian society by corrupting its citizens, namely the youth. In other words, Meletus and the other accusers are

accusing Socrates of a crime of ‘non-conformity’ – instead of page 2 bowing to those who are held in places of authority and those who have reputations of being wise, Socrates believes that it is his role in life to question these people in their wisdom, and to expose those who claim that they are knowledgeable and wise, but who really are not. This nation of questioning the legitimacy of those in power would certainly not be called a ‘crime’ by today’s standards, nor would it really have in Athenian time. The true nature of this charge was vengeance carried out on the part of the power-holders of Athenian society: the politicians, poets, manual artisans. Socrates, in effect, made fools out of these people, exposing their speeches are mere rhetoric than actual wisdom

and knowledge. By being a teacher as such, but never collecting any fees and therefore innocent from profiting from such ventures, he was said to have been corrupting and citizens of Athens into believing that these so-called people of wisdom were not actually wise at all. As Socrates says, “…and this is what will convict me, if it does convict me: not Meletus of Antyus, but the envy and slander of the many. This has convicted many other good men too, and I suppose it will also convict me. And there is no danger that it will stop me.”3 Another point to be made is that Socrates proves that if what he has done has actually been corrupting society, and could be considered a crime, then he has not caused any harm voluntarily. In any criminal charge, the fact of the accused’s