Socrates was a philosopher who lived in Greece for many years. During his time, few people dedicated themselves to searching for knowledge. If there were any, they would be categorized as either Sophists or Natural philosophers. Therefore when Socrates begins being famous among the Greeks, he is mistaken to be either a Sophist, Natural philosopher or both. However, in the article known as Apology written by Plato, Socrates seeks to tell his own account of who he is. His intention is to explain the truth about his beliefs and point out the lies that his accusers had told the public concerning his life.
The sets of charges against Socrates
Two distinct groups made charges against Socrates. He never had a chance to meet his first group of accusers. He had only heard about the accusations, which they had made against him. Socrates is unable to think of a good reason why they would spread rumors about him other than out of “envy and malice.” He puts more weight on their accusations than the charges made by the second group pf accusers. According to him, their charges had led to his summoning in court. He accepts his fate in court saying;
“Let the event be as God wills: in obedience to the law I make my defence” (Plato).
Socrates describes the accusations against him as;
Socrates is 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 previously mentioned doctrines to others (Plato).
Melletus instigated the second set of charges and his companions called Lycon and Anytus. The charges were that:
Socrates is a doer of evil, and corrupter of the youth, does not believe in the gods of the state, and has other new divinities of his own (Plato).
Melletus actually goes ahead to say that Socrates was a “complete atheist.” Such are the accusations, which will be discussed herein.
The response Socrates gives to the accusations
Socrates rejects the claims against him saying he is innocent of all of them. He describes the accusations as untrue and lacking basis. His response to the report that he was evil, he says anyone who does evil certainly does so to his own self. That means that if the youth discovered that he was intentionally harming the, then they would turn against him. The second accusation linked him with deeds of the Sophists and Natural philosophists, people he himself abhorred. Socrates defends himself by stating that unlike the Sophists who taught in exchange for money, he never received money from his students. In fact, he did not consider himself a teacher since he was the “most ignorant.” In response to him being a natural philosophist he says that his only interest is righteousness which is his duty to God.
On the accusation that Socrates corrupted the youth, he comments this about his accuser;
He says that I am a doer of evil, who corrupt the youth; but I say, O men of Athens, that Meletus is a doer of evil, and the evil is that he makes a joke of a serious matter, and is too ready at bringing other men to trial from a pretended zeal and interest about matters in which he really had the smallest interest (Plato).
This was to indicate that Meletus’ accusations had no basis at all. He goes on to engage Meletus on the aspect of corruption of the youth. He debates with him on whether if the positive youth influencers were more than one corrupt person, which effect would be felt: the one of the one or the many. It is agreeable that the effect of the many people would be felt more and as such Socrates was unable to solely corrupt the youth.
Socrates is also accused of passing on his philosophies to the youth. He defends himself saying the youth went to him and that he never imposed his doctrines on them. He even challenges the judges to ask the youth present in court if he had corrupted them. The youths when asked say Socrates had not negatively influenced them. Another charge against Socrates was that he did not obey the state gods. He answers to this by demonstrating that it was out of belief in a god that he set out to prove the saying of him being wisest. He is therefore tongue tied when Meletus claims he is an atheist. He said he was impious and feared the gods of the land.
The Socratic wisdom
This beginning of the Socratic wisdom was the Delphic Oracle. It is said that when Socrates’ friend, Chaerephon, went to inquire from the gods about the wisest man on earth, he was told it was Socrates. The response was that “Socrates was the wisest.” On hearing this, Socrates sets out on a research to find the wisest person on earth just to disapprove the gods. However, after interrogating artisans, politicians and poets of Athens, his conclusion is that the gods were right in saying he was the wisest. In the case of poets, they would not even answer questions on their own writing work. He realized that most people pretended to have knowledge, yet they lacked it. In his search for a person wiser than him, his conclusion is that;
I found that the men most in repute were all but the most foolish; and that some inferior men were really wiser and better (Plato).
According to Socrates, ignorance is described as “ignorance of one’s ignorance: thinking that you know something but don’t” (Plato). He considered himself wise since he had never alleged that he had an idea of something when in real sense he had no information about it at all. He called himself the “most ignorant” among his countrymen (Plato). In his defense, Socrates says that he was famous because of “…a certain sort of wisdom which I possess.” Socratic wisdom acknowledges the gods as the source of all wisdom. Socrates considered the people he interviewed ignorant also because they were busy making money but not seeking righteousness. For him righteousness was more important than wealth. Above all else, Socrates was convinced that the most important facets of life were “wisdom, truth, and improvement of the soul.” That was part of his definition of wisdom.
Socrates’ view of death
As Socrates faces death as punishment for his offenses, his view of death is interesting. He does not fear death as most people would; instead, he says he was prepared for it. Contrary to the opinion of some people that he was “an evil doer,” Socrates sees himself as a good person. Therefore, he says, “…no evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death” (Plato). For him, “…either death is a state of nothingness and utter consciousness, or, as men say, there is a change and migration of the soul from this world to another” (Plato). Socrates hails death since it grants one total rest from the evils of the earth. Death, according to Socrates, was a reunion of those who died ahead of others with those who die after them. It is a joyful experience, which he looks forward to. He feels that there is no justice on the earth; the gods are better judges than men are. Socrates is elated that in death he is going to have the opportunity to discover the world unknown to man.
Socrates worked tirelessly to let people acknowledge their fault in thinking they were wise yet they were not. He also propelled the youth to be hard working instead of lying idle. Therefore, he became a mentor to many youths such as Plato who later became famous for their works too. Socrates intelligently defends himself using logic, dilemma reasoning, and analogies. The jury found Socrates guilty of the charges against him and sentenced him to death. Socrates makes everyone who meets with his line of reasoning to be cautious of his or her deeds. He makes one try to acquire as much knowledge in all spheres of life, but above all to make people honor the gods. Honoring them meant obedience to them by doing what is right. Nevertheless, Socrates also demonstrates his allegiance to the existent law system.
Mercer Middle School. Socrates. Web
Plato. Apology. Web. 2009