APOLOGY OF SOCRATES

 

Part I: the defense against the early and later accusers

 

His accusers are liars/what they say is false

(but is everything they said false/a lie)?

'hardly anything of what they said is true... many lies... practically nothing they said was true...' (p. 112)

 

 

The Truth

'from me you will hear the truth' (p. 112)

 

 

Two sets of accusers: first accusers (with their first accusations) and later accusers (with their later accusations)

1. 'to defend myself against the first lying accusations made against me and my first accusers, and then against the later accusations and the later accusers' (p. 112)

 

2. 'I want you to realize that my accusers are of two kinds: those who have accused me recently, and the old ones I mention' (p. 113)

 

3. 'These earlier ones... got hold of most of you from childhood... they spoke to you at an age when you would most readily believe them, some of you being children and adolescents...'

 

4. 'the earlier ones... accused me quite falsely, saying that there is a man called Socrates, a wise man, a student of all things in the sky and below the earth, who makes the worse argument the stronger... these accusers numerous... they won their case by default, as there was no defense... one cannot even know or mention their names unless one of them is a writer of comedies. Those who maliciously and slanderously persuaded you -- who also, when persuaded themselves then persuaded others -- all those are the most difficult to deal with: one cannot bring one of them into court or refute him'

 

 

First set of accusers and accusations: what affidavit they would have sworn, and why this affidavit is false

 

1. 'I must first defend myself against the latter [early accusers], for you have also heard their accusations first, and to a much greater extent than the more recent... I must surely defend myself and attempt to uproot from your minds in so short a time the slander that has resided there so long.' (p. 113)

 

2. 'What is the accusation from which arose the slander in which Meletus trusted when he wrote out the charge against me? What did they say when they slandered me? I must, as if they were my actual prosecutors, read the affidavit they would have sworn. It goes something like this: [1] Socrates is guilty of wrongdoing in that [1a] he busies himself studying things in the sky and below the earth; [1b] he makes the worse argument into the stronger argument, and [1c] he teaches these same things to others.' (p. 113)

 

3. 'You have seen this yourselves in the comedy of Aristophanes' (p. 113)

 

4. 'I do not speak in contempt of such knowledge... but, gentlemen, I have no part in it, and on this point I call upon he majority of you as witnesses. I think it right that all of those of you who have heard me conversing, and many of you have, should tell each other if anyone of you has ever heard me discussing such subjects to any extent at all. From this you will learn that the other things said about me by the majority are of the same kind. Not one of them is true.' (p. 113-4)

 

5. And if you have heard from anyone that I undertake to teach people and charge a fee for it, that is not true either. Yet I think it a fine thing to be able to teach people... this kind of excellence, the human and social kind... Certainly I would pride and preen myself if I had this knowledge, but I do not have it, gentlemen' (p. 114)

 

 

Why such false accusations?

'I will try to show you what has caused this reputation and slander... be sure that all that I say is true. What has caused my reputation is a certain kind of wisdom. What kind of wisdom? Human wisdom, perhaps. It may be that I really possess this, while those whom I mentioned just now are wise with a wisdom more than human' (p. 114)

 

 

What the Oracle said: No person was wiser than Socrates

'I shall call upon the god at Delphi as witness to the existence and nature of my wisdom, if it be such. You know Chairephon. He was my friend from youth, and the friend of most of you, as he shared your exile and your return. You surely know the kind of man he was, how impulsive in any course of action. He went to Delphi at one time and ventured to ask the oracle [i.e. the priestess] -- as I say, gentlement, do not create a disturbance -- he asked if any man was wiser than I, and the Pythian [ i.e. the priestess ] replied that no one was wiser.' (p. 114-5)

 

 

Interpretation of the riddle

'When I heard of this reply I asked myself: "Whatever does the god mean? What is his riddle? I am very conscious that I am not wise at all; what then does he mean by saying that I am the wisest? For surely he does not lie; it is not legitimate for him to do so." (p. 115)

 

 

Attempt to 'refute' (?) the oracle

'For a long time I was at a loss as to his meaning; then I very reluctantly turned to some such investigation as this: I went to one of those reputed wise, thinking that there, if anywhere, I could refute the oracle and say to it: "This man is wiser than I, but you said I was." Then, when I examined this man... my experience was something like this: I thought that he appeared wise to many people and especially to himself, but he was not.' (p. 115)

 

 

 

Socratic Wisdom

'I am wiser than this man; it is likely that neither of us knows anything worthwhile, but he thinks he knows something when he does not, whereas when I do not know, neither do I think I know; so I am likely to be wiser than he to this small extent, that I do not think I know what I do not know.' (p. 115)

 

 

The dislike of Socrates began

1. 'I then tried to show him that he thought himself wise, but that he was not. As a result he came to dislike me, and so did many of the bystanders.' (p. 115)

 

2. 'After this I approached another man, one of those thought to be wiser than he, and I thought the same thing, and so I came to be disliked both by him and by many others.' (p. 115)

 

3. 'I realized, to my sorrow and alarm, that I was getting unpopular' (p. 115)

 

4. 'As a result of this investigation, gentlemen of the jury, I acquired much unpopularity' (p. 116)

 

 

Socrates's service to the god:

to examine the meaning of what the oracle said

1. 'I thought that I must attach the greatest importance to the god's oracle, so I must go to all those who had any reputation for knowledge to examine its meaning... my investigation in the service of the god.' (p. 115)

 

2. 'I must give you an account of my journeyings as if they were labours I had undertaken to prove the oracle irrefutable.'

 

3. 'I found that those who had the highest reputation were nearly the most deficient, while those who were thought to be inferior were more knowledgeable.' (p. 115)

 

4. 'After the politicians, I went to the poets, the writers of tragedies and dithyrambs and the others, intending in their case to catch myself being more ignorant then [sic] they. So I took up those poems with which they seemed to have taken most trouble and asked them what they meant... I am ashamed to tell you the truth, gentlemen, but I must. Almost all the bystanders might have explained the poems better than their authors could. I soon realized that poets do not compose their poems with knowledge, but by some inborn talent and by inspiration, like seers and prophets who also say many fine things without any understanding of what they say... At the same time I saw that, because of their poetry, they thought themselves very wise men in other respects, which they were not. So there again I withdrew, thinking that I had the same advantage over them as I had over the politicians.' (p. 115)

 

5. 'Finally I went to the craftsmen... they knew things I did not know, and to that extent they were wiser than I. But, gentlemen, the good craftsmen seemed to have the same fault as the poets: each of them, because of his success at his craft, thought himself very wise in other most important pursuits, and this error of theirs overshadowed the wisdom they had, so that I asked myself, on behalf of the oracle, whether I should prefer to be as I am, with neither their wisdom nor their ignorance, or to have both. The answer I gave myself and the oracle was that it was to my advantage to be as I am.' (p. 116)

 

 

God's wisdom vs. human wisdom

'What is probable, gentlemen, is that in fact the god is wise and that his oracular response meant that human wisdom is worth little or nothing, and that when he says this man, Socrates, he is using my name as an example, as if he said: "This man among you, mortals, is wisest who, like Socrates, understands that his wisdom is worthless." So even now I continue this investigation as the god bade me -- and I go around seeking out anyone, citizen or stranger, whom I think wise. Then if I do not think he is, I come to the assistance of the god and show him that he is not wise.' (p. 116)

 

 

 

His service to the god is to practice philosophy

'I will obey the god... [and] practice philosophy.' (p. 116)

 

 

 

Practicing philosophy leaves him with no 'leisure' to engage in public affairs

'Because of this occupation, I do not have the leisure to engage in public affairs to any extent, nor indeed to look after my own, but I live in great poverty because of my service to the god.' (p. 116)

 

 

 

The youths of Athens imitate him -- hence the early accusers

1. 'the young men who follow me around of their own free will, those who have most leisure, the sons of the very rich.... they themselves often imitate me and try to question others. I think they find an abundance of men who believe they have some knowledge but know little or nothing. The result is that those whom they question are angry, not with themselves but with me.' (p. 116)

 

2. 'They say: "That man Socrates is a pestilential fellow who corrupts the young." If one asks them what he does and what he teaches to corrupt them, they are silent, as they do not know, but, so as not to appear at a loss, they mention those accusations that are available against all philosophers, about "things in the sky and things below the earth", about "not believing in the gods" and "making the worse the stronger argument".' (p. 116)

 

3. 'These people are ambitious, violent and numerous; they are continually and convincingly talking about me; they have been filling your ears for a long time with vehement slanders against me. From them Meletus attacked me, and Anytus and Lycon, Meletus being vexed on behalf of the poets, Anytus on behalf of the craftsmen and the politicians, Lycon on behalf of the orators' (p. 117)

 

4. 'let this suffice as a defense against the charges of my earlier accusers.' (p. 117)

 

 

 

The later accusers and their affidavit

'As these are a different lot of accusers, let us again take up their sworn deposition. It goes something like this: Socrates is guilty of [1c] corrupting the young and of [1a] not believing in the gods in whom the city believes, but [1b] in other new spiritual things. Such is their charge.' (p. 117)

 

 

 

Corruption of the young

1. 'Do not the wicked do some harm to those who are ever closest to them, whereas good people benefit them?' (p. 118)

 

2. 'And does the man exist who would rather be harmed than benefitted by his associates?' (p. 118)

 

3. 'Come now, do you accuse me here of corrupting the young and making them worse deliberately or unwillingly?' (p. 118)

 

4. 'Either I do not corrupt the young or, if I do, it is unwillingly, and you are lying in either case. Now, if I corrupt them unwillingly, the law does not require you to bring people to court for such unwilling wrongdoings, but to get hold of them privately, to instruct them and exhort them' (p. 118)

 

 

 

Not believing in the gods the city believes in, but believing in other new spiritual things

1. 'I cannot be sure whether you mean that [1] I teach the belief that there are some gods -- and therefore I myself believe that there are gods and am not altogether an atheist, nor am I guilty of that -- not, however, the gods in whom the city believes, but others, and that this is the charge against me, that there are others. Or [2] whether you mean that I do not believe in gods at all, and that this is what I teach to others.' (p. 119)

 

2. 'you do not believe in gods at all.' (p. 119)

 

3. 'he says that the sun is stone, and the moon earth' (p. 119)

 

4. 'I think he contradicts himself in the affidavit, as if he said: "Socrates is guilty of not believing in gods but believing in gods" (p. 119)

 

5. 'Does any man believe in spiritual activities who does not believe in spirits?' / 'No one.' (p. 119)

 

6. 'Now you say that I believe in spiritual things and teach about them... But if I believe in spiritual things I must inevitably believe in spirits.... Do we not believe spirits to be either gods or the children of gods?' / 'Of course'. (p. 119)

 

7. 'Then since I do believe in spirits, as you admit, if spirits are gods, this is what I mean when I say... you state that I do not believe in gods and then again that I do, since I do believe in spirits. If on the other hand the spirits are children of the gods, bastard children of the gods by nymphs or some other mothers, as they are said to be, what man would believe children of the gods to exist, but not gods?' (p. 120)

 

 

End of defense against the charge(s)

'I do not think, gentlemen of the jury, that it requires a prolonged defense to prove that I am not guilty of the charges in Meletus' deposition, but this is sufficient.' (p. 120)