An Apology From Socrates' The Apology is Socrates' defense at his trial. As the dialogue begins, Socrates notes that his accusers have cautioned the jury against Socrates " eloquence, according to Socrates, the difference between him and his accusers is that Socrates speaks the truth. Socrates distinguished two groups of accusers: the earlier and the later accusers. The earlier group is the hardest to defend against, since they do not appear in court.
He is all so accused of being a Sophist: that he is a teacher and takes money for his teaching. He attempts to explain why he has attracted such a reputation. The oracle was asked if anyone was wiser than Socrates was. The answer was no, there was no man wiser. Socrates cannot believe this oracle, so he sets out to disprove it by finding someone who is wiser. He goes to a politician, who is thought wise by him self and others.
Socrates does not think this man to be wise and tells him so. As a consequence, the politician hated Socrates, as did others who heard the questioning. "I am better off, because while he knows nothing but thinks that he knows, I neither know nor think that I know' (Socrates). He questioned politicians, poets, and artisans.
He finds that the poets do not write from wisdom, but by genius and inspiration. Meletus charges Socrates with being "a doer of evil, and corrupter of the youth, and he does not believe in the gods of the State, and has other new divinities of his own.' In his examination of Meletus, Socrates makes three main points: 1) Meletus has accused Socrates of being the only corrupter, while everyone else improves the youth. Socrates then uses an analogy: a horse trainer is to horses as an improver is to the youth. The point is that there is only one improver, not many. 2) If Socrates corrupts the youth, either it is intentional or unintentional. No one would corrupt his neighbor intentionally, because he would harm himself in the process.
If the corruption was unintentional, then the court is not the place to resolve the problem. The other possibility is that he does not corrupt them at all. 3) In frustration, Meletus accuses Socrates of being "a complete atheist,' at the same time he claims Socrates teaches new gods. Thus, Meletus contradicts himself. Socrates argues that fear of death is foolish, because it is not known if death is a good or an evil, thus there is no reason to fear death. Socrates claims that his mission is in service to God.
This is to condemn people's pursuit of money, honor, and reputation, while ignoring wisdom, truth, and the improvement of the soul. When talking about politicians, he states that he was a Senator once, and opposed the majority when several generals were brought to trial. He points out that several of the "corrupted youth.' And their fathers were present, but none of them were accusing him; rather, they were there in his defense. Socrates refuses to ask for pity. He does not throw himself on the mercy of the court. Many would bring in their children to win pity.
However, he does mention that he has three young children. He tells the jury about their responsibility to ignore the appeals to pity and judge the truth. Despite Socrates's peech, the jury finds him guilty as charged. Meletus proposes death as punishment. Instead, Socrates proposes retirement in a home for benefactors of the state. He examines possible penalties: death, imprisonment, a fine, or exile.
Then, he realizes that exile is not an option since he believes that "The unexamined life is not worth living.' He finally proposes a fine of 30 minae, guaranteed by Crito, Plato, and others. The jury sentences him to death. Socrates remarks that his internal, guiding voice, which at times would warn him to refrain from certain actions, had not once interrupted his actions in his defense. He argues that death might be a good: either it is a dreamless sleep, or he will travel to the place of the dead where he can question anyone and not be executed for it. He states: "No evil can happen to a good man.' He asks the jury to punish his sons, and provide guidance. If so, then he will have received justice.
"We go our ways: me to die you to live; only God knows which is better.' Throughout the Apology, Socrates believes himself to be a "teacher, "though he does not say that of himself. He finds reputed wise men and questions them. If Socrates finds that they believe themselves to be wiser than they really are, he points out their mistake, thus educates them and himself. This allows Socrates to learn when he finds other people who know more about a subject than he. Socrates tells the judges that he will not be found guilty because of "evidence' and testimony; if he is found guilty, it will be because of the reputation that he has obtained.
As Socrates deals with the charges, he is constantly talking about himself. If Socrates wanted to appease the judges so that he would not be found guilty, he could have made up or omit the parts about himself that caused so much trouble. The fact that Socrates knows that he is being persecuted for who he is and that he honestly describes him self, shows that he is staying true to himself and his beliefs through his trial. Through reason, Socrates is constantly searching for the truth of what others think. When Meletus accuses Socrates of not believing in any gods, Socrates then uses reason to refute him. Socrates tells a story about an oracle, which he states that he believes in, and says that since an oracle is a divine thing he must believe in divinities.
Socrates used reason to question Meletus and led him to state inconsistent statements: (1) Socrates corrupts the youth intentionally. (2) Nobody intentionally harms himself. (3) People who corrupt society ultimately harm themselves. If (1) Socrates corrupts the youth intentionally and (3) people who corrupt society ultimately harm themselves, then (2) must be false. However, if (2) nobody intentionally harms themselves and (3) people who corrupt society ultimately harm themselves is true, then (1) must be false (since Socrates cannot be corrupting the youth intentionally). If that is the case, then the court is not the proper place to discuss it.
The second section of the Apology is the speech that Socrates gives after he is found guilty. In this speech, he is to propose a penalty for his "crimes.' Socrates gives, at first, what he believes that he should receive for his the actions, and he proposes that he should receive free room and board. This remark shows Socrates still believes in his mission. Had he proposed anything else, it would have been to indirectly admit that his beliefs were wrong. For punishment, Socrates explores the idea of exile. However, Socrates admits that, if exiled, he would continue to question men about themselves.
Socrates could have escaped death here by submitting to exile and promising to change his ways, yet again, that would undermine his beliefs. He then proposes a fine. In all the punishments that he proposes, he never admits to being wrong or promises to reconsider his ideas. Had he agreed to exile and silence, he would not have stayed true to himself and his beliefs. Socrates' philosophy of using reason to find the truth prevents him from telling the jury what they would like to hear. Each time Socrates proposes a punishment, he reasons himself out of it and into a worse punishment.
The last section of the Apology deals with Socrates's peech after he has been sentenced to death. Though Socrates becomes indignant, he does not become angry. Socrates does not do any of the "weeping and wailing… [or the] many other things which [he] maintains are unworthy of [himself].' Socrates believes that if he did, it would bring shame on himself and his beliefs and that it would be much worse than death. Socrates claims that he, unlike many others who appear before the jury, will not appeal to their pity by having his family brought before them. However, he does describe his family in some detail — including his sons. Here, he seems to be appealing to pity in a very subtle way.
Speaking about his children, he asks the jury "punish them… if they seem to care about riches or anything, more than about virtue; or if they… are something when they are really nothing.' Once again, he seems to be instructing or teaching the jury about his beliefs. Socrates uses reason, once again, to convince himself that death is not an evil. "… the state of death is one of two things: either a dead man wholly ceases to be and loses all consciousness or, as we are told, it is a change and a migration of the soul to another place.' Socrates goes on to say that, since neither of those two states of being can be bad, death shouldn't be feared. His philosophy of reason allows him to look at death in a way that he does not have to be afraid of it. Socrates believes in holding on to his principle regardless of the consequences, even if they involve death. Concern for him self is not nearly as important as the pursuit of the good, the true, and the just.
As a result, it is far better to suffer injustice than, through ignorance, to cause it. Justice seems to be the prevalent theme, since this dialogue deals with the injustice against Socrates. One inconsistency is that in Crito he seemed universally opposed to violating the law, while in the Apology there seem to be exceptions to this belief. For example, he opposed the government actions (the law of the State) on two occasions. The speech that Socrates gives reflects the indignation he feels over injustice that he has received. However, a theme of courage in the face of death seems to be emphasized.
Also, the point about staying true to oneself and beliefs, and the search for truth by way of reason is a policy we should all adopt.