The Apology of Socrates Summary – Plato

The Apology Of Socrates Summary - Plato
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“The Apology of Socrates” is a Plato’sessay of the speech that Socrates delivered during his trial, where he was accused of not recognizing the gods acknowledged by the state, inventing new gods, and corrupting the youth of Athens. However, The Apology of Socrates is by no means an “apology” in the modern sense of the word. The title derives from the Greek word “apologia,” which is translated as a defense or a speech made in defense. Therefore, in The Apology of Socrates, Socrates attempts to defend himself and his conduct – he does not make any attempt to apologize.

Summary of The Apology of Socrates Book

Socrates often speaks in a simple and conversational manner. He explains that he has no experience with court proceedings and will speak in the way he is accustomed to: with honesty and directness. Socrates attributes his behavior to a prophecy from the Oracle of Delphi, claiming that the oracle proclaimed him as the wisest of all men.

Acknowledging his ignorance in most worldly matters, Socrates concludes that he must be wiser than others because he knows that he knows nothing. He describes his mission as questioning those who claim to be “wise” and exposing their false wisdom as ignorance. While these activities earned him great admiration among the youth of Athens, they also brought him much hatred and anger from those he embarrassed. He uses the humiliation of these individuals as a justification for his trial.

Socrates then proceeds to question Meletus, primarily responsible for bringing him to trial. This interrogation is the only example of the elenchus or cross-examination in The Apology and is central to many Platonic dialogues. However, his conversation with Meletus appears to aim more at embarrassing him than discovering the truth, making it a weak example of this method.

In a famous passage, Socrates compares himself to a gadfly stinging the lazy horse that is the state of Athens. He argues that without him, the state would fall into a deep slumber but, perhaps unsettlingly to some, his influence can awaken it to productive and virtuous action.

Socrates is found guilty by a narrow margin, and he is asked to propose a punishment. Jokingly, he suggests that, if he deserves it, he should be honored with a great feast for his service to the state. Taking a more serious stance, he rejects imprisonment and exile, proposing to pay a fine instead. When the jury rejects his proposal and condemns him to death, Socrates accepts the verdict with composure, observing that only the gods know what happens after death, and fearing the unknown would be foolish. He also warns the jurors who voted against him that by silencing their critics instead of listening to them, they harm themselves more than they harm him.

Socrates’ claim that his new critics will be younger and more vigorous is confirmed by Plato’s The Apology, offering a damning critique of Meletus and the Athenian justice system. Plato is justified in stating that Socrates was unique and original, as no one like him has emerged in the subsequent two and a half millennia. However, it is also true that his influence gave rise to a new generation of critics. In fact, The Apology of Socrates almost single-handedly gave birth to the Western rational philosophical tradition, and since then, all philosophers have followed in his footsteps, with his critical style multiplying manifold.

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