A Man Of Honor? (Socrates)

  • Category: Philosophy
  • Words: 1773
  • Grade: 87
A Man of Honor?

Socrates was an incredible man of mystery. He was one of the first philosophers who had strange but knowledgeable beliefs. He was ridiculed for his thoughts and was taken to court by Meletus on account for not believing in the Gods, which the city believed in, and for corrupting the youth. During his court session Socrates continuously referred to the old charges that were sought against him because they related well to the later charges. These new charges were simply a more focused version of the old charges. The old charges blamed Socrates for believing in "things in the sky and things below the earth," about "not believing in the gods" and "making the worse the stronger argument." These charges on the other hand should simply not have been brought against him due to the fact that it made him look like a sophist: that, he definitely was not. In fact, he despised sophistry and could no longer put up with being accused of such nonsense. Yet his thoughts were possibly not the true facts. The real question here is: "Is Socrates guilty of the "accusations that are available against all philosophers," and if so, to what extent is he guilty? Due to Socrates' excellent speeches and explanations one could never find him guilty of any of the accusations he faced. It seemed as if he was skilled in the art of persuasion but then again he was not paid to teach it and therefore was not really a sophist. Socrates mentions that he is concerned with justice, not with words or anything else. This is already putting the jury on notice that Socrates has a few words to say before they come to the ultimate decision of his future. Also he tells the jury that he is not a man who is skilled at the art of speaking within a courtroom for the simply reason that this is his first appearance within one. Socrates hopes he can establish some kind of trust with the jury because he despises Democratic thoughts, which made him very untrustworthy in the eyes of the citizens.
Meletus says that Socrates is guilty of corrupting the youth, but Socrates disagrees, and furthermore states that
"Meletus is guilty of dealing frivolously with serious matters, of irresponsibly bringing people into court, and of professing to be seriously concerned with things about none of which he has ever cared" (Apology, 24c, p.10).

Here Socrates is telling us that Meletus is trying to act concerned when in actuality he has no knowledge of the true reason he brought Socrates to court. Socrates asked Meletus to tell him of the people who make our youth righteous. Socrates wants to establish which people of this city teach the children right and which people influence the children in a negative form. When confronted with this question Meletus was silent. He did not have an answer to this simple question and therefore felt less superior than Socrates. This question served as the beginning of a successful court issue. With silence in the air Socrates broke it with sharp questions, asking Meletus if "the laws" were what improve these young to be good. Questions were shot at Meletus asking who was the best influence for these children. Meletus eventually answered this question after careful review of his speech and concluded that Socrates was really the only harmful person within these children's lives. Socrates thought about this last statement by Meletus and decided to ask a question. He asked,
"If I alone corrupt these children than tell me: does this also apply to horses do you think? That all men improve them and one individual corrupts them? Or is quite the contrary true, one individual is able to improve them, or very few, namely the horse breeders, whereas the majority, if they have horses and use them, corrupt them" (Apology, 25b, p.16)? "It would be a very happy state of affairs if only one person corrupted our youth, while the others improved them" (Apology, 25b, p.17).

This quotation is quite true due to its outstanding meaning. If the entire world were surrounded by good and only one thing was trying to corrupt it the efforts of this one evil thing would be futile no matter how persuasive it was. Meletus is made fun of later in the Apology by Socrates. When asked several questions of truth by Socrates, Meletus answers to the best of his ability but eventually falls into Socrates' trap. Meletus claimed that Socrates did not believe in Gods at all but later stated that Socrates believed in divine beings. Divine beings, however, are in fact known to be Gods therefore it seems now to the jury that Meletus is speaking as if to be a jester.

Socrates has hated the government his entire life. He has not lived well with a Democracy because he cannot understand why leaders should give people who know nothing the opportunity to govern their city or state. He is the only person who can admit that he knows nothing and therefore he should be viewed as the most admirable. He feels that it is insufficient to have all the people of the city who know nothing come together and decide the future of the city (Vogt, lecture of 1/3/01). If one feels so strongly against their governmental issues but holds it to himself/herself as best they can why must they be punished for it? Later, Socrates asked a considerable question that was not answered other than his own personal belief on the matter. He asked, "Why then do some people enjoy spending considerable time in my company" (Apology, 33c, p.16)? One may think of it as a way to relax and let your mind develop deep thought. Others may view it as pure entertainment and nothing more. The true reason anyone would devote time to really listen to Socrates is to understand and partake in his wordy persuasion. He is skilled at swift talking people into believing his side of the story but the harsh truth remains, he will always be viewed as a bad omen do to the extreme rhetoric that has destroyed these people's lives. Democracy has overwhelmed people into believing that whatever the critics say is the way it is going to be. If one was to open their mind to the outer-most limits as Socrates has done than they to would believe in things other than what surrounds them. He is accused of believing in things in the sky and things below the earth but why does this seem so uncontrollably wrong? The reason is this: people did not develop their own thoughts during this time, they only went on what they were told and therefore did not care to explore all areas of life. They were conditioned souls who had to do whatever the city thought they should do. Socrates was the only person who could really evaluate the world as it is seen today.

Socrates' accusation of "making the worse the stronger argument" is quite self-explanatory. He has a way of taking something so horribly wrong and making it seem ok and sometimes even honorable. His art of persuasion is incredible. He can make even the sternest person choke and give way into his views. Persuasion is heavily used throughout the Apology. It helps to make the accuser seem as if he/she has wrongly blamed the victim and sometimes even take their defendants point of view into thought. Socrates came into this courtroom feeling that he had no chance whatsoever, however, he only missed out in freedom by thirty votes and consequently was sentenced to death by the jury. Socrates closed out his existence by saying, "for I do believe in them as none of my accusers do" (Apology, 35d, p.17). This quote gives the meaning of Socrates whole life in general. He expresses that he is not going to change his views on life and that he truly believes in "The God" (Apollo). He also implies that his accusers are the real omens in this situation by telling them that they are the ones that do not believe in the Gods. This adds strong irony to the Apology. Socrates does not fear death in any way, which makes him a strong individual, and therefore a very understandable and intelligent person whom no one should punish for his simple beliefs.

This passage tells an interesting story that has many ironic and quite unique stories within it. Socrates seems to be a very understandable and good person. However, this maybe his way of persuading one into believing his side of the story. His clever ideas and quick thinking ability allows him to swing from idea to idea with no internal error on his part. If someone questions his authority, he is very quick in response in order to look skilled in his text. He may seem to have tricks up his sleeves but his overall impressions on people are ones that last. Everyone who has learned from him, including myself, feel better about themselves knowing that there are other ideas about the world and human nature. Life is not always planned out and whatever happens, happens for a reason. His pride and strength in court shows us to not fear the laws and stick up for what one believes in. Socrates is not guilty of any accusations that were held against him in court, he simply was a man of honor who honored his right of thought and leadership in some cases. However, his accusations were not on target as far as punishing him for his acts. Every time someone would try to pin point a mistake on his part Socrates would simply ask a few questions and make the accuser seem dumbfounded and eventually fall into another series of questions that would not be answered either. Socrates was a tremendous philosopher and taught great things to many people and therefore should be looked upon as a wonderful figure in history.
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