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Socrates The Apology

Socrates reaches ethics, social and political philosophy, and logic in the Apology, in part because of the circumstances that the text deals with and in part because of the way that Plato presents the structure of Socrates' arguments. The context for the Apology is the anticipation of Socrates's execution for corrupting the youth and not believing in the gods of Athens (Apology 12). Socrates explains that the accusation is a ruse by Athenians who wish to silence him on account of his social strategy, which is to ask questions of the supposedly wise in order to achieve "such wisdom as is attainable by man" (Apology 8). He draws answers out of others without giving them the answers, yet by exposing (with some irony) the logical problems with their answers he points toward truth, clarity, and understanding. He explains that he sought out politicians, poets, and artisans, who thought that because they were good at their particular profession "they also knew all sorts of high matters, and this defect in them overshadowed their wisdom" (Apology 10).

Socrates's accusers--representing poets, politicians, artisans, and rhetoricians--deliberately reformulate and mischaracterize his conclusion that after consulting with the supposedly wise he was better off as he was, lacking wisdom and knowing it, instead of lacking wisdom yet declaring himself wise (Apology 10-11). Accordingly, Socrates is declared "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 aforesaid doctrines to others" (Apology 7).

If Socrates will stop doing all these things, then his accusers will not drop the accusation. But that would have the effect, not of preventing him from doing evil, but of devaluing his entire philosophical project by silencing him. That is why exile is as out of the question as recanting his views. Accusing Socrates is meant to prevent him fro...

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Socrates The Apology. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 13:35, May 19, 2019, from