Saturday, November 23, 2013

TFBT: “The Apology of Socrates”and 22.CB22.1x

This week in "The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours" we studied Plato. He wrote “The Apology of Socrates”  It  is sort of  a one man play based on the swan song, the final speech  of Plato’s beloved teacher Socrates. 

Like Oedipus before him, just an enigmatic response of Lorixas was enough to send Socrates racing down the road to his doom.   Socrates friend Chaerephon went to the Oracle at Delphi and asked if Socrates was the wisest man in the world.  The pythia (the prophetess and priestess in the Temple)) replied “Yes.”   Socrates being Socrates couldn’t resist dialoguing with everyone to discover it this is true or not.  In other words he bragged himself up and when his listener had doubts  Socrates proved he was smarter than everyone else.  One of the great things about a democracy is that you can vote to kill annoying people.  So, they drummed up some charges and put him on trial. 

Fellow student Wjkim; comments on the god/hero antagonism that Socrates had with Apollo.  The antagonistic mood between the two exists in the accusations Apollo's Oracle causes against Socrates in the society and Socrates' constant wandering to test and challenge Apollo's words. However, the two figures are also very similar in that they are both icons of wisdom and seekers of truth.”. Paraphrasing the words of Achilles;  another hero/antagonist of Apollo Socrates says death would be better “rather than stay behind here by the curved ships, a laughing stock and a heavy load for Earth to bear( 28b-d)

The self-described “gadfly of Athens” defends himself by saying that he has a daemon, (a guardian angel, a conscious) that alerts him when he is doing something wrong and it never alerted him that wandering around humiliating people was a bad thing, so he must not be guilty. 

Socrates says, “I must perform for you the tale of my wandering…”  ( 22a), as though he was Odysseus in an assumed identity entertaining the Phaeacians.  As Professor Nagy says in The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours at 22.14 “Socrates now turns his attention to men of his own time, especially to the ...jurors who condemn him to death. He speaks to them ironically and even sarcastically:”

Naturally, it’s thumb down for Socrates.  He then talks about the World to come, philosophy and his hopes for his sons.  His actual death is taken up the in the sequel in Hour 23; Phaedo.


  1. I've read some claims by journalist I.F. Stone, e.g. in this interview:
    that Socrates was convicted not because of his habit to make fools of people but because of tirelessly propagating anti-democracy views, helping to make rich and talented young men enemies of democracy and of Athens.
    I've tried to find someone disproving Stone's claims but all I found were personal attacks against him. In fact, Socrates explicitly states that if acquitted, he would continue talking exactly as before.
    I am also sure that Socrates did not really believe in gods, daemons and oracles and used them only in an attempt to make himself immune (which, however, the jurors at the trial must have interpreted as an insult on their intelligence).

  2. Maya,

    You know I heard about Socrates' anti-Democracy views, but I really haven't "seen" them. Admittedly, Plato's Republic isn't a democracy, but I cant imagine that anyone took it as a manifesto for the other throw of the government.