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Defense of Socrates

Essay by   •  December 20, 2010  •  Essay  •  1,273 Words (6 Pages)  •  1,280 Views

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Plato's "Defense of Socrates" follows the trial of Socrates for charges of corruption of the youth. His accuser, Meletus, claims he is doing so by teaching the youth of Athens of a separate spirituality from that which was widely accepted. Socrates' argument was unique in that he tried to convince the jury he was just an average man and not to be feared, but in actuality demonstrated how clever and tenacious he was. He begins with an anecdote of his visit to the Oracle at Delphi, which told him that there was no man smarter than he. He, being as humble as he was, could not take the Oracle's answer for granted and went about questioning Athenians he felt surpassed his intelligence. However, in questioning politicians, poets, and artisans, he found that they claimed to know of matters they did not. In today's society, many members are known for actions such as this; pretending to have knowledge on subjects they know nothing about. In fact, the majority of newscasters, politicians, and zealots of religions are the forerunners of this type of people. For example, in any given report that represents a prominent member of society as a back-stabbing, manipulative conglomerate with no positive intentions, a rebuttal will be made within the next week if not the next day for false reporting and statements tarnishing the person's reputation. Socrates considered this to be a serious flaw, and, as Bill S. Preston, Esq. put it: that "true wisdom consists in knowing that you know nothing."

Socrates acknowledges the fact that he knows nothing, at least in areas which he is unlearned in. But that is the problem with our society of today, where people presented in a public medium are too afraid to apologize or correct themselves of these mistakes. In most cases, to be told that a spokesperson, reporter, or conglomerate is wrong is within reach of being penalized with a lawsuit or termination of employment for the simple correction or contradiction of a public figure. If every person with true knowledge of a subject has to live in fear of persecution or punishment, how will we as a society be able to grow and flourish in new directions of growth? How can we simply describe our thoughts and knowledge as truth or fact and have it publicly announced without approval of higher powers and businesses who have more interest in false truths and expediences than the well-being of their own human brethren? Socrates didn't believe in the political control and widespread approval of higher authorities over the importance and need of truthful knowledge and learning so why should we?

Socrates argues that he could not have intentionally corrupted Athenian youth through two premises: The first being that he would certainly not want to live amongst those who have been corrupted- after all, why would he want to interact with a society whose beliefs are askew? And he supplements this with his second premise- if he did want to live amongst those he corrupted; it could only be because he was mad, and therefore his corruption would be unintentional. He reasons that those who are mad should not be killed, but institutionalized instead. But could he be wrong? Could those that today's society deem mad really be sane? After all, a man who theorizes a conspiracy concocted by the government to cover up crimes of treason, blackmail, extortion, or even murder could have some truth to it. Or perhaps it could hold "facts" given by the government to the public which could be disproved, and would never have a satisfactory answer for any to believe. In this case, the institutionalized man may not be completely mad, but may not be completely sane, either. So, should the man be locked away, sentenced to death by rotting in a cell, or should he be set free in society to attempt to prove his theory, to gain acknowledgement and popularity for "thinking outside of the box?"

In the information given by this story, the man is given a chance to argue his perspective, to attempt to inform society and raise their knowledge of his actions so that they could discern his reasoning from fiction. He is given a chance before sentencing to allow his peers to judge him using his views

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