February 1, 2013
Philosophy of Human Nature
Topic 1: Plato’s Apology
This paper examines the significance of Socrates’ opening lines in Plato’s Apology. Socrates’ opening lines establish the key points of his defense, which he explains in further detail as his dialogue continues. Socrates’ essentially makes four points with his opening two lines, which become relevant later on.
To understand why these points are significant, it is important to make the charges that were brought upon Socrates clear, and then we can explore the significance of his opening lines. Three of the major charges that were brought against Socrates include, questioning heaven and earth, teaching people to make a weaker argument appear stronger, and corrupting the youth. As we dive into the text, Socrates will explain that many people feel wronged or put down by him, and this is why these charges are brought against him. Socrates’ opening line, “I do not know, men of Athens, how my accusers affected you,” is significant for three reasons. First, he opens with an admission of ignorance. The jurors and people of the court believe that Socrates thinks he is the wisest of them all. By opening with this admission, he already starts to cast doubt in the minds of the jury (Apology 17a). Within the same opening line, he refers to the jurors as “men of Athens.” This is extremely significant because he never does recognize these men as jurors until the very end. Instead he continually refers to them as gentlemen, and men of Athens, as though they are in a casual setting and just talking amongst themselves. This becomes evident when he says, “It is right for me, gentlemen, to defend…” (Apology 18b) and also again late in the dialogue when he continues to recognize them as only men, and not in a seat of power, “Indeed, men of Athens, I am far from…”(Apology 30e). Socrates continues addressing the men like this until the final verdict comes out. Only...
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