Socrates, Philosophy and the Good Life

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Socrates, Philosophy and the Good Life

Socrates' belief was that he was called on by the Gods to live his life examining others and himself. He believed the necessity of doing what one thinks is right even in the face of universal opposition, and the need to pursue knowledge even when opposed. "I became completely convinced, to the duty of leading the philosophical life by examining myself and others."¹ Socrates believed that to desert this idea was ridiculous and would make his life absurd. Socrates chose to live a life of truth and not to worry about things that did not matter. For Socrates not to live his life by the plans and requests of Gods it would be disobedient and untrue to the Gods. Socrates was brought to court to defend himself against two charges. Socrates is guilty of corrupting the young, and of failing to acknowledge the gods acknowledged by the city, but introducing new spiritual beings.² Thorough analysis of his defense of his court charges, his definition of the "good life", and his practice of philosophy will prove his goal to live a "good life" or if his life was meaningless. While defending his charges, Meletus' first charge was of corrupting the youth. Socrates replied to the charge is as follows, Meletus is guilty of trifling in a serious matter, in that he brings people to trial on frivolous grounds, and professes grave concern about matters for which he has never cared at all.3 Socrates questions Meletus whether or not the youth should be good as possible, and he replies yes. After much questioning, Socrates reveals that Meletus believes that everyone in Athens has a good influence on the youth, except Socrates. Socrates then proves his next point of view that horses are only improved by there trainers and everyone else simply spoils them. His comparison suggested that improvement is done in small group, whereas corruption is done by many. Therefore, like horses, it takes more than one man to corrupt the entire youth. After disproving that Socrates is solely responsible for the corruption of the youth, Meletus tells Socrates that he is intentionally corrupting the youth. Socrates disproves this statement with, "If I make one of my companions vicious, I would risk incurring harm from his hands."4 It would be stupid to harm the youth because they would in turn harm him. With this he proves that his harm, if any, is unintentionally, therefore making the accusations false, and "the law would not require him to be brought to court."5 Along with corrupting the youth, Socrates is accused of charging fees for his teachings. He states, "It is I that can call evidence sufficient, I think, to show that I am speaking the truth-namely, my poverty."6 But Socrates' belief is to examine himself and others, not to gain profit as many other educators have done. Socrates reduces his charges to absurdity because there is no way he would intentionally harm the youth, because the youth may turn on him. Also, he proves, like horses, it takes more than one single man to "spoil" the good of the youth.

Meletus' second charge was of irreligion. His charge read as follows, "It is by teaching them not to acknowledge the gods acknowledged by the city, but to accept new spiritual beings instead."7 Meletus tells the jury that Socrates was corrupting the minds of the youth by teaching them not to believe in the Athenian Gods, rather other spiritual beings. After being questioned on whether or not he believed Socrates to be an Atheist, Meletus stated that he believed that Socrates did not acknowledge that any gods existed and was teaching that belief to the people of Athens. Socrates then began to disprove Meletus. Socrates reminded the jury that Meletus agreed that spiritual beings were regarded as gods or the children of gods, therefore making his accusation a contradiction. Socrates presented the accusation as a riddle, "you are saying that I do not believe in gods, and yet again I do believe in...
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