The Irony of Socrates
Socrates was thought to be ahead of his time. At the time, the citizens of Athens believed that their government had the ultimate power and nothing could be higher. So of course when one person chose to believe another view, the government became a part of the situation to maintain a sense of peace thorough the nation. This didn’t sit well with Socrates. He wanted as many people to know about his knowledge as possible because he had found scientific reasoning as to why his way was true, rather than simply because government officials say it is. This strikes up multiple cases of irony from Socrates’s turn from natural philosophy to what eventually becomes what we know today as political philosophy. The first bit of irony arises from the fact that Socrates is actually writing to more than one audience, and also that he uses more than one strategy to do so. David Leibowitz, author of The Ironic Defense of Socrates: Plato’s Apolog, describes the audience situation, “Socratic irony has a twofold purpose and a twofold audience: conciliation of, and protection from, the unpromising members of Socrates’ audience, and the education of the promising member in the audience” (p. 17). He then explains the strategies he used to get attention from each audience, “Irony, in the sense of self-depreciation and even flattery, is necessary for the first audience so that Socrates will be less offensive to them and more in tune with their moralistic views of the world. Irony, also in the same sense of speaking in a “double” fashion is necessary for the second audience because even “they start off under the spell of vulgar prejudice”” (p. 18). Socrates knew that if he wanted anyone to understand his beliefs that he would have to use certain techniques that would speak to the right group of people so he could have potential to be understood. Leibowitz’s descriptions go beyond the fact that you can say two different things to two...
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