Critical Analysis of The Apology of Socrates by Plato
Socrates was an orator and philosopher whose primary interests were logic, ethics and epistemology. In Plato’s Apology of Socrates, Plato recounts the speech that Socrates gave shortly before his death, during the trial in 399 BC in which he was charged with "corrupting the young, and by not believing in the gods in whom the city believes, also being a busybody and intervene gods business". The name of the work itself is not mean what it is appeared; here, Socrates is not apologizing, but merely speaking in defense of his beliefs and actions – the word apology is used in the context of its original meaning. During this apology, Socrates attempts to explain himself and the decisions that led to his action, educating his audience in the philosophical questions he chooses to pose. Socrates does not try to avoid death in the trial; instead, his goal is to enlighten the public for the last time before his own passing. Socrates was always fascinated with the solving of questions, both big and small; his approach was to use the Socratic method of inquiry, wherein he would break the problem down into several questions, and then systematically find the answers to each question in order to find the larger answer. It was a methodical and practical approach to show his ultimate quest for seeking the true knowledge. He says, "His wisdom is truly worthless"; this is indicative of his unending search for more and more knowledge (Apology 23b). According to him, philosophy starts by admitting that you are ignorant of the truth, which is what he does here. It is with this approach to philosophical questions and dilemmas – the use of Socratic irony - that Socrates chooses to engage with his audience and demonstrate why he did what he did. The Socratic method of dialectical investigation utilized arguments to try and determine ethics and truth. Two techniques were primarily used by Socrates: first, he would create a hypothesis, and then he would investigate any potential conflicts with that hypothesis. Assumptions and presumptions would be challenged in order to discover what was true. Socrates focused on valuing thought above all else. His primary method was asking questions, developing hypotheses, and testing them to see if the evidence supported them. Socrates, for the most part, values the integrity of society, and feels as though a group of people coming together to form a community should be respected by honoring the social contract. At the same time, there are aspects of the self that are more important than a communal whole, and a society must be made up of individuals that follow the principles shared by the whole. One should not be forced to behave in a manner inconsistent with their beliefs; an ideal society is comprised of individuals who may all subscribe to the different philosophies but are able to listen and except others idea the same time. As Socrates mentioned in the text that a person should be judge by what he have down, not by his behavior. It is only then that justice can be really served. Socrates’ approach to the trial is admirable; instead of expressing panic or desperation at the prospect of his life ending, the man instead maintains his calm and simply, effectively explains his position. He presents himself as the ideal philosopher, being unwavering in his justification for his actions and wishing to inspire his audience. Using his own use of figure of speech and his Socratic principles, he breaks down discussions he has with characters such as the Delphic oracle, Meletus, and more to expound his ideas. The beginning of Socrates’ argument relies on the aforementioned acknowledgement of Socratic irony – the most philosophical man is the one who admits his ignorance, and is able to point out the ignorance of others. When the oracle of Delphi told Chaerephon that no one is wiser than Socrates, he chose to go on a journey to deal with this paradox; he knew he was...
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