Socrates: guilty or innocent?

Topics: Plato, Religion, Belief Pages: 4 (1073 words) Published: October 14, 2014
In 399 B.C.E, a jury of 501 Athenians sentenced Socrates to death for being found guilty of corrupting the youth and for not believing in Athens gods. In the trial, Socrates entertained and addressed two sets of accusations: the old accusations and the new accusations. In the old accusations, Socrates was accused of “investigating the things under the earth and the heavenly things, and by making the weaker speech the stronger, and by teaching others these same things” (19b). In the new accusations, Socrates was accused of not believing in Athens gods, but rather other novel beings, and for corrupting the youth (24b). Philosophers, still, to this day debate on whether or not Socrates was guilty of these charges, or if these actions should have warranted any punishment, regardless if the allegations were true or false. Socrates first addressed the old accusations, which he described as prejudices implanted in the minds of the jurors, by many, when the jurors were quite young. Believing that it would be more difficult to remove such prejudices, Socrates first attempted to refute the old preconceived ideas about him (18b-e). In early societies, such as Athens, people made sense of the world and themselves in terms of the gods and by telling stories about the gods. In this case, the gods were viewed as the powers that fashioned and ruled the world. Various Greek philosophers attempted to make sense of the world in terms of various elements and ‘mechanical’ principles. Philosophy, thus, was perceived as arising in opposition to traditional religious beliefs. However, Socrates disproves these accusations by claiming he, in fact, has no interest in how the earth is made, nor does he hold any expertise in this particular topic (19d). Socrates also dismisses the accusation of teaching others these things by asserting he is not a teacher (19e). In Athens, only the wealthy could afford teachers, making teachers very rich during this time period. However, Socrates asks his...
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