Apology speech: Socrates before the jury
Socrates has been accused of ‘corrupting youth’ and he has a speech to read to the jury first. After the hearing, he fails to win the case and is convicted. During his defense, he uses a defiant tone that is possibly the cause of jury’s verdict. However, as presented by philosopher Plato, in his speech “The Apology,” there is a systematic development in the sequence of events which later lead to Socrates execution. Monoson suggests that the connection between philosophy and democracy should be of interest following Socrates remarks (169). The necessity and possibility of practicing philosophy in a democratic environment is essential.
‘Apology’ is Plato’s version of the speech made by Socrates as he was defending himself against the jury, while facing charges of not believing in traditional gods and corrupting the youth. The speech is generally written as if it were Socrates actually speaking during the trial. However, he mentions Plato as being present on two occasions during his speech.
Being an apology, we expect the tone of his speech to be remorseful; however, the speech begins with a firm voice condemning Athenians for listening to his accusers. Some sense of arrogance is depicted when he condemns his accusers for lying to the citizens and warning them not to listen to his ‘eloquence.’ Being in a court of law, it is expected that he speaks only words which may lead to his deliberation, but an element of contrast is depicted when he request to be treated like a stranger in Athens.This is a clear indication of the fact that philosophy commences with an honest admission of ignorance.
Moreover, his response to the charges is quite intriguing. He defends himself by condemning his slanderers accusations. The tone used is non-apologetic and instead he feels very sorry for Meletus who has pressed charges against him. He brags about the wisdom that he has, saying it’s what has built his reputation over the years. It is in this regard that he reflects on Chaerophon, his longtime friend, who before the court, claimed that no one was wiser than Socrates himself.
Plato’s description of how Socrates made enemies is also quite ironical, whatever he went about doing was always in good course yet Athenians mistook him. The tone changes when he declares that he is no longer wise and that it’s only God himself who is wise. An aspects of beautiful dialogue is incorporated when he engage Meletus in a conversation. This happens following Meletus’ accusations that Socrates is an evil doer and who corrupts the youth. He demonstrates his wisdom in the kind of questions he asks Meletus and appears to have beaten him.
In his dialogue he gives Meletus no chance and most of his questions are direct, requiring simple answers. This conversation develops the plot of his speech adding spice to the creative nature of this work. In the end, it appears that he is the good man while Meletus is the bad fellow. However, he does not stop at that, when given an opportunity to choose an alternative punishment, Socrates requests Athenians to honor him for shedding some light into their reasoning and also to be compensated for his services. This appears crazy because normally we expect people in such situations to choose alternative punishments like exile.
Monoson, Sarah. Plato’s Democratic Entanglements: Athenian Politics and the Practice of
Philosophy. United Kingdom: Princeton University Press, 2000. Print
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