end of write-up:

d anybody intentionally

- because of the unfairness of this trial, I do not have the time to convince you

"An unexamined life is not worth living."

Socrates suggests a tiny sum and then a large one,

THE PENALTY IS DEATH:   The jury comes back even more one-sided with a verdict of death. Was Socrates being arrogant? Did he have a death wish? Did he want to be a martyr?

He is proud that he didn't weep and wail - he knows that life itself is not that important, and that he is close to death anyway - honor prevents a man from surrendering to the enemy in battle, so should honor prevent a man from begging for his life in court. It shouldn't have an effect if the court is just:

"When I leave this court I shall go away condemned by you to death, but they (accusers) will go away convicted by Truth herself of depravity and injustice."

Socrates tells those who convicted him that they put him to death because they were tired of hearing criticism....but that they will be sorry when he is gone because new accusers will take his place and be less forgiving.

Socrates tells those who acquitted him that this is a blessing, for the "divine voice" he always hears and obeys did not try to stop him - he was on the right course - death is not an evil. Death is either a total annihilation, in which case there is nothing to fear - it is nothing, or it is a migration of the soul from one place to another. He looks forward to the opportunity to meet famous figures form history and myth - especially those who fell victim to unjust trials - and he claims that he would act the same there as here, seeking who thinks he is wise, and who really is. "I presume they do not put one to death there for such conduct."

"Nothing can harm a good man either in life or after death, and his fortunes are not a matter of indifference to the gods."

He is convinced that death is his proper destiny, as his inner god-voice did not stop him. He makes his friends promise that they will hold his sons up to his high standards.


The Apology is the second in a series of four sequential dialogues written by Plato relating the history of the trial and death of his mentor, Socrates (Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, and Phaedo). We recall that Socrates' trial occurs in 399 BC, at the very end of the fifth century BC, the end of the Golden Age, the end of Athens' supremacy in the Aegean (she lost the Peloponnesian War to Sparta and allies a mere five years before the trial, in 404 BC). The Athenian political scene was in turmoil, and everybody was looking for someone to blame for their great losses. And Socrates, because of his philosophy, demeanor, opposition to the forces in power, as well as his general popularity among the young, was the perfect scapegoat.  

Because of the trumped-up nature of the charges, it is helpful to know why Socrates is targeted for such unfair treatment. We begin with a brief overview of Socrates' own political record, which explains how and why those in power might target him as a political threat. Socrates had proved himself to be a rebel against unjust authority several times over: when The Thirty were in power, he flatly refused to carry out an order to arrest an innocent man, flouting their tyrannical authority. In the Apology, Socrates himself refers to another occasion when he attempted to maintain good justice against majority opinion: he had been the only senator to object to the unconstitutional trial and subsequent death sentences of the eight generals present at the Battle of Arginusae in 406. At that time, Socrates spoke righteously, with an understanding of the dangers of an assembly swayed by violent emotion, and objected to the violation of their own rules by pronouncing sentence on all the men together, instead of providing separate trials.

Ironically, Socrates himself falls victim to a similar injustice, pointing out in the Apology that his accusers violate the rule disallowing a one-day trial, and suggests that this violation contributed to his conviction and sentence. It is this historical background that allows us to see how a new age of philosophy could develop - under the restored democracy, patriotism ceased to be a man's highest virtue, and a cult of individualism spread. Socrates himself is a good example of a man who began to question whether the individual existed for the state, or the state for the individual.

Socrates' Refutation of the Charges:

Let's go directly to the text and see Socrates' refutation of each of the charges against him: "Socrates is an evil-doer, and a curious person, who searches into things under the earth and in heaven, and he makes the worse appear the better cause; and he teaches the aforesaid doctrine to others." In response to this charge, Socrates claims that Aristophanes is partly to blame for such a warped perception of him, and you need to know the basic premise of Aristophanes' play, the Clouds:


a brief discussion of The Clouds is in order. This naturally would lead into a discussion of the next charge, that he was a teacher paid for his efforts, because Aristophanes portrays him as a sophist, an assessment Socrates vehemently denies. The final accusation, that Socrates is a "doer of evil, who corrupts the youth; and who does not believe in the gods of the state, but has other new divinities of his own," was once before levied successfully against the philosopher Protagoras, convicted of the same charge of impiety in 415.



In his Apology, Socrates engages rather more in accusation than in defense, perhaps because even though the particular charges brought against him are false, they are in spirit irrefutably true: in the eyes of the assembly, he was a "corrupter of the young," urging them to think independently and thus question authority, although those so-called corrupted youth, now mature, will not speak out against him. Socrates thus does nothing to try to appease his detractors, and pricks them with his own brand of arrogance. He claims that his behavior is due to his desire to prove the Delphic Oracle's claim that "there was no man wiser than Socrates." Socrates admits that at first he misunderstood the riddle, assuming the Oracle thought him more wise than he was. But in his attempts to unravel the oracle's mysterious message, through innumerable discussions with politicians, tragedians, poets (cf. the Ion) and artisans, he came to realize that all men believe themselves to be wiser than they really are, and that no man, including Socrates, is wise at all. It is better to realize you are not wise, says Socrates, than to falsely think you are: "an unexamined life is not worth living" is perhaps Socrates' best epitaph, a tenet by which he both lived and died. By proving that no man's convictions could withstand his examination, Socrates correctly suggests that he has made enemies of those whose ignorance and arrogance he has revealed. This also stands as proof against the charge of impiety, for Socrates claims that it is his very devotion to the god that has brought about his downfall: by causing others to see the wisdom in the oracle's pronouncement, by revealing the great lacks of "pretenders to wisdom," he has earned only criticism, enemies and poverty.

In his explanation of why the prospect of death does not discomfit him, Socrates uses mythical and literary allusions (to be discussed) to suggest that death may very well be "a good" (cf. the Phaedo, Republic): "the difficulty, my friends, is not to avoid death, but to avoid unrighteousness." Socrates claims that men should strive to achieve the greatest improvement of the soul, to seek virtue instead of petty attainments such as power or wealth; after his fate is sealed, he asks his friends to watch out for this very flaw in his own sons. Socrates claims not to fear being hurt by anyone, for "a bad man cannot injure a man better than himself." Socrates here also coins the word "gad-fly," claiming that the state needs someone removed from public affairs to keep a reproachful, questioning eye on the state's leaders in order to keep them honest. He claims they will be the worse off without him. We are reminded that since they break their own laws in rushing to judge him, and there is no one to stop them, they are convicting him unconstitutionally. Socrates ends his speech by stating that "no evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death."