The Apology

by: Plato

Suggested Essay Topics

Characterize Socratic irony and the role it plays in Socrates' method. To what extent and to what effect is this irony employed? Can we take anything Socrates' says seriously? And is there a rigid connection between being serious and speaking the truth?

What is the supernatural sign or divine voice that Socrates alludes to at 31c-d and 40a? Might we count this as some kind of specialized knowledge, the kind which Socrates vehemently denies having? Or is this a kind of intuition or inspiration of the kind Socrates identifies with the poets? How seriously does Socrates mean what he says here? And if he is joking, what is the purpose of the joke?

Is there a conflict between 31a, where Socrates claims he is irreplaceable, and 39c-d, where he claims that many more critics will take his place if he is executed? How can these two claims be reconciled?

Discuss Socrates' attitude toward religion. He is on trial in part for being impious and irreligious, and responds only very briefly to these charges. Furthermore, his attitudes toward the supernatural seem to waver a great deal. In his cross-examination of Meletus, he seems to suggest that only the gods and the children of the gods are supernatural, and yet at other points, he alludes to his supernatural sign and to the possibility of human souls living after death. Is Socrates guilty of impiety?

Explain and discuss the elenchus, or cross-examination, between Socrates and Meletus. Whose side would you take in their argument? Can you think of arguments Meletus might have made against Socrates had he been quicker witted?