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The Apology

Plato

32e - 35d

28a - 32e

35e - 38b

Summary

Socrates affirms that he has been consistent and just in his dealings with people throughout his life. He has never charged a fee for his teaching, has never kept secret any of thoughts, and has never refused to converse with anybody. The young men of Athens flock to him not because he preaches impious doctrines, as his accusers charge him, but because they enjoy hearing his cross-examinations: there is a good deal of amusement to be gained from watching the embarrassment of a pompous busybody. If these young have been corrupted by his bad influence, Socrates asks, why have they not since learnt the error of their ways and stepped forward to denounce him? On the contrary, Socrates cites the names of several of his pupils present in the jury--Plato among them--who are here in his support. Not only they, but their older relatives also take his side.

In summing up, Socrates alludes to the common practices of shedding tears, begging, and making mention of family members and loved ones in order to gain mercy. Though he has three sons of his own, Socrates scorns such methods for three reasons: first, it would be shameful and embarrassing, and such behavior would earn the scorn of foreigners; second, he would be asking the jury to consider facts that are irrelevant to the case at hand--if they are to deal justly with him, they should not consider such extraneous matters; and third, he would be asking the jurymen to break their oath of judging justly and impartially, a deed which would be highly impious. Of all places, Socrates would not like to appear impious when he is at court on charges of impiety.

Commentary

In referring to the "corrupted" youth of Athens one more time, Socrates is not saying anything new, except that this time he identifies a number of his pupils by name. This is significant because Plato is one of the students mentioned. Most of Plato's dialogues, particularly the more mature works, are framed in a very complex manner. The dialogues are usually told by a third or fourth party who heard from a friend or acquaintance about a dialogue of Socrates' at which another friend was present. Not only does The Apology present Socrates' words verbatim, without any framing devices to distance the narration, but Plato makes a particular effort to point out that he was actually present at Socrates' defense. The purpose here might be to lend the retelling a certain authenticity: the author was present at the trial, and has copied down Socrates' speech word for word. It would be important for Plato to be able to claim such authority, as he wishes to acquit Socrates posthumously as much as possible.

Socrates' final remarks about not begging for mercy can be taken as either arrogant or ironic. On one hand, he is showing defiant bravery in a dangerous situation, while openly criticizing the normal practices of the law courts. On the other hand, this defiance could be read as very tongue-in- cheek. After all, Socrates alludes to his three children almost immediately after claiming that he would make no pleas based on his family life. This could be seen as a parody of a typical rhetorical maneuver. One's reading of this final passage depends on whether one prefers to see Socrates as the passionate and noble defender of a philosophical ideal, or as an ironic trickster who refuses to be taken too seriously.

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study questions

by ShahradC, February 07, 2015

"On one hand, he denies having any kind of specialized knowledge, and on the other hand, he makes assertions"

The assumptions of rationality are not knowledge.
Rationality might assume "an unexamined life is not worth living" although we have no knowledge what "life" really is.

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2 out of 3 people found this helpful

Ambiguous Pronoun Found (Reply to Confirm)

by azasker60, March 16, 2015

"To prove Meletus wrong, Socrates undertakes to show that he must believe in gods of some sort."

He is ambiguous here. Can I assume that it points to Socrates? Is it indeed ambiguous?

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2 out of 4 people found this helpful

Correction Needed

by azasker60, March 16, 2015

In

http://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/apology/section5.rhtml

"Socrates is persists in saying "

The word "is" in the statement above should be removed. Reply to confirm.

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