Does Socrates make any philosophical assertions, and if so, of what kind are they? On one hand, he denies having any kind of specialized knowledge, and on the other hand, he makes assertions such as "the unexamined life is not worth living" and "no one ever knowingly does wrong." Can we reconcile these two positions?
Was Socrates trying to get himself acquitted? If he was not, what effect was he trying to exert on the jury?
Socrates asserts that he is wise only in that he knows that he knows nothing. He sets up the model of the philosopher as one who does not have any specialized knowledge, but who is instead well- skilled at revealing the ignorance of others. Plato, Socrates' immediate successor, wants to claim all sorts of positive wisdom for the philosopher (such as knowledge of the theory of forms). To what extent do you think Socrates is correct in saying that philosophy does not consist of positive wisdom?
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?
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