The Apology differs from Plato’s other works about Socrates in that it is less concerned with asserting specific philosophical doctrines than it is with creating a portrait of the ideal philosopher. Therefore, it is useful to think about how Socrates defined a philosopher and what values he ascribed to them.

“Philosopher” in Greek literally means “lover of wisdom.” In The Apology, Socrates gives us the model for a true philosopher: he accepts resentment and risks death because his love for wisdom far outweighs any concerns for his own safety or well-being. The wisdom of the philosopher consists ultimately in clear and precise thinking. We can contrast this with the creative genius of the artist or the body of knowledge that can be accumulated by the scientist. The distinction made by Socrates that the role of the philosopher is to question and to clarify knowledge rather than to affirm was original to him. It has strongly informed Western philosophy up to the present.