For a man such as Socrates, who claimed to be committed to improving the state and its citizenry, it would strike the jury as odd that he places so little emphasis on public affairs. This, he explains, is the advice of his supernatural sign, the voice in his head that warns him against such activities. This sign could be taken to be one of the supernatural things that Socrates believes in, which he used as evidence of his belief in gods during his earlier cross-examination of Meletus. Interestingly, though Socrates persists in saying that this voice is of supernatural origin, he nowhere suggests that it has to be a god, in spite of his earlier assumption that all supernatural things are either gods or children of gods.

In any case, the "sign" is right: Socrates would not last long in public affairs. His present trial is just one of many cases in Athenian history where justice was unfairly suspended when the safety of the state was thought to be at stake. Socrates' emphasis is on the ethical life as expressed on the personal level and through self-knowledge. In Socrates' view, the health and prosperity of the state would follow if every one of the citizens were wise and virtuous, but no set of laws can ensure such health and prosperity if the citizens act unjustly. These considerations were especially pertinent following the Peloponnesian War, as Athens fell into decline.