Socrates' speech is by no means an "apology" in our modern understanding of the word. Instead, the name of the dialogue derives from the Greek apologia, which translates as a defense, or a speech made in defense. Thus, in The Apology, Socrates attempts to defend himself and his conduct—certainly not to apologize for it.


Aporia is the Greek term for the state of helplessness—the inability to proceed—that ends all of Plato’s early dialogues. Through his pointed questioning, Socrates succeeds in showing that his interlocutors have no appropriate definition for the topic under consideration (be that topic piety, love, courage, justice, or whatever else), but nor is he able to supply one himself.


Elenchus is the Greek term for Socrates’s method of questioning his interlocutors. In an elenchus, he attempts to show that their own beliefs are contradictory, and thus to prove that they do not have knowledge about some topic about which they thought they had knowledge.


According to Plato, knowledge can only pertain to eternal, unchanging truths. For instance, you can know that two plus two equals four, because this will also be the case. However, you cannot know that Meno is beautiful. For this reason, only the intelligible realm, the realm of the Forms can be the object of knowledge. See also Opinion.


Since only eternal, unchanging truths can be the objects of knowledge, all other truths are relegated to opinion. Opinion is the highest form of certainty that we can hope for when it comes to the visible realm, the realm of sensible particulars. See also Knowledge.

Presocratic Philosophy

"Presocratic" philosophy refers to Greek philosophy untouched by the influence of Socrates. The Presocratics date back to the sixth century BCE, when thinkers began to question the existing mythological explanations for the existence of the world, the universe, and matter, and began looking for physical explanations instead. Among the famous Presocratics are Thales, Pythagoras, Heraclitus, and Parmenides.

Socratic Irony

Socratic irony is a form of indirect communication employed by Socrates to reveal the ignorance of his interlocutors while insincerely praising their abilities. This technique is deeply informed by the elenchus. Socrates even occasionally practices it against himself although philosophers today are divided as to his sincerity while doing so.


The ancient Greek method of rhetorical philosophy. For Sophists, truth is a matter of persuasion and belief rather than a matter of knowledge and truth.