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Encyclopedia > Apology (Plato)
This article is part of the series:
The Dialogues of Plato
Early dialogues:
Apology - Charmides - Crito
Euthyphro - First Alcibiades
Hippias Major - Hippias Minor
Ion - Laches - Lysis
Transitional & middle dialogues:
Cratylus - Euthydemus - Gorgias
Menexenus - Meno - Phaedo
Protagoras - Symposium
Later middle dialogues:
The Republic - Phaedrus
Parmenides - Theaetetus
Late dialogues:
Timaeus - Critias
The SophistThe Statesman
Philebus - Laws
Of doubtful authenticity:
Epistles - Hipparchus
Minos - Rival Lovers
Second Alcibiades - Theages

(The) Apology (of Socrates) is Plato's version of the speech given by Socrates as he defends himself against the charges of being a man "who corrupted the young, did not believe in the gods, and created new deities". "Apology" here has its earlier meaning (now usually expressed by the word "apologia") of a formal defense of a cause or of one's beliefs or actions (from the Latin apologia, from the Greek "apo" and "logos"). Image File history File links Plato-raphael. ... The Charmides (Greek: ) is a dialogue of Plato, discussing the nature and utility of temperance. ... The Crito (IPA [kriːtɔːn]; in English usually [ˈkɹiːtɘʊː]) is a short but important dialogue by the ancient Greek philosopher, Plato. ... Euthyphro is one of Platos known early dialogues. ... The First Alcibiades or Alcibiades I is a dialogue featuring Alcibiades in conversation with Socrates, ascribed to Plato, but his authorship is doubtful, though probably written by someone within a century or two of Platos other works. ... Hippias Major (or What is Beauty) is one of the dialogues of Plato. ... Hippias Minor (or On Lying) is one of Platos early dialogues, written while the author was still young, although the exact date has not been established. ... Platos Ion aims to give an account of poetry in dialogue form. ... Laches, also known as Courage, is a Socratic dialogue written by Plato, and concerns the topic of courage. ... Lysis is one of the socratic dialogues written by Plato and discusses the nature of friendship. ... Cratylus (Κρατυλος) is the name of a dialogue by Plato, written in approximately 360 BC. In the dialogue, Socrates is asked by two men, Cratylus and Hermogenes, to advise them whether names are conventional or natural, that is, whether language is a system of arbitrary signs or whether words have an... Euthydemus (Euthydemos), written 380 BCE, is dialogue by Plato which satirizes the logical fallacies of the Sophists. ... Gorgias refers to the last dialogue that Plato wrote before leaving Athens. ... The Menexenus is a Socratic dialogue of Plato, traditionally included in the seventh tetralogy along with the Greater and Lesser Hippias and the Ion. ... Meno is a Socratic dialogue written by Plato. ... It has been suggested that Phaidon be merged into this article or section. ... Protagoras is the title of one of Platos dialogues. ... The Symposium is a dialogue by Plato, written soon after 385 BCE. It is a philosophical discussion on the nature of love, taking the form of a series of speeches, both satirical and serious, given by a group of men at a symposion or drinking party at the house of... The Republic (Greek: ) is an influential work of philosophy and political theory by the Greek philosopher Plato, written in approximately 360 BC. It is written in the format of a Socratic dialogue. ... Platos Phaedrus is a dialogue between Socrates and Phaedrus. ... Parmenides is one of the dialogues of Plato. ... The Theætetus (Θεαίτητος) is one of Platos dialogues concerning the nature of knowledge. ... Timaeus is a theoretical treatise of Plato in the form of a Socratic dialogue, written circa 360 BC The work puts forward speculation on the nature of the physical world. ... Critias, a dialogue of Platos, speaks about a variety of subjects. ... The Sophist (Greek: Σοφιστής) is one of the late Dialogues of Plato, which was written much more lately than the Parmenides and the Theaetetus, probably in 360 BC.After he criticized his own Theory of Forms in the Parmenides, Plato proceeds in the Sophist with a new conception of the Forms... The Statesman, or Politikos in Greek and Politicus in Latin, is a four part dialogue contained within the work of Plato. ... Philebus is among the last of the late Socratic dialogues of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato. ... The Laws is Platos last and longest dialogue. ... The Clitophon, a dialogue generally ascribed to Plato, is significant for focusing on Socrates role as an exhorter of other people to engage in philosophic inquiry. ... The Epinomis is a dialogue in the style of Plato, but today considered spurious by most scholars. ... The Epistles of Plato are a series of thirteen letters traditionally included in the Platonic corpus. ... The Hipparchus is a dialogue attributed to the classical Greek philosopher and writer Plato. ... Minos is one of the dialogues of Plato, featuring Socrates and a Companion. ... Rival Lovers (Greek: ) is a Socratic dialogue included in the traditional corpus of Platos works, though its authenticity has been doubted. ... The Second Alcibiades or Alcibiades II is a dialogue ascribed to Plato, featring Alcibiades conversing with Socrates, but there is a general consensus amongst scholars that this text is spurious, though again probably written by someone within a century or two of Platos other works. ... Theages is one of the dialogues of Plato, featuring Demodocus, Socrates and Theages. ... For other uses, see Plato (disambiguation). ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... Socrates (Greek: , invariably anglicized as , Sǒcratēs; circa 470–399 BC) was an ancient Greek philosopher who is widely credited for laying the foundation for Western philosophy. ... Look up deity in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... The Apology is Platos version of the speech given by Socrates as he defends himself against the charges of being a man who corrupted the young, did not believe in the gods, and created new deities. ... Latin was the language originally spoken in the region around Rome called Latium. ...



Socrates begins by saying he does not know if the men of Athens (his jury) have been persuaded by his accusers. This first sentence is crucial to the theme of the entire speech. Plato often begins his Socratic dialogues with words which indicate the overall idea of the dialogue; in this case, "I do not know". Indeed, in the Apology Socrates will suggest that philosophy consists entirely of a sincere admission of ignorance, and that whatever wisdom he has comes from his knowledge that he knows nothing. For other uses, see Philosophy (disambiguation). ...

Socrates asks the jury to judge him not on his oratorical skills, but on the truth. Socrates says he will not use ornate words and phrases that are carefully arranged, but will speak the chance thoughts that come into his head. He says he will use the same words that he is heard using at the agora and the moneytables. In spite of his disclaimers, Socrates proves to be a master rhetor who is not only eloquent and persuasive, but who plays to the jury like an impresario. The speech, which has won readers to his side for more than two millennia, does not succeed in winning him acquittal. Socrates is famously condemned to death, and has been admired for his calm conviction that god is doing the right thing by him.

Socrates' accusers

The three men who brought the charges against Socrates were:

  • Anytus, son of a prominent Athenian, Anthemion. Anytus makes an important cameo appearance in Meno. Anytus appears unexpectedly while Socrates and Meno (a visitor to Athens) are discussing the teachability of virtue. Having taken the position that virtue cannot be taught, Socrates adduces as evidence for this that many prominent Athenians have produced sons inferior to themselves. Socrates says this, and then proceeds to name names, including Pericles and Thucydides. Anytus becomes very offended, and warns Socrates that running people down ("kakos legein") could get him into trouble someday (Meno 94e-95a).
  • Meletus, the only accuser to speak during Socrates' defense. He is mentioned in another dialog, Euthyphro, but does not appear in person. Socrates says there that Meletus is a young unknown with hook-nose. In the Apology, Meletus allows himself to be cross-examined by Socrates and stumbles into a trap. Apparently not paying attention to the very charges he is bringing, he accuses Socrates of atheism and apparently, of believing in demi-gods.
  • Lycon, about whom little is known; he was according to Socrates a representative of the orators.

Anytus can refer to: One of the prosecutors of Socrates One of the Titans in Greek mythology ... Meno is a Socratic dialogue written by Plato. ... Pericles or Perikles (c. ... Bust of Thucydides residing in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto. ... The Apology of Socrates by Plato names Meletus as the main perpetrator against Socrates. ... Euthyphro is one of Platos known early dialogues. ... A painting of a man with a hooknose A hooknose (also called an aquiline nose or Roman nose) is a nose that is curved or hooked. ... In Greek mythology, Lycon was a son of King Hippocoon of Sparta. ... Orator is a Latin word for speaker (from the Latin verb oro, meaning I speak or I pray). In ancient Rome, the art of speaking in public (Ars Oratoria) was a professional competence especially cultivated by politicians and lawyers. ...

The charges against Socrates

Socrates says that he has to refute two sets of accusations: the old, longstanding charges that he is a criminal, a busybody, and a curious person who makes inquiries into the earth and sky, and the recent legal charges that he is guilty of corrupting the young, and of believing in supernatural things of his own invention instead of the gods recognized by the State". Socrates says that the old charges stemmed from years of gossip and prejudice against him and hence were unanswerable. These so called 'informal charges' Socrates puts into a legalistic form — an 'affidavit' as he calls it: "Socrates is committing an injustice, in that he enquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example". He says that these allegations stem from a certain comic poet, namely Aristophanes. Look up Supernatural in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... An affidavit is a formal sworn statement of fact, signed by the declarant (who is called the affiant), and witnessed (as to the veracity of the affiants signature) by a taker of oaths, such as a notary public. ... Sketch of Aristophanes Aristophanes (Greek: , c. ...

Socrates' impassioned defense against the "charge" of sophistry (and curiosity) is diversionary, because sophists were not normally put to death in Athens. On the contrary, sophists were in high demand by fathers who wanted tutors for their sons. Socrates says that he cannot possibly be mistaken for a sophist because they are wise (or at least thought to be) and highly paid. He says he is poor (despite being seen regularly at the tables of the money changers) and claims to know absolutely nothing.

The dialogue

The Apology can be divided into three parts. The first part is Socrates's own defense of himself and includes the most famous parts of the text, namely his recounting of the Oracle at Delphi and his cross-examination of Meletus.

Part one

Socrates begins by telling the jurors that their minds were poisoned by his enemies when they were young and impressionable. He says his reputation for sophistry comes from his enemies, all of whom are envious of him, and malicious. He says they must remain nameless, except for Aristophanes, the comic poet. He later answers the charge that he has corrupted the young by arguing that deliberate corruption is an incoherent idea. Socrates says that his problems all began with the oracle. He tells how Chaerephon went to the Oracle at Delphi, to ask if anyone was wiser than Socrates. When Chaerephon reported to Socrates that the god told him there is none wiser, Socrates took this as a riddle. He says that he knew that he had no wisdom "great or small" but that he also knew that it is against the nature of the gods to lie. Chaerephon was a loyal friend and follower of Socrates. ... Michelangelos rendering of the Delphic Sibyl The Delphic Sibyl was the priestess presiding over the Apollonian Oracle at Delphi, a Greek colony, located in a plateau on the side of Mount Parnassus. ...

Socrates then went on a "divine mission" to solve the paradox (that an ignorant man could also be the wisest person in town) and prove the god wrong. He systematically quizzed the politicians, poets and craftsmen. Socrates determined that the politicians were impostors, and said that the poets were as unwise as "prophets and seers". (Socrates does not explain how he can be sure that the priestesses at Delphi speaks absolute truth, while prophets and seers are unreliable.) Craftsmen prove to be pretentious too, and Socrates says that he made himself a spokesman for the oracle (23e). He asked himself whether he would rather be an impostor like the people he spoke to, or be himself. Speaking for the oracle, Socrates tells the jury that he would rather be himself than anyone else.

Socrates says that this questioning earned him the reputation of being an annoying busybody. Socrates interpreted his life's mission as proof that true wisdom belongs to the gods and that human wisdom, and achievements have little or no value. Having addressed the cause of the prejudice against him, Socrates then tackles the formal charges, corruption of the young and atheism.

Socrates' first move is to accuse his accuser, Meletus (whose name means literally, "the person who cares," or "caring") of not caring about the things he professes to care about. He argues during his interrogation of Meletus that no one would intentionally corrupt another person (because they stand to be harmed by him at a later date). The issue of corruption is important for two reasons: first, it appears to be the heart of the charge against him, that he corrupted the young by teaching some version of atheism, and second, Socrates says that if he is convicted, it will be because Aristophanes corrupted the minds of his audience when they were young (with his slapstick mockery of Socrates in his play, "The Clouds", produced some twenty-four years earlier).

Socrates then proceeds to deal with the second charge, that he is an atheist. He cross-examines Meletus, and extracts a contradiction. He gets Meletus to say that Socrates is an atheist who believes in spiritual agencies and demigods. Socrates announces that he has caught Meletus in a contradiction, and asks the court whether Meletus has designed an intelligence test for him to see if he can identify logical contradictions.

Socrates repeats his claim that it will not be the formal charges which will destroy him, but rather the gossip and slander. He is not afraid of death, because he is more concerned about whether he is acting rightly or wrongly. Further, Socrates argues, those who fear death are showing their ignorance: death may be a great blessing, but many people fear it as an evil when they cannot possibly know it to be such. Again Socrates points out that his wisdom lies in the fact that he is aware that he does not know.

Socrates states clearly that a lawful superior, whether human or divine, should be obeyed. If there is a clash between the two, however, divine authority should take precedence. "Gentlemen, I am your grateful and devoted servant, but I owe a greater obedience to God than to you; and as long as I draw breath and have my faculties I shall never stop practicing philosophy". Since Socrates has interpreted the Delphic Oracle as singling him out to spur his fellow Athenians to a greater awareness of moral goodness and truth, he will not stop questioning and arguing should the people forbid him to do so, even if they were to withdraw the charges. Nor will he stop questioning his fellow citizens. "Are you now ashamed that you give your attention to acquiring as much money as possible, and similarly with reputation and honour, and give no attention or thought to truth and understanding and the perfection of your soul?" Trinomial name Homo sapiens sapiens Linnaeus, 1758 Humans, or human beings, are bipedal primates belonging to the mammalian species Homo sapiens (Latin: wise man or knowing man) under the family Hominidae (the great apes). ... In politics, authority (Latin auctoritas, used in Roman law as opposed to potestas and imperium) is often used interchangeably with the term power. However, their meanings differ. ... For other uses, see Philosophy (disambiguation). ...

In a highly inflammatory section of the Apology, Socrates claims that no greater good has happened to Athens than his concern for his fellow citizens, that wealth is a consequence of goodness (and not the other way around), that God does not permit a better man to be harmed by a worse, and that, in the strongest statement he gives of his task, he is a stinging gadfly and the state a lazy horse, "and all day long I will never cease to settle here, there and everywhere, rousing, persuading and reproving every one of you." Gadfly is a term for people who upset the status quo by posing upsetting or novel questions, or attempts to stimulate innovation by proving an irritant. ...

As further evidence of his task, Socrates reminds the court of his daimon which he sees as a supernatural experience. He recognises this as partly behind the charge of believing in invented beings. Again Socrates makes no concession to his situation. He would have been well aware that many if not most in the courtroom would have viewed this with utmost suspicion.

Socrates claims to never have been a teacher, in the sense of imparting knowledge to others. He cannot therefore be held responsible if any citizen turns bad. If he has corrupted anyone, why have they not come forward to be witnesses? Or if they do not realise that they have been corrupted, why have their relatives not stepped forward on their behalf? Many relatives of the young men associated with him, Socrates points out, are presently in the courtroom to support him.

Socrates concludes this part of the Apology by reminding the jurors that he will not resort to the usual emotive tricks and arguments. He will not break down in tears, nor will he produce his three sons in the hope of swaying the jurors. He does not fear death; nor will he act in a way contrary to his religious duty. He will rely solely on sound argument and the truth to present his case.

The verdict

Socrates is found guilty.

Part two

In this section of the Apology, Socrates antagonises the court even further. It was the tradition that the defendant could speak again before the jury decides on a suitable punishment.

He points out that the vote was comparatively close: had only 30 more voted for him, he would have been found innocent. He engages in some dark humour by suggesting that Meletus be fined for not meeting the statutory one-fifth of the votes (in order to avoid frivolous cases coming to court, plaintiffs were fined heavily if the jurors' votes did not reach this number in a case where the defendant won). Since there were 501 jurymen, the prosecution had to gain at least 100 of the jurors' votes. Taken by itself however Meletus' vote (as representing one-third of the prosecution case) numbered only 93 or 94. Regardless of the number of plaintiffs, it was their case that had to reach the requisite one-fifth. Not only that, the prosecutors had won.

Socrates's alternative punishment did not make him any more popular. He first proposes, as a benefactor to Athens, free meals in the Prytaneum, one of the important buildings which housed members of the Council. This was an honour reserved for athletes and other prominent citizens. The prytaneis (literally presidents) of ancient Athens were members of the boule chosen to perform executive tasks during their term (a prytany), which lasted about one month and then was rotated to other members of the boule. ...

Socrates considers imprisonment and banishment before settling on a fine of 100 drachmae, as he had little funds of his own with which he could pay the fine. This was a small sum when weighed against the punishment proposed by the prosecutors and gave the jury little choice but to vote for the death penalty. Socrates' supporters immediately increased the amount to 3,000 drachmae, but in the eyes of the jury this was not an alternative. Drachma, pl. ...

The jury decided on the sentence of death.

Part three

Socrates' punishment speech angered the jurors. 360 voted for the death penalty; only 141 voted for a fine of 3,000 drachmae. Now Socrates has to respond to the verdict. He first addresses those who voted for death.

He claims that it is not a lack of arguments that has resulted in his condemnation, but rather his unwillingness to stoop to the usual emotive appeals expected of any defendant facing death. Again he insists that the prospect of death does not absolve one from following the path of goodness and truth.

Socrates prophesies that younger and harsher critics will follow him and submit them to an even more telling examination of their lives.

To those who voted for his acquittal, Socrates gives them encouragement: He says that his daimon did not stop him from conducting his defence in the way that he did as a sign that it was the right thing to do. As a consequence, death must be a blessing. Either it is an annihilation (thus bringing eternal peace from all worries, and therefore not something to be truly afraid of) or a migration to another place to meet souls of famous people such as Hesiod and Homer and heroes like Odysseus. With these, Socrates can continue his task of questioning. Bust, traditionally thought to be Seneca, now identified by some as Hesiod. ... Homer (Greek: , Hómēros) was a legendary early Greek poet and aoidos (singer) traditionally credited with the composition of the Iliad and the Odyssey. ... Odysseus (Greek Odusseus), pronounced /oʊˈdɪs. ...

Socrates concludes his Apology with the claim that he bears no grudge against those who accused and condemned him, and in a remarkable show of trust asks them to look after his three sons as they grow up, ensuring that they put goodness before selfish interests.

Modes of interpretation

Three different methods for interpreting the Apology have been suggested. The first, that it was meant to be solely a piece of art, is not widely held, in spite of Plato's reputation as an artist. This article or section is not written in the formal tone expected of an encyclopedia article. ...

A second possibility is that the Apology is a historical recounting of the actual defense made by Socrates in 399 BC. This seems to be the oldest opinion. Its proponents maintain that, as one of Plato's earliest works, it would not have been fitting to embellish and fictionalise the memory of his master, especially while so many who remembered him were still living. Centuries: 5th century BC - 4th century BC - 3rd century BC Decades: 440s BC 430s BC 420s BC 410s BC 400s BC - 390s BC - 380s BC 370s BC 360s BC 350s BC 340s BC Years: 404 BC 403 BC 402 BC 401 BC 400 BC - 399 BC - 398 BC 397 BC...

In 1741, Johann Jakob Brucker was the first to suggest that Plato was not to be trusted as a source about Socrates. Since that time more evidence has been brought to light supporting the theory that the Apology is not a historical account but a philosophical work. Apparent inconsistencies back this notion. (For example, it would have been absurd to ask the oracle of Delphi if anyone was wiser than Socrates if Socrates had not previously dealt in philosophical matters — contrary to Socrates' own story.) Johann Jakob Brucker (1696 - 1770) was a German historian of philosophy. ...

Luis Noussan-Lettry has proposed important existential and phenomenological frameworks for interpreting the philosophy of the Apology. Concerning all the early works of Plato, especially the Apology and the Crito, he has said that it is best to first establish the theme of the piece and then interpret every passage in light of that theme. Echoing Kant, he calls this progression from the historical (and inadequate) interpretations to the thematic interpretation a "Copernican Revolution". This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... This article is about the philosophical movement. ... The Crito (IPA [kriːtɔːn]; in English usually [ˈkɹiːtɘʊː]) is a short but important dialogue by the ancient Greek philosopher, Plato. ... Immanuel Kant (22 April 1724 – 12 February 1804), was a German philosopher from Königsberg in East Prussia (now Kaliningrad, Russia). ... Heliocentric Solar System Heliocentrism (lower panel) in comparsion to the geocentric model (upper panel) In astronomy, heliocentrism is the belief that the Sun is at the center of the Universe and/or the Solar System. ...

For Noussan-Lettry, the Apology is important because, if read correctly, it brings the reader directly to the Socratic method and makes the Platonic themes immediately comprehensible without recourse to pedagogy. To read the Apology is to take part in a dialogue.

See also

Wikisource has original text related to this article:
Wikisource has original text related to this article:
Ἀπολογία Σωκράτους (Greek original)

Image File history File links Wikisource-logo. ... The original Wikisource logo. ... Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... The original Wikisource logo. ... The Death of Socrates, by Jacques-Louis David (1787) The trial of Socrates in 399 BC gave rise to a great deal of debate and to a whole genre of literature, known as the Socratic logoi. ... Xenophons Apology describes Socrates state of mind at his trial and execution, and especially his view that it was better to die before senility set in than to escape execution by humbling himself before an unjust persecution. ...

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