Why was Socrates the renowned Philosopher put to death, was it based on his political and spiritual beliefs or because he taught his beliefs to his students? He believed that he was in a private pursuit of truth, a search for wisdom. He turned the youth against the Gods of Athens, proposing that the opinions of experts were the only pertinent opinions. Socrates never voiced his concerns or chose to leave the society that had supported him for some seventy years of his life. The democratic government allowed the majority to rule, it enabled the people to vote and decide what is just. The government was based on a procedural process, one, which took into account the input of the majority. In this manner they created a just form of government, where all were allowed to represent their beliefs, their truths, maintaining justice and equality for the majority. Socrates was not persecuted for his beliefs, but reprimanded for his corruptive pursuits against his own political society.
Socrates was charged with exploring that which is under the ground and in heaven, making the weaker argument the stronger and corrupting the youth. Socrates was undermining the democratic system in an unjust manner. He sought to find a “better”, more efficient political system that he thought would better serve the citizens of his country. He sought to take power away from the people and force the narrow-minded opinions of the elite few. Socrates felt that he wasn’t at fault, he felt that he was doing what was in the best interest of Athens, but through his pursuits he corrupted the youth, the very people who were the future of the country. In convincing others that this system was corrupt and wrong he hurt the very country that he was intending to help.
Socrates proposed in his private pursuits for wisdom that an “unexamined life was not worth living.” (Apology, 12). In this way Socrates felt justified in turning away from the belief system, his own right in his mind, as well as corrupting the minds of the youth. His seemingly private matter turned into a public matter when his actions started effecting the well being of the community, his pursuits then became a political matter. The form of government called democracy, Socrates claimed not to agree with its principles. In pursuing wisdom, truth and justice, he was acting in a democratic manner, the same political process that he condemned for its corruptive nature.
Socrates proposed a system where the experts decide the decisions of the country, because they are the only ones who have the knowledge. He defines knowledge, as “knowing that you do not know and ignorance as thinking you know what you really do not know.” (Apology, 4). Then the question is proposed why would a country need “experts”, those who are able to admit that they are wrong, to make just and right decisions for that country? Socrates believed philosophers, such as himself were the only mentally equipped citizens qualified to make decisions that effect the path of this country. The democratic system has been tested and proven, citizens utilize the strengths of the political system. In the democratic manner, a system which Socrates felt he knew enough about to defy, Socrates should have employed these strengths to his own advantage. The majority sentenced him and he had ample opportunity to speak on his behalf, the majority spoke, the majority ruled. Socrates was brought to trial for the charges against him; he was treated as any other citizen of Athens and was allowed this trial in order to prove his guilt or innocence. His guilt was seen true his innocence a lie.
Although Socrates had many supporters, many contradicted his style of thought. One of these men was Aristophanes. He portrayed Socrates correctly, as an ignorant fool. Socrates felt that he was brought to trial based on the offenses he had committed against artisans, politicians and others of various trades. Socrates went to these men, questioning the wisdom he had heard about, his conclusions were that these men were ignorant and that he was knowledgeable. He told these men to their face, mocking their so-called wisdom, interesting the youth in this very same process. Is the act of questioning others unjust or wrong, interrogating them and humiliating them in public, in the midst of the youth and others from the community? Socrates’ claims against the accusations against him were, “But either I do not corrupt them, or I corrupt them unintentionally, so that on either view of the case you lie. If my offense is unintentional, the law has no cognizance of unintentional offenses: you ought to have taken me privately, and warned and admonished me; for if I had been better advised, I should have left off doing what I only did unintentionally – no doubt I should; whereas you hated to converse with me or teach me, but you indicted me in this court, which is a place not of instruction, but of punishment.” (Apology, 10) Socrates was well aware of the offenses he was committing against Athens, but he never questioned his actions until he was brought to court for the accusations against him.
Democracies main goal is the pursuit of justice, but was persecuting Socrates for his beliefs just. He corrupted the youth by drawing them in and then teaching them to think for themselves. He showed them his pursuits, but neglected to teach them in the ways, they were untamed and unknowledgeable and he took advantage of their naive nature.
The death of Socrates is a mark that the political system worked by protecting the citizens. Socrates time after time committed wrongs against the country, knowing full well the effects he had. Socrates questioned the system by corrupting it, by corrupting the youth and turning them away from their God. Socrates would never state that he believed in Gods, but did admit that he did not believe in the Gods recognized by the state. His narrow-minded view of the way a country should be represented caused his death. The actions that he took against the country condemned him, he sought the downfall of the nation and through the judicial process he was brought to justice in the eyes of the community. But were they protecting their country or robbing the world of possibly the wisest man in the world.