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Essay Socrates

At the elderly age of seventy, Socrates found himself fighting against an
indictment of impiety. He was unsuccessful at trial in the year 399 B.C. The
charges were corrupting the youth of Athens, not believing in the traditional
gods in whom the city believed, and finally, that he believed in other new
divinities. In Platos Apology, Socrates defends himself against these
charges. He claims that the jurors opinions are biased because they had
probably all seen Aristophanes comedy The Clouds. The Socrates portrayed in
Aristophanes Clouds is an altogether different character than that of the
Apology. The two different impressions of Socrates lead to quite opposite
opinions with regard to his guilt. In The Clouds, Socrates actions provide
evidence of his guilt on all three charges. However, in the Apology, Socrates is
fairly convincing in defending his innocence on the first two charges, but falls
short on the third charge. Socrates, in The Clouds, is portrayed as an idiot who
thinks hes walking on air and is interested primarily in gnats rumps. He
is delineated as a natural philosopher/sophist. He is hired to teach
Pheidippides to make the “worse argument”, the argument that is really
incorrect and unjust the “better”to his fathers creditors so that
Strepsiades, Pheidippides father, will not have to pay his debts. While this
in itself is corrupt, it was that he changed Pheidippides from the time he
entered Socrates “Thinkery” into a corrupt scoundrel, completely devoid
of morality that was even more deplorable. At the beginning, Pheidippides is a
respectful son who loves his father, but after “graduating” from the
Thinkery he is beating his father with a stick (lines 1321-1333). Socrates was
so successful in corrupting Pheidippides that he even attempts to justify his
behavior using rhetorical techniques learned from Socrates. In response to his
father questioning his actions he claims “Yes by God; whats more, Ill
prove its right to do so…with unbeatable arguments.” He has obviously
been extremely corrupted if he could talk in this manner to his father. Not
believing in the traditional gods, which is the second charge fits the
Aristophanic Socrates perfectly. Socrates explicitly frowns upon the gods when
he exclaims, “what do you mean, the gods? In the first place, gods
arent legal tender here” (lines 247-248). Later, when explaining the
elements to Strepsiades, Socrates exclaims “Zeus you say? Dont kid me!
Theres no Zeus at all” (lines 368-369). He is undoubtedly saying that he
does not believe in the traditional gods. The claim that Socrates believed in
new divinities, the third charge, is clearly seen when he “enter (s) into
communion with the clouds, who are our deities” (lines 253-254). Socrates
proves methodically how it could not be Zeus who causes phenomena such as rain,
thunder, and lightening, but rather is merely the work of the Clouds. For, if it
were indeed the work of Zeus, then he would bring rain in absence of any clouds.

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The fact that the clouds are always present during precipitation attests to
their power as opposed to that of Zeus. As the Clouds were not traditional gods,
Socrates guilt on this charge is rather evident. Even as Socrates is
presented as a blabbering fool, full of hubris, in the Clouds, an entirely
different perspective on this alleged sophist is given to us in the Apology.


Throughout Platos works including the Clouds, Socrates himself claims not to
have any wisdom (he did not have any knowledge of arete) so he could not
possibly have been a sophist. In terms of the charges he seems to absolve
himself of the first two charges of corrupting the youth of Athens, and not
believing in the traditional gods; though he is less convincing in his claim
that he has no allegiance to other gods. Socrates claims he could not possibly
be guilty of the first charge for several reasons. He feels the charge arises
out of anger towards him for when he applies his “Socratic method” while
questioning others beliefs, it often has the effect of leaving them feeling
embarrassed and ridiculed. However, Socrates maintains that his objective is
merely to ascertain the ultimate truths, a noble act for sure. In fact, Socrates
believes that the pursuit of truth is the most important work of man. Besides,
the youth following is not as a result of recruitment but rather “of their own
free will” (23cl-2). And on the actual charge of corrupting the youth, when
prodded by him to give an example of these acts, none is forthcoming. They
present it in a general sense lacking any specific incidence. Furthermore, it is
illogical for one to willingly corrupt ones companions, for “if I make one
of my associates wicked I run the risk of being harmed by him so that I do such
a great evil deliberately, as you say?” (25e 3-5). Socrates further argues
that if he truly did corrupt the youth, it may explain why his “students”
did not accuse him of such, but it wouldnt account for the absence of inquiry
from their distraught families. If those closely involved have not shown any
concern, this is further evidence of his innocence (33 d1-34 e3). Perhaps, most
telling is that Socrates was willing to sacrifice his life for his convictions
instead of pleading for clemency by detracting from his views. This shows the
high character of Socrates who holds steadfast to his beliefs under even the
most trying of circumstances. The second charge of not believing in the
traditional gods seems to be a trumped up charge as well. Socrates tells of his
mission to discern the enigmatic statement that Chairephon, his friend, had
received from the oracle at Delphi, stating that he is wisest among men
(20e6-22e5). The temple at Delphi was a shrine to Apollo, a traditional god. He
was impoverished and hated because of it. If Socrates did not believe in the
traditional gods, he would not have devoted his life to realize the ultimate
truths using his unsurpassed wisdom, which would thereby confirm the claim of
the oracle at Delphi. Believing in new divinities, though, the third charge, is
perhaps legitimate. Socrates claims to get a divine sign every once in a while
and says “whenever it speaks it turns me away from something I am about to do,
but it never encourages me to do anything” (31d2-3). This goes against the
prevailing notion that the gods control the behavior of mortals like puppeteers
as was often espoused in Greek lore. But rather, that gods are benevolent
towards their human subjects. Thus, Socrates seems to have conjured up a new
kind of divinity, thereby making him guilty of Meletus third charge. Although
neither depiction of Socrates is entirely accurate, they each illustrate some
guilt on Socrates part. The Aristophanic Socrates is completely guilty while
the Platonic Socrates is only guilty on one account. In both works, he probably
did not deserve to be condemned to death but more so in Platos work it seems
that Socrates has wrongfully been put to death. For an argument can be made that
not only was Socrates not guilty of the charges, (at least most of them), but
that his pursuit of morality and his view of the gods was invaluable to the
society at large.

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Essay Socrates
Artscolumbia
Artscolumbia
At the elderly age of seventy, Socrates found himself fighting against an
indictment of impiety. He was unsuccessful at trial in the year 399 B.C. The
charges were corrupting the youth of Athens, not believing in the traditional
gods in whom the city believed, and finally, that he believed in other new
divinities. In Platos Apology, Socrates defends himself against these
charges. He claims that the jurors opinions are biased because they had
probably all seen Aristophanes co
2018-12-27 04:01:06
Essay Socrates
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