For your initial post, identify and explain the charges against Socrates at his trial. Then explain whether he should have been found guilty. Explain your reasoning in support of your answer using what you have learned about Socrates
For your initial post, identify and explain the charges against Socrates at his trial. Then explain whether he should have been found guilty. Explain your reasoning in support of your answer using what you have learned about Socrates in the assigned reading. Make sure that you quote and cite the textbook in support of your answer.
Use complete sentences and your best English composition. Your initial post should be at least three paragraphs long.
The trial and execution of Socrates in Athens in 399 B.C.E. puzzles historians. Why, in a society enjoying more freedom and democracy than any the world had ever seen, would a 70-year-old philosopher be put to death for what he was teaching?
The puzzle is all the greater because Socrates had taught–without molestation–all of his adult life. What could Socrates have said or done that prompted a jury of 500 Athenians to send him to his death just a few years before he would have died naturally?
Finding an answer to the mystery of the trial of Socrates is complicated by the fact that the two surviving accounts of the defense (or apology) of Socrates both come from disciples of his, Plato and Xenophon. Historians suspect that Plato and Xenophon, intent on showing their master in a favorable light, failed to present in their accounts the most damning evidence against Socrates.
What appears almost certain is that the decisions to prosecute and ultimately convict Socrates had a lot to do with the turbulent history of Athens in the several years preceding his trial. An examination of that history may not provide final answers, but it does provide important clues.
Socrates, the son of a sculptor (or stonecutter) and a midwife, was a young boy when the rise to power of Pericles brought on the dawning of the “Golden Age of Greece.” As a young man, Socrates saw a fundamental power shift, as Pericles–perhaps history’s first liberal politician–acted on his belief that the masses, and not just property-owning aristocrats, deserved liberty.
Pericles created the people’s courts and used the public treasury to promote the arts. He pushed ahead with an unprecedented building program designed not only to demonstrate the glory that was Greece, but also to ensure full employment and provide opportunities for wealth creation among the non-propertied class.
The rebuilding of the Acropolis and the construction of the Parthenon were the two best known of Pericles’ many ambitious building projects.
Growing to adulthood in this bastion of liberalism and democracy, Socrates somehow developed a set of values and beliefs that would put him at odds with most of his fellow Athenians. Socrates was not a democrat or an egalitarian.
To him, the people should not be self-governing; they were like a herd of sheep that needed the direction of a wise shepherd. He denied that citizens had the basic virtue necessary to nurture a good society, instead equating virtue with a knowledge unattainable by ordinary people.
Striking at the heart of Athenian democracy, he contemptuously criticized the right of every citizen to speak in the Athenian assembly.
Socrates (rubbing chin) and Plato (under tree) from a mosaic from Pompeii
Writing in the third-century C.E. in his The Lives of Eminent Philosophers, Diogenes Laertius reported that Socrates “discussed moral questions in the workshops and the marketplace.”
Often his unpopular views, expressed disdainfully and with an air of condescension, provoked his listeners to anger. Laertius wrote that “men set upon him with their fists or tore his hair out,” but that Socrates “bore all this ill-usage patiently.”
We get one contemporary view of Socrates from playwright Aristophanes. In his play Clouds, first produced in 423 B.C.E., Aristophanes presents Socrates as an eccentric and comic headmaster of a “thinkery” (or “thoughtery”). He is portrayed “stalking the streets” of Athens barefoot, “rolling his eyes” at remarks he found unintelligent, and “gazing up” at the clouds.
Socrates at the time of Clouds must have been perceived more as a harmless town character than as a serious threat to Athenian values and democracy. Socrates himself, apparently, took no offense at his portrayal in Clouds. Plutarch, in his Moralia, quoted Socrates as saying, “When they break a jest upon me in the theatre, I feel as if I were at a big party of good friends.” Plato, in his Symposium, describes Socrates and Aristophanes engaged in friendly conversation.