28 Aralık 2010 Salı

Unjust Trial of Socrates

Apology is a great work that takes part in Plato’s famous “Five Dialogues”. The word “apology” is a transliteration of the Greek apologia which means “defense”. In Apology, Plato’s charismatic tutor Socrates defends himself against the charges. This paper aims to convince the readers that Socrates’ defense was good enough to persuade the jurors, and thus the judgment was unwarranted. In Apology, Socrates tries to refute the accusations of both old accusers and the new ones. He defends himself against the charges of being student of all things in the sky and below the earth, corrupting the youth and not believing the Gods. Therefore, Socrates’ defense relies on three main points; he is not a sophist or physicist, he did not corrupt the youth neither willingly nor unwillingly and also he believes in Gods. In this essay, I will explain Socrates’ ways to overcome this situation; his defense against the accusations step by step. Then, I will try to show that his ways and opinions to overcome this situation are reasonable. Lastly, I will argue that the judgment of the jury was unjust.
Firstly, Socrates tries to defend himself against the old accusers who charge him for being a sophist and also a physicist. The first accusation (p. 24)[1] is based on the argument that Socrates studies things in the sky and below earth and he makes the worse argument stronger. Socrates perceives these charges as being a sophist and physicist. Therefore, he first defines the sophists, according to him, if people wants learn from sophists, they have to pay them a fee. However, Socrates declares that he does not earn money and he also says that if he were earning money from teaching, he would be rich, however, he is not. Moreover, he says that he does not have the knowledge to teach. Although Socrates is wiser than the sophists, he says that he does not have the knowledge; he is sarcastic in his expression. Personally I believe that, Socrates’ defense about not being a sophist was good enough to convince the jurors. Since, he would simply prove that he is poor and he does not earn money, then he would prove that he is not a sophist. As he states, sophists at those years were working for a fee to raise young people. But Socrates was not asking for any fee (p. 25) and what he does was just questioning the world for personal pleasure. Although Socrates is not a sophist he can still teach these things to the youth. He claims that his young followers were following him because of their own interests rather than an economical relationship[2]. Still it can be said that it is called ‘teaching’. However, the thing that young followers of Socrates were doing is their own choice, Socrates does not teach them anything but still give them permission to listen him. If I were a jury member, I would agree with Socrates that he does not teach things to youth as a sophist. If he wanted to teach; he would ask questions and give homework to them, also he would try to impose things. Therefore, Socrates cannot be claimed to be a sophist since what he does is not a profession but a personal choice.
Secondly, Socrates tries to defend himself against the new accusers’ accusations. Meletus blames Socrates for corrupting the youth deliberately. To explain and demystify this accusation Socrates argues with him. Socrates says that there would be three options; either he did it willingly or unwillingly or he did not even do it. To prove that he would not do it willingly he questions Meletus and argues that he could not have corrupted the youth since corrupt people would also harm himself[3]. At this point I certainly accredit the idea of Socrates that nobody wants to be harmed, but this expression cannot impress the jurors. Also, even though people know they are going to be harmed, they could approve and accept this for various reasons. If I were Socrates, I would try to convince the jurors that I do not corrupt the youth because I do not teach anything to them. In addition to this, Socrates could have called for a witness. Although his reason was inefficient, it would start the jurors to think about the innocence of Socrates. Afterwards, Socrates tries to convince the jurors that he could not have corrupted the youth unwillingly. Here his argument is strong and based on a legal principle that he could not be charged for unwilling deeds[4]. If Socrates was corrupting the youth unwillingly, Meletus would not bring him to the court. Socrates’ second argument is very concrete and strong but he still could have made a better defense for the first part of the accusation since he does not explain clearly why a person cannot willingly do harm to himself.
Lastly, Socrates replies the new accusers’ second allegation: not believing in the Gods. Socrates questions Meletus and circumvents him. Meletus in his first expression says that, Socrates believes in the Gods that city does not recognize. Socrates asks questions to Meletus and shows that he believes in spiritual things, which means that he could not have rejected the Gods[5]. Therefore, Meletus, in his first expression authenticate that Socrates believes in new Gods that city does not believe. However, in his later expressions he says that Socrates does not believe in Gods at all. Socrates flummoxes Meletus’ mind. The accusation’s subject is later changed by Meletus but the accusation certainly lost its plausibility. If I were a jury member, I would not trust Meletus’ accusation anymore since he changes his opinion frequently. The principle of “pacta sunt servanda” is consequential in law. Lawyers may change their statement; however, it loses its persuasiveness. This was what Socrates does; he deceived Meletus and forced him to change his expression. Moreover, it is difficult for Meletus to controvert that Socrates does believe in Gods since Meletus adduces that Socrates believes in spiritual things, he accepts that Socrates believes in Gods. Personally, I think that Socrates defense was tricky; he wanted jurors to show that Meletus was lying. If I were a jury member, I would ignore Meletus’ expression because he does not even know what his charge is. Moreover, believing in God is subjective and it is practically impossible to prove it. Therefore, the jurors should choose between Socrates’ words and Meletus’ lies.
In the end of Apology, the jurors first give their verdict as guilty for Socrates. Then they voted and sentenced Socrates to death (p. 41). At first it seems unjust that the jurors sentenced Socrates to death. However, it is easy to understand that the reason of that judgment was again Socrates’ expressions. Before the decision, Socrates talks about the death and he declares that “I shall never fear or avoid things of which I do not know” (p. 33). Therefore, he irritated the jurors. Moreover, Socrates gibes the jurors; he compares himself to Olympian victors[6]. These expressions shaped the jurors ideas. If I were a jury member, I would be irritated by Socrates and this could bias my decision. I believe that Socrates defense was devastating. However, the way of doing his defense was false. The jurors are humans, and humans can be affected by the things that are happening around. Therefore, if Socrates was not irritating people and did not talk sarcastically, he would convince the jurors that he is innocent. I believe that the jurors also knew that he was innocent. However, they did not like the way that Socrates acts and despise them by talking sarcastically. Although Socrates defense was good and impressive, he was sentenced to death because of his attitudes.
In conclusion, Socrates defended himself against the accusation of being a sophist, corrupting the youth and not believing in God. His defense was reasonable and impressive; however because of his attitudes against the jurors and due to his sophistication and priggery the jurors adjudicate against him and sentenced him to death. Nevertheless, it is unjust to give the decision through the attitudes of Socrates; they had to reck the ideas and expressions of Socrates. In addition to this, Socrates forgot the human factor; he had to think that his attitudes would impress the jurors, but he did not. Therefore, he was sentenced to death unjustly. In my opinion, the father of philosophy was sentenced to death because of his priggery but we should also think that Socrates could have tried to impress his followers and gave them an important lesson about Athenian so-called “democracy” by this decision.
- Plato, “Five Dialogues”, 2002, Hackett Publishing Company

[1] “…Socrates is guilty of wrongdoing in that he busies himself studying things in the sky and below the earth; he makes the worse into the stronger argument, and he teaches these same things to others” (p. 24).
[2] “Furthermore, the young men who follow me around of their own free will, those who have most leisure, the sons of the very rich, take pleasure in hearing people questioned; they themselves often imitate me and try to question others” (p. 28).
[3] “… I have reached such a pitch of ignorance that I do not realize this, namely that 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…” (p. 30).
[4] “…Now if I corrupt them unwillingly, the law does not require you to bring people to curt for such unwilling wrongdoings…” (p. 30).
[5] “… it is obvious from your deposition that it is by teaching them not to believe in the gods in whom the city believes but in other new spiritual things? Is this not what you say I teach and so corrupt them? - That is most certainly what I do say” (p. 30).
[6] “… The Olympian victor makes you think yourself happy; I make you be happy. Besides, he does not need food, but I do. So if I must make a just assessment of what I deserve, I assess it as this: free meals in the Prytaneum” (p. 40).
Ozan Örmeci

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Özgür dedi ki...

Hocam lütfen artık çıkın şu ''history of political thought'dan'' biz sizden daha reel politik yazılar bekliyoruz.

Ozan Örmeci Makaleleri (Ozan Örmeci Articles) dedi ki...

Eyvallah da ihtiyacı olan öğrenciler oluyor Özgür Bey. Onlar da tamtersine kolay anlaşılabilir political thought yazıları istiyorlar. Zaman zaman güncel yazılar da yazıyorum merak etmeyin. Selamlar.