The Apology By Plato

Plato's Apology helps define the philosophy of Socrates. He wished to change the way in which his contemporaries viewed the world. Socrates believed "the unexamined life is not worth living."

Plato's Apology helps define the philosophy of Socrates. Socrates believed in truth above all else. He wished to change the way in which his contemporaries viewed the world. Socrates believed "the unexamined life is not worth living." He wished man to examine man through the study of man not nature. Plato, a long time student of Socrates, wrote the Apology in defense of his teacher, his teacher's teachings, and as a treatise for a new government based on the philosophies of Socrates.

Two of Socrates' students attempted coups and failed. According to I.F. Stone, in his book Gadfly's Guilt: The Trial of Socrates, "Bloody political coups led by two of his best-known students, Alcibiades and Critias, overthrew democratic government in Athens in 411 and 404 B.C. the threat of a third coup in 401, triggered Socrates' trial, which took place two years later"(Stone, I.F. Qtd. in Elson, John. Books: Gadfly's Guilt: The Trial of Socrates. Time, 01-25-98, p.66). Stone, however, also argues that Socrates was "in reality a coldhearted, elitist, pro-Spartan snob who was openly contemptuous of Athens' Democracy and favored totalitarian rule by a philosopher-king"(Stone, I. F. Qtd. in Elson, John). That is not the intent of the paper. Plato's goal could not have been a Philosophical Monarchy, because the teachings of Socrates require the intellectual participation of many, or a Democracy. Plato's goal is a political philosophical change in the way the future rulers of the government think, not to over throw the government by force.

In defense of his teacher, and to disclose to all the truth of Socrates trial, Plato writes his version of the truth as he heard it. In the Apology Plato writes from the persona of his teacher, in the first person. Plato paints the picture of a man who is falsely accused of the crime of corrupting youth. Socrates, pretending to read an affidavit of one of his accusers, states: "Socrates is a criminal and a busybody, prying into things under the earth and into the heavens, and making the weaker argument strong and teaching these things to others" ("The Apology." Great Dialogues of Plato, Mentor Books, p.425).



The Socrates Plato describes refuses to accept payment for formal instruction, and had no school. Socrates taught by asking questions and inducing debate. The truth can only be discovered by eliminating what is not true. His goal was to teach the younger generation to think clearly, reasonably, philosophically.

In an assault on the hypocrisy of the political-philosophical arguments of the ruling class that ordered the death of his teacher, Plato makes the Senate, look like fools.

He proves, using Meletos one of the Socrates' accusers as a defense witness that Socrates is not an atheist, and then refutes all the current charges against him through open questioning of his accusers. He is then found guilty, and Plato dramatizes the situation in the true Greek literary tradition, making the most of the historical account of Socrates' bravery in committing suicide rather than compromise his beliefs.

If again I say it is the greatest good for a man every day to discuss virtue and the other things, about which you hear me talking and examining myself and everybody else, but life without enquiry is not worth living for a man. (The Great Dialogues of Plato, P. 443)

Plato in seeking the truth, figured a military coup would never succeed in over throwing the government that killed his teacher, and tried to silence his teacher's teachings. The best way to implement a change in the government and influence they way people viewed the world was to write a series of dialogues directed at the youth""even in the time of the Greeks, just as today, the youth always wish to implement change. Writing from Socrates first person point of view allows Plato to gain the most sympathy for Socrates while making a mockery of Socrates' accusers. He demonstrates the ignorance and hypocrisy of the governing senate for all to read and hear. The senate, rulers of the Democracy known for free speech, sentences a man to death for free speech.

By making a big deal of the charge of corrupting the youth, Plato garners more sympathy from the youth. It is as if their leaders are saying they are not smart enough to think for themselves, and to choose between true and false. Plato writes in a style that makes the philosophy more easily acceptable to the youth, by making their parents and the ruling party their enemy. Plato never entered politics. He chose instead to induce change through the teachings of his philosophy at his school the Academy. He did induce some change because "Unlike Socrates, Plato took no part in the civic life of Athens, but he was much more interested in political philosophy, and is said to have been consulted by statesman both at home and abroad" (Plato, "Apology: Introductory Note." Great Works of Literature, 01-01-92). The treatise was successful considering Plato's works are still used to today by many political-philosophers.

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