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15 Plato Essay

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427-348/47 BCE
An introduction

Socrates and Plato
• Socrates himself (see pp. 7-8) wrote
nothing; we know what we do about him
mainly from the writings of his pupil
Plato, a philosophical and literary genius
of the first rank.
• It is very difficult to distinguish between
what Socrates actually said and what
Plato put into his mouth, but there is
general agreement that the Apology,
which Plato wrote as a representation of
what Socrates said at his trial, is the
clearest picture we have of the historical

• He is on trial for
impiety and
“corrupting the
• He deals with these
charges, but he also
takes the
opportunity to
present a defense
and explanation of
the mission to
which his life has
been devoted.

Socrates on
Trial Apology

A defiant speech
• The Apology is a defiant speech;
Socrates rides roughshod over legal
forms and seems to neglect no
opportunity of outraging his listeners.
• But this defiance is not stupidity (as he
hints himself, he could, if he had
wished, have made a speech to please
the court), nor is it a deliberate courting
of martyrdom.

No compromise
• It is the only course possible for him in
the circumstances if he is not to betray
his life’s work, for Socrates knows as
well as his accusers that what the
Athenians really want is to silence him
without having to take his life.
• What Socrates is making clear is that
there is no such easy way out; he will
have no part of any compromise that
would restrict his freedom of speech or
undermine his moral position.

the improvement of the soul
• The speech is a sample of what the
Athenians will have to put up with if they
allow him to live; he will continue to be the
gadfly that stings the sluggish horse.
• He will go on persuading them not to be
concerned for their persons or their
property but fir...

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