The Apology is a work written by Plato in response to Socrates’ words during his trial, when he was accused of not acknowledging the state gods, corrupting Athens’ youth, and inventing new deities. Plato was Socrates’ student, and he taught several notable people, including Alexander the Great and Aristotle, who were both inventors in their own right. Plato attempts to persuade the reader that his mentor was mistreated in the book written after Socrates’ death. The book is one of the few that gracefully bridges the divide between literature and philosophy. Besides, the manuscript is not emphasizing any idealistic doctrines but creates the image of the ideal philosopher. The dialogue has acts as the justification and inspiration for theoretical thinkers given that it connects the three main themes of Socratic contemplation that include the elenchus, irony and higher ethical considerations that dominated Socrates’ life.
During the trial, Socrates maintained his cool character and unswervingly defended his way of living as undeniable just. Through the tome, Plato brings the Socrates’ argument that the sole way in which his wisdom overcomes that of other is the recognition of his ignorance. The author is providing the version of what was said during the trial as well as showing the last point of view and defense of his teacher. Besides, the speech brings the final messages and teachings that Socrates left for the current philosophers. In most of part of the speech, Socrates tries to defend his opinion and conducts but does not apologize for the state or court.
Socratic irony refers to the pose of unawareness assumed so that to entice others to make statements that can be questioned or challenged. The method was part of Socrates life which is used by many philosophers in the world as a way of teaching. Moreover, the irony is employed when an individual says something that illustrates the message that contradicts the truthful words. The speech illustrates Socratic irony as the method of teaching which has been an inspiration and motivation of his students and contemporary philosophers. In most sections, Socrates talks in plain conversational manners since he made it clear that he was not familiar with the courts thus he was to articulate in the way he is comfortable which entails directness and honesty. Further, Socrates elucidates that his trait stems from the divination by the prophet of Delphi which stated that he was the wisest man in the world. Recognizing his unawareness about worldly affairs, he concluded that he was wiser than other people despite knowing nothing. For the sake of spreading his peculiar wisdom, the philosopher considered questioning the clever men as his obligation to expose their fake wisdom as lack of knowledge. However, his actions to enlighten people earned anger and hatred from individuals who he embarrassed but much admiration among young people in Athens.
The Delphic oracle that declared Socrates as the wisest man given that he knew nothing could be put forward as the origin of Socratic irony. The prophecy made the philosopher to assume his ironic stances of admitting the lack of knowledge while showing his debaters to be more uninformed. According to him, great perception turns out in a manner that is divergent to the anticipation and resides in the humble admission of unawareness. Socrates does not take his concerns seriously, but the wisdom is overwhelming since it casts all pretension to people know-how into query. During the trial, the philosopher is convinced that the accusers have insulted him thus trying to do away with the sophistry and rhetoric to focus the jury’s attention rather than the facts.
The rhetoricians of his time were known for their articulacy which consisted of the emotional appeal structured to win the approval of the listener instead of making a clear presentation of facts. By claiming that he was not one of the rhetoricians, Socrates made it clear that he did not employ speech for the rationale of swaying the thought of the audience. The first section of the speech illustrates the richness and depth of Socratic irony. Although the logician professes as a plain individual who talks about simple facts, he is using some clever rhetoric in condemning his accusers. It was usual for the rhetorical actions in the law courts which professed one’s lack of know-how in public speaking. By claiming that he was a good speaker, Socrates shows that he was very intelligent. The philosopher is parodying the typical rhetoric which was employed by the accusers by turning it on himself. With the use of rhetorical devices to illustrate the uselessness of the accusation, Socrates devalues the petitioners’ claims. The act of spiraling the opponents’ words against themselves is the type of irony that is used by the thinker skillfully. Through his words, Socrates slips into his regular dialogue tone after distorting is opponents.
Plato inserts the irony in the writing of the speech to illustrate the aspect of Socrates and how a philosopher should be reasoning. Foremost, he differentiates himself from his enemies by suggesting that although the emblematic flourishes were the outcome of the prepared speech his talk would be improvised conveying thoughts as they originate from his mind. The book is not a statement that came directly from Socrates, but it is written by Plato meaning that it was improvised by a student who was well trained. Further, he requests the forgiveness from the jury in case he falls into is normal conversational style. The scenario is ironic because it illustrates how he is familiar with the court’s language. Since the judges can forgive an outsider for speaking in his or her accustomed tongue, Socrates requests their language. “Also, the philosopher asks the judges to pay attention to the content of the speech rather than his conversation style so that to make a realistic judgment on whether it is true or false”. The scene illustrates irony since Socrates attempts to condemn the court and his opponents for not listening to his arguments but restricting him based on their thoughts. On this part, the writer indicates that people should not be judged by others and their views must be viewed more genuinely so those to differentiate between fake thoughts and reality.
Socrates used elenchus as a way of thinking critically which has been emulated by all philosophers in the globe. Elenchus refers the type of argumentative discussion between people founded on answering and asking questions to trigger critical thinking as well as to bring out notions and underlying presumptions. Furthermore, elenchus is the dialectical technique that involves a dialogue where one’s defense on the opinion is questioned. Elenchus was the preferred way of inquiry that Socrates used as it can be illustrated by most of his written works. The method of inquiry entails recognizing what his opponents think he understands and then dissecting the claims. When Socrates proceeds to question Meletus who is the man responsible for bringing him to the trial, the elenchus technique is illustrated. The conversation seems to be directed towards embarrassing Meletus which is a form of challenging the point that has no facts. According to Socrates, virtue, and wisdom are intimately linked, so his hard work was aimed at improving the whole society. “Moreover, philosophers are not supposed to follow the intellectual pursuits because of amusement but due to the engagement into actions of the highest moral value”.
Socrates’ discussions with the assumed wise people of Athens offer a valuable account of the elenchus method. The elenchus starts with the opponent claiming to have an appropriate understanding of some words such as piety, virtue, and justice. However, the philosopher continues to examine the interlocutor regarding his know-how for the sake of trying to get into the essence of the matter. The prosecutor manages to find various cases that exemplify the terms, but he had trouble when saying what is common when applying the words in the real world. Via careful interrogation, the logician shows the accusers that they did not know anything rather than few imprecise and scattered examples.
The rationale for questioning many individuals on various subjects was due to his obligation to the Apollo who was the oracle’s god. Given that the prophet had announced him as the wisest person, he felt that his tasks were to show others that wisdom does not originate from specialized know-how as craftsmen, poets or politicians would emphasize but from the identification of limitations. Philosopher means the lover of astuteness thus Socrates provided the model for the actual logician. Furthermore, he risks death and accepts resentment because his affection for wisdom outweighed any concerns regarding his well-being or safety. Through the use of elenchus, the speech acts as the inspiration of Athens youth and philosophers who have the love for understanding. Based on the questioning technique, the wisdom of a logician consists eventually in precise and clear thinking. The distinction made by Socrates illustrates that the duty of a philosopher is to clarify and question knowledge which has assisted to the emergence of many thinkers in the present world.
Furthermore, elenchus remains valuable even in the modern days because it helps to illustrate the theme of knowledge. Socrates regarded as the wiser person in Athens which confused him because he assumed that knew few things. Through his encounter to identify knowledgeable individual than himself, the philosopher found that he was clever since he understood that he did not know much. Socrates questioned poets, artisans, politicians and different people of Athens. However, he discovered that various specialists such as poets could talk eloquently but they did not know anything about the workings of living. When conversing to the politicians, he noted that they lacked true knowledge and were similar. Regarding the craftsmen, Socrates discovered that they extended their know-how on things they did not understand better. According to Socrates, many individuals think that they know more thus making them ignorant of their ineptitude. The notion of knowledge in the speech helps the readers to question different assumptions in the world so that to come up with the truth.
Based on the speech, the ethical principles made Socrates defend the justice of idealistic life passionately. According to Socrates, his primary duty as a logician was to question individuals regarding their anticipated knowledge as well as to show them that their intellectual spread when they accept their ignorance. Through these aspects, Socrates is assisting citizens to gain understanding and overcome unawareness. Wisdom is associated with goodness while ignorance with evil hence no one conducts bad things knowingly. Based on the principles philosophy, wise people cannot do bad things because malice is the result of unawareness. Living a philosophical life is regarded as the supreme moral task because it aims at bringing benefits to the whole society.
The speech illustrates that a person should not betray his or her philosophy for any purpose regardless of the death sentence. Further, death should not deter a philosopher since no man has the real know-how of death and it is ignorance to assume that one understands what another does not perceive. Logicians are people who pursue wisdom by using the mind and not involving the body. Moreover, Socrates illustrates ethical concerns by respecting the law throughout the trial. Socrates was a good resident who valued what was right and good thus he respected the law despite being sentenced to death. Additionally, Socrates confesses his devotion to enlighten the youths of Athens which is one of the ethic principles that true philosophers should embrace. He tutored for the sake of society rather than his financial gain given that he was given little pay and professed that his poverty spoke for itself.
During the trial, Socrates discussed the possible punishments by suggesting that feast must be thrown for his honor given that he questioned and assisted individuals in correcting their faults. Moreover, he tells the judge that he will not apologize for his deeds given that he believed that people needed his reasoning to live a better life. His dedication can be seen when he indicated that exile was not the best option because he would have the desire and need to educate those of distinct nations which would annoy the indigenous people. Based on Socrates’ devotion to enlighten residents, people are encouraged to do good things to their community despite being challenged.
Conclusively, the Socrates’ speech during his trial has served as the inspiration and validation for philosophers because it connects the three major themes of the Socratic notion that entail irony, ethical concerns, and elenchus. Besides, the work illustrates the life aspects of Socrates and acts like the example of how modern logicians should carry their daily activities. According to the speech, philosophers should love wisdom and must protect their stands for the sake of making the world a better place. Furthermore, being a wiser person involves the understanding of ignorance as well as questioning people know-how so that to help in rectifying the mistakes and misconceptions. Also, we should not be afraid or intimidated as long we are doing the right thing to the society.
Plato. The Apology. New York: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016.
Plato. The Last Days of Socrates: Euthyphro ; The Apology ; Crito ; Phaedo – The Original Classic Edition. Dayboro: Emereo Pub., 2012.
Plato, and F. J Church. The Trial and Death of Socrates: Being the Euthyphron, Apology, Crito, and Phaedo of Plato. London: Forgotten Books, 2015.