The focus of the investigation presented queries; to what extent was Socrates’s death justified due to his involvement in the radical democracy of Ancient Greece? Thus, “Socrates against Athens,” written by Colaiaco and analytically interpreted by Smith and “Socrates,” written and edited by a series of editors and historians are two precise selects, to benefit the value and precision of the investigation. Insight, proof and examination have been professionally delivered with objective reasoning through detailed and differentiating perspectives of the investigation. Therefore, both sources serve great value and purpose to the investigation as it will help determine the extent of justification of Socrates’s death.
Socrates till this day, without a doubt has been one of the most influential and idolized western philosophers of our time. He is credited with laying the fundamentals of modern Western philosophy as well as creating Socratic irony and the Socratic method (elenchus. ) Socrates is also renowned for being the mentor of his most famous student Plato and Xenophon (a great philosopher and thinker in his own rights.) Plato would mentor Aristotle who then continued Socrates’s legacy by tutoring Alexander the Great (l. 356-323 BCE, ) utilizing the methods and philosophy that had been passed down by Plato. Socrates can debatably be seen as extraordinary through his involvement and contribution by sharing his philosophy in Athens, yet there lies a great force of controversy during his trial that would ultimately determine his death. Socrates was charged for refusing to recognise the gods acknowledged by the state , creating his own deities, and corrupting the youth. Because of these two massive forces against and in favour of Socrates, both perspectives must be investigated to ultimately determine if Socrates death was justified.
The first section of investigation will look into Socrates involvement in the radical democracy of Athens and how he was charged for a series of offences. The Trial of Socrates (399 BC,) was held to determine the Socrates’s guilt of two charges: impiety against the pantheon of Athens, and corruption of the youth of the city-state. The three accusers were Meletus, a poet who initiated the prosecution against Socrates, Anytus, a powerful middle-class politician and Lycon, an orator . Socrates during his defense entered into an exchange with Meletus and succeeded in making him appear rather dim-witted. Socrates trapped Meletus into saying ‘I say that you do not believe in any gods at all,’ which exposed Meletus’s nonsensical accusation of Socrates of creating his own deities . This drops the charges against Socrates of committing impiety and of creating his own deities because during the trial, Socrates’s only positive defence was that he was a pious man . At the same time, Meletus, Anytus and Lycon failed to provide any motives of Socrates into corrupting the youth . The truth behind the Trial of Socrates was based on a retaliation by the accusers through charging Socrates with fake accusations. The reason Meletus initially brought up the accusations were due to his religious fanaticism and anger over Socrates’s association with the Thirty Tyrants . Meletus was also upset with the low opinion of Socrates for poets. Lycon too, was upset of Socrates’s low opinion of orators. Socrates accused poets and orators of flattery and said that they move only women, children, and slaves. Anytus played a leading role into overthrowing the Thirty Tyrants, thus his support for the absurd accusations made by Meletus were supported as he sought to rid all Thirty Tyrant members and associates. Socrates also had a relationship with the son of Anytus. It is not known whether the relationship was sexual, but Socrates had indeed slept with some of his younger students. Anytus disapproved of his son’s relationship with Socrates and was most displeased, when Socrates urged his son to not continue in the servile occupation that his father had provided. These were the grudges that were held behind the scene during the trial . Socrates had been a very influential figure and wise philosopher, but his low opinion of an orator and poet to which he believed only moved women, children, and slaves denies a part of himself as a philosopher. Socrates is supposedly a philosopher with the moral of the Western ethical traditions of thought, but his sexist comments and unprofessionalism through having a multitude of relationships with his students contradict his teachings and role as an influential philosopher. Thus, Socrates involvement in the radical democracy of Athens, had led him to his own death due to his hypocritical believes as a philosopher which would ultimately have people accuse him of the fake charges.
The second section of the investigation will look further in Socrates positive involvement in the radical democracy of ancient Greece. The radical democracy of Athens had citizens payed by the state to participate in public affairs . Regardless of social status and wealth, all men were to be equal and participated in these affairs to create a democracy. Socrates alone, would begin and influence many to amplify philosophy and thinking. Socrates believed that philosophy should achieve practical results for the greater well-being of society. He attempted to establish an ethical system based on human reason rather than theological doctrine and pointed out that human choice was motivated by the desire for happiness. He believed that ultimate wisdom came from knowing oneself, so the more a person knew, the greater his or her ability to reason and make choices that will bring true happiness . Socrates had a level of leadership and influential presence through his words and brilliant linguistics, as well as insightful philosophy that seized great wisdom and understanding of the world. He would mentor Plato, Xenophon and many other great philosophers to practice the wisdom that he had shared. Aristotle who was mentored by Plato, would later write one of his most famous books “Rhetoric .” Socrates, besides proving to be a very philosophical and positively influential figure, had helped many other philosophers continue on their own journey that would further contribute to the early stages of Western philosophy. One of Socrates’s greatest contribution in the radical democracy of Athens was creating the Socratic Method, a form of cooperative argumentative dialogue between individuals, based on asking questions over and over again to stimulate critical thinking, reasoning, and logic . This method of asking questions humbles the student so that they are willing to learn after they are unable to answer any more questions . Socrates sought to expose contradictions in the students’ thoughts and ideas to then guide them to a solid and tenable conclusion through exploring every situation possible . Within the Socratic Method was another form of philosophical intellectualism called Socratic Irony. This thought explains of a person pretending to be ignorant, who is then willing to learn from others. Through listening, the person utilizing the Socratic Irony would ask adroit questions which then exposes the weaknesses in the other person’s argument . As astonishing as Socrates was, he never believed his pupils were his students, but rather a friend. Socrates himself was a humble man and knew he could learn from others smarter than himself. He would often explore to find an individual smarter than him a particular area and utilize his Socratic Method to learn even more.
In conclusion, although Socrates had committed a few contradictory actions that denied himself as a philosopher, such as sleeping with his students and harbouring a low opinion of specific professions and gender, it is important to recognise that Socrates sexism was considered ordinary at his time. The definition of equality had changed throughout time and a few opposing actions committed by Socrates such as believing that poetry is only for children, women and slaves, this does not defy him as a great philosopher. Socrates had methodically created his influential teaching techniques and was a humble learner who viewed other philosophers and pupils as a friend an often as someone smarter than himself. He had influenced many other philosophers and crafted the foundations of modern Western philosophy, therefore to no extent, was Socrates’s death justified due to his involvement in the radical democracy of Ancient Greece.
- University of Notre Dame. Socrates against Athens: Philosophy on Trial // Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // University of Notre Dame. 12 Feb. 2002, https://ndpr.nd.edu/news/socrates-against-athens-philosophy-on-trial/.
- History.com Editors. “Socrates.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 9 Nov. 2009, https://www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/socrates.