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Socrates and Plato - Track 402

Now repeat. What is the accusation? The accusation is Socrates is a wise man that is the first accusation, Socrates is a wise man. Who has theories about the heavens and has investigated everything below the earth. To inquire about the heaven and about the earth is a big fault. Anyway this is the accusation. Here is a wise man who has investigated heaven and earth and can make the weaker argument defeat the stronger, a weaker argument can defeat the stronger such is the capacity and skill of this man.

 It is these people, gentlemen, the disseminators of these rumours, who are my dangerous accusers; because those who hear them suppose that anyone who inquires into such matters must be an atheist.(One who does not believe in God) Besides, there are a great many of these accusers, and they have been accusing me now for a great many years; and what is more, they approached you at the most impressionable age, when some of you were children or adolescents; and they literally won their case by default,(now this expression is very important, to win a case by default. If you go to a judge and make an accusation, accusation is made but at a time the person against whom the accusation is made is not present. I go to the judge and make an accusation against one of you when you are not present. So you are not there to defend so the judge would believe what is told and will give judgement against you. This is called the winning of the argument by default because you are not present when an accusation is made against you. So he says: I was not present when these people were telling you about their children, I was not present at that time they simply told you look, here is Socrates beware of him very dangerous man, very bad man. Why because he inquires into heavens and into the earth and he makes the weaker argument win the stronger such is the skill of this man. Now you heard this argument when I was not present, there were children playing in the compound suddenly somebody comes and says: look! Beware of Socrates the fat man. So he said this is more dangerous because I was not present to defend myself because there was no one to defend me. And the most fantastic thing of all is that it is impossible for me even to know and tell you their names, unless one of them happens to be a playwright.(he said only one person I know from among those people who were arguing against me and that is one playwright, the name of the playwright is Aristophanes. If you look into page number 23 again, number 3. A playwright is the comic poet called Aristophanes. He was Socrates in his comedy ‘The Clouds’, called The Clouds, it was produced in 423 by representing him as a sophist as of the worst type, a quack scientist, as a rhetorician with neither religion nor morals this is how Socrates was portrayed in a drama for the sake of caricature. So he says I know only one of those people who spoke against me and there is only a playwright. Others who were speaking against me I don’t even know their names.)

All these people, who have tried to set you against me out of envy and love of slander (you know the meaning of slander? It’s a legal term, slander means to speak, to speak ill of somebody. A speech which is a criticism in order to make it disreputed. To speak ill of somebody, so that speech which is ill of somebody is called slander. So he says these are the people who were envious of him and who loved slander) – and some too merely passing on what they have been told by others – all these are very difficult to deal with. It is impossible to bring them here for cross–examination; one simply has to conduct one's defence and argue one's case against an invisible opponent, because there is no one to answer. So I ask you to accept my statement that my critics fall into two classes: on the one hand my immediate accusers,(Anytus, Meletus, Lycon) and on the other those earlier ones whom I have mentioned; and you must suppose that I have first to defend myself against the latter.(Latter means the other ones.) After all, you heard them abusing me longer ago and much more violently than these more recent accusers.

Very well then I must begin my defence Gentlemen and I must try in the short time that I have to rid your minds of a false impression which is the work of many years. I shall like this to be the result Gentlemen assuming it to be for your advantage and my own and I shall like to be successful in my defence but I think that it would be difficult and I am quite aware of the nature of my task. However let that turn out to be as God wills, I must obey the law and make my defence. Let us go back to the beginning and consider what the charge is that has made me so unpopular and has encouraged Meletus to draw up this indictment. Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character I must read out the affidavit (affidavit is again a legal term. An affidavit is a statement of affirmation. Whenever you want to argue before the court, you have to state what you want to say, you have to give in writing. So this statement is your affirmation. What you want to say so this statement is called affidavit.) So he says I must read out that affidavit. So to speak as though they were my legal abusers and this is now he reads out.

Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling in that he inquires into things below the earth and the sky and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger and teaches others to follow his example. It runs something like that “you have seen it for yourself in the play by Aristophanes where Socrates goes whirling around proclaiming that he is walking on air. (Actually in the drama Socrates was shown to be hanging in a basket, caricature it is to make people laugh – just to show that Socrates thinks better when he is in the air so how to show he is in the air so he is put in the basket in the upper region. this is to show that Socrates inquires into the heavens above and below the earth and he can think better only when he thinks in the air. so you have seen for yourself the play by Aristophanes that Socrates goes whirling round in the basket he goes whirling around proclaiming that he is walking on air and uttering a great deal of nonsense about things of which I know nothing whatever. I mean no disrespect for such knowledge if anyone really is versed in it I do not want anymore lawsuit brought against me by Meletus, but the fact is gentlemen that I take no interest in it, what is more I call upon the greater part of you as witnesses to my statement and I appeal to all of you who have ever listened to me talking and there are great many to whom this applies to clear your neighbours mind on this point. Tell one another whether any one of you ever heard me discuss such questions briefly or at length and then you will realise that the other popular reports about me are wholly unreliable. The fact is that there is nothing in any of these charges and if you have heard anyone say that I try to educate people and charge a fee there is no truth in that either. I wish that they are here because I think there is a fine thing if a man is qualified to teach as in the case of Godias of Leonchini and Prodicus of Seouse and Ephias of Helles. Each one of these is perfectly capable of going into any city and actually persuading the young men to lead the company of the fellow citizens with any of whom they can associate for nothing and attach themselves to him and pay money for the privilege and be grateful into the bargain. There is another expert too Comparos who I discovered was here on a visit. I happened to meet a man who has paid more in sophists’ fees than all the rest put together. (You can see here Socratic irony throughout. He says in effect) Look, I have been told that I teach people and take money from them. He says it is not true but I must congratulate those people who are to teach, I am not able to teach at all. There are so many people who can teach and they are so good that they go to a city and talk to some young people. These young people are talking to their fellow citizens, they come away from them, go to these teachers and say: please teach me, it’s a privilege if you teach me and I’ll pay you for it. So he says I have great admiration for these people who teach and take lot of money out of them; I have no such capacity. I can’t teach and nobody will pay me either. So if you accuse me that I have been taking money is entirely wrong because I don’t have the capacity at all. Now he gives another example, he says: I happened to meet a man who has paid more in sophist fees then all the rest put together, I mean Calias, the son of Heponicus. So I asked him. He has two sons you see, to Calais I said: if your sons have been coursed or coached you should have no difficulty in finding in engaging a trainer who perfect their natural qualities and this trainer would have been some sort of horse trainer or agriculturist. But seeing that they are human beings whom you intend to get as their.., whom do you want to get as their instructor who is the expert in getting their social qualities. I assume from the fact of your having sons that you must so consider the question. Is there such a person or not? Certainly, said he. Who is he, and where does he come from said I and what does he charge? The answer was Havaneus of Polus, Socrates said it and his fee is twenty guineas, I felt that Elanus was to be congratulated even he was the master of this art and taught it at such a moderate fee. I shall plead myself and give myself airs if I understood these things. But in fact gentlemen I don’t.


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