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Socrates and Plato - Track 701

This to your satisfaction there are two things, now he says I will prove. First that he professes concern and keen anxiety in matters in which he never had the slightest interest.

He says that Meletus has no interest in youths first of all he does not know the young people of Athens. Since he does not know the young people how would he know whether I am corrupting them or not. He has never had any interest in whether they are corrupt or not. It is only to argue against me, it is to prove that I am guilty that he brings a false charge against me and shows that he has a great interest in the young people and therefore he is very concerned about whether they are corrupted or not. And since he wants to prove that I am guilty he wants to say that I am corrupting them. Whereas the real fact that is Mr. Meletus does not know the young people, he has no company of the young people, he does not know what they are doing, what they should be doing, he has never come into any kind of contact so this is one point that he wants to prove. So let us see how Socrates goes about it.

Come now, Meletus, (remember now that this is a court in the open ground and Meletus is sitting as an accuser, Anytus is another one, Lycon is the third one, these are the main accusers in this case and then there are a lot of people of Athens, young, old and others. So now Socrates calls upon Meletus and says: alright Meletus, come on) tell me this. You regard it as supremely important, do you not, that our young people should be exposed to the best possible influence? (Meletus answers and says) "I do." Very well, then; tell these gentlemen who it is that influences the young for the better. Obviously you must know, if you are so much interested. You have discovered the vicious influence, as you say, in myself, and you are now prosecuting me before these gentlemen; speak up and inform them who it is that has a good influence upon the young. (Meletus does not answer the question. so he says:) you see Meletus, that you are tongue–tied and cannot answer. Do you not feel that this is discreditable, and a sufficient proof in itself of what I said, that you have no interest in the subject? Tell me, my friend, who is it that makes the young good? (Now Meletus answers the question) "The laws."  Then Socrates says: That is not what I mean, my dear sir; I am asking you to name the person whose first business it is to know the laws. (Then Meletus answers)"These gentlemen here, Socrates, the members of the jury." (The jury according to Meletus consists of the people who are good influence on the young people. So Socrates asks the question) Do you mean, Meletus, that they have the ability to educate the young, and to make them better? (Meletus says) "Certainly." (Then Socrates says) Does this apply to all jurymen, or only to some? "To all of them." (says Meletus. Then Socrates says) Excellent! a generous supply of benefactors. (I am the only person all of them are very good people, they are making good influence upon the people, all of them. Excellent, a generous supply of benefactors.) Well, then, do these spectators who are present in court have an improving influence, or not? (Apart from jury there are so many people here they are also having a good influence on the young people? Meletus says) "Yes, they do." (And Socrates goes forward and he says) And what about the members of the Council? (The answer is)"Yes, the Councillors too."(So Socrates says) But surely, Meletus, the members of the Assembly do not corrupt the young? (they are also benefactors, no?) Or do all of them too exert an improving influence? (Answer is)"Yes, they do."(So now Socrates then concludes) Then it would seem that the whole population of Athens has a refining effect upon the young, except myself; and I alone demoralise them. Is that your meaning? (Meletus says)"Most emphatically, yes." (Now Socrates says) This is certainly a most unfortunate quality that you have detected in me. Well, let me put another question to you. (Now you see the argument, he says) let me put another question to you. Take the case of horses; (you’ll see here what I told you earlier analogical argument, here are young men compare them with horses. Take a group of horses. Now if you want horses to be trained better or well, you find good trainers, isn’t it? Just as you need good trainers for the young people, similarly you need good trainers for the horses. So he says if you want trainers for your horses how many trainers you will find in a given city, all people or only a few. If you find that you cannot have all people as trainers then do you think as far as human beings are concerned there will be many more trainers than for horses, it’s ridiculous. So he says your whole argument is ridiculous to say that all the people of Athens are good benefactors, I am only one person who make an evil influence on them. So this is the way in which he showed the ridicule in the matter, to show that all are benefactors, I am the only person who is creating a bad influence on the people. So this is analogical argument. So let us read that argument.) Take the case of horses; do you believe that those who improve them make up the whole of mankind, and that there is only one person who has a bad effect on them? Or is the truth just the opposite, that the ability to improve them belongs to one person or to very few persons, who are horse–trainers, whereas most people, if they have to do with horses and make use of them, do them harm? Is not this the case, Meletus, both with horses and with all other animals? Of course it is, whether you and Anytus deny it or not. It would be a singular dispensation of fortune for our young people if there is only one person who corrupts them, while all the rest have a beneficial effect. But I need say no more; there is ample proof, Meletus, that you have never bothered your head about the young; and you make it perfectly clear that you have never taken the slightest interest in the cause for the sake of which you are now indicting me.

 Alright, this is the argument. We shall repeat the argument. The basic accusation is Socrates is corrupting the minds of young people. Now Socrates is dealing with this argument and puts a question: who is it that really is the benefactor of the young people. See how he argues the whole argument. He doesn’t prove I am not guilty, he says you tell me who are the good people? I am bad man, alright, granted that I am a bad man, I am creating a bad influence upon the young people. Tell me who are the benefactors? So first Meletus says the members of the jury, they are the good people and they are creating good influence upon the young people. So he says: alright, what about the other people who are here all gathered they are all very good people. Fine, what about the members of the council? They are also very good people, what about most of the assembly, very good people. So the conclusion that is derived from this argument is that all the people in Athens are good, they are benefactors only one person is an evil person. So alright this is your conclusion so now let us take horses, analogical argument. Is it a fact that if you want to train horses will you really find all the people to be good horse trainers and only one to be bad trainer, answer is obviously – no. You can find very few people who can train horses well. If that is true than your whole account is false because according to your account all people are good trainers only one is evil. So that is how the argument of Meletus falls. 

Here is another point. (Socrates continues) Tell me seriously, Meletus, is it better to live in a good or in a bad community? (You see the way in which he is raising the question he wants to prove that he is not guilty. He doesn’t say I am guilty or not guilty, he raises a question the answer of which will lead to the conclusion that he is not guilty.) Tell me seriously, Meletus, is it better to live in a good or in a bad community? Answer my question, like a good fellow; there is nothing difficult about it. Is it not true that wicked people have a bad effect upon those with whom they are in the closest contact, and that good people have a good effect?(Very easy to answer the question, so Meletus says) "Quite true."(Then Socrates says) Is there anyone who prefers to be harmed rather than benefited by his associates? Answer me, my good man; the law commands you to answer. Is there anyone who prefers to be harmed? (Meletus says) "Of course not." Well, then, when you summon me before this court for corrupting the young and making their characters worse, do you mean that I do so intentionally or unintentionally? (Meletus says) "I mean intentionally." (Then Socrates says) Why, Meletus are you at your age so much wiser than I at mine? (This is way of witty questioning) Why, Meletus are you at your age so much wiser than I at mine? You have discovered that bad people always have a bad effect, and good people a good effect, upon their nearest neighbours; am I so hopelessly ignorant as not even to realise that by spoiling the character of one of my companions I shall run the risk of getting some harm from him? (If I corrupt somebody and then I live with him then I’ll also become corrupted. Do you think I am so bad as that knowingly I will become victim of my own bad teaching, I’ll still teach bad things) because nothing else would make me commit this grave offence intentionally. No, I do not believe it, Meletus, and I do not suppose that anyone else does. Either I have not a bad influence, or it is unintentional; so that in either case your accusation is false. And if I unintentionally have a bad influence, (unintentionally, then in either case your accusation is false and if I unintentionally have a bad influence) the correct procedure in cases of such involuntary misdemeanours is not to summon the culprit before this court, but to take him aside privately for instruction and reproof; because obviously if my eyes are opened, I shall stop doing what I do not intend to do. But you deliberately avoided my company in the past and refused to enlighten me, and now you bring me before this court, which is the place appointed for those who need punishment, not for those who need enlightenment.

(Let us revise this argument. I am doing this because I want you to be acquainted with the way of arguing, a philosophical means of arguing a case. So let us repeat. Is it better to live in a good or in a bad community? The answer is obvious; we should live in a good community. Then he says: Is it not true that wicked people have a bad effect upon those with whom they are in the closest contact. Answer is "yes of course" Then he says: do you think anyone would voluntarily like to be affected badly, not at all. If so, if I corrupt a young person then I shall be obliged to live with a corrupt person and therefore I will become bad myself and that is not good for me, so intentionally do you think I will be corrupting anybody or I should be corrupting anybody intentionally. Certainly not, so if I am not intentionally corrupting anybody then the right course for you is to call me in private, give me instructions and say look! You are doing something wrong, you do not know that you are intentionally doing it but actually speaking it is corrupting yourself, therefore avoid it. So he said that if you want me to be really educated rightly, if you are a very good friend of mine then don’t bring me before the court. Come to me privately, explain to me that I am doing something wrong and explain to me that by doing wrong to some other person I am doing wrong to myself, therefore you should not punish me but only enlighten me. Alright this argument is clear.

It is quite clear by now, gentlemen, that Meletus, as I said before, has never shown any degree of interest in this subject. However, I invite you to tell us, Meletus, in what sense you make out that I corrupt the minds of the young.


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