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Socrates and Plato - Track 801

He knows that he doesn’t know and that is the wisdom. So I came to this conclusion and I went spreading this idea ‘be humble, don’t believe that you know, when you do not know as a result so many people began to hate Socrates, very angry with Socrates and they begin to tell their children: Don’t go near Socrates, he is meddling, he inquires into the earth and above the sky and he can show you a false argument to be true argument, or a weaker argument to be stronger argument. This is the kind of poison that began to pour in the children’s minds and the children believed it. Now they have become big men and they believe in this acquisition, not only that this is only one series of events but he says I still continue to teach people and when I teach people my method of argument is such that it reveals the falsehood of the people. I ask questions and they answer and I show them: look their answers are pretentious, they pretend to have knowledge but they don’t have knowledge and when I argue in the market place there are so many young people around me and they feel it very amusing; here is Socrates challenging this man and proving that he is wrong and young people are very much amused. So these young people also begin to challenge other young people in the same way this is what is happening. I am doing my duty because I want to teach people to be humble but young people around they also begin to take the same kind of a practice which is also good because they also want to get rid of pretensions of the people. As a result the number of enemies has become very great, it is continuing all the time, more and more enemies are created so this is his argument. And he says: now you call anybody among this whole audience and ask them if this is not true? Then there is a third argument.  

This practice of weaker to be shown as stronger, there is an argument: he can show the weaker argument to be stronger or weaker argument to defeat the stronger argument. He said: look, as a matter of fact there are people who have profession. It’s a fact that in Athens there are some people who have taken as a profession and he gives examples of these people. If you read his argument you’ll find some examples. So there are people who teach students, they claim to be teachers of human beings (it’s a very difficult task to be a teacher and then to be teacher of a human being is a very difficult task) but there are people in Athens who believe that they are teachers and they are teachers of human beings and they have mesmerised many people to such an extent that many parents send their children to them saying: please teach my children; and give enormous amount of money, they charge fees so there are people in Athens like that, it is true. And I will give examples of these people but I tell you frankly that I am not one of them. I don’t charge anybody any fee at all, it’s a fact that I live in poverty that’s the proof. If I were to charge fees for my teaching I would have been a very rich man now but I am not a rich man. It is these people who believe that they can teach but as I know I cannot teach anybody, I am only arguing, I am only questioning, I don’t teach anybody. I am only questioning so that the pretentions of the people is washed out, that’s all, this the third set of the argument.

This is how he thinks that he has now nothing more to say, I don’t know whether he proved his point or not but this is the utmost that he could argue. Now you can think out whether he could argue better or not? This book Apology is read by so many people that the reason is that the accusation is very difficult to refute and the best argument that he could put forward is put forward here and people when they think as how to meet this kind of acquisition they find nothing better could have been said, successful or not successful, ultimately you will be defeated because people will not be convinced by these arguments. But could there have been a better argument than what he argued? And people who read this dialogue they feel that Socrates did his best, he spoke all that he could have said in the best possible manner but this is the substance of his argument. 

The first argument is − he does not know the accusers because they are not there they have put the wrong idea in the minds of the children and then they will all say that the acquisition is correct because they have heard from their parents and they believe in their parents. Then he himself says that I cannot therefore argue against them because I don’t know how to argue but if you ask the question as to how this kind of accusation has come about then I can tell you the story. He said that God is at the root of the whole problem, he spoke that I am the wisest. So I inquired whether I am wisest or not and came to the conclusion that I was wisest in this sense and then he said that I was taken for my profession the task of telling people that they should be honest, they should be truthful, they should not pretend, they should admit that they when they don’t know when they really don’t know. And the young people who are all the time around me they also take on the same kind of a task. So my enemies have multiplied. Now second accusation, this is the first accusation, All right.

Now comes the second accusation: Socrates is corrupting the minds of young people and did not believe in the gods of the state, recognised by the state but he invents his own gods. This is the second argument. Now how to deal with this argument? If anybody says that you are corrupting the young people, how do you prove that you are not corrupting the young people? One way would be to bring all the people whom you are teaching isn't. Let all the people come in the court of law and let them say: Socrates is our teacher but he is not corrupting us. Judge will say: you don’t think you are corrupted by Socrates but you are. How will you answer this question? You think you are not being corrupted but we believe you are being corrupted, it’s a very difficult thing to refute, you can see that. Just as the first set of argument was very difficult this also is very difficult. So now Socrates goes into reverse, you will see the kind of argument that he puts forward. He says: Tell me, I may be corrupting, grant. Tell me who is not corrupting, who is the benevolent man in the whole state, who is not corrupting? It’s a very clever question. If the answer says that here is one man who is not corrupting then the answer would be: Alright, then others are corrupting, if this one man is not corrupting others are corrupting then why don’t you bring them to the court of law, why do you bring me alone? Do you see the cleverness of the argument? He puts a question: Tell me who is benefactor, who is benefitting the young people, who is not corrupting the young people, he asks this question again and again. So tell me. So Meletus who has to answer the question because he is arguing on behalf of the accusation so he asks Meletus now Meletus is not able to answer this question first of all, so Socrates says: answer, answer the question; I may be corrupting but who is not corrupting tell me. Because he knows that if he shows one person who is not corrupting then it would prove that others are corrupting, if others are corrupting then why are they not brought to the court of law, only I am brought before the court of law. That is the stance he takes and Meletus understands the question quite well so he does not answer the questions. So he is pressed so Meletus answers afterwards when pressed, very clever answer. “Laws do not corrupt the young people, he doesn’t say who, he changes ‘what’ not 'who', what does not corrupt he does not answer the question 'who' is not corrupting? He answers laws are not corrupting. Socrates understands the answer quite well he says: no, no, my question is not ‘what’ my question is 'who' is not corrupting, who is not corrupting give me the name who is not corrupting? So ultimately Meletus says: Members of the jury is not corrupting, so Socrates then goes farther and says: Only they or others also? So ultimately he goes on asking questions until he says: All people in Athens are beneficial to the people, to the young people…..