Audios & Videos

Socrates and Plato - Track 903

Now comes the verdict, the jury, people all have heard The verdict is "Guilty", and Meletus proposes the penalty of death now Socrates on hearing the verdict, he makes a pronouncement: There are a great many reasons, gentlemen, why I am not distressed by this result — I mean your condemnation of me — but the chief reason is that the result was not unexpected. What does surprise me is the number of votes cast on the two sides. I should never have believed that it would be such a close thing; but now it seems that if a mere thirty votes had gone the other way, I should have been acquitted. You know the meaning of acquittal, conviction and acquittal? To be convicted is – if an allegation is proved to be true then you are convicted. If I say to somebody you are a liar, it is only allegation. But if it is proved that he is really a liar then he stands convicted, it’s proved and therefore he is liable to punishment. Conviction means one who is proved to be guilty and therefore liable to punishment, acquittal is opposite of it. When an allegation is not proved then it is acquittal, you are free, you are not liable to punishment, you are freed. So he says if only thirty people had to vote in favour of me I would have been acquitted. In a court of law somebody is convicted the police comes around him and takes him to jail that is the result of conviction. If you are acquitted the court rises and you go home, you are free, you are acquitted. He says if only thirty people more had to vote in his favour he would have been acquitted. So he is convicted by very small margin.) Even as it is, I feel that so far as Meletus' part is concerned I have been acquitted; (Now this is very difficult to understand in the face of it. If you want to understand it then you should go to exact facts. Actual fact was, actually speaking two twenty voted for acquittal and two–eighty voted for conviction. So actually the margin was sixty, not thirty as Socrates says, these are the real facts, two twenty for and two–eighty against. Now he says Meletus has acquitted him why? Because two–eighty is a result of three accusers, three accusers are Meletus, Anytus and Lycon. So there are three accusers. So divide two–eighty by three accusers so it comes to ninety three. Now total people were two–eighty plus two–twenty. So out of five hundred people only ninety three people have agreed with Meletus that is less than one fifth, is that right? Now according to the law of Greece at that time, of Athens at that time, if you accuse and if you win by only one–fifth of the vote then you have to give money to the government for having wrongly accused somebody. Nobody should accuse without substance and if only one fifth of the people vote for you it means you have accused wrongly and without substance. So he says Meletus at least his accusation has got him only ninety three votes. I feel as far as Meleltus’ part is concerned I have been acquitted and not only that, but anyone can see that if Anytus and Lycon had not come forward to accuse me, Meletus would actually have forfeited his 50 pounds for not having obtained one–fifth of the votes. However, we must face the fact that he demands the death–penalty. Very good. What alternative penalty shall I propose to you, gentlemen? (According to the procedure of law if death penalty is demanded by somebody then you should say: Oh! Don’t kill me, give me some lesser penalty that was the usual procedure and then if the people are happy to give lesser punishment then that should be given to you. So he says now it is my turn to ask for a lesser punishment, now you see his answer.) What alternative penalty shall I propose to you, gentlemen? Obviously it must be adequate. Well, what penalty do I deserve to pay or suffer, in view of what I have done? (He now makes a very important statement.) I have never lived an ordinary quiet life. (Now he explains what kind of punishment he should be given lesser than death penalty. So he says:) I have never lived an ordinary quiet life. I did not care for the things that most people care about: making money, having a comfortable home, high military or civil rank, and all the other activities — political appointments, secret societies, party organisations — which go on in our city; I thought that I was really too strict in my principles to survive if I went in for this sort of thing. So instead of taking a course which would have done no good either to you or to me, I set myself to do you individually in private what I hold to be the greatest possible service: I tried to persuade each one of you not to think more of practical advantages than of his mental and moral well–being, or in general to think more of advantage than of well–being in the case of the state or of anything else. What do I deserve for behaving in this way?(So he says actually instead of seeking for money, prestige, power, position I only tried to take up upon myself the duty to persuade each one of you, be good, develop your mental faculties, be more rational this is what I have been doing now for that what do I deserve? He says this is the service I have rendered now you tell me what should I deserve, now he himself answers. What do I deserve for behaving in this way? Some reward, gentlemen, if I am bound to suggest what I really deserve; and what is more, a reward which would be appropriate for myself. Well, what is appropriate for a poor man who is a public benefactor and who requires leisure for giving you moral encouragement? Nothing could be more appropriate for such a person than free maintenance (this is what he asks because this is what I deserve. I am an old man, I need leisure to come about, to go about, to talk to you; so what I should be given by the State is to give me a complete maintenance, free maintenance so that I can do my job really well. ) Nothing could be more appropriate for such a person than free maintenance at the State's expense. He deserves it much more than any victor in the races at Olympia, whether he wins with a single horse or a pair or a team of four. These people give you the semblance of success, but I give you the reality; they do not need maintenance, but I do. So if I am to suggest an appropriate penalty which is strictly in accordance with justice, I suggest free maintenance by the State. So this is the alternative he suggests.

Perhaps when I say this I may give you the impression, as I did in my remarks about exciting sympathy and making passionate appeals, that I am showing a deliberate perversity. That is not so, gentlemen; the real position is this. I am convinced that I never wrong anyone intentionally, but I cannot convince you of this, because we have had so little time for discussion. If it was your practice, as it is with other nations, to give not one day but several to the hearing of capital trials, I believe that you might have been convinced; but under present conditions it is not easy to dispose of grave allegations in a short space of time. So being convinced that I do no wrong to anybody, I can hardly be expected to wrong myself by asserting that I deserve something bad, or by proposing a corresponding penalty. Why should I? For fear of suffering this penalty proposed by Meletus, when, as I said, I do not know whether it is a good thing or a bad? Do you expect me to choose something which I know very well is bad by making my counter–proposal? Imprisonment? Why should I spend my days in prison, in subjection to the periodically appointed officers of the law? A fine, with imprisonment until it is paid? In my case the effect would be just the same, because I have no money to pay a fine. Or shall I suggest banishment? You would very likely accept the suggestion. So shall I ask for banishment? Then he answers why.

I should have to be desperately in love with life to do that, gentlemen. I am not so blind that I cannot see that you, my fellow–citizens, have come to the end of your patience with my discussions and conversations; you have found them too irksome and irritating, and now you are trying to get rid of them. Will any other people find them easy to put up with? (I go from here and go to another town, I’ll do the same thing, will they also not be tired of me? So they will also put me out of the country will any other people find it easy to put up with…) That is most unlikely, gentlemen. A fine life I should have if I left this country at my age and spent the rest of my days trying one city after another and being turned out every time! I know very well that wherever I go the young people will listen to my conversation just as they do here; and if I try to keep them off, they will make their elders drive me out, while if I do not, the fathers and other relatives will drive me out of their own accord for the sake of the young.

So in any case I’ll be driven out.

Perhaps someone may say "But surely, Socrates, after you have left us you can spend the rest of your life in quietly minding your own business." This is the hardest thing of all to make some of you understand. If I say that this would be disobedience to God, and that is why I cannot "mind my own business", you will not believe that I am serious. If on the other hand I tell you that to let no day pass without discussing goodness and all the other subjects about which you hear me talking and examining both myself and others is really the very best thing that a man can do, and that life without this sort of examination is not worth living, you will be even less inclined to believe me. This sentence ‘life without examining this sort of examination is not worth living’ is one of the most famous sentences of the world therefore you underline that sentence. If you live a life without examining “what is life, what is worth of life, what is the value of life? If you don’t do this exercise you are not living really. To live is to examine the meaning and value of life. So he said: You are asking me that if I go elsewhere and I don’t do any discussions with anybody then I’ll be doing a great disobedience to God because God wants everyone to discuss this question; What is the meaning of life, why am I here, what is the value of life? And if you ask me I should be banished, I should go somewhere else, I should be quiet then it is disobedience to God.


+