Audios & Videos

Socrates and Plato - Track 905

I ask you, gentlemen, to spare me these few moments; there is no reason why we should not exchange fancies while the law permits. I look upon you as my friends, and I want you to understand the right way of regarding my present position.

Gentlemen of the jury for you deserve to be so called I have had a remarkable experience. In the past the prophetic voice to which I have become accustomed has always been my constant companion, opposing me even in quite trivial things if I was going to take the wrong course. (You remember he said earlier that I have a voice in me which always prevents me from doing something wrong although it says nothing when I am doing the right thing. So he refers to that experience.) Now something has happened to me, as you can see, which might be thought and is commonly considered to be a supreme calamity; yet neither when I left home this morning, nor when I was taking my place here in the court, nor at any point in any part of my speech did the divine sign oppose me. In other discussions it has often checked me in the middle of a sentence; but this time it has never opposed me in any part of this business in anything that I have said or done. What do I suppose to be the explanation? I will tell you. I suspect that this thing that has happened to me is a blessing, and we are quite mistaken in supposing death to be an evil. I have good grounds for thinking this, because my accustomed sign could not have failed to oppose me if what I was doing had not been sure to bring some good result. (So I have received no such sign from the voice and therefore I think what has happened is quite good.)

We should reflect (this is my divine inspiration he says nothing wrong. Now from argument point of view, from rational point of view) We should reflect that there is much reason to hope for a good result on other grounds as well. (Now he argues from a rational point of view) Death is one of two things. Either it is annihilation, and the dead have no consciousness of anything; or, as we are told, it is really a change: a migration of the soul from this place to another.(So there are only two alternatives after death, annihilation in which there is no consciousness at all or else you migrate from one place to the other, only two things can happen) Now if there is no consciousness but only a dreamless sleep, death must be a marvellous gain.(because you get a very sound sleep forever) I suppose that if anyone were told to pick out the night on which he slept so soundly as not even to dream, and then to compare it with all the other nights and days of his life, and then were told to say, after due consideration, how many better and happier days and nights than this he had spent in the course of his life well, I think that the Great King himself, to say nothing of any private person, would find these days and nights easy to count in comparison with the rest. (Now the word Great King which is used here refers to the King of Persia. You know in that time there was a big quarrel, big war between Greece and Persia, therefore the king of Persia was referred by Greece to be the Great King. What would the Great King do, he was supposed to be so mighty that he could threaten the people of Greece. So he says even the Great King himself would say that those nights which were absolutely sound in sleep were the best nights. Now if I am given a sleep forever how much I would gain even the Great King would not enjoy that kind of happiness which I would be enjoying.) If death is like this, then, I call it gain; because the whole of time, if you look at it in this way, can be regarded as no more than one single night. If on the other hand death (now the other argument) If on the other hand death is a removal from here to some other place, and if what we are told is true, that all the dead are there, what greater blessing could there be than this, gentlemen? If on arrival in the other world, beyond the reach of our so–called justice, one will find there the true judges who are said to preside in those courts, Minos and Rhadamanthys and Aeacus and Triptolimus and all those other half divinities who were upright in their earthly life, would that be an unrewarding journey? (These four names which have been given were supposed to be very near to God and on the earth also they did all things which were divine and therefore he says if I go out of the world I’ll meet those people they will not be like these judges, they will be better judges. So to be company with better judges will be very nice thing.) Put it in this way: how much would one of you give to meet Orpheus and Musaeus, Hesiod and Homer? (These are all great people in the history of Greece.) I am willing to die ten times over if this account is true. It would be a specially interesting experience for me to join them there, to meet Palamedes and Ajax the son of Telamon and any other heroes of the old days who met their death through an unfair trial, (Ajax’s story is given in page number 28. Ajax was expected to be rewarded the arms of Achilles in the Trojan War. There is war between Greece on the one side and Trojans on the other. On the side of the Greeks the greatest hero was Achilles. Now after his death his arms whatever credits and medals he had received by Achilles had to be given to somebody who was equal to him. Now Ajax was as equal to Achilles in his power, heroism, courage. So Ajax was expected to be awarded the arms of Achilles which were supposed to pass after the owners death to the next bravest of the Greeks but the generals of the Greek army Agamemnon and Minions awarded them to Odysseus, so injustice was given, instead of giving to Ajax who was really worthy they gave to the next one who was not entirely unworthy but not as worthy as Ajax. So an unfair trail was made and the awards were given to Odysseus. Ajax in a fit of madness, he felt a great injustice was done to him he became mad with rage and he killed some cattle in mistake for the persons who had wronged him. But later when he became more conscious recovering his senses was so ashamed that he killed himself. That’s the story of Ajax. So Socrates says that if after my death, if I happen to meet a man like Ajax, I’ll be very happy.) Ajax the son of Telamon and any other heroes of the old days who met their death through an unfair trial, and to compare my fortunes with theirs it would be rather amusing, I think; and above all I should like to spend my time there, as here, in examining and searching people's minds, to find out who is really wise among them, and who only thinks that he is. What would one not give, gentlemen, to be able to question the leader of that great host against Troy, or Odysseus, or Sisyphus, or the thousands of other men and women whom one could mention, to talk and mix and argue with whom would be unimaginable happiness? At any rate I presume that they do not put one to death there for such conduct; because apart from the other happiness in which their world surpasses ours, they are now immortal for the rest of time, if what we are told is true.

You too, gentlemen of the jury, must look forward to death with confidence, and fix your minds on this one belief, which is certain: that nothing can harm a good man either in life or after death, and his fortunes are not a matter of indifference to the gods. This present experience of mine has not come about mechanically; I am quite clear that the time had come when it was better for me to die and be released from my distractions. That is why my sign never turned me back. For my own part I bear no grudge at all against those who condemned me and accused me, although it was not with this kind intention that they did so, but because they thought that they were hurting me; and that is culpable of them. However, I ask them to grant me one favour. When my sons grow up, gentlemen, if you think that they are putting money or anything else before goodness, take your revenge by plaguing them as I plagued you; and if they fancy themselves for no reason, you must scold them just as I scolded you, for neglecting the important things and thinking that they are good for something when they are good for nothing. If you do this, I shall have had justice at your hands, both I myself and my children.

Now it is time that we were going, I to die and you to live; but which of us has the happier prospect is unknown to anyone but God.

So we have finished a very important chapter in the human history. You have read yourself in the original and that is the great advantage throughout your life that you have read one of the greatest stories and a real story, something that has really happened on this earth in the physical world where a good man was done iniquity. What lessons we can derive is for everyone to derive and we have nothing to add to then to what is written here by Plato.