Socrates and Plato - Track 401

……..come now Meletus tell me this. So let us refresh ourselves before we proceed. Socrates the way in which he argues is wit and his irony. You know the meaning of irony? No, let us see what is the meaning of irony? An irony is a method of defeating somebody by praising him too much, method of defeating somebody by praising him too much. The purpose is to defeat but the method that you employ is to praise him and therefore to show him ridiculous. If a donkey is told, there is beautiful story in Sanskrit “apo rupam apo dhavnih’ what beauty and what voice; the donkey is white, whiteness is a sign of some kind of beauty so the donkey is told by his friend: “My Lord what beauty you have and then what voice”, this is an irony. There were two friends a fox and a donkey they both went to a farm where the donkey could graze as much as he wanted to graze. He rested and then the fox said: Now how to get the donkey beaten that was his main purpose. So he knew that the donkey is a fool, so he said: Now listen there is a moon light in the sky, you have eaten so well, beauty is natural to you and your voice must be wonderful. So the donkey was very inspired to experiment upon his voice so he began to sing in the farm and you can imagine the effect of the singing. There was so much of a loud noise that the farmer who was sleeping was awakened and began to wonder from where the voice was coming, he brought his stick and simply beat up the donkey.

Here the argument was what? What beauty you have your voice must be even better, no? So this is an irony to prove your point by arguing against yourself. You prove your point by arguing against yourself that is also an irony.

Now Socrates was very famous for what is called Socratic irony and the simple example of his irony was: Look my friend I am completely ignorant; arguing against himself and you seem to be very wise, why don’t you make me wise? And the opponent starts preaching because he is now given a position of a teacher and as the gentleman begins to teach he goes on saying that I am ignorant my dear friend, explain me this. Then he teaches further and says: But I am ignorant please teach me this until the teacher finds that all that he is speaking is nonsense and it is proved that what he is teaching is nonsense. So this is also an irony. Now you will see example of it in the very first two lines of his irony.

Socrates is brought before the court; there is a group of people which is called gentlemen of the jury. You know in every court there is what is called a judge and then there is jury. Now what is jury? Jury consists of some nice people, common people who are impartial, who don't know much about a case but they are men of common sense who have natural justice in their heart and who can give an opinion in the matter as to what they feel after hearing both the parties. And they are supposed to advise the judge, the judge of course is a man of law he knows the law very well but he takes the advice of common people. These common people are called men of jury. The people who sit on judgement, not because they know law but because they are men of goodwill and they have common sense and they give an opinion based upon common sense and they give their advise to the judge then the judge decides ultimately what is right or wrong. So nobody can say that the judge gave his opinion on his own, so these are called gentlemen of jury. So now one can imagine that here is Socrates standing, here are gentlemen of jury, here is the judge and here are so many people, men of Athens all free citizens who wanted to come because in that court everybody was allowed to come, everybody was allowed to vote, anybody who wanted to come, any free citizen was allowed to come. So imagine you have Socrates standing here, judge sitting here, gentlemen of jury sitting here and a crowd of people from Athens who had gathered to listen to Socrates.

Now Socrates is told that he is guilty. He is told by whom – by the gentlemen of jury and told also by the prosecutors. There are three prosecutors, – Meletus, second one is Anytus and the third one is Lycon, these are the three prosecutors those who have brought accusation against Socrates. If you see your papers towards the end of the dialogue page 23 there you’ll see no. 2. You’ll find Anytus and his colleagues namely Meletus, Anytus and Lycon these are the three people they are the prosecutors. They are the accusers who had accused Socrates of being guilty. Now accusers have already finished their case, they have already argued this is where the dialogue starts.

Socrates stands up to argue his case after the accusers have already explained their point of view, after they have accused. So now Socrates starts by saying: My accusers have given such a tremendous argument they have brought out the facts so well, I am myself persuaded the only point is not a single sentence spoken is true. This is the irony they have argued so well I am myself almost carried away by them. The only point is that not a single sentence which they have spoken is true. Now let us read him.

I do not know what affect my accusers have had upon you, gentlemen, but for my own part I was almost carried away by them; their arguments were so convincing. On the other hand, scarcely a word of what they said was true. I was especially astonished at one of their many misrepresentations: I mean when they told you that you must be careful not to let me deceive you — the implication being that I am a skilful speaker. I thought that it was peculiarly brazen of them to tell you this without a blush, since they must know that they will soon be effectively confuted, when it becomes obvious that I have not the slightest skill as a speaker unless, of course, by a skilful speaker they mean one who speaks the truth. If that is what they mean, I would agree that I am an orator, though not after their pattern.

My accusers, then, as I maintain, have said little or nothing that is true, but from me you shall hear the whole truth; not, I can assure you, gentlemen, in flowery language like theirs, decked out with fine words and phrases; no, what you will hear will be a straightforward speech in the first words that occur to me, confident as I am in the justice of my cause; and I do not want any of you to expect anything different. It would hardly be suitable, gentlemen, for a man of my age to address you in the artificial language of a schoolboy orator. One thing, however, I do most earnestly beg and entreat of you: if you hear me defending myself in the same language which it has been my habit to use, both in the open spaces of this city' (where many of you have heard me) and elsewhere, do not be surprised, and do not interrupt. Let me remind you of my position. This is my first appearance in a court of law, at the age of seventy; and so I am a complete stranger to the language of this place. Now if I were really from another country, you would naturally excuse me if I spoke in the manner and dialect in which I had been brought up; and so in the present case I make this request of you, which I think is only reasonable: to disregard the manner of my speech — it may be better or it may be worse — and to consider and concentrate your attention upon this one question, whether my claims are fair or not. That is the first duty of the juryman, just as it is the pleader's duty to speak the truth.

Your duty is to judge whether what I am saying is right or wrong, it’s my duty to speak the truth. This is how he begins now his argument.

The proper course for me, gentlemen of the jury, is to deal first with the earliest charges that have been falsely brought against me, and with my earliest accusers; and then with the later ones. ………………………… that means there are two sets of accusers earlier and the present ones. So he says first of all I shall deal with the accusers of the earlier times. Why does he bring the earlier accusations because it had made effect on the men of jury therefore he brings those accusations also in the picture.

I make this distinction because I have already been accused in your hearing by a great many people for a great many years, though without a word of truth; and I am more afraid of those people than I am of Anytus and his colleagues, although they are formidable enough. But the others are still more formidable; I mean the people who took hold of so many of you when you were children and tried to fill your minds with untrue accusations against me, saying "There is a wise man called Socrates who has theories about the heavens and has investigated everything below the earth, and can make the weaker argument defeat the stronger."