Socrates and Plato - Track 802

Then Socrates laughs at him and says: Oh! You mean to say all are benefitting the young people, I am the only one who is corrupting, he showed the absurdity of the question then he tries to show can this answer be true? When Meletus says that all are beneficial to the young people and only Socrates is the only one corrupting, he says: Can it be true at all in the very nature of it, so he goes to analogy – think of horses. If you are asked the question: who trains well the horses? Will you answer the question by saying that all are good trainers, only one or two are exceptions? Will you answer like that to the question – the answer will be quite absurd because normally those who can train are fewer in the nature of things. So this is his answer.

Now comes the second question, second aspect of the accusation, what is the second? He is inventing his own gods and does not believe in the gods of the state. So first of all he says: My dear friend there is one man in our country, who really does not believe in God or gods of the state. Are you not mistaken in thinking that I am that man? Maybe you are mistaken I am that man who is not believing in God or gods of the state and he gives the name of that man, he says it is Anaxagoras. There is one man whose name is Anaxagoras and it is well known; children don’t need to come to me to find out his answers because he is very well-known. So I am not the one who is propagating the idea that I don’t believe in the gods of the state so maybe that I am correcting your mistake. This accusation would be correct if I were Anaxagoras but I am not Anaxagoras, I am Socrates. Then second argument that he puts forward is ‘I believe at least in divine things, divine activities that is very well known that I always speak of divine activities. If I believe in divine activities can I deny gods, can there be music without musicians, if I believe in music there must be musician, I can’t deny musician if I accept music I cannot deny musician. So if I accept divine activities I can’t deny gods there must be gods, so your accusation is wrong. If you believe that I believe in gods at all even though they have been invented by me but you agree I believe in gods and these gods are doing divine activities therefore they are gods and they may be children of those gods whom you believe, maybe we don’t believe but can it be. Can there be children of gods without their parents? So it only proves that I believe in gods, I believe in divine activities and therefore I believe in gods. Then Meletus says: But I claim that you don’t believe in God at all, not that you believe in one God, one set of gods and not the other set of gods. So Meletus says my argument is: you don’t believe in God at all. So Socrates says: now you are saying self-contradicting yourself, on the one hand you say I believe in gods that was your first statement and now you say that I don’t believe in God at all, this is the sum and substance of his argument. The rest of the dialogue which we shall read is concerned with other aspects not the main accusations. These two accusations which I discussed just now have been answered by him to the best of his ability or anybody’s ability. The questions are of such kind that you cannot answer better than this that is why Apology has been praised so much in the world. But this is when you don’t have any kind of substance and yet you are asked to defend yourself this is the best defence that could be given. Plato has written the dialogue so convincingly that if there was a real impartial hearer he would have been convinced but because accusers had a political motive this is not written here, why accusation was brought against Socrates? Because Socrates was disliked by many people as he explains himself since he was making people aware that they do not know what they claim that they know but there was another reason.

He was a friend of Aristocrats there was a group of people in Greece or in Athens who were called Aristocrats, who were different from Democrats, – Democrats and Aristocrats there was a conflict in Greece between these two classes. Aristocrats believed that government should be governed by refined people, by Aristocrats. Aristocrats are really refined people, competent people whereas Democrats believed that the government should be governed by the people. Now this is a very important distinction; throughout the history of the world this debate has continued, who should govern the people? Now you think of this question: who should govern the people? If you have a right to govern the question is whether you should have the right to govern, who should have the right to govern? Socrates used to answer the question in the following way – if you want to make a shoe to whom should you go to – the shoemaker, evidently, why, because he knows how to make the shoes. Similarly if you ask the question who should govern? Answer should be – those who know how to govern, isn’t it? That was his answer.

Now who knows how to govern the people, those who are refined people, those who are very well educated people, those who know what is human nature, how to improve human nature, those who know everything, really know they should know that these are the people in this capacity, others are in another capacity, others other capacity. So he was therefore a friend of Aristocrats. Now the present government that is to say the present government of that time when Socrates was brought to the court of law that government was a Democratic government, – Meletus, Anytus, Lycon all of them were Democrats and they were the rulers and since Socrates was meddling into their affairs all the time therefore they wanted to get rid of Socrates. Therefore they brought forward accusations against Socrates and put him to trail and main Democrats were in the compound and at that time the system was ‘majority rule should decide’. If majorities of people think that Socrates is guilty – he is guilty and then the majority of the people decided what should be the punishment. So ultimately what happened was when his whole argument was over the judges referred to all the people and said: Tell us whether Socrates is guilty or not? Now not that all people agreed that he was guilty as Socrates says: if thirty people more had to favour me, I would have been proved to be not guilty. So he was proved to be guilty only by a majority of thirty people but majority was in the favour of guilty – this was the verdict. Thereafter Socrates made a further speech when he was declared to be guilty, we shall read that whole speech it is very interesting and after that again people were asked – what punishment should be given and this time a larger majority said: death punishment therefore Socrates was put to death.

In the course of this argument which is now going to be read here Socrates speaks about himself, explains to people why he is doing what he is doing and the whole character of Socrates is delineated in these passages. These therefore are not arguments against accusations in the whole chapter therefore we must distinguish two parts. Uptil now we were only reading the accusations and the answers to accusations now he speaks about himself and explains his own life. It is for what is written now that Socrates has become so famous. What was the man and to understand what he writes, now what he speaks you must understand one little more thing, the procedure that was followed at that time in the court of law. Procedure was that you should cry based on punishment then people would say: Alright, and give lesser punishment for you or you should bring your wife or children they should plead with the people: Please! Spare my father, spare my husband then people might be kind and say alright we will not punish you much or you pay a big fine, big amount of money then you are excused or you should say: Look if you find me to be uncomfortable don’t kill me, I am ready to be exiled, send me out of this town, I will go elsewhere then also a lesser punishment could be given.

Now Socrates says why he does not want any one of these remedies this is the character of the man. He could have escaped death that if any one of this things he could have done, he says: No, I won’t stoop so low, I have a command of God, I will do my duty as I am doing now, don’t think I will stop meddling with the people because it’s my duty to God. He has given me the task even if death comes, so what? I am not afraid of death. He gives an example – yesterday, he gives example of Achilles, when he was told that after killing Hector he will be killed himself. He said: so what, I would have got rid of one villain from the earth, afterwards doesn’t matter even if I die, doesn’t matter. He said: when I was in the war you liked me very much because stood in the war and I was ready to be killed and I didn’t fear death therefore you praised me very much. So today also I don’t fear death because death may be a very great blessing, who knows? Then he answers as we will read tomorrow, why he doesn’t want his children to come, his wife to come to beg for mercy. He will explain why doesn’t he want exile; so these are the interesting aspects of his character which are revealed in the next part of the dialogue.