Socrates and Plato - Session 10 (14 March 2001)

So just to revise what we did yesterday. Two accusations. You would be taking me out right down there on the board with the two accusations. The first and the second. Who will dictate me, one of you, you will do it. “Socrates is guilty” one minute. He is guilty. ……and learning.

Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example. Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling because he's philosophy. The philosophy defined here he inquires into things below the earth and the sky when you inquire into the things below the earth and in the sky, the facts which you don't see normally below the earth and in the sky. Fine.

Now tell me briefly the defence of Socrates on this who would like to recount? Anandmayee you were not here yesterday so you do not know exactly! Right. You are here itself Dhatchina, no… Can you tell me the defence of Socrates against this argument. Pardon. All right you'll do the next one good. Aaron, would you like to take charge? No. Samata can I ask you? First he says that I do not know who the accusers are. Right.

So I don't know whom to answer. It's the first statement he makes. Then the next statement he makes is “that all of you are here to whom I’m talking, ask yourselves have I said all this, tell your neighbours also are sitting nearby what you heard from me. This is the first answer. The next is he explains how this accusation has started. Tell me how it has started?

If you prove that…………

No, what was the context in which he asked the question? Why did he start asking questions? Good. Oracle said that Socrates is the wisest man therefore can be false and yet he felt that it is not true because he knew that he is not wise. So he started doing what? He started and he went ………

They were not wise but they believed themselves to be very wise. Right, he asked three categories of people. Which are the three categories of people? He has craftsmen. Craftsman that was the last category, politicians that was the first category and the poets. He asked the politicians, poets and craftsmen. Politicians failed. Poets could not answer what he had written? What they had written? And craftsmen were better because they knew at least their subject. But they believed that they knew about everything, not only about their crafts they knew about everything which was wrong. So he came to the conclusion. What was the conclusion?

The reason why? Tell me again, he is wisest because who knows because he believes he knows that he is not wise. Therefore is the wisest because the other people….Good so now repeat that's a correct answer and now you must fix that answer in your mind. He is the wisest because…..

Because he knows that he's not wise and that those who accept to be wisest experiments. Good, that is why is the wiser than others. Good. As a result of this, what happened continues the story. Against him, Good. So this is the first argument. Now the second argument.

Dhatchina tell me the second accusation. Pardon.

Your abstained, And it begins that Right. Now tell me the defence of Socrates. Good is asking the question who is not corrupting the young? Meletus ‘laws’ with people. So he says to the judges.** Good. That’s right. And then it goes good. T**hat there are only the voice painters and so it's painting then there will be just one person Good. Excellent, Excellent, Excellent. This is the first part. Now the second part, and he tells that, everybody……Good. Too young and get corrupted intentionally the soul. Very good. He was doing on intentionally draft for it………..Excellent. Gods…he says. Correct. Good. Any God at all, yes. And then he says he may not listen……..Yes, good Excellent.

You have answered all the questions. Now we come to that part, which is an account of himself. It is not a part of accusation but it is a subordinate question that might arise in the minds of the people why is he conducting his life in such a way that it brings him nearer to his death. This is the question. What is? His answer to this question we have already done, although we did not revise it yesterday. But we have done that already. You remember the dialogue of Socrates.

Where he speaks of Achilles on page number 13, look at page number 13. Very first line. But perhaps someone will say: do you feel no compunction Socrates for at having followed the line of action which puts you in danger of the death penalty; this is the question. He himself is raising as if from the side of the people.

Now what does he reply. Anybody would like to read it for me. The reply of Socrates. Sakthi, can you read me out? Page number 13. Line no 03. Yes. Can you read a little loud I cannot hear you? You are mistaken, my friend. Good.

You are mistaken, my friend, if you think that a man who is worth anything ought to spend his time weighing up the prospects of life and death. He has only one thing to consider in performing any action—that is, whether he is acting rightly or wrongly, like a good man or a bad one. On your view the heroes who died at Troy would be poor creatures, especially the son of Thetis. He, if you remember, made light of danger in comparison with incurring dishonour when his goddess mother warned him, eager as he was to kill Hector, in some such words as these, I fancy: My son, if you avenge your comrade Patroclus' death and kill Hector, you will die yourself. 'Next after Hector is thy fate prepared.' When he heard this warning, continue, yes it is a long answer…

When he heard this warning, he made light of his death and danger, being much more afraid of an ignoble life and of failing to avenge his friends. 'Let me die forthwith,' said he, 'when I have requited the villain, rather than remain here by the beaked ships to be mocked, a burden on the ground.' Do you suppose that he gave a thought to death and danger?

Good that was the answer of Socrates. Can you summarise that answer. You have summarised this answer. I can carry you. What does his answer say? If you one wants to die……….

No he says ‘that the hero does not think death or life’ he thinks of action, whether it is right action or wrong action that is called a hero. And then he gives the example of Achilles’. Yes.

And what is that example that he wanted to kill Hector, his enemy and his mother, she is goddess, and she warned him that. After killing that…… and his answer was that. **Doesn’t mind dying. If kills you have one villain and that’s all. Good, excellent. Right now you go hold.

I don't read all the rest because you're read already but this is the sum and substance of his answer. He said even when I was in the army, as a soldier I faced death. I didn't run away from there simply because I would die. I didn't count it at all. So what I did at that time I do the same now, I am on my action good then we come to page number 14. 14 you see his answer finally is this on page 14 in the paragraph, which is a long paragraph towards the end there are three lines that is his final answer. He said even when I was in the army as a soldier, I faced death, I didn’t run away from death simply because I would die, I didn’t count it at all. So what I did at that time I do the same now, I am on my action. You see he has finally answered is this:

Now if I corrupt the young by this message, the message would seem to be harmful, but if anyone says that my message is different from this, he is talking nonsense. And so, gentlemen, I would say, you can please yourselves whether you listen to Anytus or not, and whether you acquit me or not. You know that I am not going to alter my conduct, not even if I have to die a hundred deaths.

Then we come to page number 15 He says: It is literally true you get page number 5 it is literally true… From top line number 5, it is literally true that God has specially appointed me to this city as though it were a large thoroughbred horse which because of its great size is inclined to be lazy and needs the stimulation of some stinging fly. He says this city is like a horse, quite fat, well-bred but has become lazy. So it requires a stinging fly to stimulate it into action, so I am like the stinging fly.

It seems to me that God has attached me to this city to perform the office of such a fly, and all day long I never cease to settle here, there, and everywhere, rousing, persuading, and reproving every one of you. You will not easily find another like me, gentlemen, and if you take my advice you will spare my life. I suspect, however, that before long you will awake from your drowsing, and in your annoyance you will take Anytus' advice and finish me off with a single slap, and then you will go on sleeping till the end of your days, unless God in his care for you sends someone to take my place. So this is his final answer to the questions. Now he is giving a personal account of himself.

If you doubt whether I am really the sort of person who would have been sent to the city as a gift from God you can convince yourselves by looking at it in this way. He is trying to prove that he is appointed by God. How does he prove? This is his proof. Does it seem natural that I should have neglected my own affairs and endured the humiliation of allowing my family to be neglected for all these years while I visit myself all the time on your behalf going like a father or an elder brother to see each one of you privately and urging you to set your thoughts on goodness, if I had not got any enjoyment from it or if I would have been paid for my good advice there would have been some explanation for my conduct.

That is to say people would have said he enjoyed doing it or that he is paid for it therefore he is doing it but neither of the two is true. But as it is you can see for yourselves that although my accusers unblushingly charge me all sorts of other crimes there is one thing that they have not had the impudence to pretend on any testimony and that is I have ever exacted or asked a fee from anyone. The witness that I can offer to prove the truth of my statement is I think is a convincing one,my poverty. The very fact that I am poor shows that I am not taking any fees from anybody therefore I am doing this work as appointed by God and not because of any other reason.

It may seem curious that I should go around giving advice like this and busying myself in people's private affairs, and yet never venture publicly to address you as a whole and advise on matters of state. The reason for this is what you have often heard me say before on many other occasions—that I am subject to a divine or supernatural experience, which is one of the most important sentences about Socrates. Reason for this is what you have often heard me say before on many other occasions. Namely that I am subject to a divine or supernatural experience,

Which Meletus so fit to travesty in his indictment. Then he says how he has supernatural experience. It began in my early childhood—a sort of voice which comes to me, and when it comes it always dissuades me from what I am proposing to do, and never urges me on. Now try to understand this sentence. This voice which comes to Socrates; what kind of voice is it? Suppose he tries to do something and if the voice wants him to continue to go on then it says nothing but if the divine wants that he should not do what he wants to do then the voice tells him: don’t do it. This is the nature of the voice that he is getting therefore when he doesn’t get a voice it means that he can go on, it is divine sanction and when he gets the voice it is only to prevent him from doing what he wants to do.

It is this that debars me from entering public life, and a very good thing too, in my opinion, that use to say it is a divine will and fines even rationally I think it is correct. Both because the divine tells me not to do it. And also I will tell the reasons also I’ll tell you the reasons why it is so good that I should not do any politics because you may be quite sure, gentlemen, that if I had tried long ago to engage in politics, I should long ago have lost my life, without doing any good either to you or to myself. Please do not be offended if I tell you the truth. No man on earth who conscientiously opposed either you or any other organized Democracy, and flatly prevents a great many wrongs and illegalities from taking place in the state to which he belongs, can possibly escape with his life. The true champion of justice, if he intends to survive even for a short time, must necessarily confine himself to private life and leave politics alone.

I will offer you substantial proof of what I have said—not theories, but what you can appreciate better, facts. Listen while I describe my actual experiences, so that you may know that I would never submit wrongly to any authority through fear of death, but would refuse even at the cost of my life. It will be a commonplace story, such as you often hear in the courts, but it is true.

Now he gives an example as to how when he was in public life what happened to him. The only office which I have ever held in our city, gentlemen, was when I was elected to the Council. It so happened that our group was acting as the executive when you decided that the ten commanders who had failed to rescue the men who were lost in the naval engagement should be tried en bloc, which was illegal, as you all recognized later. On this occasion I was the only member of the executive who insisted that you should not act unconstitutionally, and voted against the proposal; and although your leaders were all ready to denounce and arrest me, and you were all urging them on at the top of your voices, I thought that it was my duty to face it out on the side of law and justice rather than support you, through fear of prison or death, in your wrong decision.

You follow this argument, this statement, No? Let’s see. He says: I held one public office in my life when I was elected to the council, now in the council of course there are many other members also and once a case came before them. What was the case? There were ten commanders on the sea on the navigation. Now these ten commanders had failed to rescue some of the soldiers fallen into the sea; they had failed to rescue the men who were lost in the naval engagement. Now the decision was that these ten commanders should be tried en bloc, altogether, which was actually illegal. The law was that you should engage every commander individually not put all together then it was illegal, was recognised later, but at that time we were pounding upon him that you should agree that all the ten should be tried en bloc.

On this occasion I was the only member of the executive who insisted that you should not act unconstitutionally and voted against the proposal. At that time all the leaders were opposed to Socrates. He would have been saved if he would have agreed to all the others. There was a great danger that if he did not agree with all the others he would be put to death or he would go to prison but he says he did not mind it. He did what was right. ..Although your leaders were all ready to denounce and arrest me, and you were all urging them on at the top of your voices, I thought that it was my duty to face it out on the side of law and justice rather than support you, through fear of prison or death, in your wrong decision.

He said this happened while we were still under Democracy. You must remember that Socrates refers to three important periods of the history of Greece. There was a period when Athens had Democracy to begin with, then there was a big war,—Peloponnesian War, it was a war with Sparta. So Athens and Sparta fought for many, many years, ultimately Athens was defeated. Therefore Sparta imposed upon Athens a kingdom of what was called Oligarchy.

I don't know if I’d explained to you the last time the word Oligarchy did I? No? Yes I did it. There are three main forms of government: Monarchy, Oligarchy and Democracy. Now there was no Monarchy in Athens. Right from early times there was Democracy in Athens. Democracy is a rule of the people for the people, by the people, people themselves ruling themselves that is called Democracy. Oligarchy means rule of a few. This is similar to economics, in economics there are three words, free–market, monopoly, oligopoly. Every trader is free and nobody is prevented from entering into the market, every seller can go to the market freely, no restriction, no imposition. Every buyer can go to the market freely, no restrictions and all sellers are free without any restrictions. It is called free market and when one person is allowed to sell, others are not allowed to sell it is called monopoly. Oligopoly is when only a few are allowed to sell because of many reasons then it is called oligopoly, so now you have got oligarchy—rule of a few, Democracy—rule of all and monarchy—rule of one person, one name is monarchy.

Now here what happened in the history of Athens was that first there was Democracy then came the Peloponnesian War; Sparta and Athens fought against each other. In that War Sparta won. Now Sparta was opposed to Democracy, Athens was in favour of Democracy and Sparta was opposed to Democracy. Sparta favoured oligarchy, rule of a few people because Sparta won they imposed oligarchy in Athens. Now when these few people began to rule Athens now Socrates says what happened.

This happened while we were still under a Democracy. When the oligarchy came into power, you got the line? When the oligarchy came into power, the Thirty Commissioners in their turn summoned me and four others to the Round Chamber and instructed us to go and fetch Leon of Salamis from his home for execution.

Thirty oligarchs, thirty tyrants as they were called, they took all the power in their hands, thirty people. These thirty people asked Socrates and four other people and said you go and bring before us Leon of Salamis. The intention was that they go to Salamis to bring Leon and when Leon comes before the thirty commissioners they order: now kill him, this was the intention. Now what did Socrates do?

This was of course only one of many instances in which they issued such instructions, their object being to implicate as many people as possible in their wickedness. On this occasion, however, I again made it clear not by my words but by my actions that death did not matter to me at all—if that is not too strong an expression—but that it mattered all the world to me that I should do nothing wrong or wicked. Powerful as it was, that government did not terrify me into doing a wrong action. When we came out of the Round Chamber, the other four went off to Salamis and arrested Leon, and I went home. I should probably have been put to death for this, if the government had not fallen soon afterward. There are plenty of people who will testify to these statements. So this was another occasion when he could have been killed but still he did what he felt was right.

Do you suppose that I should have lived as long as I have if I had moved in the sphere of public life, and conducting myself in that sphere like an honourable man, had always upheld the cause of right, and conscientiously set this end above all other things? Not by a very long way, gentlemen; neither would any other man. You will find that throughout my life I have been consistent in any public duties that I have performed, and the same also in my personal dealings. I have never countenanced any action that was incompatible with justice on the part of any person, including those whom some people maliciously call my pupils. I have never set up as any man's teacher, but if anyone, young or old, is eager to hear me conversing and carrying out my private mission, I never grudge him the opportunity; nor do I charge a fee for talking to him, and refuse to talk without one. I am ready to answer questions for rich and poor alike, and I am equally ready if anyone prefers to listen to me and answer my questions. If any given one of these people becomes a good citizen or a bad one, I cannot fairly be held responsible, since I have never promised or imparted any teaching to anybody, and if anyone asserts that he has ever learned or heard from me privately anything which was not open to everyone else, you may be quite sure that he is not telling the truth.

So this is about death, why he is not afraid of death and he gives examples in his life. Now comes another point. But how is it that some people enjoy spending a great deal of time in my company? You have heard the reason, gentlemen; I told you quite frankly. It is because they enjoy hearing me examine those who think that they are wise when they are not—an experience which has its amusing side. This duty I have accepted, as I said, in obedience to God's commands given in oracles and dreams and in every other way that any other divine dispensation has ever impressed a duty upon man.

How do you know what God's will? So he says there are many ways by which God's will can be known. One is when you hear a voice or when you hear when you see a dream or when you are about to do something and somebody tells you inside yourself don't do it. And there are many other ways.

This is a true statement, gentlemen, and easy to verify. If it is a fact that I am in process of corrupting some of the young, and have succeeded already in corrupting others, and if it were a fact that some of the latter, being now grown up, had discovered that I had ever given them bad advice when they were young, surely they ought now to be coming forward to denounce and punish me.

And if they did not like to do it themselves, you would expect some of their families—their fathers and brothers and other near relations—to remember it now, if their own flesh and blood had suffered any harm from me. Certainly a great many of them have found their way into this court, as I can see for myself—first ‘Crito’,

‘Crito’, was a good pupil of Socrates. There is one full dialogue written by Plato. The title of it is ‘Crito’, because of that dialogue. ‘Crito’, describes the last hours of the life of Socrates. When Socrates is told by his friends look, you are in jail tomorrow you will be executed or within a few hours you are going to be executed. The jailers are here; they would not mind if you just run away from the jail. And then you'd escape, you would escape the jail, you'd escape death and many people around, they tried to persuade Socrates to run away. But he said no I will not do it. I will do the right thing. I have been put into the jail by law of the state therefore I accept the punishment, although I don't deserve the punishment. But to escape the punishment I will not run away. So at that time ‘Crito’, was one of the great friends who was with Socrates at the last moment. So he says here is ‘Crito’, you ask ‘Crito’, I have advised him. I have taught him, he doesn't call it teaching because he says I am not a teacher. I have advised him, I have talked to him, I have persuaded him, I have reproved him, and you can ask him whether he is spoiled. You can ask his father mother whoever they may be to complain, if I have spoiled this young man

First ‘Crito’ over there, my contemporary and near neighbour, the father of this young man ‘Crito’bulus, and then Lysanias of Sphettus, the father of Aeschines here, and next Antiphon of Cephisus, over there, the father of Epigenes. Then besides there are all those whose brothers have been members of our circle—Nicostratus, the son of Theozotides, the brother of Theodotus, but Theodotus is dead, so he cannot appeal to his brother, and Paralus here, the son of Demodocus, whose brother was Theages. And here is Adimantus, the son of Ariston, whose Brother Plato is over there, and Aeantodorus, whose brother Apollodorus is here on this side. I can name many more besides, some of whom Meletus most certainly ought to have produced as witnesses in the course of his speech. If he forgot to do so then, let him do it now—I am willing to make way for him. Let him state whether he has any such evidence to offer. On the contrary, gentlemen, you will find that they are all prepared to help me—the corrupter and evil genius of their nearest and dearest relatives, as Meletus and Anytus say. The actual victims of my corrupting influence might perhaps be excused for helping me; but as for the uncorrupted, their relations of mature age, what other reason can they have for helping me except the right and proper one, that they know Meletus is lying and I am telling the truth?

There, gentlemen, that, and perhaps a little more to the same effect, is the substance of what I can say in my defence. It may be that some one of you, remembering his own case, will be annoyed that whereas he, in standing his trial upon a less serious charge than this, made pitiful appeals to the jury with floods of tears, and had his infant children produced in court to excite the maximum of sympathy, and many of his relatives and friends as well, I on the contrary intend to do nothing of the sort, and that, although I am facing, as it might appear, the utmost danger. It may be that one of you, reflecting on these facts, will be prejudiced against me, and being irritated by his reflections, will give his vote in anger. If one of you is so disposed—I do not expect it, but there is the possibility—I think that I should be quite justified in saying to him, My dear sir, of course I have some relatives. To quote the very words of Homer, even I am not sprung 'from an oak or from a rock,' 2 but from human parents, and consequently I have relatives— yes, and sons too, gentlemen, three of them, one almost grown up and the other two only children—but all the same I am not going to produce them here and beseech you to acquit me.

As I told you yesterday that there was a system in those days that if the accused could produce his relatives, cry before the judges, beseech, appeal for mercy then the accused might get a lesser punishment or might even get free. He says: Why not people ask me why I am not doing it? He says: I refuse to do so.

Why do I not intend to do anything of this kind? Not out of perversity, gentlemen, nor out of contempt for you; whether I am brave or not in the face of death has nothing to do with it. The point is that for my own credit and yours and for the credit of the state as a whole, I do not think that it is right for me to use any of these methods at my age and with my reputation—which may be true or it may be false, but at any rate the view is held that Socrates is different from the common run of mankind. Now if those of you who are supposed to be distinguished for wisdom or courage or any other virtue are to behave in this way, it would be a disgrace. I have often noticed that some people of this type, for all their high standing, go to extraordinary lengths when they come up for trial, which shows that they think it will be a dreadful thing to lose their lives—as though they would be immortal if you did not put them to death! In my opinion these people bring disgrace upon our city. Any of our visitors might be excused for thinking that the finest specimens of Athenian manhood, whom their fellow citizens select on their merits to rule over them and hold other high positions, are no better than women. If you have even the smallest reputation, gentlemen, you ought not to descend to these methods; and if we do so, you must not give us license. On the contrary, you must make it clear that anyone who stages these pathetic scenes and so brings ridicule upon our city is far more likely to be condemned than if he kept perfectly quiet.

The remaining portion I’ll read tomorrow. We are nearing the completion now, most of the arguments are over, only three four points remain but I think you read quite well. The first two accusations are understood quite well and that is the most important, all this portion is very good for the character of Socrates, what kind of thinking, what kind of heroism he had, that he could have escaped death penalty, even less of a penalty if his relatives had to come before the court and ask for some kind of mercy but he refuses to do so. All right, thank you.