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July 21 2017 01:39 PDT

Socrates seated, holding cup of hemlock, L.P. Boitard engraving in Cooper, The Life of Socrates, London, 1750, 155. Library of Congress LC-USZ61-1503.

Socrates Seated, Holding Cup of Hemlock

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Introduction to Philosophy

Plato's Apology Part II

Abstract: Part II of Plato's account of Socrates' defense elucidates some main principles of the Socratic philosophy: (1) the Socratic paradox, (2) the Socratic method, (3)tending ones soul, and (4) death is not to be feared.

  1. Why doesn't Socrates plead for a lesser charge in order to save his life? Why did he feel that he couldn't accept exile?
  2. Explain how Socrates' argument that death should not be feared rests on "the Socratic Paradox."
  3. Characterize as clearly as possible Socrates' conception of the soul. Does the existence of the soul presuppose an afterlife? Explain why or why not from a Socratic point of view.
  4. In what way do you think Socrates' defense exhibits irony? How is his irony related to his being a "gadfly"?
  1. Notes are arranged in response to the questions from Plato's Apology. available on this site: Chapter 5: "Seek Truth Rather than Escape Death" Reading for Philosophical Inquiry, Version 0.21.
    1. Responses to questions from Chapter 5: "Seek Truth Rather than Escape Death"
      1. Why doesn't Socrates plead for a lesser charge in order to save his life? Why did he feel that he couldn't accept exile?
        1. Socrates knows who he is, and knows that life is not worth living if he cannot choose what is right. (Cf, the Socratic Paradox).
        2. He did not believe that such a plea could better his soul; thus, he would continue his questioning in exile. Strangers would tolerate his teaching no better than his fellow citizens. He would be continually expelled or worse.
        3. Socrates states he cannot violate the god's order (i.e., the Oracle at Delphi who, when consulted stated, " There is no one wiser than Socrates."
      2. Explain how Socrates' argument that death should not be feared rests on "the Socratic Paradox."
        1. Socrates offers an elimination argument. Death is not to be feared because it is either the loss of consciousness (like "a deep sleep") or it is a journey to another place. Both possibilities are good: (1) Socrates could use the rest; there is no pain in death, only in life and (2) the journey to the after life bodes well for him because now he can question the greats of the past.
          1. An undesirable place (hell) is not a genuine possibility because of the Socratic Paradox. If evil is ignorance and knowledge is good, then god must be good. A good god couldn't help someone by doing them harm (i.e., by sending them to an undesirable place (hell).
          2. The soul of god would not be improved by sending someone to hell nor would the soul of the person being sent be improved.
          3. Thus, in a good world, no harm can come to a good person.

            The Elimination Argument that Death is a Good
            Death
               
                       
            extinction: "deep sleep" is good journey to another place: seeking truth is good hell not possible: god does no harm
      3. Characterize as clearly as possible Socrates' conception of the soul. Does the existence of the soul presuppose an afterlife? Explain why or why not from a Socratic point of view.
        1. Fundamentally, the soul is that which animates life. Doing what's right in accordance with soul is a necessary and sufficient condition for the good life, according to Socrates.
        2. Socrates seems to equate soul with the intellectual and ethical capacity of the psyche to realize the excellence or arete of human existence. The soul is the rational and ethical part of human nature—the essential aspect of what your are.
        3. Although Socrates believes the soul is immortal, his elimination argument that death is a good does not necessarily connect immortality with the nature of soul. It's possible, Socrates argues, the soul is extinguished at death. John Burnet notes the although Socrates gave reasons for the immortal soul, Plato " represents him as only half serious in appealing to the Orphic religion."
        4. Hence, Socrates uses the notion of soul in a sense independent of a supernatural or religious context. The soul is improved through knowledge, for knowledge is virtue.
        5. As Gregory Vlastos writes, "The things which break the resolution of others, which seduce or panic men to act in an unguarded moment contrary to their best insights—"rage, pleasure, pain, love, fear" (Prt. 352B)—any one of them, or all of them in combination, will have not power over the man who has Socratic knowledge.
      4. In what way do you think Socrates' defense exhibits irony? How is his irony related to his being a "gadfly"?
        1. Socrates alabaster statuette, London, British Museum, Archaelogishes Institut Universitaet Erlangen-Nurenberg CS 21821Socrates' irony is exhibited as Socrates attempts to justify of his cross-examination of the prominent citizens of Athens by recalling that the Delphic Oracle said there is none wiser than Socrates. Socrates then explains his life course as a divine mission to prove the Oracle right by verifying that he knows more than other Athenians because he knows that the does not know anything.
        2. Most commonly Socrates adopted a stance of ignorance in his cross-examinations even though most everyone present was well aware of Socrates' pretence of naïveté. The irony is the incongruity in Socrates' ignorance leading the questioning of citizens thought wise.
        3. Socrates believes he acts as a provocative stimulus to arouse drowsy, apathetic people to realize that they do not know themselves and moreover do not know what they claim to know. And, at the same time, Socrates claims he also does not know.
        4. Even so, it is still possible to deny Socratic irony. There are a number of passages in Plato's dialogues where Socrates clearly states his goal in cross-examination is not to find fault but to seek truth.
          • For example, Socrates claims in the following passage not to ridicule Protagoras, whom he is questioning, but to seek solutions to his questions:

            "[P]lease don't think that I have any other purpose in this discussion than to investigate questions which continually baffle me." (Protagoras 348c trans. W.K.C. Guthrie)
          • And, again, in Charmides, Socrates admonishes Critias for assuming that he is being led on by Socrates' questions:

            "[B]ut you come to me as though I professed to know about the questions which I ask, and as though I could, if I only would, agree with you. Whereas the fact is that I am inquiring with you into the truth of that which is advanced from time to time, just because I do not know …" (Charmides, 165b, trans. Benjamin Jowett.)
        5. Finally, it's important to note that Socrates' notion of knowledge did not involve inductive or empirical reasoning but rather implied the certainty implicit in the self-evidency of deductive reasoning. The purpose of the Socratic Method was to elicit self-discovery of truth rather than to impart conventional opinions as done in traditional teaching methods.
    2. For the first of Plato's Apology see the notes on Plato's Apology Part I.
  2. See also, on this site, notes on Socrates' philosophy: The Ethics of Socrates
Further Reading:
  • Ancient Theories of Soul: A survey of Pre-Socratic, Platonic, Aristotelian, Epicurean, Stoic, and theological conceptions of "soul" by Hendrik Lorenz in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  • Irony: An extensive discussion of irony, including Socratic irony, complete with bibliography in the Dictionary of the History of Ideas by Norman D. Knox.
  • Socrates: An entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy summarizing the problem of the historical Socrates, the role of Socrates in Greek philosophy, and the Socratic tradition by Debra Nails.
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“I admire the courage and wisdom of Socrates in everything he did, said—and did not say.” Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science (New York: Vintage Books, 1974), 340.

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