Chapter 4. "Just Do What's Right" by Plato

Table of Contents
Ideas of Interest from the The Apology, I
Reading Selection from The Apology, I
Related Ideas
Topics Worth Investigating

Plato, University of St. Andrews, Mathematics Archive

About the author…

Plato (427-347 BC), as a young aristocrat, was Socrates' best known student. Following Socrates' execution, Plato gave up his political ambitions and continued the Socratic philosophical quest. He founded the Academy in 385 BC, the central school of the classical world, where mathematics, astronomy, political science, and natural history were discussed and researched. As an Idealist, Plato regarded the everyday world as a shadow of the real world of unchanging, eternal "Forms" or "Ideas" of things. In Process and Reality, A. N. Whitehead noted, "The safest general characterization of the Western philosophical tradition is that it consists in a series of footnotes to Plato." The most famous pupil of the Academy was, of course, Aristotle.

About the work…

In the dialogue entitled The Apology,[1] Plato recounts the trial of Socrates. In the first part of The Apology Socrates' philosophy of life becomes evident as he skillfully defends himself from his accusers. In his quest for self-knowledge, Socrates spent many years methodically questioning practically anyone who claimed to be knowledgeable about something and, in so doing, managed to alienate influential persons. The heart of his ethics is "the Socratic Paradox," a philosophy discussed in the next chapter. Various interpretations of the Socratic ethics form the foundation of most of the ethical theories in the Western World.

Ideas of Interest from the The Apology, I

  1. What are the specific charges brought against Socrates, and why do you think he was so charged? Is Socrates being charged with being a Sophist? Is he being accused of offering scientific explanations for religious matters?

  2. Why doesn't Socrates plead for a lesser charge? Why couldn't he accept exile?

  3. How does Socrates show that he does not corrupt the young people of Athens? Are his arguments convincing?

  4. Explain Socrates' defense of his belief in God. How persuasive do you find it?

  5. What is Socrates' philosophy of life? Why has it been called paradoxical?

  6. Explain why Socrates compares himself to a "gadfly." What does he mean when he uses this term?



Plato, The Apology. Trans. Benjamin Jowlett. 380 BC.