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Impact of One in the Apology - Articles Surfing
One of the greatest pieces of ancient philosophical writing is without question the Apology written by Plato sometime during 4th century B.C.E in Greece. It tells of the trial of Socrates, Plato's teacher, who was accused of corrupting the youth and spreading false beliefs of the gods and higher thoughts. It is a powerful tale of one man standing up for what he believes in and facing foe and friend alike in a moral dispute of what is life truly worth. With such views and beliefs so firmly upheld and fought for and against, it is clearly a powerful philosophical piece that challenges the limits of man's desires and wants with the needs of man's search for self value and upheld views. For all the criticism that Socrates endures for his actions, both at the time and the repercussions of analysis year after year, he still stands for one of the most determined, honest and thoughtful of all philosophers. For this, Socrates is indeed successful in his defense during his trial from the Apology.
To fully understand the impact Socrates will have by his own death, there must be some insight and study of the historical period of the time. He lived during a time where the Mediterranean, Greece and particularly Athens were under a great moment of change, evolution and resolution of many situations. Years of battle and war had taken a long toll on society in Athens and Greece, stripping away some of the stronger more vocal characters and giving passage to a more conservative, necessity-minded government. Yet Socrates did not follow in such a path. Instead he lead his own way, and in doing so broke the dull and tiring thinking of many. It is important to remember his inquisitive and creative nature in looking at how effective his words and stance in the Apology truly are.
Socrates was charged with corrupting the youth by thought and philosophy, but to him he was only teaching them an insight to life. This was his mission. He aimed to make a change, to lift those that wanted to be lifted up over the mortal boundaries of politics, science, religion, and such things, and to gain a kind of thought that went deeper than any. It was philosophy, and he wanted to teach others how to come to realize their purpose in life, how the world works and fails to work, and to analyze what it means to be human and therefore mortal. It was not an easy task, and he did not have a large group goal in mind, so he taught simply by word and questioning, walking around and intriguing others with thought and interest. Those who did not agree with such teachings or questioning, whether they thought it was wrong to question the gods or lead the youth away from the more cultural and social debate and beliefs, accused Socrates of impiety and vice.
The actual trial is a very unique moment in time. Though what history has is by Plato's words, it gives an account of an almost arrogant man standing up against a whole city or so of accusers. This is so even when he says that a man's true wisdom is determined by his realization of lack of wisdom. It is his condescending aura of realizing he does not know that upsets and insults many of his peers and accusers.
In his examination of Meletus, Socrates is able to turn the tides so to say. He, by using the very words of Meletus and not misleading the jury and audience, pulls out the truth that Meletus, like Socrates and any man, seek a greater knowledge and understanding of themselves and those surrounding. By such examples and critics, Socrates shows that he is really not a different man in his ways. He has the same concerns and views towards mankind, the same dreams and hopes, but he does not hide behind what society has created for him. He examines everything for himself, a desire many man have and that Meletus too shows, and defines himself as not being better than the rest of the world, but just more determined and focused. It is his thirst for knowledge along with his viewpoint that he can not truly understand or realize his own wisdom that feed him the very wisdom he has, and in sense his modesty and humbleness allow him to view his own life from an almost outside-of-body experience. On the other hand, Meletus and the others, though striving still and aiming for goodness and virtue in deeds, can not fully reach this until they realize their mortal state of ignorance in many matters of life.
The counter penalty that he proposes, for the state to support his actions and beliefs, seems quite absurd at first glance. Why would a man even propose the state to first, not only admit that they were wrong in their accusations and he was right, but also second, to reward him for breaking what they consider their rules and for being defiant. But it is this almost comical irony or foolishness that really helps to show Socrates true intentions. Though not all will agree, it appears to be his final punch at the state. In his words, he sums up how he feels: that he is angered that he is being so criticized and condemned for being who he is and doing his best to help others. Not everyone sees this, but it is clear that Socrates is being true to himself, helping others realize who they are and what they want from life, and for this he is punished.
Socrates took the final and only logical path at the end of his life. He accepts that he must, by society's judgment, die for his philosophical and questionable lifestyle that supposedly lead the youth astray from the true forms of civilization and culture. He does not falter in his character or ethical views on what he has done. He stays true to himself and his beliefs. He does run away or beg for mercy like some fool who would inevitably be admitting to his own downfalls and mistakes in life. He saw his death as a honorable end to a life of philosophical pursuit. Though he may very well have feared it like any mortal, he saw the value and worth of it more than many men can ever say. It was not an end to him, but rather a beginning. A moment to start the beginning of his legacy of thought and teachings, to bring a new light to the world of man and give hope for those who strive more than what society tells them they can do. It was a way to smile at the accusers and the deliverers of his death and let them know that they had not one. All his teaches would be immortalized by this one act, that even in death he would not change his lifestyle or thought, and in doing so understood his place in the world.
In the end, Socrates chooses death to be better than any other punishment for his alleged crimes. He truly realizes his mortal status and accepts his own character of behavior and thought. His death only affects him physically, in that he will not be alive to see its true repercussions, but for those still alive and those that will follow after him for centuries, this act of the state shows a great betrayal to man itself. It is a moment that stands as one where society as a whole denies society as an individual, where what is seen best for people to truly grow and change the world is spit on by the need for mindless unity, political greed and succor, and the unquenchable power of religious forces. In both light and shadow of the trial, accusations and philosophical defense, Socrates still stands as the foundation to Western philosophy.
Copyright © 1995 - Photius Coutsoukis (All Rights Reserved).
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