The Apology of Socrates

whitecoast

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I was going to bring this up in the new C's session, in which Laura mentioned it could be interesting if people discussed certain saints or role models in history, but I thought it deserved a thread of its own. Recently I've been listening to an audiobook of The Apology of Socrates by Plato (seen below).

In this book, Socrates is standing trial in Athens, under charges of corrupting the youth and impiety (not believing in the Gods of the city). Meletus, Anytus, and Lycon are his chief accusers, though we here only Meletus speak in the book. The book details Socrates' defense, his conviction, his proposal for his sentence, and his closing remarks upon being sentenced to death by drinking poison hemlock.

It's just over an hour long, but I found it to be loaded with moral teachings on the importance of humility, honesty with oneself, speaking the truth always, and living and dying by one's conscience and values. To me it was such a dense moral lesson. I feel like if Stoicism was to have a sermon on the mount, The Apology would be it, OSIT. According to the C's Socrates was previous incarnation of Julius Caesar, so no surprise there.

(Linguistics note. In contemporary English Apology seems like a strange word to describe a legal defense, but in its archaic usage Apology or Apologia meant just that: a defense instead of a sharing of remorse or regret.)

A PDF of the script is available here.

The wikipedia page on the trial of Socrates was quite interesting in itself as well, in that it offers a lot more political context for some of the reasons the politicians of Athens wanted to kill, exile, or otherwise destroy such a poor old man.
 

whitecoast

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Some additional background, courtesy of Comets and the Horns of Moses:



Socrates 469–399 BCE

Ten years after the death of Confucius, Socrates was born in Athens during the century which has been called the golden age of Athens. The Greeks had stopped the Persians at Marathon in 490 and turned them away for good in 480 at Salamis and in 479 at Plataea. With security from foreign encroachment, the way was prepared for Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, Pericles, the sophists, and Socrates. The future looked bright, but it was not to last through Socrates’ lifetime, as we will see.

Very little is known of his actual life and teachings because everything is filtered to us through Plato, Xenophon and Aristophanes, his students. Aristophanes depicts him as a clown who taught his students how to bamboozle their way out of debt. While this is often thought to be a parody, it is true that no one knows how Socrates made his living since he devoted himself exclusively to discussing philosophy. Aristophanes also portrays Socrates as a paid teacher who was running a sophist school, but Plato and Xenophon explicitly deny that he ever accepted payment for teaching. Later sources claim that he was a stone-mason. Plato refers to his military service: in the Apology, Socrates compares his military service to his legal troubles that led ultimately to his death, portraying Socrates as saying that anyone on the jury who thinks he ought to retreat from philosophy must also think soldiers should retreat when it seems likely that they will be killed in battle.

Diogenes reports that Socrates was alleged to have been a student of Anaxagoras and when the latter was condemned to death for impiety, he became a pupil of Archelaus, the physicist. It strikes me as extraordinary that Anaxagoras and Socrates, two in a row, should be condemned to death. But Socrates did live during the time of the Peloponnesian War and the Thirty Tyrants, so I should give you, the reader, a quick run-down on that situation. (Believe me, I do not like writing about wars, as you may notice, so this is going to be the Peloponnesian War reduced to just a couple of pages!)

{snip}

As I’ve already stated, we know nothing about Socrates that hasn’t been filtered through somebody else, mainly Plato. The problem with that is, while Plato may have represented many ideas of Socrates fairly accurately, it is widely acknowledged, and we have already touched on this, that he used the figure of Socrates to promulgate his own ideas the same way he used Pythagoras, undoubtedly altering their material to suit some agenda as yet unknown. There are evident conflicts and inconsistencies that exist between Plato’s accounts and the reports of others such as Xenophon, as well as between some of the earlier vs. the later writings of Plato himself.

Diogenes’ account is rather scattered so I’ve assembled a few snippets about Socrates by theme below just to give you a quick overview of his life, and then I will focus in on a couple of items that strike me as being revelatory of the Secret History behind Socrates. I’m not going to cite book and page for every snippet but rather, invite you to obtain one of those nice, inexpensive, Loeb Library editions of Diogenes Laërtius’ Lives of Eminent Philosophers. First, regarding the personal habits of Socrates:
He took care to exercise his body and kept in good condition. … He was so orderly in his way of life that on several occasions when pestilence broke out in Athens he was the only man who escaped infection. … … in his old age he learnt to play the lyre, declaring that he saw no absurdity in learning a new accomplishment. As Xenophon relates in the Symposium, it was his regular habit to dance, thinking that such exercise helped to keep the body in good condition.

I have no idea how the ancient Greeks danced, but I had an image of Antony Quinn as Zorba the Greek when I read this! [93] Besides being an all-around fun guy, Socrates was also:
… a man of great independence and dignity of character, Pamphila in the seventh book of her Commentaries tells how Alcibiades once offered him a large site on which to build a house; but he replied, “suppose, then, I wanted shoes and you offered me a whole hide to make a pair with, would it not be ridiculous in me to take it?” … Often when he looked at the multitude of wares exposed for sale, he would say to himself, “how many things I can do without.”

He showed his contempt for Archelaus of Macedon and Scopas of Cranon and Eurylochus of Larissa by refusing to accept their presents or to go to their court. There is, he said, only one good, that is, knowledge, and only one evil, that is, ignorance; wealth and good birth bring their possessor no dignity, but on the contrary evil …

That he was not an ivory-tower philosopher, but, on the contrary, fully engaged in life as the means by which one learns and grows, is attested by the following:
Someone asked him whether he should marry or not, and received the reply, “Whichever you do you will repent it.”

He was also a man of great heart and generosity:

Aeschines said to him, “I am a poor man and have nothing else to give, but I offer you myself,” and Socrates answered, “Nay, do you not see that you are offering me the greatest gift of all?”

He also must have made many people angry by pointing out their lies and hypocrisies:
He used to express his astonishment that the sculptors of marble statues should take pains to make the block of marble into a perfect likeness of a man, and should take no pains about themselves lest they should turn out mere blocks, not men. …

The social control system run by the wealthy elite and their Authoritarian followers went into overdrive against Socrates. Then, as now, one of their weapons was ridicule. Aristophanes, known today as the ‘Father of Comedy’, was a comic playwright during the time of Socrates. His powers of slanderous ridicule were feared and acknowledged widely, and Plato claimed that his defamatory play, The Clouds, was a powerful contributing factor to the trial and execution of Socrates. Aristophanes claimed to be writing for an intelligent and discriminating audience, and used psychological intimidation tactics to coerce them to his view by declaring that they would be judged according to their reception of his plays. He regularly boasted of his originality as a dramatist, yet his plays reveal little more than his conservative, authoritarian perspective by consistently espousing opposition to new influences in Athenian society such as that of Socrates. [94] Aristophanes’ depiction of Socrates as “a clown who taught his students how to bamboozle their way out of debt” is an interesting remark as we move into the ideas of the Cynics and Stoics, all of whom come across as very Gurdjieffian [95] and against whom similar charges were made.

Aristophanes also attacked Socrates in his plays for “making the worse appear the better” through his art of argumentation. Demetrius of Byzantium does, indeed, tell us that, frequently, due to his vehemence in argument, other men would attack him in rage, hitting him with their fists and tearing his hair out. I’m not so sure that this had to be due to vehemence in argument as to being so obviously right that the hypocrites he was exposing fell into foaming-at-the-mouth fury! One is certainly reminded of the story of Jesus defending the woman accused of adultery by writing on the ground with a stick. He was probably listing the similar crimes of her accusers as Socrates would have done. Demetrius further reports that Socrates was despised and laughed at, yet bore all this ill-use patiently. What we can extract from this is that Socrates was apparently one of the most formidable rhetoricians who ever lived, though we have no surviving texts. We are told by Diogenes that during the reign of the Thirty, he was ordered to stop teaching “the art of words”, but I think he was confused. It was after the Thirty were overthrown by Anytus and his pals that he was ordered to stop teaching and was subsequently executed for refusing to do so. It does indeed sound like what happens when people try to speak truth plainly. And speaking the truth is, apparently, then and now, what the wealthy elite and their control system cannot tolerate.
Anytus could not endure to be ridiculed by Socrates, and so in the first place stirred up against him Aristophanes and his friends; then afterwards he helped to persuade Meletus to indict him on a charge of impiety and corrupting the youth. The indictment was brought by Meletus, and the speech was delivered by Polyeuctus, according to Favorinus in his Miscellaneous History. The speech was written by Polycrates the sophist, according to Hermippus; but some say that it was by Anytus. Lycon the demagogue had made all the needful preparations. The affidavit in the case, which is still preserved, says Favorinus … ran as follows: “This indictment and affidavit is sworn by Meletus, the son of Meletus of Pitthos, against Socrates, the son of Sophroniscus of Alopece; Socrates is guilty of refusing to recognize the gods recognized by the state, and of introducing other new divinities. He is also guilty of corrupting the youth. The penalty demanded is death.”

Since we’ve already noted that Athenian ‘democracy’ was actually a mob ruled by propaganda produced and promulgated by the wealthy (as it is in our own day), the outcome of the trial is not a surprise. Plato was not even allowed to speak in Socrates’ defense. The mob was worked up and …
Sentence of death was passed … he was put in prison … To one who said, “you are condemned by the Athenians to die,” he made answer, “So are they, by nature. (But some ascribe this to Anaxagoras.) … When his wife said, “you suffer unjustly,” he retorted, “Why, would you have me suffer justly?”

… and a few days afterwards drank the hemlock, after much noble discourse which Plato records in the Phaedo. When he was about to drink the Hemlock, Apollodorus offered him a beautiful garment to die in: “What,” said he, “is my own good enough to live in but not to die in?”

So he was taken from among men … He died in the first year of the 95th Olympiad at the age of seventy. … Of those who succeeded him and were called Socratics, the chief were Plato, Xenophon, Antisthenes … and not long afterwards the Athenians felt such remorse that they shut up the training grounds and gymnasia. They banished the other accusers but put Meletus to death … and no sooner did Anytus visit Heraclea than the people of that town expelled him on that very day. Not only in the case of Socrates but in very many others the Athenians repented in this way … Euripides upbraids them thus in his Palamedes: “Ye have slain, have slain, the all-wise, the innocent, the Muses’ nightingale.”

Ancient and modern commentators have formulated two possible motivations for Anytus’ role in Socrates’ trial:

1) Socrates constantly criticised the democratic government of which Anytus was a leader. Anytus may have been concerned that Socrates’ criticism was a threat to the newly reestablished democracy. [96]

2) Socrates taught Anytus’ son and Anytus perhaps blamed Socrates’ teachings for poisoning his son’s mind or taking him away from the career path his father had set for him. Xenophon has Socrates forecast that the boy will grow up vicious if he studies a purely technical subject such as tanning. Xenophon also tells us that the son became a drunk.
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Corvus

Dagobah Resident
It's just over an hour long, but I found it to be loaded with moral teachings on the importance of humility, honesty with oneself, speaking the truth always, and living and dying by one's conscience and values. To me it was such a dense moral lesson. I feel like if Stoicism was to have a sermon on the mount, The Apology would be it, OSIT. According to the C's Socrates was previous incarnation of Julius Caesar, so no surprise there.

Or maybe being a part of the same soul group, where what one learns all learn, and making a path for the incarnation of a next in line, that being Caeser, and those members being incarnated at the crucial points when it comes to states and time that can make a historical difference, first most then and later.
 

3DStudent

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I listened to that audio file this morning. It seemed the Socrates helped others to see their selves. If he was the incarnation of Caesar, I think he was more focused on the intellect. And as Caesar maybe the moving center, or all centers equal? It was interesting that he said that he's not sure if death may be the best thing to happen to a man. He mentions a few times something like the Gods will guide him on occasion, something like an intuition. I guess his receiver was well built.

He said he has three sons, two of which are children, being age 70. I thought that a bit curious. And at the end he says, "The unexamined life is not worth living." That sounds familiar and I think it's one of his famous quotes.
 

thorbiorn

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Some additional background, courtesy of Comets and the Horns of Moses:
[...]
2) Socrates taught Anytus’ son and Anytus perhaps blamed Socrates’ teachings for poisoning his son’s mind or taking him away from the career path his father had set for him. Xenophon has Socrates forecast that the boy will grow up vicious if he studies a purely technical subject such as tanning. Xenophon also tells us that the son became a drunk.
Might it be, that the son of Anytos had the fate of many exposed to the present system of education? One wonders why.
 
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