'Wars, factions, and fighting,' said Socrates as he looked forward from his last hour, 'have no other origin than this same body and its lusts. ... We must set the soul free from it; we must behold things as they are. And having thus got rid of the foolishness of the body, we shall be pure and hold converse with the pure, and shall in our own selves have complete knowledge of the Incorruptible which is, I take it, no other than the very truth.' (Socrates).
Suppose gentlemen, you said to me, ‘Socrates,
you shall be acquitted on this occasion, but only on one condition. That you
give up spending your time on this quest and stop philosophising. If we catch
you going on in the same way, you shall be put to death. Well, supposing, as
I said, that you should offer to acquit me on these terms, I should reply:
Men of Athens, I am your very grateful and devoted servant, but I owe a greater obedience to God than to you, and so long as I have life and strength I shall never cease from the practice and teaching of philosophy, exhorting you and elucidating the truth for everyone that I meet. I shall go on saying, in my usual way, “My friend, you are an Athenian and belong to a city which is the greatest and famous in the world for its wisdom and strength. Are you not ashamed that you give your attention to acquiring as much money as possible, and similarly with honour and reputation, and care so little about wisdom and truth and the greatest improvement of the soul, which you never regard or heed at all?" (Plato on Socrates, The Apology)
And isn't it a bad thing to be deceived about the
truth, and a good thing to know what the truth is? For I assume that by knowing
the truth you mean knowing things as they really are.
What is at issue is the conversion of the mind from the twilight of error to the truth, that climb up into the real world which we shall call true philosophy. (Plato, Republic)
It is clear, then, that wisdom is knowledge having
to do with certain principles and causes. But now, since it is this knowledge
that we are seeking, we must consider the following point: of what kind of
principles and of what kind of causes is wisdom the knowledge?
The life of theoretical philosophy is the best and happiest a man can lead. Few men are capable of it (and then only intermittently). For the rest there is a second-best way of life, that of moral virtue and practical wisdom. (Aristotle, Metaphysics, 340BC)
Socrates is famous for arguing that we must Know
Thyself to be wise, that the unexamined life is not worth living. Thus it is
a cruel irony that Socrates was condemned to death for corrupting
the youth (for educating them to Philosophy and arguing that people are ignorant
of the Truth). Plato, who wrote 'The Apology' was
a beautiful writer (and one of the great philosophers). His
account of Socrates on Trial provides an eloquent and tragic
description of the Last Days of Socrates that is still very relevant to our
democratic society. Most significantly, it demonstrates the stubborn resistance
that society displays towards those who choose to question the customs and
beliefs of their time (as the philosopher must). This attitude is still very
alive today, where physics is dominated by mathematical theories founded on
particles, and philosophy is in decay due to an absurd postmodern view (contradiction)
'Only Absolute Truth is that there are No Absolute Truths'.
The ancient Greek Philosophers, of which Socrates was central, marked a fundamental turning point in the evolution of humanity and our ideas about our existence in the universe. Over the past 2,500 years ancient Greek Philosophy and the Socratic method has directly contributed to the evolution of our current science / reason based society. Thus it is unfortunate that many people imagine our post-modern society to now be so 'enlightened' that the Ancient Greek Philosophers have become irrelevant. In fact the opposite is true. As Bertrand Russell observed (History of Western Philosophy), it was the Ancient Greek Philosophers who first discovered and discussed the fundamental Principles of Philosophy, Physics and Metaphysics, and most significantly, little has been added to their knowledge since. As Einstein wrote;
Somebody who only reads newspapers and at best books of contemporary authors looks to me like an extremely near-sighted person who scorns eyeglasses. He is completely dependent on the prejudices and fashions of his times, since he never gets to see or hear anything else. And what a person thinks on his own without being stimulated by the thoughts and experiences of other people is even in the best case rather paltry and monotonous. There are only a few enlightened people with a lucid mind and style and with good taste within a century. What has been preserved of their work belongs among the most precious possessions of mankind. We owe it to a few writers of antiquity (Plato, Aristotle, etc.) that the people in the Middle Ages could slowly extricate themselves from the superstitions and ignorance that had darkened life for more than half a millennium. Nothing is more needed to overcome the modernist's snobbishness. (Albert Einstein, 1954)
It is therefore both interesting and important to consider the foundations which caused the blossoming of Socratic Philosophy. First and foremost was the realisation that ALL IS ONE, as Nietzsche writes;
Greek philosophy seems to begin with a preposterous fancy, with the proposition that water is the origin and mother-womb of all things. Is it really necessary to stop there and become serious? Yes, and for three reasons: firstly, because the preposition does enunciate something about the origin of things; secondly, because it does so without figure and fable; thirdly and lastly, because it contained, although only in the chrysalis state, the idea :everything is one. ... That which drove him (Thales) to this generalization was a metaphysical dogma, which had its origin in a mystic intuition and which together with the ever renewed endeavors to express it better, we find in all philosophies- the proposition: everything is one! (Friedrich Nietzsche, The Greeks)
Further, Aristotle realised that Motion (Flux / Activity / Change) was central to existence and reality, as he writes;
The first philosophy (Metaphysics) is universal and is exclusively concerned with primary substance. ... And here we will have the science to study that which
is just as that which is, both in its essence and in the properties which,
just as a thing that is, it has. (Aristotle, 340BC)
The entire preoccupation of the physicist is with things that contain within themselves a principle of movement and rest. And to seek for this is to seek for the second kind of principle, that from which comes the beginning of the change. (Aristotle, 340BC)
Only recently (Wolff, 1986 - Haselhurst, 1997) has it been possible, with the discovery of the Metaphysics of Space and Motion and the Wave Structure of Matter (WSM), to unite these ideas with modern Physics, Philosophy and Metaphysics. And let me first say that it is ironic that the main problem for human knowledge also came from the Ancient Greeks, with their conception of matter as discrete Atoms (Democritus, Lucretius).
Unfortunately, Physics took the path of the atomists (Newton,
Faraday, Maxwell, Lorentz) and this led to the creation of 'Forces / Fields'
(generated by particles)
to explain how matter interacted with other discrete matter at-a-distance
in Space. It is now clear that the discrete 'particle' conception of Matter
explain Reality, being founded on many separate & discrete things (how
are they interconnected, how do 'particles generate fields'?) rather than
one common thing (that necessarily causes and connects the many things).
The solution is simple and obvious once known. We must simply discard the 'particle' conception of matter and replace it with the Spherical Standing Wave Structure of Matter in Space. i.e.
From matter as 'particles' generating spherical 'fields' in 'space' and 'time' to matter as spherical waves in Space.
Thus Space is the One thing that exists (with the properties of a Wave Medium) which connects the many things that exist (Matter as Spherical Wave Motions of Space). It then becomes obvious that the Wave-Center of the Spherical Waves causes the 'particle' effect that we observe. And so we move from the Metaphysics of Space and Time (which further requires particles and forces - thus four separate things) to the Metaphysics of Space and Motion (where all things are interconnected by One thing, Space).
It seems that many people believe that Reality / Physics is too complex for them to possibly understand (and I suspect that Physicists enjoy this reputation as being the 'high priests' who comprehend such complex things). In fact the opposite is true - Truth is ultimately simple because Truth comes from Reality (as Plato correctly realised) which must be founded on One thing. And there is nothing more simple than One Thing. (This explains why Philosophy is also known as the discovery of the obvious!) When you read the quotes from Plato on Socrates you will also find his ideas to be very simple. This reflects his greatness as a philosopher, and partly explains why his work has endured for thousands of years. (The Greek Philosophers were also very wise, had a good understanding of this dynamic unity of reality, and at times were quite amusing, thus well worth reading.)
me end this introduction on a serious note. Reason tells me that reality has
been discovered, that the source of all truth and wisdom has finally been found.
And in our currently troubled times there is no more important knowledge than
knowledge of Reality - of what it truly means to 'Know Thyself' as the foundation
for living wisely and ensuring survival. I do hope that you will take the time
to read The Apology, consider the importance of truth to human
society, and thus read on the Wave Structure of Matter and how it explains
and solves many of the problems of philosophy that have existed for thousands
The philosopher Socrates never wrote anything down (that we have knowledge of). We learn of the philosophy (and character) of Socrates through his friend Plato who wrote many philosophical dialogues.
Well, my art of midwifery is in most respects like
theirs; but differs, in that I attend men and not women; and look after their
souls when they are in labour, and not after their bodies: and the triumph
of my art is in thoroughly examining whether the thought which the mind of
the young man brings forth is a false idol or a noble and true birth. And like
the mid-wives, I am barren, and the reproach which is often made against me,
that I ask questions of others and have not the wit to answer them myself,
is very just-the reason is, that the god compels-me to be a midwife, but does
not allow me to bring forth. And therefore I am not myself at all wise, nor
have I anything to show which is the invention or birth of my own soul, but
those who converse with me profit.
(Socrates - as written by Plato in Theaetetus)
I do not know what effect my accusers have had upon you, gentlemen, but for my own part I was almost carried away by them; their arguments were so convincing. On the other hand, scarcely a word of what they said was true. But of the many falsehoods told by them, there was one which quite amazed me; I mean when they said that you should be upon your guard and not allow yourselves to be deceived by the force of my eloquence- the implication being that I am a skillful speaker. To say this, when they were certain to be detected as soon as I opened my lips and proved myself to be anything but a great speaker, did indeed appear to me most shameless--unless by the force of eloquence they mean the force of truth; for is such is their meaning, I admit that I am eloquent. But in how different a way from theirs! (Socrates, as written by Plato in The Apology)
.. young men of the richer classes, who have not much to do, come about me of their own accord; they like to hear the pretenders examined, and they often imitate me, and proceed to examine others; there are plenty of persons, as they quickly discover, who think that they know something, but really know little or nothing; and then those who are examined by them instead of being angry with themselves are angry with me: This confounded Socrates, they say; this villainous misleader of youth! and then if somebody asks them, Why, what evil does he practice or teach? they do not know, and cannot tell; but in order that they may not appear to be at a loss, they repeat the ready-made charges which are used against all philosophers about teaching things up in the clouds and under the earth, and having no gods, and making the worse appear the better cause; for they do not like to confess that their pretence of knowledge has been detected which is the truth; and as they are numerous and ambitious and energetic, and are drawn up in battle array and have persuasive tongues, they have filled your ears with their loud and inveterate calumnies. (Socrates, as written by Plato in The Apology)
Happy indeed would be the condition of youth if they had one corrupter only, and all the rest of the world were their improvers. (Socrates, as written by Plato in The Apology)
Perhaps someone will say: And are you not ashamed, Socrates, of a course of life which puts you in danger of the death penalty? To him I may fairly answer: You are mistaken, my friend, if you think that a man who is worth for 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. (Socrates, as written by Plato in The Apology)
.. so long as I have life and strength I shall never
cease from the practice and teaching of philosophy, exhorting you and elucidating
the truth for everyone that I meet. I shall go on saying, in my usual way, “My
friend, you are an Athenian and belong to a city which is the greatest and
famous in the world for its wisdom and strength. Are you not ashamed that you
give your attention to acquiring as much money as possible, and similarly with
honour and reputation, and care so little about wisdom and truth and the greatest
improvement of the soul, which you never regard or heed at all?"
.. For I do nothing but go about persuading you all, old and young alike, not to take thought for your persons or your properties, but for the highest welfare of your souls, proclaiming as I go, ‘Wealth does not bring goodness, but goodness brings wealth and every other blessing, both to the individual and to the State.’ This is my teaching, and if this is the doctrine which corrupts the youth, I am a mischievous person. But if any one says that this is not my teaching, he is speaking an untruth. (Socrates, as written by Plato in The Apology)
I sought to persuade every man among you that he must look to himself, and seek virtue and wisdom before he looks to his private interests, and look to the state before he looks to the interests of the state; and that this should be the order which he observes in all his actions. (Socrates, as written by Plato in The Apology)
It is not lack of arguments that has caused my condemnation; but I had not the boldness or impudence or inclination to address you as you would have liked me to do, weeping and wailing and lamenting, and saying and doing many things which you have been accustomed to hear from others, and which, as I maintain, are unworthy of me. I thought at the time that I ought not to do anything common or mean when in danger: nor do I now repent of the style of my defence; I would rather die having spoken after my manner, than speak in your manner and live. (Socrates, as written by Plato in The Apology)
In the year 399 B.C. three Athenian citizens - Meletus, Anytus and Lycon - brought a public action against Socrates as being a menace to society.
The first part of the charge - heresy - was no doubt primarily intended to inflame prejudice. ‘Heresy' seems to be a more appropriate word than ‘impiety’, since the latter hardly suggests an indictable offence. It had already been used with success against Anaxagoras, whose views were apparently imputed to Socrates. It could hardly have been substantiated, as Socrates was punctilious in his religious observances. Still, he may well have pointed out incongruities or unworthy elements in traditional beliefs; and his ‘divine voice’ could have been represented as the profane invention of a dangerous free-thinker.
The second and more serious part of the charge was that Socrates ‘corrupted the minds of the young’. This superficial absurdity had a certain political foundation. His circle had included a number of right-wing aristocrats whose memory, even if they were now dead, were still abhorred. One of his closest pupils, the brilliant Alcibiades, was remembered now as a traitor who had ruined his country. It was possible to argue that it was Socrates who had led these men astray and that he was doing the same to others. Also his tendency to regard popular opinion as ignorant made him suspect in the eyes of the democratic party, of which Anytus, the most influential of his accusers, was a prominent member.
Thus the prosecution relied mainly on the powerful conjunction of religious
and political hostility. They also counted upon Socrates’ unpopularity
with those whose self-pride he had offended; and they hoped that his uncompromising
attitude would alienate the jury, which expected flatter and abject entreaties.
The procedure in court. Litigants had to state their own case, without the help of counsel. The prosecution spoke first, and when the defendant had replied the jury (which consisted of 501 representative citizens), without any direction or summing-up from the presiding magistrate, at once gave its verdict by a majority vote. If the votes were equal the case was dismissed; if the plaintiff received less than one-fifth of the total number he was fined. When the verdict was Guilty (as in the present case) there was no penalty fixed by law, the plaintiff proposed one, the defendant another and the jury voted between them.
The Apology consists of three separate speeches: (1) Socrates’ defence, (2) his counter-proposal for the penalty and (3) a final address to the Court.
I do not know what effect my accusers have had upon you, gentlemen, but for my own part I was almost carried away by them; their arguments were so convincing. On the other hand, scarcely a word of what they said was true. But of the many falsehoods told by them, there was one which quite amazed me; I mean when they said that you should be upon your guard and not allow yourselves to be deceived by the force of my eloquence- the implication being that I am a skillful speaker. To say this, when they were certain to be detected as soon as I opened my lips and proved myself to be anything but a great speaker, did indeed appear to me most shameless--unless by the force of eloquence they mean the force of truth; for is such is their meaning, I admit that I am eloquent. But in how different a way from theirs!
My accusers, then, as I maintain, have said little or nothing that is true, but from me you shall hear the whole truth: not, however, delivered after their manner in a set oration duly ornamented with words and phrases. No, by heaven! but I shall use the words and arguments which occur to me at the moment; for I am confident in the justice of my cause (Or, I am certain that I am right in taking this course.): at my time of life I ought not to be appearing before you, O men of Athens, in the character of a juvenile orator--let no one expect it of me. And I must beg of you to grant me a favour: If I defend myself in my accustomed manner, and you hear me using the words which I have been in the habit of using in the agora, at the tables of the money-changers, or anywhere else, I would ask you not to be surprised, and not to interrupt me on this account. For I am more than seventy years of age, and appearing now for the first time in a court of law, I am quite a stranger to the language of the place; and therefore I would have you regard me as if I were really a stranger, whom you would excuse if he spoke in his native tongue, and after the fashion of his country:--Am I making an unfair request of you? Never mind the manner, which may or may not be good; but think only of the truth of my words, and give heed to that: let the speaker speak truly and the judge decide justly.
The Old Accusers
The proper course for me, gentlemen of the jury, is to deal first with the earliest charges that have been falsely brought against me, and with my earliest accusers; and then with the later ones. For I have had many accusers, who have accused me falsely to you during many years; and I am more afraid of them than of Anytus and his associates, who are dangerous, too, in their own way. But far more dangerous are the others, who began when you were children, and took possession of your minds with their falsehoods, telling of one Socrates, a wise man, who speculated about the heaven above, and searched into the earth beneath, and made the worse appear the better cause. It is these people, gentlemen, the disseminators of these rumours, who are my dangerous accusers; because those who hear them suppose that anyone who inquires into such matters must be atheist.
All these people, who have tried to set you against me out of envy and love of slander- and some too merely passing on what they have been told by others- all these people are very difficult to deal with; for I cannot have them up here, and cross-examine them, and therefore I must simply fight with shadows in my own defence, and argue when there is no one who answers. So I ask you to accept my statement that my critics fall into two classes: one recent, the other ancient: and I hope that you will see the propriety of my answering the latter first, for these accusations you heard long before the others, and much oftener.
Very well then; I must begin my defence, gentlemen, and I must try, in the
short time that I have, to rid your minds of a false impression which is the
work of many years. I should like this to be the result, gentlemen, assuming
it to be for your advantage and my own; and I should like to be successful
in my defence; but I think that will be difficult, and I am quite aware of
the nature of my task.
Let us go back to the beginning and consider the accusation which has given rise to the slander of me, and in fact has encouraged Meletus to proof this charge against me. Well, what do the slanderers say? They shall be my prosecutors, and I will sum up their words in an affidavit:
'Socrates is an evil-doer, and a curious person, who searches into things under the earth and in heaven, and he makes the worse appear the better cause; and he teaches the aforesaid doctrines to others.'
Such is the nature of the accusation: it is just what you have yourselves
seen in the comedy of Aristophanes (The Clouds.), who has introduced a man
whom he calls Socrates, going about and saying that he walks in air, and talking
a deal of nonsense concerning matters of which I do not pretend to know either
much or little. I mean no disrespect for such knowledge, if anyone really is
versed in it- I do not want any more lawsuits brought against me by Meletus-
but the simple truth is, O Athenians, that I have nothing to do with physical
speculations. Very many of those here present are witnesses to the truth of
this, and to them I appeal. Speak then, you who have heard me, and tell your
neighbours whether any of you have ever known me hold forth in few words or
in many upon such matters...You hear their answer. And from what they say of
this part of the charge you will be able to judge of the truth of the rest.
The fact is that there is nothing in any of these charges; and if you have heard anyone say that I try to educate people and charge a fee, there is no truth in that either. Although, if a man were really able to instruct mankind, to receive money for giving instruction would, in my opinion, be an honour to him.
I dare say, Athenians, that some one among you will reply, 'Yes, Socrates,
but what is the origin of these accusations which are brought against you;
there must have been something strange which you have been doing? All these
rumours and this talk about you would never have arisen if you had
been like other men: tell us, then, what is the cause of them, for we should be sorry to judge hastily of you.' Now I regard this as a fair challenge, and I will endeavour to explain to you the reason why I am called wise and have such an evil fame.
The Oracle of Delphi
Now, gentlemen, please do not interrupt me is I seem to be making an extravagant claim; for what I am going to tell you is not my own opinion. I will refer you to a witness who is worthy of credit; that witness shall be the God of Delphi--he will tell you about my wisdom, if I have any, and of what sort it is.
You know Chaerephon, of course. He was a friend of mine from boyhood, and also a good democrat who played his part with the rest of you in the recent expulsion and restoration. And you know what he was like; how enthusiastic he was over anything that he had once undertaken. Well one day he went to Delphi and boldly asked the oracle to tell him whether anyone was wiser than myself and the Pythian prophetess answered, that there was no man wiser. Chaerephon is dead himself; but his brother, who is in court, will confirm the truth of what I am saying.
Why do I mention this? Because I am going to explain to you why I have such an evil name. When I heard the answer, I said to myself, What can the god mean? and what is the interpretation of his riddle? for I know that I have no wisdom, small or great. What then can he mean when he says that I am the wisest of men? And yet he is a god, and cannot lie; that would be against his nature. After long consideration, I thought of a method of trying the question. I reflected that if I could only find a man wiser than myself, then I might go to the god with a refutation in my hand. I should say to him, 'Here is a man who is wiser than I am; but you said that I was the wisest.'
Accordingly I went to one who had the reputation of wisdom, and observed him--his
name I need not mention; he was a politician whom I selected for examination--and
the result was as follows: When I began to talk with him, I could not help
thinking that he was not really wise, although he was thought wise by many,
and still wiser by himself; and thereupon I tried to explain to him that he
thought himself wise, but was not really wise; and the consequence was that
he hated me, and his enmity was shared by several who were present and heard
me. So I left him, saying to myself, as I went away: Well, although I do not
suppose that either of us knows anything really beautiful and good, I am better
off than he is,--for he knows nothing, and thinks that he knows; I neither
know nor think that I know. In this latter particular, then, I seem to have
slightly the advantage of him. Then I went to another who had still higher
pretensions to wisdom, and my conclusion was exactly the same. Whereupon I
made another enemy of him, and of many others besides him.
Then I went to one man after another, being not unconscious of the enmity which I provoked, and I lamented and feared this: but necessity was laid upon me,--the word of God, I thought, ought to be considered first. And I said to myself, Go I must to all who appear to know, and find out the meaning of the oracle. And I swear to you, Athenians, --for I must tell you the truth--the result of my mission was just this: I found that the men most in repute were all but the most foolish; and that others less esteemed were really wiser and better. I will tell you the tale of my wanderings and of the 'Herculean' labours, as I may call them, which I endured only to find at last the oracle irrefutable. After the politicians, I went to the poets; tragic, dithyrambic, and all sorts. And there, I said to myself, you will be instantly detected; now you will find out that you are more ignorant than they are. Accordingly, I took them some of the most elaborate passages in their own writings, and asked what was the meaning of them--thinking that they would teach me something. Will you believe me? I am almost ashamed to confess the truth, but I must say that there is hardly a person present who would not have talked better about their poetry than they did themselves. Then I knew that not by wisdom do poets write poetry, but by a sort of genius and inspiration; they are like diviners or soothsayers who also say many fine things, but do not understand the meaning of them. The poets appeared to me to be much in the same case; and I further observed that upon the strength of their poetry they believed themselves to be the wisest of men in other things in which they were not wise. So I departed, conceiving myself to be superior to them for the same reason that I was superior to the politicians.
At last I went to the artisans. I was conscious that I knew nothing at all, as I may say, and I was sure that they knew many fine things; and here I was not mistaken, for they did know many things of which I was ignorant, and in this they certainly were wiser than I was. But I observed that even the good artisans fell into the same error as the poets;--because they were good workmen they thought that they also knew all sorts of high matters, and this defect in them overshadowed their wisdom; and therefore I asked myself on behalf of the oracle, whether I would like to be as I was, neither having their knowledge nor their ignorance, or like them in both; and I made answer to myself and to the oracle that I was better off as I was.
The effect of these investigations of mine, gentlemen, has been to arouse against me a great deal f hostility, hostility of a particularly bitter and persistent kind, which has resulted in various malicious suggestions, including the description of me as a professor of wisdom. This is due to the fact that whenever I succeed in disproving another person’s claim to wisdom in a given subject, the bystanders assume that I know everything about that subject myself. But the truth is, O men of Athens, is this: that real wisdom is the property of God, and this oracle is his way of telling us that human wisdom has little or no value. It seems to me that he is not referring literally to Socrates, but has merely taken my name as an example, as he would say to us ‘The wisest of you men is he who has realised, like Socrates, that in respect of wisdom he is really worthless.’
This is why I still go about seeking and searching in obedience to the divine command, if I think that anyone is wise, whether citizen or stranger; and when I think that any person is not wise, I try to help the cause of God by proving that he is not. This occupation has kept me too busy to do much either in politics or in my own affairs; in fact, my service to God has reduced me to extreme poverty.
There is another thing:--young men of the richer classes, who have not much to do, come about me of their own accord; they like to hear the pretenders examined, and they often imitate me, and proceed to examine others; there are plenty of persons, as they quickly discover, who think that they know something, but really know little or nothing; and then those who are examined by them instead of being angry with themselves are angry with me: This confounded Socrates, they say; this villainous misleader of youth!--and then if somebody asks them, Why, what evil does he practice or teach? they do not know, and cannot tell; but in order that they may not appear to be at a loss, they repeat the ready-made charges which are used against all philosophers about teaching things up in the clouds and under the earth, and having no gods, and making the worse appear the better cause; for they do not like to confess that their pretence of knowledge has been detected which is the truth; and as they are numerous and ambitious and energetic, and are drawn up in battle array and have persuasive tongues, they have filled your ears with their loud and inveterate calumnies.
There you have the causes which led to the attack upon me by Meletus and Anytus
and Lycon,; Meletus, being aggrieved on behalf of the poets; Anytus, on behalf
of the craftsmen and politicians; Lycon, on behalf of the orators. So, as I
said at the beginning, I should be surprised if I were able, in the short time
I have, to rid your minds of a misconception so deeply implanted.
And this, O men of Athens, is the truth and the whole truth; I have concealed nothing, I have dissembled nothing. And yet, I am fairly certain that this plain speaking of mine is the cause of my unpopularity; and what is their hatred but a proof that I am speaking the truth?—Hence has arisen the prejudice against me; and this is the reason of it, as you will find out either in this or in any future enquiry.
Corruption of the Youths
I have said enough in my defence against the first class of my accusers; I turn to the second class. They are headed by Meletus, high-principled and patriotic, as he claims to be. Against these, too, I must try to make a defence:--Let their affidavit be read: it contains something of this kind: It says that Socrates is a doer of evil, who corrupts the youth; and who does not believe in the gods of the state, but has other new divinities of his own. Such is the charge; and now let us examine the particular counts. He says that I am a doer of evil, and corrupt the youth; but I say, O men of Athens, that Meletus is a doer of evil, in that he pretends to be in earnest when he is only in jest, and is so eager to bring men to trial from a pretended zeal and interest about matters in which he really never had the smallest interest. And the truth of this I will endeavour to prove to you.
Come hither, Meletus, and let me ask a question of you. You think a great deal about the improvement of youth?
Yes, I do.
Tell the judges, then, who is their improver; for you must know, as you have taken the pains to discover their corrupter, and are citing and accusing me before them. Speak, then, and tell the judges who their improver is. ... Observe, Meletus, that you are silent, and have nothing to say. But is not this rather disgraceful, and a very considerable proof of what I was saying, that you have no interest in the matter? Speak up, friend, and tell us who their improver is.
But that, my good sir, is not my meaning. I want to know who the person is, whose first business it is to know the laws.
These gentlemen here, Socrates, the members of the jury.
What, do you mean to say, Meletus, that they are able to instruct and improve youth?
Certainly they are.
What, all of them, or some only and not others?
All of them.
Excellent! A generous supply of benefactors. Well, then, do these spectators who are present in the court have an improving influence?
Yes, they do.
And the senators?
Yes, the senators improve them.
But perhaps the members of the assembly corrupt them?--or do they too improve them?
They improve them.
Then every Athenian improves and elevates them; all with the exception of myself; and I alone am their corrupter? Is that what you affirm?
That is what I stoutly affirm.
This is certainly a most unfortunate quality who have detected in me. But
suppose I ask you a question: Take the care of horses; does one man do them
harm and all the world good? Or is the truth just the opposite, that the ability
to improve them belongs to one person or to very few persons, who are horse-trainers,
whereas most people, if they have to do with horses and make use of them, do
them harm? Is this not the case, Meletus, both with horses and with all other
animals? Most assuredly it is; whether you and Anytus deny it or not.
Happy indeed would be the condition of youth if they had one corrupter only, and all the rest of the world were their improvers. But you, Meletus, have sufficiently shown that you never bothered your head about the young: your carelessness is seen in your not caring about the very things which you bring against me.
And now, Meletus, I will ask you another question--by Zeus I will: Which is better, to live among bad citizens, or among good ones? Answer, friend, I say; the question is one which may be easily answered. Do not the good do their neighbours good, and the bad do them evil?
And is there anyone who would rather be harmed than benefited by those who live with him? Answer, my good friend, the law requires you to answer--does any one like to be harmed?
And when you accuse me of corrupting and deteriorating the youth, do you allege that I corrupt them intentionally or unintentionally?
Intentionally, I say.
Why, Meletus, are you at your age so much wiser than I at mine? You have discovered that the good do their neighbours good, and the evil do them evil; am I so hopelessly ignorant as not to even realise that by spoiling the character of one of my companions I shall run the risk of getting some harm from him? Because nothing else would make me commit this grave offence intentionally. No I do not believe it, and I do not suppose that anyone else does as well.
But either I do not corrupt them, or I corrupt them unintentionally; and on either view of the case your accusation is false. If I unintentionally have a bad influence, the correct procedure in cases of such involuntary misdemeanours is not the summon the culprit before this court, but to take him aside privately for instruction and reproof; because obviously if my eyes are opened, I shall stop doing what I do not intend to do. But you deliberately avoided my company in the past and refused to enlighten me, and now you bring me before this court, which is a place appointed to those who need punishment, not for those who need enlightenment.
It will be very clear to you, Athenians, as I was saying, that Meletus has no care at all, great or small, about the matter. But still I should like to know, Meletus, in what I am affirmed to corrupt the young. I suppose you mean, as I infer from your indictment, that I teach them not to acknowledge the gods which the state acknowledges, but some other new divinities or spiritual agencies in their stead. These are the lessons by which I corrupt the youth, as you say.
Yes, that I say emphatically.
Then, by the gods, Meletus, of whom we are speaking, tell me and the court, in somewhat plainer terms, what you mean! for I do not as yet understand whether you affirm that I teach other men to acknowledge some gods, and therefore that I do believe in gods, and am not an entire atheist--this you do not lay to my charge,--but only you say that they are not the same gods which the city recognizes--the charge is that they are different gods. Or, do you mean that I am an atheist simply, and a teacher of atheism?
I mean the latter--that you are a complete atheist.
What an extraordinary statement! Why do you think so, Meletus? Do you mean that I do not believe in the godhead of the sun or moon, like other men?
I assure you, judges, that he does not: for he says that the sun is stone, and the moon earth.
Friend Meletus, you think that you are accusing Anaxagoras: and you have but
a bad opinion of the judges, if you fancy them illiterate to such a degree
as not to know that these doctrines are found in the books of Anaxagoras the
And do you seriously suggest that it is from me that the young get these ideas, when they can buy them on occasion in the market-place for a drachma at most, and so have the laugh on Socrates if he claims them for his own, to say nothing of their being so silly? Tell me honestly, Meletus, is that your opinion of me? do I believe in no god?
I swear by Zeus that you believe absolutely in none at all.
You are not all convincing, Meletus; not even to yourself, I suspect. It certainly
seems to me that you are contradicting yourself in this indictment, which might
as well run ‘Socrates is guilty of not believing in the gods, and yet
of believing in them. And this is pure flippancy.
I should like you, O men of Athens, to join me in examining what I conceive to be his inconsistency; and do you, Meletus, answer. And I must remind the audience of my request that they would not make a disturbance if I speak in my accustomed manner:
Is there anyone in the world, Meletus, who believes in the existence of human things, and not of human beings?...I wish, men of Athens, that he would answer, and not be always trying to get up an interruption. Did ever any man believe in horsemanship, and not in horses? or in flute-playing, and not in flute-players? No, my friend; I will answer to you and to the court, as you refuse to answer for yourself. There is no man who ever did. But now please to answer the next question: Can a man believe in supernatural activities and not in supernatural beings?
How good of you to give a bare answer under compulsion of the court! Well, do you assert that I believe and teach others to believe in supernatural activities? It is a fact that I believe in them according to your statement; as you solemnly swore as much in your affidavit. But if I believe in supernatural activities, it follows inevitably that I also believe in supernatural beings. Is that not so? It is; I assume your assent, since you do not answer. Now do we hold that supernatural beings are either gods or the children of gods? Do you agree or not?
But this is what I call the facetious riddle invented by you: first you say
that I do not believe in gods, and then again that I do believe in gods; that
is, if I believe in demigods. For if the demigods are the illegitimate sons
of gods, whether by the nymphs or by any other mothers, of whom they are said
to be the sons—who would ever believe of in the children of gods and
not in the gods themselves? It would be as ridiculous as to believe in the
young of horses or donkeys and not in horses and donkeys themselves. No, Meletus;
there is no avoiding the conclusion that you brought this charge against me
as a test of my wisdom, or else in despair of finding a genuine offence of
which to accuse me of. As for your prospect of convincing any living person
with even a smattering of intelligence that belief in supernatural and divine
activities does not imply belief in supernatural and divine beings, and vice
versa, it is outside all the bounds of possibility.
Gentlemen, I do not feel that it requires much defence to clear myself of Meletus’ accusations; what I have said is already enough.But you know very well the truth of what I said in the earlier part of my speech, that I have incurred a great deal of bitter hostility; and that this is what will bring about my destruction if anything does; not Meletus, nor Anytus, but the slander and jealousy of the world, which has been the death of many other innocent men, and will probably be the death of many more; there is no danger of me being the last of them.
Perhaps someone will say: And are you not ashamed, Socrates, of a course of life which puts you in danger of the death penalty? To him I may fairly answer: You are mistaken, my friend, if you think that a man who is worth for 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.
For let me tell you gentlemen, that to be afraid of death is only another form of thinking that one is wise when one is not; it is to think that one knows what one does not know. No one knows with regards to death, which men in their fear apprehend to be the greatest evil, may not be the greatest good. Is not this ignorance of a disgraceful sort, the ignorance which is the conceit that a man knows what he does not know? And in this respect only I believe myself to differ from men in general, and may perhaps claim to be wiser than they are:--that not possessing any real knowledge of what comes after death, I am also conscious that I do not possess it. But I do know that to do wrong and disobey my superior, whether God or man, is wicked and dishonourable, and so I shall never feel more fear or aversion for something which, for all I know, may really be a blessing, than for those evils which I know to be evils.
Suppose gentlemen, you said to me, ‘Socrates, you shall be acquitted
on this occasion, but only on one condition. That you give up spending your
time on this quest and stop philosophising. If we catch you going on in the
same way, you shall be put to death. Well, supposing, as I said, that you should
offer to acquit me on these terms, I should reply:
Men of Athens, I am your very grateful and devoted servant, but I owe a greater obedience to God than to you, and so long as I have life and strength I shall never cease from the practice and teaching of philosophy, exhorting you and elucidating the truth for everyone that I meet. I shall go on saying, in my usual way, “My friend, you are an Athenian and belong to a city which is the greatest and famous in the world for its wisdom and strength. Are you not ashamed that you give your attention to acquiring as much money as possible, and similarly with honour and reputation, and care so little about wisdom and truth and the greatest improvement of the soul, which you never regard or heed at all?
And if any of you disputes this and professes to care about these things,
I shall not at once let him go or leave him; no, I shall question him and examine
him and test him; and if it appears that in spite of his profession he has
made no real progress towards goodness, I shall reprove him for neglecting
what is of supreme importance, and giving his attention to trivialities. And
I shall repeat the same words to every one whom I meet, young and old, citizen
and alien, but especially to my fellow citizens, inasmuch as you are closer
to me in kinship. For know that this is the command of God; and I believe that
no greater good has ever happened in the state than my service to the God.
For I do nothing but go about persuading you all, old and young alike, not
to take thought for your persons or your properties, but for the highest welfare
of your souls, proclaiming as I go, ‘Wealth does not bring goodness,
but goodness brings wealth and every other blessing, both to the individual
and to the State.’ This is my teaching, and if this is the doctrine which
corrupts the youth,
I am a mischievous person. But if any one says that this is not my teaching, he is speaking an untruth. And so, men of Athens, I say to you, You can please yourselves whether you listen to my accusers and either you acquit me or not; but whichever you do, understand that I shall never alter my ways, not even if I have to die a hundred deaths.
Men of Athens, do not interrupt, but hear me; there was an understanding between us that you should hear me to the end: I have something more to say, at which you may be inclined to cry out; but I believe that to hear me will be good for you, and therefore I beg that you will not cry out. I would have you know, that if you kill such an one as I am, you will injure yourselves more than you will injure me. Neither Meletus nor Anytus can do me any harm at all; they would not have the power, because I do not believe that the law of God permits a better man to be harmed by a worse. No doubt my accuser may put me to death or have me banished or deprived of civil rights; and he may imagine, and others may imagine, that he is inflicting a great injury upon me: I do not agree. I believe that it is far worse to do what he is doing now, trying to put an innocent man to death. For this reason, gentlemen, so far from pleading on my own behalf, as might be supposed, I am really pleading on yours, to save you from misusing the gift of God by condemning me.
For if you kill me you will not easily find a successor to me, who, if I may use such a ludicrous figure of speech, am a sort of gadfly, given to the state by God; and the state is a great and noble steed who is tardy in his motions owing to his very size, and requires to be stirred into life. I am that gadfly which God has attached to the state, and all day long and in all places am always fastening upon you, arousing and persuading and reproaching you. You will not easily find another like me, and therefore I would advise you to spare me. I dare say that you may feel out of temper (like a person who is suddenly awakened from sleep), and you think that you might easily strike me dead as Anytus advises, and then you would sleep on for the remainder of your lives, unless God in his care of you sent you another gadfly. When I say that I am given to you by God, the proof of my mission is this: Does it seem natural that I should not have neglected all my own affairs and endured the humiliation of allowing my family to be neglected all these years, while I busied myself all the time on your behalf, going like a father or elder brother to see each one of you privately, and urging you to set your thoughts on goodness? If I had gained anything, or if my exhortations had been paid, there would have been some sense in my doing so; but now, as you will perceive, not even the impudence of my accusers dares to say that I have ever exacted or sought pay of any one; of that they have no witness. And I have a sufficient witness to the truth of what I say--my poverty.
It may seem curious that I should go round giving advice like this and busying myself with the concerns of others, and yet never venture publicly to address you as a whole and advise on matter of the state. This 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, the divinity which Meletus ridicules in his indictment. This sign, which is a kind of voice, first began to come to me when I was a child; it always dissuades me from what I am proposing to do, and never urges me on. This is what deters me from being a politician. And rightly, as I think. For I am certain, O men of Athens, that if I had engaged in politics, I should have perished long ago, and done no good either to you or to myself. Please do not be offended if I tell you the truth. No man on earth who conscientiously opposes either you or any other organised 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.
Now do you really imagine that I could have survived all these years, 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 long way, men of Athens, neither I nor any other man. You will find that throughout my life I have been consistent in all my actions, public as well as private, and never have I 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 been any man’s teacher; but if any one likes to come and hear me while I am pursuing my mission, whether he be young or old, he is not excluded. Nor do I converse only with those who pay; but any one, whether he be rich or poor, may ask and answer me and listen to my words. If any given one of these people becomes a good citizen or a bad one, I cannot be fairly held responsible, for I never taught or professed to teach him anything. And if any one says that he has ever learned or heard anything from me in private which all the world has not heard, you may be quite sure he is not telling the truth.
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, visions, and in every way in which the will of divine power was ever intimated to any one. This is a true statement, gentlemen, and easy to verify. If I am or have been corrupting the youth, those of them who are now grown up and have become sensible that I gave them bad advice in the days of their youth should come forward as accusers, and take their revenge; or if they do not like to come themselves, some of their relatives, fathers, brothers, or other kinsmen, should say what evil their families have suffered at my hands. Now is their time. Many of them I see in the court. There is Crito, who is my contemporary and my neighbour, and there is Critobulus his son, whom I also see. Then again there is Lysanias of Sphettus, who is the father of Aeschines--he is present; and also there is Antiphon of Cephisus, who is the father of Epigenes; and there are the brothers of several who have associated with me. There is Nicostratus the son of Theosdotides, and the brother of Theodotus (now Theodotus himself is dead, and therefore he, at any rate, will not seek to stop him); and there is Paralus the son of Demodocus, who had a brother Theages; and Adeimantus the son of Ariston, whose brother Plato is present; and Aeantodorus, who is the brother of Apollodorus, whom I also see. I might mention a great many others, some of whom Meletus should have produced as witnesses in the course of his speech; and let him still produce them, if he has forgotten--I will make way for him. Let him state whether he has any such evidence to offer. On the contrary, O Athenians, 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 call me. The actual victims of my corrupting influence might perhaps be excused for helping mel 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?
Well, Athenians, this is all the defence which I have to offer. Yet a word more. Perhaps there may be some one who is offended at me, when he calls to mind how he himself on a similar, or even a less serious occasion, prayed and entreated the judges with many tears, and how he produced his children in court, which was a moving spectacle, together with a host of relations and friends; whereas I, who am probably in danger of my life, will do none of these things. The contrast may occur to his mind, and he may be set against me, and vote in anger because he is displeased at me on this account. Now if there be such a person among you,--mind, I do not say that there is,--to him I may fairly reply: My friend, I am a man, and like other men, a creature of flesh and blood, and not 'of wood or stone,' as Homer says; and I have a family, yes, and sons too, gentlemen, three in number, one almost a man, and two others who are still young; and yet I will not bring any of them hither in order to petition you for an acquittal.
I do not think that it is right for a man to appeal to the jury or to get himself acquitted by doing so; he ought to inform them of the facts and convince them by argument. The jury does not sit to dispence justice as a favour, but to decide where justice lies; and he has sworn that he will judge according to the laws, and not according to his own good pleasure. It follows that we must not develop in you, nor you allow to grow in yourselves, the habit of perjury; that would be sinful to us both. Therefore you must not expect me, gentlemen, to behave towards you in a way which I consider neither reputable nor moral nor consistent with my religious duty; and above all you must not expect it when I am being tried for impiety on the indictment of Meletus. For if, O men of Athens, I tried to persuade you and prevail upon you by my entreaties to go against your solemn oath, I should be teaching you contempt for religion; and by my very defence I should be accusing myself of having no religious belief. But that is far from the truth. For I do believe that there are gods, and in a sense higher than that in which any of my accusers believe in them; and I leave it to you and to God to judge me as it shall be best for me and for yourselves. And to you and to God I commit my cause, to be determined by you as is best for you and me.
[The verdict is ‘Guilty’ and Meletus proposes the penalty of death]
There are many reasons why I am not distressed, O men of Athens, at the vote of condemnation. I expected it, and am only surprised that the votes are so nearly equal. I should never of believed that it would be such a close thing; but now it seems that if a mere thirty votes had gone the other way, I should have been acquitted.
However, we must fact the fact that he demands the death penalty. Very good.
What alternative penalty shall I propose to you, O men of Athens? Obviously
it must be adequate. Well, what penalty do I deserve to pay or suffer, in view
of what I have done?
I have never lived an ordinary quiet life. I did not care for the things that most people care about: making money, having a comfortable home, high military or civil rank, and all the other activities- political appointments, secret societies, party organisations- which go on in our city; I thought that I was really too strict in my principles to survive if I went in for this sort of thing. So instead of taking a course which would have done no good either to you or to me, I set myself to do you individually in private what I hold to be the greatest possible service: I sought to persuade every man among you that he must look to himself, and seek virtue and wisdom before he looks to his private interests, and look to the state before he looks to the interests of the state; and that this should be the order which he observes in all his actions. What do I deserve for behaving in this way? Some reward, gentlemen, if I am bound to suggest what I really deserve; and what is more, a reward which would be appropriate for myself. What is appropriate for a poor man who is a public benefactor, and who requires leisure for giving you moral encouragement? Nothing could be more appropriate for such a person than free maintenance at the State’s expense. He deserves it much more than any victor in the races at Olympia, whether he wins with a single horse or a pair or a team of four. These people give you the appearance of happiness, but I give you the reality; they do not need maintenance, but I do. So if I am to suggest an appropriate penalty, I suggest free maintenance by the State.
I am convinced that I never wrong anyone intentionally, although I cannot convince you of this, because we have had so little time for discussion. If there were a law at Athens, as there is in other cities, that a capital cause should not be decided in one day, then I believe that I should have convinced you. But I cannot in a moment refute great slanders; and, as I am convinced that I never wronged another, I can hardly be expected to wrong myself by asserting that I deserve something bad, or by proposing a corresponding penalty. Why should I? For fear of suffering this penalty of death which Meletus proposes? When I do not know whether death is a good or an evil, why should I propose a penalty which would certainly be an evil? Imprisonment? And why should I live in prison, in subjection to the periodically appointed officers of the law? Or shall the penalty be a fine, and imprisonment until the fine is paid? In my case the effect would be just the same, because I have no money to pay a fine. Or shall I suggest exile? You would be very likely to accept the suggestion. I should have to be desperately in love with life to do that, gentlemen. I am not so blind that I cannot see that you, my fellow citizens, have come to the end of your patience with my discussions and conversations; you have found them too irksome and irritating, and now you are trying to get rid of them. Will any other people find them easy to put up with? That is most unlikely, men of Athens. A fine life should I lead, at my age, wandering from city to city, ever changing my place of exile, and always being driven out! For I am quite sure that wherever I go, there, as here, the young men will flock to me; and if I drive them away, their elders will drive me out at their request; while if I do not, the fathers and other relatives will drive me out of their own accord for the sake of the young.
What Socrates Requests
Perhaps someone may say ‘But surely, Socrates, after you have left us you can spend the rest of your life in quietly minding you own business.’ This is the hardest thing of all to make some of you understand. If I say that this would be disobedience to God, and therefore that I cannot hold my tongue, you will not believe that I am serious. If on the other hand I tell you that to let no day pass without discussing goodness and all the other subjects about which you hear me examining both myself and others is really the very best thing that a man can do, and that the unexamined life is not worth living, you will be even less inclined to believe me. Nevertheless that is how it is, gentlemen, as I maintain; though it is not easy to convince you of it. Also, I have never been accustomed to think that I deserve to suffer any harm. If I had money I might have suggested a fine that I could afford, because that would not have done me any harm. But I cannot, because I have none; unless of course you like to fix the penalty at what I could pay. Well, perhaps I could afford a hundred drachmae. I suggest a fine of that amount. One moment gentlemen, Plato, Crito, Critobulus, and Apollodorus, my friends here, want me to propose three thousand drachmae on their security. Very well, I agree to this sum, and you can rely upon these gentlemen for its payment.
[The jury decide for the death-penalty]
Well, gentlemen, for the sake of a very small gain in time you are going to earn the reputation- and the blame from those who wish to disparage our city- of having put Socrates to death, ‘a wise man’- for they will call me wise, even though I am not wise, these people who want to find fault with you. If you had waited a little while, your desire would have been fulfilled in the course of nature. For I am far advanced in years, as you may perceive, and not far from death. I am speaking now not to all of you, but only to those who have condemned me to death.
No doubt you think gentlemen, that I have been condemned for lack of the arguments which I could have used if I had thought it right to leave nothing unsaid or undone to secure my acquittal. But that is very far from the truth. It is not lack of arguments that has caused my condemnation; but I had not the boldness or impudence or inclination to address you as you would have liked me to do, weeping and wailing and lamenting, and saying and doing many things which you have been accustomed to hear from others, and which, as I maintain, are unworthy of me. I thought at the time that I ought not to do anything common or mean when in danger: nor do I now repent of the style of my defence; I would rather die having spoken after my manner, than speak in your manner and live.
In a court of law, just as in warfare, neither I nor any other ought to use his wits to escape death by any means. In battle it is obvious that if a man will throw away his arms, and fall on his knees before his pursuers, he may escape death; and in other dangers there are other ways of escaping death, if a man is willing to say and do anything. But I suggest, gentlemen, that the difficulty is not so much to escape death; the real difficulty is to escape from doing wrong, which is far more fleet of foot. In this present instance I, the slow old man, have been overtaken by the slower of the two, but my accusers, who are clever and quick, have been overtaken by the faster runner, who is unrighteousness. When I leave this court I shall go away condemned by you to death, but they will go away convicted by Truth herself of depravity and wickedness. And they accept their sentence even as I accept mine. No doubt it was bound to be so, and I think that the result is fair enough.
And now, O men who have condemned me, I would fain prophesy to you; for I am about to die, and in the hour of death men are gifted with prophetic power. And I prophesy to you, my executioners, that as soon as I am dead, vengeance shall fall upon you with a punishment far more painful than your killing of me. You have brought about my death because you wanted to escape the accuser, and not to give an account of your lives. But that will not be as you suppose: far otherwise. For I say that there will be more accusers of you than there are now; accusers whom hitherto I have restrained: and as they are younger they will be harsher to you, and will cause you more annoyance. If you think that by killing men you can prevent some one from censuring your evil lives, you are mistaken. This a way of escape is neither possible nor honourable; the easiest and the noblest way is not to stop the mouths of others, but by improving yourselves. This is the last message to you who voted for my condemnation.
To the jury who acquitted him
Friends, who voted for my acquittal, I should very much like to say a few words to reconcile you to the result, while the magistrates are busy, and before I go to the place at which I must die. Stay then a little, for we may as well talk with one another while there is time. You are my friends, and I should like to show you the meaning of this event which has happened to me. O my judges--for you I may truly call judges--I should like to tell you of a wonderful circumstance. Hitherto the divine faculty of which the internal oracle is the source has constantly been in the habit of opposing me even about trifles, if I was going to make a slip or error in any matter; and now as you see there has come upon me that which may be thought, and is generally believed to be, the last and worst evil. But the oracle made no sign of opposition, either when I was leaving my house in the morning, or when I was on my way to the court, or while I was speaking, at anything which I was going to say; and yet I have often been stopped in the middle of a speech, but now in nothing I either said or did touching the matter in hand has the oracle opposed me. What do I take to be the explanation of this silence? I will tell you. It is an intimation that what has happened to me is a good, and that those of us who think that death is an evil are in error. For the customary sign would surely have opposed me had I been going to evil and not to good.
We should reflect that there is much reason to hope for a good result on other
grounds as well. Death is one of two things. Either death is annihilation,
and the dead have no consciousness of anything; or, as we are told, it is really
a change: a migration of the soul from this place to another. Now if there
is no consciousness, but only a dreamless sleep, death must be a marvellous
If, on the other hand, death is a removal from here to some other place, and if what we are told is true, that all the dead are there, what greater blessing could there be than this, gentlemen? Put it this way: how much would one of you give to converse with Orpheus, Musaeus, Hesiod and Homer? Nay, if this be true, let me die again and again. It would be a specially interesting experience for me to join them there, to meet Palamedes, and Ajax the son of Telamon, and any other ancient hero who met their death through an unfair trial, and to compare my fortunes with theirs. Above all, I shall then be able to continue my search into true and false knowledge; as in this world, so also in the next; and I shall find out who is wise, and who pretends to be wise, and is not. What infinite delight would there be in conversing with them and asking them questions! In another world they do not put a man to death for asking questions: assuredly not. For besides being happier than we are, they will be immortal, if what is said is true.
You too, gentlemen of the jury, must look forward to death with confidence,
and fix your minds on this one belief, which is certain: that nothing can harm
a good man either in life or after death, and his fortunes are not a matter
of indifference to the gods. This present experience of mine has not come about
mechanically; I am quite clear that the time had come when it was better for
me to die and be released from my distractions. That is why my sign never turned
me back. For my own part I bear no grudge at all against those who condemned
and accused me, although it was not with this kind intention that they did
so, but because they thought that they were hurting me; and that is culpable
of them. However I ask them to grant me one favour. When my sons grow up, gentlemen,
if you think that they are putting money or anything else before goodness,
take your revenge by plaguing them as I plagued you; and if they fancy themselves
for no reason, you must scold them just as I scolded you, for neglecting the
important things and thinking they are good for something when they are good
for nothing. If you do this, I shall have had justice at your hands, both I
myself and my children.
Now it is time that we were going, I to die and you to live; but which of us has the happier prospect is unknown to anyone but God.
To be completed ..
Eastern Philosophy: Buddhism Hinduism Taoism Confucianism
Ancient Greek Philosophy: Stoicism, Quotes, Pictures
Heraclitus: Biography, Pictures, Philosophy Quotes
Socrates: Life & Death, Biography, Pictures, Quotes
Plato: Greek Philosopher. Republic Quotes, Biography
Aristotle: Politics & Philosophy Quotes, Biography, Pictures
Marcus Aurelius: 'Meditations' Quotes, Biography, Pictures
Benedict de Spinoza: 'Ethics' Philosophy Quotes
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz: Monad Philosophy Quotes
George Berkeley: Philosophy Quotes, Biography, Pictures
David Hume: Biography, Pictures, Philosophy Quotes
Immanuel Kant: Critique of Pure Reason Quotes
Friedrich Nietzsche: Biography, Pictures, Philosophy Quotes
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Philosophy of Education: Teaching Philosophy
Philosophy of Art: Renaissance Impressionist
Modern Art Gallery
Philosophy of Mind: Idealism to Realism
Uniting Matter & Mind
Postmodern Philosophy Postmodernism Vs. Realism
'The Gift of Truth Excels all Other Gifts.' (Buddha)
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A brilliant collection of portraits and quotes from 500 of the greatest minds in human history.
The Philosophy Shop has two portraits and quotes from Socrates.
Know Thyself Philosophy of Socrates
'Know Thyself! The unexamined Life is not worth Living.'
Socrates: Wisdom from Leisure
'Beware the barrenness of a busy life.'
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Truth & Reality
Truth & Reality