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Plato and The Apology, Oct 12th.docx

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Brian Lightbody

th PHIL 1F91 October 12 2012 Lecture Six: Plato and the Apology There are Three Periods in Plato‟s Writing: - The Early Period (the Apology, The Euthyphro etc…) - The Middle Period (the Phaedo, The Republic, The Symposium etc…) - The Late Period (the Parmenides, The Laws etc…) The Historical Background and Context of Socrates before the Apology - Socrates was a citizen of Athens – a Polis or city-state. He served as a soldier in many battles in the Peloponnesian war (431-404 BC) - Socrates‟ mother was a mid-wife and Socrates uses this image to understand his own philosophical method: he helps others give birth to their ideas - Socrates lived a life of poverty by choice More about Socrates - Socrates was extremely ugly. He was describes as a „monster‟, a crab, pug-nosed. Socrates could only train one eye on a person; (the other eye looked in the opposite direction). - What does Socrates „ugliness‟ have to do with his philosophy - For the Greeks, beauty and intelligence were linked. An excellent (Arete) man was excellent in all areas of his character Socrates‟ Daimon - Finally, Socrates has what he calls a daimon – an inner voice that guided his thought and actions - What exactly was this daimon? Finally We Have the Sophists - At this time, there were groups of teachers that went around Greek cities to teach the young, noble Greeks how to speak, act and to influence other people – these men were called Sophists - One famous Sophist called Gorgias claimed that the Protagoras claimed that “all knowledge was relative to each individual.” Such “teachers” were clearly not interested in truth and thus were reviled for this very reason. But many of the elite recognized that the Sophists did teach valuable skills: Oratory and rhetoric. Socrates in Historical Context - After Athens lost the Peloponnesian war to Sparta, many of the politicians and citizens of Athens wanted a scapegoat: someone they could blame for their defeat. Socrates was an easy target - Socrates has also angered and embarrassed many important Athenians - Finally, Sparta was anti-democratic. Socrates, in many ways, was the very icon of democratic values - SAPERE AUDEL 1 th PHIL 1F91 October 12 2012 The Charges - Socrates was brought to trial on three charges: 1. Corrupting the youth of Athens 2. Making the stronger argument appear to be the weaker 3. For worshipping false gods (impiety) - Socrates was convicted and was „forced‟ to commit suicide by drinking poisonous hemlock Socrates Continued - The Apology (from the Greek Apologia which means defense) is Plato‟s account of Socrates‟ trial. - The Apology, as we will see, is important for three reasons: 1) Socratic irony. Socrates claims to be the wisest man in all of Athens because he knows he is not wise. This makes him wiser that someone who believes he or she is truly wise when he/she is not 2) Socratic Method. The Socratic method or elenchus, is a way of imparting knowledge without having the student learn anything new  Probably the most famous example of this method can be found in Plato‟s The Euthyphro. Euthyphro was a religious expert (he may have been a temple priest but we are not sure). Thus, Socrates asked Euthyphro: “What is piety”?  To which Euthyphro responded: “I should say that which of all the gods love is pious and holy and the opposite which they all hate impious”.  To this Socrates retorts: “The point which I should first which to understand is whether the pious or holy is beloved by the gods because it is holy (in and of itself), or holy because it is beloved by the gods”.  Either option leads to further questions about what piety is. As the discussion continues, the student comes to know something about piety (what it is not) but never learns anything, positively speaking, as to what piety is. 3) Socrates‟ Ethos. The Apology is important for its portrayal of Socrates as a man of deep ethical conviction. Socrates refuses to stop examining himself and others; he continues to pursue the truth, in all of its myriad forms, even if this means he must die for his beliefs The Apology - Socrates begins by asking the court if he may “speak in his usual way”. - This usual way that Socrates speaks of his formerly called Elenchus -- a method of question and answer. Socrates starts by asking for a definition of justice. (The Republic) piety, (The Euthyphro)
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