I. The “Socratic problem” + the trauma of Socrates’s death
II.The old accusations + the new ones – Socrates rebuttal: convincing
III.What’s behind the trial: Religion? Politics?
IV. Socrates: bad or good citizenship
o Peloponnesian war (431404 B.C.)
o Plato born (427 B.C.)
o Oligarchic revolution (rule of the “400”) (411 B.C.)
o Oligarchic revolution (rule of 30 tyrants) (404 B.C.)
o The trial and death of Socrates (399 B.C.)
The “Socratic Problem”
o We don’t know whether or not the books written about him, actually represent the real him
o Divergent accounts of Socrates personality; one views him in a positive light while the other a negative
o As Socrates did not write philosophical texts, the knowledge of the man, his life, and his philosophy is
entirely based on writings by his students and contemporaries.
o The difficulty of finding the “real” Socrates arises because these works are often philosophical or
dramatic texts rather than straightforward histories.
o For this course, we are going to say that “the life and death of Socrates” comes from his point of
view. However it is important to recognize that the book was really written by Plato.
o 99% of books regarding Socrates believe it was wrong to kill Socrates. Almost nobody has argued
otherwise except for one book by I. Stone currently at the library.
o Socrates was indicted by three different citizens. There was no judicial process in Athens at the time.
Citizens had to defend themselves, that’s why rhetoric (the art of speaking well) was really important.
o Socrates was brought because of new accusations not the old ones, however Socrates was convinced
the old accusations prejudiced him and influenced jurors in a negative light regarding him.
o Socrates was adamant that he defend himself against the old accusations first, however he didn’t try
very much (committing suicide) o Socrates was a natural philosophers (studies the sky, the air etc..), which was the basis of the
accusation. Natural philosophers were considered dangerous, because they believed that earthquakes
and storms were not inflicted by the gods, but something natural.
o They were some Natural philosophers were exiled because of this charge
o Socrates was according to many the founder of political philosophy (Why? When many other came
o Because ancient philosophers dealt with numbers, celestial matters, but Socrates brought philosophy
down, into the cities, into the homes and the public. He made philosophy come down from highly
abstract matters and into (very concrete political matters).
o Several writers state that he was in fact not a natural philosopher but rather a political philosopher and
endn Socrates himself denied the charge.
o 2 Charge “He makes the weaker argument the stronger”, basically that he was a Sophist (bullshits,
too clever, smart ass).
o Sophist were travelling rhetoric teachers and could make a lot of money. Strong reason as to why they
were so hated (by Plato as well) “Obsession with power [money].
o Rhetoric’s were highly in demand and rich, because they were no lawyers at the time (had to defend
himself) and if speaking at an assembly (which was integral to acquire power, avoid being humiliated
and build up your reputation). Crowds were especially nasty to bad speakers.
o According to Sophist haters, Sophist didn’t care about morality, were selfish and only cared about
money and power. (Only the rich could afford them.) Only cared about talking well and transforming the
negative [death] into the positive.
o Socrates denied being a Sophist, he claims he never took money and never charged any young men.
His poverty is an example of this, even his wife left him because of that. He claims he was never
interested in making money, only “making good men”.
o Socrates believes he won’t be able to convince the jurors, because he was slandered with the previous
accusations (Natural Philosopher).
o Socrates sends a messenger to a Oracle priestess of Apollo and she claims from the gods that there is
no one wiser than Socrates, the messenger in turn tell Socrates.
o Socrates now declares that because he is considered the wisest, he will test it on the jury (he will not
o Wants to stick it to the jury, calls them ignorant
o He goes to see the poets (those he talk about war & tragedy), but Socrates notes that they have never
truly experienced it, sees that they do not have accurate knowledge (calls them Ignorant).
o Then he goes to see the craftsmen, who Socrates declares not ignorant as they have knowledge that
he does not possess. He gives them (commoners) more credit than the aristocrats (rich) = Something
rather democratic in its sense. They have greater knowledge than the people on top.
o Socrates also uses slaves to demonstrate that they are indeed cap