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Lecture 2


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PHIL 1100
Henry Jackman

PHIL 1100 LECTURE NOTES – FALL Week 2 Background to Plato’s Apology: - The Apology is Plato’s account of Socrates’ defense against charges of impiety o That Socrates was charged with impiety and sentenced to death - Crito is a dramatization of his decision not to escape from Athens the day before his execution Historical Context: Athens - 593 B.C.E. – Solon’s reforms o Democracy introduced o Most of the cities worked as independent countries o Was a democratic city state - 490-479 B.C.E. – Persian Wars o Kept independence by holding off the Persians - 479-404 B.C.E. – Golden Age of Athens o Became a very wealthy and cultured city - 431-404 B.C.E. – Peloponnesian War o War between Athens and Sparta o Left both cities comparatively weak o Socrates claims that democracy was not a good form of government and that something more like the Spartan system would have been better for Athens may have led to his trial and death - 399 B.C.E. – Trial & Death of Socrates o After Athens lost the war, a puppet government was placed in Athens and it was a non- democratic tyranny that was viewed badly and involved killing many citizens and followers of Socrates was in the government o Socrates was not shy about saying Sparta was better governed than Athens - 338 B.C.E. – Phillip II Conquers Greece - 334 B.C.E. – Alexander the Great invades Persia o Spreads Athenian culture through the Helanistic world Athenian Democracy and Law - Limited Democracy: less democratic than we are in that women were not allowed to vote, immigrants weren’t allowed to vote, they had slaves - No state run legal system o We elect representatives, but if you were a citizen you were allowed to be a part of the senate, it would be as if every citizen in Canada was a member of the parliament o Every decision was made together - Had civil law suits where one citizen can be brought up against another, with a large jury of over 100 people, and whoever was most persuasive won the case - Everything is settled by straight vote - there was no set punishment when you are found guilty, the prosecution can suggest a punishment and an argument is given then jury decides again - Importance of rhetoric o The Athenians valued rhetoric if you could speak well enough to give fallacious arguments – it was important to be persuasive than it was to be right  Socrates believes it was more important to be right than to be persuasive Socrates (469-399 B.C.E.) - Austere eccentric – views about how the world is made up - Valued truth over persuasion and reason over rhetoric o Didn’t take money from his students, whereas professional teachers did o Viewed what he was doing as just conversing over subjects and not teaching - Didn’t write anything, only have records of what people wrote about him Plato (427-347 B.C.E.) - Aristocrat - Socrates’ death turned him off public life, making him more stressful of the democratic situation in Athens - Through a lot of his work, Socrates comes off as a major character (this is where most of our info of him is known from) - There different periods of Plato’s work: o 1) Early Plato  Includes dialogues like apology and crito  The character Socrates is like the historical Socrates – dialogues that don’t have a lot of positive doctrines to give a sense of the negative views o 2) Middle Plato  The republic being most famous  The positive work shows up, becoming increasingly difficult to say that the things Socrates was saying are things that he actually thought o 3) Late Plato  Theatetus  Socrates is comparatively minor character and anything he does say are things that Plato could think  Possible that Plato was just giving his own views instead of Socrates’ views Plato’s Apology - Life is important in that we do many things for the sake of preserving our lives and Plato’s Apology breaks the question of just how important is life itself: what are you willing to sacrifice? o Socrates is not willing to sacrifice any of his ideals to save his life - What is important? – a man who is good for anything ought not to calculate the chance of living or dying; he ought only to consider whether in doing anything he is doing right or wrong.” o Virtue is what is important in life – a short life o Socrates doesn’t think there is anything intrinsically wrong with dying: “this fear of death is not real wisdom, since no one knows whether death, which they in their fear apprehend to be the greatest evil, may not be the greatest good.”  How do we know death is a bad thing? o Socrates believes he has an oracle, a spirit or voice that warns him against any action that would have bad consequences for him  Has lives with it that has warned him against making mistakes  The second premise is that the oracle didn’t warn me against defending myself as I did  Having defended myself as I did has my death as a consequence  This led to the conclusion that “death cannot be something bad for me.”  It is valid, but there may be doubts about its soundness, doubting that Socrates has a spirit that would have warned him against any actions  This would only show that death is not a bad thing for Socrates, but not necessarily to everyone else 1) Death is either like an endless sleep, or involves an afterlife 2) there is no reason to fear an endless sleep 3) there is no reason to fear the afterlife 4) There is no reason to fear death  You have no reason to fear one thing or the other, so no reason to fear death  Validity is in good shape, but soundness has doubts. It is not obvious that there is no reason to fear a lack of consciousness (p2). The most controversial is the rd 3 premise, as there is a view that the afterlife of the virtuous people will be rewarded and non-virtuous punished, and since he’s been virtuous there is no reason to fear the afterlife. It is a substantial claim about something he has not experienced. 3 is doubtful if you have a view of the afterlife where virtue isn’t always rewarded. It has a limited appeal because if you have not been a virtuous individual, then you do in fact have a reason to fear death. It is a fact though that most people think there is an afterlife, and many people think that they will go to the good place, thinking there is no reason to fear the afterlife, accepting premise 3 about themselves. If that’s the case, then this argument should be compelling. Why should you compromise any of your values just to avoid death if death is a bad thing? Three Claims from Plato’s Apology - “He … is the wisest, who, like Socrates, knows that his wisdom is … worth nothing.” (3) o Sums up explanation of why Socrates thinks he is the wisest man in Athens o Unlike wisemen, Socrates believed that the wiseman is not one who has all the answers, but one who has none at all – he was a man full of questions, asking those who believed they had answers questions to prove they had no answers at all  This was one of those things that made people dislike him o Value of questioning and doubt that was one of his lasting legacies – better to have a clean state than a stack of beliefs that are rubbish o Plato endorses Socrates’ negative views of wisdom, but had positive views of his own which he thought had the virtue of being able to stand up to socratic questioning that ordinary beliefs did not - “the unexamined life is not worth living” (7) o They offered him instead of death, you can be on parole, but no philosophizing, and that would make life not worth living for him o It’s here where he sums up idea that one of the things we should value in life has to do with reflective inquiry, where examination is distinctive of our lives 
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