This essay is, as the title states, on the trial of Socrates. I will be putting forth the accusations Socrates’ detractors arrayed against him, and weigh the evidence in the style of the legal courts of that day. This being a trial, I want everybody’s full opinions on this. I really would like this to be a trial in the style of the Athenian courts of that day, so if you have any evidence for either side that I have overlooked, please let me know. Much of my evidence comes from Plato, who was presenting the case for his teacher as favorably as he could.
For those who do not have much knowledge of Socrates, or for those who just want a review, I will now present a bit of background on him and his detractors. Socrates has gained the title of a wise man, although the only wisdom he claimed to have was that he knew that he was not wise. He was known as the gadfly of Athens, due to a comparison he himself made, saying that he was like a gadfly that kept biting at the great horse of Athens in order to wake it from its slumber. Unfortunately for him, this made many enemies for him in Athens, who eventually managed to get him into court, hoping to silence him once and for all. The charges against him were atheism, or not believing in the city’s gods; and corrupting the youth, which should need no explanation.
First, I will deal with the charge of atheism. Socrates was first charged with not believing in the same gods that the city worshipped, although the charge later became absolute atheism. Socrates’ defense was that the charge could not stand, because the prosecutor was forced to admit that Socrates believed in things of the gods, and even children of the gods, so therefore, he must believe in gods. I believe Socrates is innocent of atheism, although he may be guilty of believing in other gods than the city’s. I believe this because he states that he believes that humans Can become equal to the gods, along with much of everything else, an interesting parallel to today’s New Age beliefs. I also believe he is innocent due to the arguments listed above.
Now comes the charge of corruption of the youth. This one can be a little harder to deal with, as what is defined as corruption can vary. However, this charge seems to be one of making the youth more prone to do evil. Socrates’ defense against this was that, first, there are three options. Either he was not corrupting the youth, or he was doing it unintentionally, or he was doing it intentionally. If he wasn’t corrupting them, of course this trial was pointless. If he was corrupting them unintentionally, than by Athenian law, he could not go to court for it. He could not be doing it intentionally, because, as he said, if he was, then he would knowingly be putting himself in danger, because as people get more evil, they are more likely to do harm to those around them. I agree with this, because of the arguments listed above, along with the fact that Socrates taught denial of the physical self, in order that you can be as close to pure as possible.
Now, I will give a better view of my judgement of Socrates. While he had his faults, he could be recognized as a prophet to Athens. No, he could never equal any Biblical prophet, but God’s common grace could be seen in him more than other men of Athens in that tine. His being sent by what he called “the god” could be closer to the truth than he realized. I honestly think that he could have been sent by God to be exactly what he claimed to be: a gadfly intended to wake Athens from its stupor and do the same to people reading his dialogues throughout history.
The other side of this is that we must realize that Socrates would not, and did not, realize the awesome God who directed him. He believed that he had found the ultimate source of wisdom within himself, while nothing could be farther from the truth. Nowhere is farther away from God than a prideful man’s heart. Fortunately for us, God can reach even farther than that. Unfortunately for Socrates, he was born a few centuries too early to be on the receiving end of that grace.
All in all, my current belief is that Socrates was innocent of the charges made against him, although from a Christian point of view, he was lost just as bad as the worst of sinners. Socrates committed the original sin: he had the pride to imagine that he had the ability to be as wise as God, just like the devil.
Again, remember to tell me what you think the verdict and sentence should be for Socrates. Oh, and, incidentally, Socrates was condemned to death by poison. I will possibly be doing a post on the painting The Death of Socrates, so stay tuned for that.
Pasta lasagna! I got my eyes on ya!