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Tuesday, November 4, 2014, Kartik 20, 1421, Muharram 10, 1436 Hijr


Socrates' apology and the power of truth
Sabidin Ibrahim
Publish Date : 2014-11-04,  Publish Time : 00:00,  View Count : 114
It is evident that where questioning is an offense there is no possibility of enlightenment. Socrates is the most glorious, pioneering personality in this venture. Such practice will not merely endow you with trophies, it will crucify you and you will be put into the chair of thorns. Where the common people blindly obey, foolishly follow, the truth seekers severely question and firmly disobey the wrong and unjust. So he was to face the hard hand of his contemporary society. Socrates is one of the most glaring personas in this domain. His questioning made the people in authority jealous. They accused him of crimes he didn't commit. But he was put on trial and executed.
At his famous trial in 399 BC, Socrates delivered a speech before the jury and Athenians. The word 'apology' comes from the Greek word 'apologia', which means explanation. It necessarily doesn't mean "being sorry" for one's actions. He expressed his apology in front of the Athenians and the jury in such a manner that it would be a solace for seekers of truth and a playground and heaven for students of philosophy for years to come. He disproved all the false accusations against him with the powerful weaponry of strong logic, which was not based on sophistry or the persuasive art of speaking but rather on the eternal power of truth.
Here I'll try to show how Socrates disproves all the false accusations against him with his strong logic and the power of truth.
Let us begin with who his accusers were and what crimes he was accused of. We will find three accusers were in the limelight and they were Meletus, Anytus and Lycon. There were so many like them in society but 'Meletus being vexed on behalf of the poets, Anytus on behalf of the craftsmen and the politicians, Lycon on behalf of the orators' (Socrates 29) made the accusations against Socrates thus:
The first "charges" against Socrates arose from the general prejudice that had surrounded him over the years. These general accusations were that Socrates was: (1) a Physicalist and (2) a Sophist. The charge of "investigating things beneath the earth and in the skies" belongs to physicalists like Thales and Anaxagoras. The charge of "making the weaker argument appear the stronger" belongs to sophists like Gorgias, Hippias, and Evanus. In truth, Socrates is not a Physicalist and Socrates is not a Sophist (Cavalier).
What is the great power of Socrates? It is truth, the naked view of truth. Not anything else. It was known to all that he could win the battle if he used sophistry. For all his logical arguments he stood firm on the strong basement of truth. That was his supreme weaponry.
His truth surprised everybody --- the accusers and the jury and those who were present at the trial. They were very often startled, puzzled and even ashamed by Socrates' rapier-like tongue. We find him speaking before the court in this fashion:
"That, gentlemen of the jury, is the truth for you. I have hidden or disguised nothing. I know well enough that this very conduct makes me unpopular,..." (Socrates 29).
Then Socrates begins to defend himself against Meletus and his accusations:-
"It goes something like this: Socrates is guilty of corrupting the young and of not believing in the gods in whom the city believes, but in other new spiritual things?" (Socrates 29)
Socrates approaches the accusations like this: "Meletus is guilty of dealing frivolously with serious matters, of irresponsibly bringing people into court, and of professing to be seriously concerned with things about none of which he has ever cared, and I shall try to prove that this is so." (Socrates 29)
Socrates asks Meletus to tell him who improves society. Meletus' answers --- jurymen, all the audience, members of council and members of the assembly. It seems all Athenians improved "the young into fine good men, except Socrates!" (Socrates 30)
He presents strong logic before the jury --- that it is illogical to be one bad man to corrupt society and all good men to improve it. He cites the example of horse breeding --- only one individual, 'or very few, namely the horse breeders, can improve them whereas the majorities use them.' (Socrates 30) It is the same case with all animals. Then comes the final blow of his logic came: "It would be a very happy state of affairs if only one person corrupted our youth, while the others improved them." (Socrates 30)
That is how Socrates proves the accusation of Meletus. He goes on to prove himself even more correct. If Meletus is concerned with society and the good of Socrates he will instruct the youth and Socrates. But he does not. Where instruction is needed instead of punishment, Meletus goes for the second option, which exposes his malicious and wicked mind. It is made clear how Meletus "made this disposition out of insolence, violence and youthful zeal." (Socrates 31)
To the question, 'Are you not ashamed, Socrates, to have followed the kind of occupation that has led to your being now in danger of death?' the reply is, 'You are wrong sir, if you think that a man who is any good at all should take into account the risk of life or death; he should look to this only in his actions, whether what he does is right or wrong, whether he is acting like a good or a bad man.' (Socrates 33)
Here he brings forth the scene where Achilles' has to kill Hector and avenge his friend Patroclus, though it means the end of his life. He makes it to the audience: "...when the god ordered me, as I thought and believed, to live the life of a philosopher, to examine myself and others, I had abandoned my post for fear of death or anything else."(p34)
Socrates will surely be acquitted if he follows the advice of the jury. But he stands firm in his defence of truth, which is his only light, only abode. We find him saying, "Gentlemen of the jury, I am grateful and I am your friend, but I will obey the god rather than you, and as long as I draw breath and am able, I shall not cease to practice philosophy, to exhort you and in my usual way to point out to any one of you whom I happen to meet". (Socrates 34)
is Central Coordinator, Dhaka University Reading Club (DURC) and can be reached at [email protected]






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