The death of Socrates

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  • #3089

     What conclusion do you draw from Socrates’ death? 

    #3090

    In Athens, during the time of Socrates, even if a severe crime was committed, the defendants were not judged until someone submitted a complaint.  Meletus, Anytus, and Lycon were the three citizens who complained about Socrates; they did so on behalf of those who considered him annoying and they accused him of "impiety" for not recognizing the gods and for disseminating innovative cults that corrupted the youth.  

    Socrates was criticized for arguing in favor of the defeated and making them appear as winners.  
     
    Although the philosopher respected the religious practices of Athens, his attitude differed from the rest of society in that it was more rational and less superstitious. Moreover, the great thinker was politically incorrect for analyzing and examining the situation of his time and questioning the government’s decisions. In those days, the court was composed of a relatively large group of citizens chosen randomly to exercise judicial power. Trials in Athens had one session and the verdict could not be appealed.  
    In general, I relate the death of Socrates to the words of the Spanish writer Francisco Gómez de Quevedo y Santibáñez Villega (1580-1645), who said: “Where there is no justice, it is dangerous to be right, since most of the people are stupid”. 
     
    Unfortunately, in a society where narrowness, fanaticism and stupidity reign, to be right can be cause for contempt, disrepute, conviction, imprisonment, torture and even murder. Deaths like those of Socrates or Jesus speak of a society in which it is dangerous to be right.
    #3091

     If Socrates was so smart, why didn’t he defend himself and win the trial? 

    #3092

     Apparently, he did not attempt to win the trial. Socrates did not defend himself effectively, meaning, he was lacking any true intention to convince the jury. In his Apology, Plato offered a version of the trial in which Socrates addressed the jury in the following way:

    “Well, Athenians, this and the like of this is all the defense which I have to offer. Yet one word more. Perhaps there may be someone who is offended by me, when he calls to mind how he himself on a similar, or even a less serious occasion, prayed and entreated the judges with many tears, and how he produced his children in court, which was a moving spectacle, together with a host of relations and friends; whereas I, who am probably in danger of my life, will do none of these things. The contrast may occur to his mind, and he may be set against me, and vote in anger because he is displeased with me on this account. 
     
    Now if there be such a person among you, mind, I do not say that there is, to him I may fairly reply: My friend, I am a man, and like other men, a creature of flesh and blood, and not ‘of wood or stone,’ as Homer says; and I have a family, yes, and sons, O Athenians, three in number, one almost a man, and two others who are still young; and yet I will not bring any of them hither in order to petition you for an acquittal. And why not? Not from any self-assertion or want of respect for you. Whether I am or am not afraid of death is another question, of which I will not now speak. But, having regard to public opinion, I feel that such conduct would be discreditable to myself, and to you, and to the whole state. One who has reached my years, and who has a name for wisdom, ought not to demean himself. Whether this opinion of me be deserved or not, at any rate the world has decided that Socrates is in some way superior to other men.”

    For Socrates, even to defend himself from accusations meant to value them in some way or to give them some meaning.

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