Lecture Apology 2-7 - Platos Apology of Socrates I. On...

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Plato’s Apology of Socrates I. On Plato’s Socratic Writing. Socrates and Plato may be the best known philosophers. One, Socrates, never wrote, and Plato never wrote a philosophical treatise. He wrote dialogues, usually with Socrates as a main character. In a dialogue called Phaedrus , Plato has Socrates say that writing harms the truth because it does not tailor itself to the reader’s understanding, as the best speech tailors itself to the listener—although even prudent speech can be misunderstood, or overhead by those it was not intended for. In a letter Plato once said it was foolish to write directly about philosophy. Writing can only in form us, while true philosophy is about trans forming us. Yet Plato did write about philosophy, somewhat indirectly. He chose to write in a dramatic form—the dialogue. Dialogues contain speeches (logoi), and deeds (erga). Philosophy gives logoi (speeches or reasoned accounts). Poetry retells deeds. Platonic dialogues combine these forms. Due to their overall poetic form, it first appears that the speeches are somehow subservient to the deeds, or, that philosophy is subservient to poetry. This is not simply true because the deeds point to another, higher logos that is unwritten. The reader must enter the conversation and search for that higher account. Every Platonic dialogue is an invitation to philosophize. We must read Plato with all the focused attention we can muster. II. The Apology An apology is a defense speech in court. Socrates has been accused of capital offenses: “Socrates does injustice by corrupting the young, and by not believing in the gods in whom the city believes, but in other daimonia that are new.” 1
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Here we have a philosopher accused of grievously harming the city by the very act of philosophizing. Since we know that Socrates thought that true speech must be adjusted to the audience, it is important to consider the character of his interlocutor. Here it is 500 Athenian citizens chosen as jurors. They are “the demos,” the Many. III. The Truth Socrates promises that they will hear from him “the whole truth.” [he repeats the promise at 20d] I think he keeps this promise—but of course this truth must be tailored to the character of his audience. (Telling a comforting story to a child is true in a nobler or higher sense than sharing what you know to be the actual danger of a situation, as is telling a crazed person who asks for the sword he lent you that you forgot where you put it.) Socrates claims to be innocent of the crimes of which he is accused—as he understands them. He says everything he can in his defense that is true in the highest sense . He refuses to say what he knows the jury wants to hear, which would acquit him, because it is not true . IV. The Accusers
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This note was uploaded on 10/16/2011 for the course POLITICAL 131 taught by Professor Yenor during the Spring '11 term at Boise State.

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Lecture Apology 2-7 - Platos Apology of Socrates I. On...

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