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Unformatted text preview: 1 Article 2 Apology Plato Introduction: Plato was born in Athens in about 428 B.C.E. As a youth he associated with Socrates, a philosopher who con- stantly challenged fellow Athenians to think about virtue and to improve their souls. Platos initial interest was in politics, but he soon became disillusioned, especially when, under the democ- racy that was restored after the rule of the Thirty Tyrants, So- crates was arrested on false charges of impiety and the corruption of youth, convicted, and condemned to die. After the execution of Socrates, Plato moved to nearby Megara for a time and may have traveled to Egypt. In 388 he visited Italy and the city of Syracuse in Sicily. Returning to Athens, he founded the Academy, a school devoted both to philosophical inquiry and to the philosophically based education of politicians. Plato spent most of his life teaching at the Academy (Aristotle was his most famous student) and writing philosophical works. He made two more trips to Syracuse, in 368 and 361, apparently with the in- tention of turning the citys ruler, Dionysius the Younger, into a philosopher-king. (If this was indeed his purpose, he failed.) Plato died in Athens in 347 at the age of eighty-one. Most of Platos works are written as conversations between Socrates and one or more interlocutors on some topic con- cerning morality. His best-known dialogues (the name by which his surviving works are known) are the Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Phaedo, Meno, Symposium, and Republic. Our reading here is the Apology , Platos account of the de- fense speech ( apologia in Greek; hence the title Apology) and of the two brief additional speeches Socrates gave at his trial. Since Plato was actually present at the trial, we can be confident that his report is substantially accurate. In his defense speech, Socrates responds to the accusations of Meletus, Anytus, and Lycon that he corrupts the youth of Athens and is impious. Before addressing these official charges, however, Socrates answers the older chargesthree long- standing prejudices that arose against him as he tried to fulfill his God-given mission of urging Athenians to care about the good of their souls. He explains to the court (1) that he does not pursue natural science, (2) that he neither professes to be a teacher nor charges fees for his conversations, and (3) that he is wiser than others not because he has positive knowledge, but because heunlike those he questions in his conversations knows that he does not know. Socrates then defends himself against the two official charges of the corruption of youth and impiety, without ever claiming to know precisely what corrup- tion or piety is....
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- Spring '08