We find plato inserting a further layer of irony here

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reconstruction by Plato. We find Plato inserting a further layer of irony here, asthe words that we are reading are very clearly not improvised.The concept of irony in Socrates and Plato can be (and has elsewhere been)discussed extensively. Such a slippery concept is difficult to present concisely.That being said, one (but by no means the only) way to consider the significanceof all this irony is to point out the essential flexibility of words and language--how the same words can be manipulated to serve different purposes. The endresult might be to persuade the jury (and the reader) to mistrust the rhetoricalflourishes of both Socrates and his accusers and to pay attention rather to thejustness of their claims. Socrates is firmly convinced that his accusers haveslandered him and that careful attention to the facts of the case will make this6
clear. Thus, in his introductory speech, Socrates hopes to do away with rhetoricand sophistry and to focus the jury's attention instead on the facts.8a - 20cSummarySocrates remarks that Meletus, Anytus, and Lycon, who have brought the presentcharges before the court, are only the most recent of a number of people whohave spoken out against him. He has more reason to fear his older accusers thanthese recent ones, because the former have been speaking out against him forsome time, prejudicing many of the jurymen against him from the time of theiryouth. These older accusers levy two principal accusations against Socrates: first,that he does not believe in the gods, but rather teaches purely physicalexplanations for heavenly and earthly phenomena; and second, that he teacheshow to make a weaker argument overcome a stronger argument by means ofclever rhetoric. Socrates complains that he is not even certain who these olderaccusers are, though he makes a passing allusion to Aristophanes (the comicplaywright who parodied Socrates in The Clouds). As a result, he cannot cross-examine these accusers, and he must acknowledge that the prejudices they havelodged against him go very deep. All he can do is answer their accusations as bestas he can.Socrates first addresses himself to the accusation that he "inquires into thingsbelow the earth and in the sky" (19b)--that is, that he tries to provide physicalexplanations for matters that are normally considered to be the workings of thegods. He refers here to Aristophanes' play, where Socrates is portrayed as floatingabout in the air and uttering all sorts of nonsense about divine matters. Socratesresponds that he does not pretend to have any knowledge of these things, nor ishe interested in them. He has no complaints against people who do claim to beexperts in these affairs, but he is not one of them. He asks the jury to considerwhether any of them has ever heard him speak about any of these subjects.

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