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Dialogues of Plato | Study Guide

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Dialogues of Plato | Epilogue Summary (38c–42a) | Summary

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Summary

Socrates is sentenced to death, and he addresses those who voted for conviction. He argues that he has avoided wickedness rather than avoiding death in his refusal to shamelessly weep and beg for clemency. He warns Athens that his death will result not in respite from him, but in more gadflies coming forward. Not only that, but his death is coming soon enough, anyway, so not much is accomplished in killing him.

Next Socrates addresses those who voted for acquittal. The time he has left, he says, will be spent in conversation, to which he invites them. Moreover, he knows he has done the right thing during his trial because his voice did not once turn him away from his path. His death may well be a good thing. After all, either it is something like a dreamless sleep or it transports him to a place where he can converse with people like Hesiod and Homer, the great poets of ancient Greece. He could also talk to others unjustly convicted, comparing his experience with theirs. He anticipates examining the dead in the afterlife as he has the living, joking that "they surely do not kill you for it there." In any case, death is not a harm to him because a good man cannot be harmed.

Socrates makes one last request: if his sons become enamored of money or power over virtue, they should be reproached the way he has reproached the jury and others. Doing so will ensure that he, and his sons, have been treated justly.

Analysis

Socrates's final criticisms of the jury are prophetic. His death surely secured his fame, due in no small part to the circumstances surrounding it. Not only that, but executing Socrates certainly did not put an end to philosophy.

In this section of the dialogue, Socrates returns to the topic of death. This time he argues that death is not to be feared because it is either nothing other than a dreamless sleep or an afterlife in which to converse for eternity with excellent company. He also reiterates the point of the claim that "the unexamined life is not ... worth living" when he exhorts the jury to ensure that his sons care for virtue over money and power.

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