Socrates defence (52)
Socrates, one of the fathers of western philosophy, was an interesting man. He was considered to be wise, but also controversial and his demise came when he started to question fellow ‘wise men of Athens’ only to realise that, erm, they wasn’t as smart as they said they were…
His argument was a plain one. Many of the men in Athens considered wise thought they knew it all. Socrates on the other hand said the reason these rich powerful leaders of Athens were far from being wise was because they failed to admit that didn’t know everything and still had much to learn.
This upset a bunch of people in Athens and suddenly Socrates found himself on trial for ‘corrupting the youth of Athens’ but seemed like a thinly veiled attempt to ensure that the ‘wise men of Athens’ got their revenge.
This book, written by student of Socrates and fellow philosopher Plato, tells the story of Socrates’s trail using the words of the man himself as he mounted a defence for the crimes he’d been accused of.
What’s interesting about this little book (on of Penguins ‘little black books’) is how modern it sounds and then you realise that this actual speech was given over two thousand three hundred years ago.
This could be a modern story set in a courtroom but instead it’s the story of one of our greatest philosophers sentenced to death due to the fact that he’d annoyed and upset a couple of ‘VIPs’.
The other thing that surprised me was how insightful this small book is. From it you can clearly understand why Socrates was such a big influence on the people of Athens and such a threat to the elite and powerful.
At the end, just after he is sentenced to death Socrates remains pragmatic and philosophical and jokes that it might have been more efficient at the grand old age of 70 to wait for him to die than force him through the courts.
However the book is well worth reading a provides an insight into one the great ancient philosophers.