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Argumentation in Plato’s “Apology of Socrates”

Socrates’s arguments against the accusations of the prosecutor Meletus are represented in two ways. One way included an explanation of the purpose and method of Socrates. He believes that it could give a jury explanation of why certain people do not like him. Socrates’s second argument is based on response to two accusations against him, corrupting the youth and impiety. Socrates starts defending himself by mentioning the fact that he was accused by many people because of “studying things in the sky and below the earth” and of “making the worse into the stronger argument” and teaching these things to others (West, 1979, p. 26). He argues that such claims are ‘slanders’ and that the truth claims that he knows nothing about heaven or anything else. Socrates explains this by mentioning the story about Oracle in Delphi. Socrates’s friend Cirephon was told by Oracle that he was supposed to have spoken to the Greek God Apollo, that no one was as smart as Socrates. Surprisingly, Socrates concludes that the only reason God said this is because Socrates seems to know what he doesn’t know much about.

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Socrates’ second counter-argument to the youth corruption allegations is a dilemma. Meletus claims that Socrates has deliberately corrupted the youth, but Socrates categorically denies this (West, 1979, p.29). Assuming the alleged corruption is unintentional, Socrates offers Meletus two options. If he does not corrupt the youth, he is not guilty. But even if someone unknowingly corrupts the youth, Socrates says that the correct response to those who unknowingly hurt others is to instruct them not to avoid them, as Meretas did. Therefore, he insists that he should not be brought to trial.

Socrates’s third argument claims that death could be described in two ways: “either the dead are nothing and have no perception of anything, or it is, as we are told, a change a relocation of the soul” (West, 1979, p. 34). He believes that when the dead have no perception, it is in their favor because a night of pleasant sleep is as sane and dreamless as death. In contrast, if death is described as just a place change, it is also an asset. Finally, Socrates claims that if one goes to the place where the dead are, one can communicate with them. He also added that it is a big joy to have a chance to speak with such dead people as Homer, Hesiod, and other heroes and poets. Socrates has concluded his argument by noting that the death penalty is possible to be his blessing.

I think that the third argument made by Socrates is the weakest one. The reason for that is the fact that he considered only two possible perceptions of death and what comes after death. He claims that it would be an advantage to have a chance to speak with dead people who were great at life; however, he provides a very limited image of the after-death communication between dead people. Overall, both of his interpretations of death are primitive and do not relate to actual evidence or additional possible interpretations; thus, he lacks flexibility in his argument.

In conclusion, Socrates failed to make arguments that were convincing enough to defend him and were sentenced to death. I think that some parts of his arguments actually lack supporting evidence. In addition, he has demonstrated limited knowledge about all the possible interpretations of death. Some of his arguments were based on the idea that some people simply dislike him. I think that lack of objectiveness and flexibility are the main reasons why his arguments were not able to do defense him.

Work Cited

West, Thomas G. 1979. Plato’s “Apology of Socrates”: an Interpretation, with a New Translation. Ithaca, N.Y. :Cornell University Press.

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