Plato’s Apology of Socrates is an account of Socrates speech during his trial. Socrates was accused of failing to recognize the goods that the entire city recognized, corrupting the minds of the youths in Athens and inventing new gods. The title apology of Socrates has nothing to do with apologies. Socrates in the dialogue did not under any chance show signs of apologizing for he knew and believed he was right. However, the title of the dialogue is derived from, apologia, a Greek word which is translated to defense. Therefore, the Apology of Socrates was a speech that he made to defend his conduct. In the Apology, Socrates spoke in a plain manner of conversion even though he was in a law court. He argued that he was not conversant with law courts and that he could better speak in the language he is well accustomed.
In the court, Socrates engaged in interrogating his accuser Meletus. The dialogue however in this stage portrays Plato as having ambitions of embarrassing Meletus rather than trying to arrive at the truth of the case. In one of the most famous passages of the Apology, Socrates argues that he is similar to a “gadfly stinging the lazy horse which is the Athenian state.” Minus him, Socrates meant that the state would fall into a deep sleep. By this statement, Socrates intended to imply that his influence can awaken the Athenian state to become productive.
After the trial, the court found Socrates guilty though by a narrow margin. In such a situation, Socrates was asked to give the best punishment he should receive. Jokingly, Socrates said that he should get an excellent meal for being useful to the state. However, the court rejected his proposal and subjected him to a death sentence. Contrary to people’s expectation, Socrates argued that no man knew what life holds after death except gods and that he could be so stupid to fear death. Socrates went further to give very famous statements about death. This paper, therefore, is set to examine and explain some of the comments Socrates made about death during the trial. The article will also determine whether some of those statements contract each other and figure what Socrates sought to achieve by making such statements about death.
Socrates’ Statements about Death in Plato’s Apology of Socrates
Just after the court ruled that Socrates was to receive the death penalty, he acted in an expected manner by making several statements which indicated that he had no fear of death. He tells the jurors that even if he was freed, he will continue with his philosophy by claiming that under no circumstance could he submit to the crimes which he did not commit and that he was ready to die.
In the Apology, Socrates makes a statement that death is just but a permanent unconsciousness state which resembles a dreamless sleep. Socrates says that death would be a blessing to him since he will be in a state of unconsciousness where he will live eternally without possible interruptions. To supplement his claim, he argues that even the great kings would like to be in such a condition and that nobody could denounce death. In this case, Socrates seems to mean death is one way of retrieving yourself from the evils of the world. The point that death is a state where the dead enjoys a stress-free life without interruption indicates that death is a good thing according to Socrates.
Socrates again argues that death is just but a state where the dead moves to another realm. According to Socrates, after death, the soul of a person is taken to another world where everything operates as usual. Under this condition, death should not be feared since it is not the end of a person. In fact, it just the beginning of another good life where the dead will get a good chance of advancing what they were doing at first. Socrates affirmed his claim by saying that after his death, he will be able to meet and converse with the likes of Odysseus and Homer. Also, he will share with great people who had done great things than him before and gain something from them. Therefore, he will continue advancing his pursuit of true knowledge and wisdom in the new realm. Besides, he will talk with the ancient heroes and continuing learning new wisdom. Therefore, death is just a welcome amnesty from death and heroes should not fear it. Generally, Socrates’ statements about death all suggest the existence of life after death.
Though there is some sense in Socrates’ statements, there are some flaws associated with them. Firstly, Socrates did not factor the common belief that instead of taking away our experiences completely, death limits our experiences. Besides, Socrates did not consider the traditional belief that in the after death life some of the dead will be punished or rewarded according to their unjust and acts respectively. However, he focuses on the positive side by claiming that he will be able to converse with great thinkers and increase his knowledge and wisdom. These omissions raise concerns to the followers of Socrates’ Apology and make them want to know more about some of the statements made in the Apology.
Do Socrates’ Statements about Death Contradict Each Other?
Socrates, statements about death in Plato’s Apology of Socrates seem to contract each other when looked at a broader perspective. The first perception made by Socrates is that death is like a dreamless sleep. According to this statement, the dead becomes unconscious and notices nothing around him. Also, Socrates argues in this statement that no interruption after death. Therefore, though there is life after death, a person will not be able to control what is happening around him. Generally, Socrates likens death to dreamless sleep in this argument.
On the other hand, the second statement that Socrates makes about death seems to contradict the first one. In this case, there is life after death just like in the first statement. However, in this case, the dead will carry out activities as usual. For instance, Socrates says that he will be able after his death to meet with some of the departed great thinkers and share with them. He will be able to get wisdom from them and be able to differentiate what is what and what is foolish. Furthermore, Socrates says that he is very willing to die because after death he will continue his philosophy and lectures.
Therefore, though Socrates’ statements have a life after death as a common aspect, they contract each other on the state of a person in the after death life. The statements seem not to have a common consensus on the transformation that a person undergoes after death as well as the clear definition of life after death. However, to avoid the contradictions of Socrates’ statements, a means of reconciling them can be sought. Parts of one statement that differ with the other can be ignored to ensure uniformity. The unconsciousness part of the first statement can be ignored. Ignoring the unconsciousness part will mean that the dead will live in an environment without interruptions though active. In such an environment, the dead will be able to perform duties as usual. In the case of Socrates, he will be able to continue his philosophy and lectures as well as searching more wisdom and knowledge. Reconciling Socrates’ statements will make them much clear, and people will see his sense with ease.
What was Socrates Trying to Achieve by Making the Discussed Statements about Death
Socrates gave the statements about death during his trial were not just mere statements. Socrates had crucial themes in his statements. Firstly, it is argued that Socrates wanted to console the jurors who voted in his favor. Though Plato does not state precisely the number of jurors who voted for Socrates to be let free, it is believed that not all the jurors present during his trial favored his death sentence. There are those who saw nothing worthy death sentence in Socrates’ conduct. To console those jurors and the other Athenians who believed in his philosophy, he gave hopes of his existence after death. He showed no fear of death to ensure he left no grief among his supports.
Socrates also wanted to tell the Athenian and the whole world that philosophy was to continue even after his death. He was aware that the world needed his wisdom and his presence meant a lot. Asked to suggest his punishment, Socrates said he should be offered a great dinner due to his good work. Such claims clearly show that Socrates knew his value and the value of philosophy in the world. Therefore, the life after death that he insisted in the Apology symbolized the continuation of philosophy after his death. Socrates also wanted to tell the jurors, Athenians and the whole world that other philosophers possessing the same wisdom and knowledge were to be born and there was no need to worry of his death. In his second statement, Socrates indicated that death would be of a significant gain to him for he will get a chance to interact with other great thinkers who went before him and interview them to increase his knowledge. By this statement, Socrates sought to tell the jurors that in future there will emerge great and unstoppable philosophers who will take philosophy to another level.
Plato’s Apology of Socrates has been one of the famous philosophies over the years. Apology of Socrates entails what Socrates said during his trial where he was found guilty and sentenced to death. Socrates is one of the greatest philosophers whose teachings are still useful to date. He lived a life of showing the world what was right and wrong. Similar, Socrates portrayed an excellent picture during his trial. He stood with the truth despite the death punishment that awaited him. In his side, he knew he was right and could not subject to the false claims that he was ruining the minds of the Athenians youths. The content of the Apology can be used by young generations to understand what it takes to be a real revolutionist. Under any conditions, people should stick to their rights without fear of the authorities. Socrates’ wisdom can also be seen in the statements he made about death. For instance, a conclusion can be drawn that even after death, the truth will remain unchanged.