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Corey Gallant

9/11/10
The Trial and Death of Socrates Reflection Paper

I was very moved by many of the things that Socrates said in Plato’s “The Apology of
Socrates”. I am completely and totally convinced that Socrates was a man who was speaking
the complete and utter truth with every word he said as he stood in his own defense. I also
believe that things he claimed in his defense like he never intentionally corrupted the youth and
that he was not an atheist were more than things said to preserve his own life, they were what
he truly believed. I will attempt to show why these are the case by citing thing’s he is reported
to have said before and during the trial. I will also give my own thoughts on how he could have
prepared his defense in different ways which would have been more successful in coming out of
the trial alive if that was his only intent. Finally I will explain how his way of thinking has helped
to form the type of free society in which we live today.
Before Socrates’ trial he was speaking to a man named Hermogenes who was trying to
get a glimpse into what Socrates would say in his own defense at his trial. Socrates declined to
talk much about it. When pressed by Hermogenes, who insisted that it would probably be in
Socrates best interests to consider what he would say to prove his innocence, Socrates replied
simply yet powerfully, “Do you believe I have done anything else all my life than think of
it?”
I feel that this statement was one of the most important things that Socrates said, even
along side all the points he made in his trial. Though he did not repeat the statement in his trial
he did back it up completely by saying that he would not turn from the path of what he saw as
right even when face to face with his death. He said it best when he said that even if he was
allowed to live and in exchange he would stop teaching the things in which he believed said,
“Men of Athens, I honor and love you; but I shall obey God rather than you”. I
believe that this statement was one that in fact lead to his demise, but nonetheless paved the
way to freedom of thought and expression in a time such as ours.
He was a man who stood by his convictions, even to his death and that gives much
weight to showing that his prosecutors were in the wrong and should not have convicted him of
crimes in which he was innocent.
It shows that he never intentionally corrupted the youth because in his trial he could
have easily presented his defense in a much different way than he did. He never claimed to not
teach the youth to think on their own or to question the things around him but instead said that
he did right out. While denial of this fact may have failed as well, I think that it serves to show
that he was more intent on preserving his dignity than anything. He knew that the important
thing was that his ideas would survive him and that people, especially the youth, would not fear
to do what they believed to be right even if placed in the same situation as him.
Socrates could see through his accuser and knew that he was not actually interested in
the wellbeing of the youth at all. Meletus knew that Socrates would take the defense that he did
and was more interested in putting an end to Socrates however that would be. I’m sure that
when hearing the accusations by Meletus, several parents of children who had been under
Socrates’ teachings, were convinced that he needed to be killed even if there was the smallest
chance of this being true. When Socrates didn’t outright deny that he had been teaching the
youth to think along the lines of right and wrong rather than by the strict lines of the law, I’m sure
many of the parents believed it would be better to kill Socrates then to have their own children
be the martyrs in the future.
Socrates outright denial of being an atheist, on the other hand, should have and I’m sure
did win him the support of many of the jurors. It was a clear line of thought he used to defend
against this accusation and by explaining the fact that by believing in divine agencies, which had
to have a divine creator, it should have won him the case in my opinion. I say this because I
think that it is obvious that Socrates was already convinced of his own conviction, and stood on
the stand saying things that were already going to have him put to death. There would be no
reason to deny his atheism if he was indeed atheist. He would have said it proudly along with
all of his other convictions if he didn’t believe in some sort of deity, but he did not and thus I
believe shows that he was truly not an atheist.
In addition to what I have already stated as ways in which he could have altered his
defense, if his only goal was the preservation of his life, there are a number of other ways he
could have omitted small parts of his defense that would have probably saved his life. This
however was beyond Socrates ability because, as I said, he was more concerned with people
seeing the difference between right and wrong than with living to see another day.
He also could have left some things out entirely. I think that if he had not said that he
would not stop teaching his philosophy, even if offered his life in return, he probably would have
walked out of the trial alive. However, I think this was one of his most powerful statements and
probably is one of the reasons why he is still remembered today.
This all goes to show that Socrates was a martyr for what we now know as liberty. He
was one of the founding fathers of the ideas that the founding fathers of our nation based the
constitution upon, including such liberties as freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
Without men like Socrates there is no way to tell what kind of world we would be living in today,
but something tells me that if we were to achieve the freedoms which we all have today it would
have come at the cost of someone else doing almost exactly what Socrates did.
That sacrifice, the greatest sacrifice to many of us, giving up your own life for the hope
of a better tomorrow, was however small to Socrates in comparison to the thought of the giving
up of his ideas of righteousness. Socrates knew that what he thought was a small sacrifice
would lead to more and more people following in his footsteps, eventually having his ideals and
morals become the basis for law and justice.
Socrates died and while we would like to hope that his ideas fueled an immediate
uprising by the people, calling for a reform of the laws, and the start of a new age in which
goodness and righteousness would prevail over corruption and greed, that was not the case.
It would take thousands of years before the general concensus of the world would stand
up for Socrates’ ideas of liberty and freedom rather than the ideas of staying in your place and
serving the gods or god. However, we will never forget his name, because he was a great man
and without him we would see each other in a quite different way than we do today.