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Is Socrates Innocent Or Guilty? Essay

1942 words - 8 pages

Is Socrates Innocent or Guilty?

Living in a democracy, everyone is exposed through television and other various forms of media everyday to numerous trials by jury. Usually they are rarely given a second thought, but every once in a while along comes a specific trial which captures the attention of the entire country. This goes the same for trials throughout centuries in our past. Although they did not have the same forms of media as in this, modern era, there were still specific trials in which everyone knew about. One trial that stands out is the one against the great philosopher Socrates. Accused of corrupting the youth, being an atheist, and believing in other gods, Socrates faced trial by jury. The early forms of democracy were not as sophisticated and complex as they are now. The outcome of the trial was that Socrates was found guilty and sentenced to be put to death by hemlock poisoning. The question is whether Socrates was truly guilty or just another person fallen to the early form of democracy of a people who were possibly jealous and afraid of Socrates. However, by understanding Socrates intentions, it is clear that he was in fact innocent of the above charges, and was wrongly accused and executed.
Socrates was executed after a trial in which he was accused of corrupting the youths of Athens, and committing acts of impiety. These accusations were brought to the court by a small group of men. Meletus was the speaker representing the group of accusers, while Socrates defended himself. The jury of 501 Athenians voted to execute Socrates on these accusations, but this extreme outcome was not planned out (Stone 78). The initial object of the trial was to get Socrates out of Athens, and he would just move along to another city and practice his teachings there. Being as stubborn as he is, Socrates refused to leave the city of Athens, no matter what the penalty. No one had previously imagined that Socrates would be put to death.
Socrates was a man who spent most of his time talking to people. He would ask them hypothetical questions, and make them think for themselves about the true answer they believed in, by serving as a guide for the conversation. Many people, including the accusers, believed that while Socrates did this, he was serving as a Sophist. A Sophist is a person who talks to people, and teaches them how to argue a point, whether the point is right or wrong. A Sophist would collect money for this lesson, and go on with their teachings (Xenophon 42). This accusation is inaccurate because Socrates did not collect any money for his conversations with people. Instead, Socrates was a very poor man, who happened to have rich friends. Talking to these people was a way for Socrates to try to spread his way of life to the Athenian's. He enjoyed conversing with people about ethical issues, and moral beliefs. In his argument, Socrates refutes Meletus' charge that he corrupts the young. One crucial point...

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