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No Harm Can Come To A Good Man

1184 words - 5 pages

No Harm Can Come to a Good Man

Whether Socrates is portrayed correctly or not, he certainly was a great man. His contribution to western thought cannot be denied. For even if his teachings were different from what they are known to be at present, his influence on Plato is immense. And so, it is no small matter to describe the tragic passing of such a man as Socrates was and remains for philosophy today. Yet in all the indignation which is expected to arise at the death of Socrates, the panache with which he departs is captured excellently in Plato's “Apology.” Specifically, at the end of the "Apology," Socrates makes a very important statement that has had great impact on philosophy ever since its original proclamation. The Stoics in particular have taken this to be the cornerstone of their ideology. The statement made is that "you must regard one thing at least as certain—that no harm can come to a good man either in his life or after his death,” (Plato 100). The following examination focuses therefore on a brief explanation of the circumstances which lead to this statement being made by Socrates, as well as a closer look at why he thinks this to be the case. It is assumed that this statement is true, and validation for that assumption is to be sought as well.

So, first, why does Socrates make such a bold statement? Verily it is nothing short of his own death sentence. The people who accused and voted against Socrates, have decreed it that he is to die for impiety toward the gods and of corrupting the youth (Plato), in addition, it is known that Socrates has as a companion of sorts a "prophetic voice" to keep his philosophical endeavors regulated. Socrates himself states that this presence has not opposed him at any point during the proceeding of the trial (Plato). It is that fact which causes Socrates to understand his disposition as a good thing, death being a better fate, and that he cannot thus be harmed by the sentence.

Furthermore, the concept of harm is significant in this inquiry as well. Socrates speaks of his accusers in that "they thought they were doing me some harm," (Plato 100). It is thus conceivable that he does not consider physical harm to be of any consequence to his well-being. Socrates seems to maintain that physical existence is much less relevant to human excellence than is the spiritual state of the soul. It follows to say that physical harm, as is caused by others, is not actual harm. The true damage thus, is that which is done to the human soul, and none other than oneself can cause injury to the soul. Since the more valuable concern lies with that of the soul, death being somewhat a matter of triviality, and others cannot hurt the soul as only the self can, the death sentence by the jury is unimportant and does not cause harm to this good man.

The additional position in which Socrates resides, is that of the good man. As he elaborates himself, a good man is one who acts justly and keeps the...

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