Socrates was a very simple man who did not have many material possessions and spoke in a plain, conversational manner. Acknowledging his own ignorance, he engaged in conversations with people claiming to be experts, usually in ethical matters. By asking simple questions, Socrates gradually revealed that these people were in fact very confused and did not actually know anything about the matters about which they claimed to be an expert. Socrates felt that the quest for wisdom and the instruction of others through dialogue and inquiry were the highest aims in life. He felt that "The unexamined life is not worth living." Plato's Apology is the speech Socrates made at his trial. Socrates was charged with not recognizing the gods recognized by the state and corrupting the youth of Athens.
In The Apology, Socrates attempted to defend himself. He spoke in a very simple, uncomplicated manner. He explained that he had no experience with the law and courts and that he would just use honesty and directness. He also explained that he behaved in the way that he did because of a prophecy by the oracle at Delphi, which claimed that he was the wisest of all men. Recognizing that he was ignorant in most things, Socrates concluded that he must be wiser than other men only in that he knew that he knew nothing.
Socrates explained that he considered it his duty to question people in order to expose their false wisdom as ignorance. By doing this, the youth of Athens began to admire him and follow in his ways. However, Socrates received much hatred and anger from the people he embarrassed. He believed that the reason he was put on trial was because he embarrassed many people. Socrates compared himself to a gadfly stinging the lazy horse, which is the Athenian state. Without him, Socrates claimed, the state would drift into a deep sleep, but through his influence it can be awakened. Socrates was found guilty by a narrow margin and was asked to come up with a penalty.
Socrates suggested that if he were to get what he deserved, he should be honored with a great meal for being of such service to the state. He rejected the sentences of prison or exile, offering instead to pay a fine. When the jury rejected his suggestions and sentenced him to death, Socrates accepted the verdict and said that no one but the gods know what happens after death and so it would be foolish to fear what one does not know. He also warned the people who voted against him that by silencing him rather than listening to him, they have harmed themselves much more than they have harmed him.
Socrates opened his case by asking the...