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Socrate's First Accusers And Athenian Law

1006 words - 4 pages

Socrate's First Accusers and Athenian LawOf all confrontations in political philosophy, the biggest isthe conflict between philosophy and politics. The problem remainsmaking philosophy friendly to politics. The questioning of authoritativeopinions is not easily accomplished nor is that realm of philosophy - thepursuit of wisdom. Socrates was the instigator of the conflict. While thepolitical element takes place within opinions about political life,Socrates asks the question 'What is the best regime and how should I live?'Ancient thought is riddled with unknowns and can make no such statement as'how should I live.' The Socratic philosophy offers an alternative andprepares the way for the alternative of absolutes. This alternative is notwithout its faults. Socratic philosophy is plagued by a destructiveelement. It reduces the authoritative opinions about political life butreplaces it with nothing. This is the vital stem from which the 'Apologyof Socrates' is written. Because of the stinging attack on Athenian life,and the opinions which they revere so highly, Socrates is placed on trialfor his life.The question now becomes why and in what manner did Socrates refutethe gods and is he quilty? Socrates, himself, speaks out the accuserscharges by saying 'Socrates does injustice and is meddlesome, byinvestigating the things under the earth and the heavenly things, and bymaking the weaker the stronger and by teaching others these things' (Plato,19b;c). This is the charge of the 'old' accusers. It is seen from anexample in 'The Clouds'. Strepsiades goes to Socrates in order to learnhow to pursuade his son by 'making the weaker speech the stronger'(Aristophanes, 112). Why does Socrates remind the assembly about the oldaccusers? It appears improper for a man on trial to bring about his other'crimes'. Aristophanes, in particular, is implicated by Socrates as an oldaccuser. 'For you yourselves used to see these things in the comedy ofAristophanes' (Plato, 19c). The poets helped to shape Greek culture.Poetry was passed on and perpetuated the city where thought constantlychanged.Philosphy begins in debunking what the city thinks they know inorder to refute the god. It is evident that Socrates is not guided by thegods of the city. Socrates says 'it is not part of the same man to believein daimonian and divine things' (Plato, 27e). Socrates is subtly admittinghis guilt. Perhaps Socrates believs in gods, but if so, they are not thegods of the city. Socrates simply denies that he has had any part incelestial or subterranean inquiry - he simply speaks 'elsewhere'. Socratesgoes on to say that those who do are reported to be atheists. However,Socrates says that 'Zeus does not eveeen exist' (Aristophanes, 367).Socrates replaces Zeus with nature, the permanent and necessary thingsaccessable to reason. This is an outrage to any Athenian. To deny thegods is to deny faith and ultimately the authoritarian opinions on whichtheir politics is based.Why does Socrates think that...

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