Socrates, Guilty Or Not
Ancient Athens was the site of a growing culture. Philosophy was among the many improvements and discoveries being made. With these improvements and discoveries, great thinkers were able to stretch out their knowledge to new heights. The society they lived in, both welcomed and shunned their ideals. Socrates was one of these thinkers. It was because of Socrates open-mindedness that he was sentenced to death by two charges brought against him. One, Socrates corrupted the youth and two, Socrates believed in ‘false gods’. Yet, was Socrates guilty or not?
In the Apology, Socrates examines the charges brought against him by Meletus and tries to prove that they are false. The first charge brought against him is that he was corrupting the youth. Socrates responds to this by asking Meletus in his opinion, how Socrates was corrupting the youth. Meletus says that Socrates was teaching the youth to go against the government. Socrates asks if there was anyone who was beneficial for the youth. Meletus says that the council, jury, assembly, even the general public was beneficial to the youth and that Socrates was the only person corrupting them. Socrates claims that it was impossible for the one person to be capable of corrupting the youth when they had so many to show them in the right direction.
Socrates says that it is also impossible for everyone to know that is right for the youth. He goes on to give an example of a horse. Socrates explains that only one person would be able to train horses correctly, a horse trainer. A horse trainer has been instructed in how to raise horses. A person walking on the road would not be able to train horses properly, because the would have no previous knowledge or experience with training horses. Therefore, it would not be possible, for everyone in Athens to know what was best for the youth. Only those who had trained to teach discipline would be beneficial to the youth.
Meletus’s next charge is that Socrates ‘believes in false gods’. Socrates says that he believes in Divine Spirits. Meletus takes this statement to mean that Socrates says that if Meletus believed in gods and goddesses, then he must believe in Divine Spirits. For they are the children of the gods. After hearing this statement Meletus changes his story many times saying that Socrates did not believe in any gods at all. Meletus is not sure which one it should be and continues to change it back and forth. Meletus’s action of contradicting himself, clearly showing that the charge had no validity.
On the first charge that Meletus brought against Socrates that he, ‘corrupted the youth’, this charge could have been seen as true by many. Socrates was teaching his followers to think for themselves. The...