Socrates' Service Essay

1330 words - 6 pages

Through his portrayal in Plato’s Apology, Xenophon’s Apology, and Aristophanes’ Clouds, there are many examples given of Socrate’s service to Athens. In the Clouds, although this is a comedic play, Socrates’ service was portrayed as a corruption of the youth. In both apologies, Socrates was seen defending his actions and considering them to be a positive for the city instead of a negative. Socrates considered his service to Athens as a “good” because through his philosophy, he taught others to challenge the social norm and practice divergent ways of thinking.
In the Apology by Plato, Socrates says that “until now no greater good has arisen for you in the city than my service to the god” ...view middle of the document...

He does so by going to various statesmen in different career fields and asking them what they think they know. Through this tactic, Socrates comes to the conclusion that these men are not as wise as they think they are because they think too highly of their own wisdom and they do not observe they fact that they do not know everything, like Socrates does. From this, Socrates develops this “mission” to make the statesmen aware of their shortcomings, through philosophizing, therefore doing this “service to the god”.
Even though the goal of Xenophon’s AP was to portray Socrates in a different light, and was essentially in a very different perspective from Plato’s, there is still evidence of Socrates defending himself by saying that he is aiding Athens. In Xenophon’s version of the AP, he is telling the story of Socrates’ trial as a second-hand account. Xenophon also gives more evidence of Socrates actually defending the claims against him. Specifically, when speaking about Chaerephon’s inquiry with the oracle at Delphi, Socrates said “Now Apollo did not compare me to a god; he did, however, judge that I far excelled the rest of mankind.” (AP by Xenophon 16). Although this is not the same text in which the quote about Socrates’ service to the god came from, this passage in Xenophon’s AP was indicative that Apollo (the god) obviously thought highly of him and deemed him worthy enough to continue his philosophy to educate the “inferior” Athenians.
Socrates tries to portray himself as a visionary or someone who can open the eyes of the people of Athens and make them aware that there are deviant ways of thinking. A recurring theme in the AP by Plato is the contrast between old and new. Socrates begins his apologia speaking on old accusations and then moving on to new accusations. He does not deny that he observes daimons which is a new way of looking at the gods. His philosophy is a new and obscure thing to many of the traditionalists of Athens who see him as “corrupting the youth” with his teachings. In the AP by Plato, Socrates wants to make the jury see that change, growth, or development was not a bad thing. He also wanted to show that a new way of thinking would not harm Athens as much as it will help advance their mindset, which is stuck in an old way of thinking.
In Aristophanes’ Clouds, Socrates is shown to blatantly corrupt the youth through his teachings at the Thinkery. His specialty was to teach the students rhetoric or how to make philosophical arguments. The reader sees that closer to the end of the Clouds, Socrates’ teachings caused Pheidippides to be very disrespectful to his father. This comedic play is the seed that plants the idea of the whole...

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