The Apology: Can A Good Person Be Harmed?
Socrates the well known ancient Athenian philosopher and teacher of Plato and Xenophon was the main subject in Plato’s apology. It narrated the speech delivered by Socrates in his own defense at his trial. In 399 BC Socrates was put under trial on the following stated charges against him like corrupting the youth of Athens and for impiety, atheistic beliefs or disbelief in the gods of Athens. The decision to bring Socrates to trial is motivated by their speculation that his influence and popularity was a serious threat to the democracy of Athens.
Apology is Plato’s account of Socrates defense speech before the Athenian jury. The text itself was divided into three parts. The first part includes Socrates’ main defense speech. Second part includes Socrates’ proposal of counter penalty and the last part is Socrates’ final address and comments on his sentence. Here in the last part, Socrates was given the opportunity to say a few closing remarks to the jury, and delivers a philosophical statement on death and the afterlife. Socrates primary concern in life was the pursuit of wisdom, not in the sophistic sense of practical efficiency in public life, but as moral excellence of soul. Socrates in fact seemed to have been the first philosopher to see the soul as the moral essence of the individual, which is related to having a virtue.
Socrates believed that he was innocent and their accusations were unjust. He holds unto his personal convictions and stands on his belief that a strong moral foundation is essential more than anything else. He believed that no good man deserve any form of harm or danger in his life and the harm that happens to a good man still has a good purpose in it.
“Nothing can harm a good man either in life or after death and his fortunes is not a matter of indifference to the gods.”
Socrates believed that no harm can come upon a good man. He defends himself from the jury and proved that he was not doing anything which deserved punishment. Though there are many people similar to his situation has undergone the same and suffered despite of their innocence and good image. It is something difficult to comprehend and has deep meaning behind those words. Like any man can say such treatment was not appropriate for a righteous person. It is a big question on why good people still suffer despite of their goodness. Both bad and good things happen to an evil person and a good person. He still believed that the bad things that happen to good people will bring benefit to the person sooner or later and the situation will not last forever.
“I suspect that this thing that has happened to me is a blessing, and we are quite mistaken in supposing death to be an evil…Death is one of two things: Either it is annihilation, and the dead have no consciousness of anything; or it is really a change: a migration of the soul from this place to another.”
At this point he learned to accept his fate and look at death in a positive way. He didn’t get easily discouraged or turn into desperation. He learned to embrace death with courage and a positive anticipation. He understands what is going to happen next to him.
“As soon as I am dead, vengeance shall fall upon you with a punishment far more painful than your killing me…you will have more critics.”
In declaring this, Socrates knew that his critics and persecutors will suffer more. He prophesied what will happen to them. He knows that there is justice in one way or another. Vengeance will surely come upon those that accused him and sentenced him to die.
“I suggest, gentlemen that the difficulty is not so much to escape from death (which he eventually must face whether he begs for his life now or not); the real difficulty is to escape from wickedness…”
For Socrates, wickedness was much difficult to escape than death itself. He did not tolerate any form of wickedness by being morally upright. Being wicked is worst than to die. It is better to die than to suffer from doing evil and wicked things which his opponents prefer to do. He was even able to forgive his condemners and their wicked plans about him.
“To let no day pass without discussing goodness and all the other subjects about which you hear me talking and examining both myself and others…and that life without this sort of examination is not worth living.”
He values life, knowledge and wisdom. As a philosopher he didn’t let his day pass without appreciating the goodness of life. Socrates had devoted himself in the examination and understanding of life. Life for him has deep meanings and importance. He searched for the truth and imparted his wisdom to his listeners. His philosophical views made him a hero for many. He endured everything because of his deep devotion to wisdom.
“other heroes of the old days who met their death through an unjust trial, and it compare my fortunes with theirs – it would be rather amusing, I think – and above all I should like to spend my time there, as here, in examining and searching people’s minds, to find out who is really wise among them, and who only thinks that he is.”
He looked forward to converse with the heroes of the old days in the face of death. He knew he will meet them after he died. For him death is inescapable at that moment. He conditioned his mind for the better things coming ahead. He believed he can continue his search and journey to human life experience and greater understanding.
Grube, George Maximilian. “Plato Five Dialogues: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Meno Phaedo” Hackett Publishing Co., 2002.
“Reading Plato’s Apology” 2000 M. Russo. 30 September 2008 <http://www.molloy.edu>