The Apology by Plato

30 April 2013, Updated on 27 Nov. 2020 (Enschede, Netherlands).

This book by Plato describes the arguments presented by Socrates during his trial in which Socrates was charged with the following crime: (a) corrupting the youth; (b) not beleiving in God. At the end of trial, Socrates is sentenced to death by poison. There isn't a single written document authored by Socrates. His philosphical views were reported in the writings of Plato -- a student of Socrates. My grandfather told me several stories about Scorates and Plato. He often told me about Socrates unique way to revealing fallacies in the arugments of others by starting with a question. When I read this book in 2013, I clearly understood what my grandfather was trying to convey to me with his stories. These are my notes that I wrote after reading this book.

Socrates was a philosopher in ancient Greece. He spent his life searching for a man who was wiser than himself. With such a find, he wished to refute the word of God which claimed that Socrates was the wisest of men. Throughout his life, he examined politicians, philosphers, poets, artisans and other citizens and felt almost ashamed to confess the truth that "the men most in repute were all but the most foolish". They all had "conceit of knowledge" and this overshadowed their wisdom, if any. Socrates thought, "I am better off than he is, -- for he knows nothing, and thinks that he knows; I neither know nor think that I know." This helped Socrates realize the true meaning of God's words, "He ... is the wisest, who, like Socrates, knows that his wisdom is in truth worth nothing".

Socrates, for all his life, was absorbed in examining the wisdom of others using his unique philosophical inquiry technique. By virtue of this unraveling of misconceived sense of wisdom, Socrates earned a large number of enemies. Feeling suffocated by Socrates' truth unraveling philosophical inquiries, the representatives of poets, craftsmen, politicians and rhetoricians dragged Socrates to the court of law and slammed him with the following two charges:

Despite of his age (70+ years), Socrates defended himself in the court of law. Defiant in his belief and rightousness of his philosophical inqury, he did not plea for mercy. Rather, he declared to end his life in protest of the authorities forcing him to give up his philosophical inquiry. Before ending his life, he says, "The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways -- I to die, and you to live. Which is better God only knows".

Painting depicting the death of Socrates in prison about to drink hemlock given by his executioner (source: Wikimedia)

In an exemplary protest against his trial that was orchestrated to curb Socrates' philosphical inquiries, Socrates consumes Hemlock (a poison liquid) in his prison cell. This painting by Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825) captures that moment when Socrates is about to end his life. A defiant Socrates is seen in the center (slight off to the right; hot spot for visual attention) of this painting. With his left land, he is about to grab a cup filled with Hemlock. His raised right hand with index finger pointing toward the ceiling symbolizes his beleif in the Truth shall prevail. This painting also captures the many types of varied emotions present among the pupils of Socrates. The right side of this painting is full of Socrates pupils taken aback by his decision to end his life. They are seen emotionally shaken and are seen overcome by grief. One pupil, is seen clutching Socrates' thigs and possibly requesting him not to end his life. On the left side of his painting, we see a pupil, dressed in deep red clothes, unwillingly passing a cup of Hemlock to Socrates. Another pupil, who is possibly Plato, is seen grieving idlly at one end of Socrates' bed; unlike other pupils, he shows no signs of distress. Both Socrates and Plato are wearing similar coloured clothes. Probably, only this pupil understands Socrates' reasons for ending his life in defiance. On the floor, we see a roll of paper which is a legal document contaning charges against Socrates. High stone walled prison walls and large chains lying on the ground signify the power and authority of the court of law in ancient Greece. The painter also highlights well built bodies of Socrates and his pupils using different shades of skin tones. Intense and dark reddish colours are used for the cup of Hemlock and a pupil's cloth. This evokes emotions of distress and grief in observers. Bright sunlight is seen coming from top left side of the painting which illuminates Socrates and his pupils. In the far left, and beyond the tunnel that leads to this prison cell, we see some observers looking towards this prison cell.

Note: I wrote this article on 30 April 2013 and left it unpublished with few notes for myself about the missing parts. I stumbled on it in Nov. 2020 while exploring my backup storage disks. I finally published it in my blog on 27 Nov. 2020 after making some minor changes.