Apology is basically the Plato’s version of speech given by Socrates in 399 BC to defend himself against the charges leveled against him. The content of the dialogue has several parts. The introductory part comes first where Socrate’s manner of speaking is portrayed. Then is the list of those accusations which were made with reference to his routine life. Socrates gives explanation for almost each of the allegation in an attempt to defend himself. Afterwards he tries to defend himself and mitigate penalty imposed on him. In the last portion of the dialogue, he makes an attempt to make judges realize that they would not be able to satisfy their conscience after pronouncing sentence as penalty for his crimes. (Allen, 245)
In the beginning of the dialogue, Socrates apologizes the audience for the informal style he had planned to defend himself. The accusers warn the judges to stay guarded heavily as Socrates may deceive them while attempting to prove his innocence. Socrates insists that he is not articulate and accusers must be ashamed of what they think about him. Furthermore, he tells that the only ability he has is the truthfulness. He asks the judges to ignore his eloquence and consider the cause for which he is pleading.
Socrates uses plain language in his dialogue and explains the audience that he has no experience of law courts. He will talk to the court in general conversational manner with directness and honesty. He refers his style to the Delphi who claimed to be the wisest among all men. Delphi was ignorant of worldly affairs and he considered it his duty to expose the false faces of so called wise men. Such activities made him a controversial personality; partially famous among young people and partly notorious among those who were his victims (Brickhouse, Thomas & Nicholas, 89).
Meletus, who brought Socrates in front of jury, was the second subject of Socrates. This portion of the dialogue displays cross- examination and contains humiliation of Meletus. In this section Socrates did not attempt to reveal truth rather he has embarrassed Meletus.
In a passage, Socrates calls Athenian state, a lazy horse to which he stinging like a pest. Socrates claimed than his presence and influence has kept the state alive which otherwise would have slept.
By a narrow margin, he was found guilty and was asked to pay penalty. On this, Socrates made fun of the judgment and said that he deserved a great meal for the services he had rendered to the state. Hype was built when Socrates rejected the orders of prison and exile and suggested fine. The jury rejected his suggestion and sentenced him to death.
Surprisingly, Socrates accepted the verdict with an opinion that one must not fear about what would happen after death. Only gods know this secret. In the end, Socrates warned the jury that his death will be a greater damage to them as they would have no one to object their opinions and judgments ever.
The Opinions of Scholars on the Dialogue
There are several opinions on “The Apology” by Plato. The critics, writers, philosophers and non-philosophers have critically analyzed his work. Some speak about the Plato’s style of explaining the incident while others argue over the Socrates being a defender of his own case.
Johann J. Brucker, in 1741, first criticized the “The Apology”. He said that Plato was not a trust worthy source to study Socrates. After him, many evidences have been considered to prove that “The Apology” is more of a philosophical effort than a historical piece. In way of writing it, Plato did not seek historical accuracy instead he tried to reject the opinion of those whom he contempt (Allen, 1980). He tried to outdo the orators who had conflicted point of view.
Many scholars have opinion that Plato has failed to expose few most compelling evidence of the guilt Socrates had. De Strycker and Slings make more genuine opinion. They argue that the audience of Plato would not have expected his words on the trail phase rather he would have wrote about the actual situation. The writer has failed to portray the actual reason of Socrates behavior at his trail.
The dialogue is inaccurate and unclear. In the words of the authors themselves, '... there is, on the one hand, no single sentence in the Platonic Apology that Socrates could not have actually pronounced, and on the other, that the published work contains no passage so specifically un-Platonic that it cannot be Plato's work' (78).
Contrary to the opinions of the scholars narrated above, many philosophers say that Plato’s explanation must be accurate as he wrote “The Apology” at time when his audience included those who had firsthand knowledge about the incident. This reduces the chances of Plato’s dialogue being emotionally biased. There was no room for Plato to show his sympathies in his script for Socrates (Backman, 79).
All the critics have consensus on two points Plato has raised in his work; first is the fact that Socrates was least apologetic during his trail. His tone was furious and full of attitude. Secondly, he could have accepted the orders to save himself rather than choosing death over compromise.
My Opinions on the Dialogue
In my point of view, Plato’s Apology is a master piece which has added value to the literature and philosophy. He was not only a good writer but a genuine philosopher too. The Apology belongs to that category of work which has successfully lessened the gap between literature and philosophy. The dialogue reveals the traits of ideals philosopher.
Apart from the fact that his teacher was accused of de-tracking the youth and not believing in gods, he was a man of fairness and openness. The speech of Socrates as told by Plato depicts the image of a true philosopher. Socrates did not compromise on his rules, composure and faith despite the fact that his life was at stake (Stone, 188). The speech is an inspiration for the philosophical thinkers. It interprets value and dignity a philosopher has. High ethical concerns dominated the life of Socrates.
Presenting the Ancient Greek knowledge of philosophy, “The Apology” serves as a milestone for ancient history which determines the theory of western politics, responsiveness and dual principles. Brought out of darkness of ignorance, the Socrates values are worthy enough to be known and learnt (Backman, 97).
The character of Delphic shows another aspect of the ancient society and its resemblance with the current scenario. The Socrates wisdom touches the peaks of humbleness in front of ignorance of Delphic. He did not impose his wisdom on those who were not worthy enough to carry it rather he preferred to die with his wit.
The script contains the true picture of history. The dialogues put light on the mindset of the people of that time. The modern ethics can be designed on the basis provided by this conversation. Those who know Greek have additional benefit. They can read the script in the original form without change of words. They can taste the relish of originality which is somehow spoiled due to translation and analysis. (Kraut, 243)
The religious ideas of Socrates provide a plot for think-tanks. The conduct of Socrates on ethical and political issues explains newness of ideas and response of ignorant societies on such issues.
The last part of the dialogue becomes very intriguing with the great philosopher Socrates trying to persuade the audience that his death would not be a loss only for him but a greater loss for the humanity. He tried to convince them that people like him take ages and unthankful societies loose them as they were doing.
The script contains reality based reactions, philosophical elements, image of the great philosopher and loos societies bear due to their ignorance. In short, “The Apology” by Plato is a valuable effort made by Plato. Like all his scripts, “The Apology” contains uniqueness with respect to that time and era of literature. He has wonderfully presented the picture of a true philosopher who prefers to die with his wit rather than bowing in front of ignorant society.