How could Socrates have achieved such a secure sense of self-worth How indeed, unless he really did acquire the habits of character and moral outlook that made of his life a blessing to himself and to those around him. Good Sir, you are an Athenian, a citizen of the greatest city with the greatest reputation for both wisdom and power; are you not ashamed of your eagerness to possess as much wealth, reputation and honours as possible, while you do not care for nor give thought to wisdom or truth, or the best possible state of your soul (Blackenship, 29e)
He immediately repeats the point by announcing that he will reproach anyone who "attaches little importance to the most important things and greater importance to inferior things." (Blackenship, 30a) He sees himself as one sent by the god to redirect the attention of his fellow citizens, turning them away from an obsession with self-destructive and socially disintegrating goals, and redirecting their attention toward those objects that will make them truly happy. He drives home the point yet a third time.
Be sure that this is ...
. (Blackenship, 30b)
As Hamilton invited us to constitute our lives together through reflection and choice, so also Socrates by exhortation and example, by word and deed, invites us to constitute ourselves, to establish our own character, by reflection and choice.
In writing the Apology Plato has artfully reconstructed the speech which Socrates gave in his own defense at the trial in 399 B.C. which ended in his execution a month later. The Greek word for such a speech is apologia. Plato, who was present at the trial, divided his version of Socrates' apologia into three distinct parts. Perhaps Grube summarizes it best when he writes in this introduction: Moreover, if, as is generally believed, the Apology was written not long after the event, many Athenians would remember the actual speech, and it would be a poor way to vindicate the Master, which is the obvious intent, to put a completely different speech into his mouth. Some liberties could no doubt be allowed, but the main arguments and the general tone of the defence must surely be faithful to the original. The beauty of language and style is certainly Plato's, but the serene spiritual and moral beauty of character belongs to Socrates. It is a powerful combination.
Though some scholars will dispute the first part of this statement, Grube is surely right about the artistry of Plato's language and the beauty of Socrates' character. It is indeed a powerful combination, and it draws the attention of my students. They may be puzzled by it, amused by it, angry at it, or simply disagree with some of the "outrageous" things Socrates has to say, but they are all forced to reconsider some