It is often said that Socrates acted unwisely in this defense and prior to the charges being brought against him because he purposely incited the wrath of many of the more powerful people of Athens. However, the defense he presents to the court suggests Socrates understood something more than normal men. His argument in the end is not that he didn’t break the law of Athens, but that he was acting in a necessary capacity for the development of the free and democratic society he understood Athens to be.
The first charge brought against Socrates was that he was spreading sacrilegious ideas because he challenges other people’s beliefs. Socrates acknowledges these charges when he speaks against old enemies that have spoken falsely “telling of one Socrates, a wise man, who speculated about the heaven above, and searched into the earth beneath, and made the worse appear the better cause” (Apology: 944). His defense regarding sacrilege is based on the statement of the Oracle which once pronounced him the wisest man alive. Such a pronouncement caused him to take up a series of inquiries looking ‘into the heavens and earth’ to discover why that might be so. He points out this was a journey of discovery to learn why what they said was true. “At last I went to the artisans, for I was conscious that I knew nothing at all, as I may say, and I was sure that they knew many fine things; and here I was not mistaken, for they did know many things of which I was ignorant, and in this they certainly were wiser than I was. But I observed that even the good artisans fell into the same error as the poets; because they were good workmen they thought that they also knew all sorts of high matters, and this defect in them overshadowed their wisdom” (Apology: 947). Villa says this reveals that Socrates “obviously cared greatly for his city and fellow citizens” (2001: 39). His method was intended to open their minds to greater thought within a ...Show more