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Instead of begging for his life through appeals to pity, Socrates tells the jury: “whatever you do, know that I shall never alter my ways, not even if I have to die many times”. Socrates is the kind of man who will die for what he thinks is right…
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Socrates is the kind of man who will die for what he thinks is right. Plato’s Apology describes Socrates’ identity and philosophy through narrating his trial. Socrates dies for his philosophy because he knows that he is doing the right thing for society, not just for himself, where his interest is simply helping others to know the truth. He does the right thing for a society that needs a “gadfly” which will stir it to constant self-assessment (Plato, n.d., p.16). In the first section of the paper, I explain Socrates’ philosophy, specifically irony, method, and ethos, and how Socrates’ statement, “The unexamined life is not worth living,” is related to these three components. In the second section, I reflect on what I think philosophy is and why it is important. Socrates’ philosophy uses irony and logical methods to promote ethos, or the character of a good man with a good life, and his philosophy helps me define philosophy as the study of general and specific problems that can help people live a good life. Socrates’ philosophy is sometimes called Socratic irony, where the irony is that when a philosopher starts with the admission of his own ignorance, he actually exposes the ignorance of others. In Apology, Socrates criticizes the Sophists for using logos without examining the ethical value and consequences of their arguments. He says: “…but I know that their persuasive words almost made me forget who I was – such was the effect of them; and yet they have hardly spoken a word of truth” (Plato, n.d., p.3). He alludes to Sophists because they can be tremendously persuasive enough that some people overlook the weaknesses of their arguments. Forgetting oneself refers to forgetting one’s ability to think critically in response to the persuasive tactics of the Sophists. The verbal irony is that Socrates is not affected at all by the Sophists. Instead, the more that he talks to them, the more he exposes their ignorance through exposing the fallacies of their arguments. Socrates uses verbal irony to highlight that Sophists are not after the truth, and yet they ironically sound truthful to others who do not examine their lives anymore. Moreover, one of the greatest ironies in his philosophy is his argument on wisdom. Socrates does not claim to know everything, and yet by saying he does not know anything, he is wiser than the rest because it opens him to knowing more. He is right to compare himself to a “gadfly” because he exists for the main purpose of stirring the Greek society. He is like a gadfly that aims to stir the society which is “like a great and noble steed who is tardy in his motions owing to his very size, and requires to be stirred into life” (Plato, n.d., p.16). When the prophecy says that Socrates is the wisest of all, it does not mean that Socrates holds the most knowledge of all fields, but that he is open to learning more through his critical and inquisitive approach to learning. As a gadfly, he is ironically a small being in society in terms of wealth and social connections, and yet, he has the ability to stimulate deep philosophical questions amongst his people. Another example of irony comes from Socrates’ accusers. They accuse someone of something that they know little of. Socrates provides the example of Meletus. He says that Meletus is the “doer of evil,” wherein “the evil is that he makes a joke of a serious matter, and is too ready at bringing other men to trial from a pretended zeal and interest about matters in which he really never had the smallest interest” ... Read More
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