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Exploring the Impact of Socrates and Socrates trial

Delve deeper into the mind of one of the most famous philosophers  Socrates. Get an overview of his philosophy and Socrates trial through this detailed guide!

'' I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think'' - SOCRATES 
Who is Socrates and Socrates method
SOCRATES (469- 399) BCE 

 biography of Socrates

 SOCRATES is a very difficult subject for the historian. There are many men concerning whom it is certain that very little is known, and other men concerning whom it is certain that a great deal is known; but in the case of Socrates the uncertainty is as to whether we know very little or a great deal.  

Who is Socrates

Socrates was born about 470 B.C. in Athens. His father was a sculptor, his mother a midwife. Very little is known of his early years and education, except that he took up his father’s occupation as a sculptor. 

In later years some statues used to be shown at the Acropolis in Athens, which were said to be the work of Socrates. But comparatively early in life he deserted his profession in order to devote himself to what he considered his mission in life, philosophy. He spent his entire life in Athens, never departing from it, save for short periods on three occasions, when he served in military expeditions in the Athenian army. For from twenty to thirty years he laboured at his philosophical mission in Athens, until, in his seventieth year, he was charged with denying the national gods, introducing new gods of his own, and corrupting the Athenian youth. On these charges he was condemned to death and executed.

He was certainly tried, condemned to death, and executed in 399 B. C. He was unquestionably a well-known figure in Athens, since  But beyond this point we become involved in controversy. As said, Socrates was forced to drink hemlock for corrupting the youth of Athens.  Two of his pupils, Xenophon and Plato, wrote voluminously about him, but they said very different things.

Socrates is widely regarded as one of the most influential and important figures in Western philosophy. His teachings and writing have been very influential in shaping philosophical thought over the centuries. He is credited with laying the foundations for many areas of modern philosophy such as epistemology, ethics and naturalism. His approach to pursuing knowledge, known as the Socratic Method, is still used today in many different fields of study.

Was Socrates a real person ? Most of scholar said as, the probable answer is that Plato’s early dialogues are, to a fairly large extent, representative of the historical Socrates, but by the middle dialogues ‘Socrates’ has become a literary device for the exposition of Plato’s own views.

Socrates was the father of western philosophy and according to me Socrates is the father of moral philosophy. what was Socrates known for his ethics.

Every one is agreed that Socrates was very ugly. He had a snub nose and a considerable paunch; he was "uglier than all the Silenuses in the Satyric drama"(Xenophon, Symposium). He was always dressed in shabby old clothes, and went barefoot everywhere. His indifference to heat and cold, hunger and thirst, amazed every one. Alcibiades in the Symposium, describing Socrates on military service. he had strange habits such as standing in a trance for entire days, lost in thought. He did not seek public honours or position, though he fought with notable courage alongside his fellows in the wars. He therefore stood out, an anomaly, an eccentric, all the more so for incessantly asking questions and confusing his interlocutors when they tried to answer them.

 "Athens is a sluggish horse. I am the gadfly trying to sting it back to life." - Socrates 

Socrates was brave men. When his friend was badly injured in battlefield then Socrates saved his friend life in war. Socrates carried his friend on his shoulder and brought him in a safe campaign.  Socrates served in the Athenian army at Potidaea, Delium and Amphipolis. 

Socrates pretend to be  ignorance person  and whoever ask him question he said '' know one thing, that I know nothing.'' Socrates' teaching style  is very different.  Instead of lecturing students, Socrates discussed in the marketplace. he does not take money for teaching. He made fun of the Sophists. His method of teaching is called dialectics. Socrates never called himself professor. Socrates was not a writer, but a man who confined himself to oral discussion. He figures as the butt of jokes in Aristophanes’ comedy The Clouds and in half a dozen other satirical plays.

Three women who influenced Socrates. first his mother,  Socrates mother was a midwife. second Diotima  of Mantinea, he learned  love from her , and third Aspasia who thought him recitation. 

Socrates philosophy know thyself

 "Know thyself" means what it is to know yourself.  But for the people of Greece it meant something different, you can't change your destiny. These words are also inscribed on Apollo in the Temple of Delphi.

  "Ask question first yourself. - Socrates

what's the Socratic method 

Socrates question is - what is justice, what is courage. Socrates cross-examined moral concept such as wisdom, temperance . what is aim of life, what type of society you want, what is power etc.

What was Socrates philosophy

His method of philosophizing was purely conversational. It was his habit to go down every day to the market place in Athens, or to any other spot where people gathered, and there to engage in conversation with anyone who was ready to talk to him about the deep problems of life and death. Rich or poor, young or old, friend or stranger, whoever came, and would attend, could listen freely to the talk of Socrates. He took no fees, as the Sophists did, and remained always a poor man. 

He did not, like the Sophists, deliver long speeches, tirades, and monologues. He never monopolised the conversation, and frequently it was the other party who did most of the talking, Socrates only interposing questions and comments, and yet remaining always master of the conversation, and directing it into fruitful channels. The conversation proceeded chiefly by the method of question and answer, Socrates by acute questions educing, bringing to birth,  the thoughts of his partner, correcting, refuting, or developing them.

Socrates believed that the best way to understand something was to question and consider it from every angle. This led to his teaching style, the Socratic method, which helped students discuss and debate ideas. He also valued virtue above all else, believing that true wisdom comes through focusing on moral excellence. Finally, he strived for clarity, searching for true definitions of concepts such as justice, courage, and happiness.

''Doubt is the origin of the truth." - Socrates 

Socratic and dialectic method

Dialectic, that is to say, the method of seeking knowledge by question and answer, was not invented by Socrates. Dialectic, that is to say, the method of seeking knowledge by question and answer, was not invented by Socrates. It seems to have been first practised systematically by Zeno, the disciple of  ParmenidesBut there is every reason to suppose that Socrates practised and developed the method.  

when Socrates is condemned to death he reflects happily that in the next world he can go on asking questions for ever, and cannot be put to death, as he will be immortal. Certainly, if he practised dialectic in the way described in the Apology, the hostility to him is easily explained: all the humbugs in Athens would combine against him.

Who influenced Socrates philosophy

Socrates influence on all Hellenistic schools. It was the Socrates of poverty and indifference to worldly things who was imitated by the Cynics later; it was the Socrates of dedication to thought and fidelity to principle who inspired the Stoics later; it was Socrates’ preaching of the ‘considered life’ which inspired Aristotle to see reason as the distinguishing characteristic of humanity, and practical wisdom  as the basis of ethics. And of course it was Socrates whom Plato took as his point of departure for a philosophical achievement of enormous range and influence.

Trial of Socrates importance 

Socrates drinking the hemlock gif
The death of Socrates 

 ''The unexamined life is not worth living.'' Socrates.

The trial and death of Socrates -The main facts of the trial of Socrates are not open to doubt. The prosecution was based upon the charge that "Socrates is an evil-doer and a curious person, searching into things under the earth and above the heaven; and making the worse appear the better cause, and teaching all this to others." The real ground of hostility to him was, almost certainly, that he was supposed to be connected with the aristocratic party; most of his pupils belonged to this faction, and some, in positions of power, had proved themselves very pernicious. But this ground could not be made evident, on account of the amnesty. 

What caused Socrates death 

In his seventieth year he was tried on three charges: (1) for denying the national gods, (2) for setting up new gods of his own, (3) for corrupting the youth. All these charges were entirely baseless. The first might well have been brought against almost any of the earlier Greek thinkers with some justice. Most of them disbelieved in the national religion; many of them openly denied the existence of the gods. Socrates, almost alone, had refrained from any such attitude. On the contrary, he always enjoined veneration towards the gods, and urged his hearers, in whatever city they might be, to honour the gods according to the custom of that city. 

According to Xenophon, however, he distinguished between the many gods and the one creator of the universe, who controls, guides, and guards over the lives of men. The second charge appears to have been based upon the claim of Socrates to be guided by a supernatural inner voice, but whatever we may think of this claim, it can hardly constitute good ground for a charge of introducing new gods. The third charge, that of corrupting the youth, was equally baseless, though the fact that Alcibiades, who had been a favourite pupil of Socrates, afterwards turned traitor to Athens, and {133} led, moreover, a dissolute and unprincipled life, no doubt prejudiced the philosopher in the eyes of the Athenians. But Socrates was not responsible for the misdeeds of Alcibiades, and his general influence upon the Athenian youth was the very opposite of corrupting. 

Athenian Democracy in Socrates' Trial.

What then were the real reasons for these accusations? In the first place, there is no doubt that Socrates had made many personal enemies. In his daily disputations he had not spared even the most powerful men in Athens, but had ruthlessly laid bare the ignorance of those who pretended to be wise. There is, however, no reason to believe that the three men who actually laid the charges, Melitus, Lycon, and Anytus, did so out of any personal animosity. But they were men of straw, put forward by more powerful persons who remained behind the scenes. In the second place, Socrates had rendered himself obnoxious to the Athenian democracy. 

He was no aristocrat in feeling, nor was he a supporter of the vested interests and privileges of the few. But he could not accommodate himself to the mob-rule which then went by the name of democracy. The government of the State, he believed, should be in the hands of the wise, the just, and the good, those competent and trained to govern, and these are necessarily the few. He himself had taken no part in the political life of the time, preferring to guide by his influence and advice the young men on whom some day the duties of the State would devolve.

On two occasions only did he take an active part in politics, and on both occasions his conduct gave great offence. Both these incidents are recounted in a passage in Plato’s “Apology,” which I will quote. The  first incident refers to the aftermath of the battle of Arginusae. The Athenian fleet had gained a victory here, but lost twenty five ships of war, and the whole of the crews of these ships were drowned. This was attributed to the carelessness of the generals, and there was great indignation in Athens, upon their return whither the generals were put upon their trial. 

According to the law of Athens each accused had to be given a separate trial, but in their eagerness to have the generals condemned, the judges in this instance decided to try them all in a body. “You know, men of Athens,” says Socrates in the “Apology,” “that I have never held any other office in the State, but I did serve on the Council.

And it happened that my tribe, Antiochis, had the Presidency at the time you decided to try the ten generals who had not taken up the dead after the fight at sea. You decided to try them in one body, contrary to law, as you all felt afterwards. On that occasion I was the only one of the Presidents who opposed you, and told you not to break the law; and I gave my vote against you; and when the orators were ready to impeach and arrest me, and you encouraged them and hooted me, I thought then that I ought to take all the risks on the side of law and justice, rather than side with you, when your decisions were unjust, through fear of imprisonment or death. That was while the city was still under the democracy. 

When the oligarchy came into power, the Thirty, in their turn, summoned me with four others to the Rotunda, and commanded us to fetch Leon of Salamis from that island, in order to put him to death: the sort of commands they often gave to many others, anxious as they were to incriminate all they could. And on that occasion  I showed not by words only, that for death, to put it bluntly, I did not care one straw—but I did care, and to the full, about doing what was wicked and unjust. I was not terrified then into doing wrong by that government in all its power; when we left the Rotunda, the other four went off to Salamis and brought Leon back, but I went home. And probably I should have been put to death for it, if the government had not been overthrown soon afterwards.”

But there was a third, and greater reason, for the condemnation of Socrates. These charges were brought against him because the popular mind confused him with the Sophists.
This was entirely absurd, because Socrates in no respect resembled the Sophists, either in the manner of his life or in the tendency of his thought, which was wholly antisophistical. But that such a confusion did exist in the popular mind is clearly proved by “The Clouds” of Aristophanes.

Aristophanes was a reactionary in thought and politics, and, hating the Sophists as the representatives of modernism, he lampooned them in his comedy, “The Clouds.” Socrates appears in the play as the central character, and the chief of the Sophists. This was entirely unjust, but it affords evidence of the fact that Socrates was commonly mistaken for a Sophist by the Athenians. Aristophanes would not have ventured to introduce such a delusion into his play, had his audience not shared in it. Now at this time a wave of reaction was passing over Athens, and there was great indignation against the Sophists, who were rightly supposed to be overturning all ideals of truth and goodness. Socrates fell a victim to the anger of the populace against the Sophists.

How Was the Trial of Socrates Carried Out? 
Socrates was tried in the Athenian court system by a jury of 501 citizens. After listening to Socrates' arguments and speeches, the jury was asked to vote on his guilt or innocence. If thirty or more jurors voted guilty, the accused would face execution; if the majority of votes leaned toward innocence, Socrates would have been acquitted and no punishment would be administered. In this case, at least 280 out of 501 jurors voted for conviction, resulting in his death sentence.

Why Socrates chose to die

At the trial Socrates conducted himself with dignity and confidence. It was usual in those days for an accused person to weep and lament, to flatter the judges, to seek indulgence by grovelling and fawning, to appeal for pity by parading his wife and children in the court. Socrates refused to do any of these things, considering them unmanly. His “defence” was, indeed, not so much a defence of himself as an arraignment of his judges, the people of Athens, for their corruption and vice. This attitude of Socrates certainly brought about his condemnation. There is every reason to believe that if he had adopted a grovelling, even a conciliatory tone, he would have been acquitted.

As it was, he was found guilty by a bare majority. The law enacted that, when the charge was proved, those who had brought the accusation should first propose the penalty which they thought fitting; then the accused himself should propose an alternative penalty. It was for the judges to decide which of the two should be inflicted. The accusers of Socrates proposed the death-penalty. Here again Socrates might have escaped by proposing at once some petty punishment. This would have satisfied the people, who were only anxious to score off the troublesome philosopher and pedant. 

But Socrates proudly affirmed that, as he was guilty of no crime, he deserved no punishment. To propose a penalty would be to admit his guilt. Far from being a guilty person, he considered himself in the light of a public benefactor, and as such, if he were to get his deserts, he proposed that he should be publicly honoured by being given a seat at the President’s table. Nevertheless, as the law forced him to propose a penalty, he would, without prejudice to his  plea of innocence, suggest a fine of thirty minas. This conduct so exasperated the judges that he was now condemned to death by a large majority, about eighty of those who had previously voted for his acquittal now voting for his execution.

Thirty days elapsed before he was executed, and these days were spent in prison. His friends, who had free access to him, urged him to escape. These things were possible in Athens. Anaxagoras had apparently escaped with the help of Pericles. A little silver in the hands of the jail guards would probably have settled the matter. Socrates could fly to Thessaly, where the law could not reach him, as Anaxagoras had fled to Ionia. But Socrates steadily refused, saying that to flee from death was cowardly, and that one ought to obey the laws. The law had decreed his death, and he must obey. After thirty days, therefore, the poison cup was brought to him, and he drank it without flinching. Here is Plato’s account of the death of Socrates, which I quote from the “Phaedo.” In detail it cannot be considered historical, but we may well believe that the main incidents as well as the picture it gives us of the bearing and demeanour of the philosopher in his last moments, are accurate representations of the facts.

The death of Socrates - Socrates had two options either leave the country or drink the hemlock. In Athens gave two type of punishment, One is exile and second drink a poison. Socrates chose hemlock.  All of Socrates' disciples were weeping in prison cell.

when Socrates is asked how he wants to be buried he says, in effect, ‘I am not my body; it is not me who will be buried.’

Phaedo - This article more explain about Socrates death. It purports to describe the last moments in the life of Socrates.

How was Socrates died

“He rose and went into a chamber to bathe, and Crito followed him, but he directed us to wait for him. We waited, therefore, conversing among ourselves about what had been said, and considering it again, and sometimes speaking about our calamity, how severe it would be to us, sincerely thinking that, like those who are deprived of a father, we should pass the rest of our lives as orphans. When he had bathed and his  children were brought to him, for he had two little sons and one grown up, and the women belonging to his family were come, having conversed with them in the presence of Crito, and given them such injunctions as he wished, he directed the women and children to go away, and then returned to us. And it was now near sunset; for he spent a considerable time within. 

But when he came from bathing he sat down and did not speak much afterwards: then the officer of the Eleven came in and standing near him said, ’Socrates, I shall not have to find that fault with you that I do with the others, that they are angry with me, and curse me, when, by order of the archons, I bid them drink the poison. But you, on all other occasions during the time you have been here, I have found to be the most noble, meek and excellent man of all that ever came into this place; and, therefore, I am now well convinced that you will not be angry with me. Now, then, for you know what I came to announce to you, farewell, and endeavour to bear what is inevitable as easily as possible.’ And at the same time, bursting into tears, he turned away and withdrew. And Socrates, looking after him, said, ’And thou too, farewell, we will do as you direct.’ At the same time, turning to us he said ’How courteous the man is; during the whole time I have been here he has visited me, and conversed with me sometimes, and proved the worthiest of men; and how generously he weeps for me. But come, Crito, let us obey him and let some one bring the poison, if it is ready pounded, but if not let the man pound it.’

“Then Crito said, ’But I think, Socrates, that the sun is still on the mountains, and has not yet set. Besides,  I know that others have drunk the poison very late, after it had been announced to them, and have supped and drunk freely, and some even have enjoyed the objects of their love.

Do not hasten them, for there is yet time.’ “Upon this Socrates replied, ’These men whom you mention, Crito, do these things with good reason, for they think they shall gain by so doing, and I too with good reason, shall not do so; for I think I shall gain nothing by drinking a little later, except to become ridiculous to myself, in being so fond of life, and sparing of it when none any longer remains. Go then,’ he said, ‘obey, and do not resist.’
“Crito having heard this, nodded to the boy that stood near. And the boy having gone out, and stayed for some time, came, bringing with him the man that was to administer the poison, who brought it ready pounded in a cup. And Socrates, on seeing the man, said, ’Well, my good friend, as you are skilled in these matters, what must I do?’ ‘Nothing else,’ he replied, ’than when you have drunk it walk about, until there is a heaviness in your legs, then lie down; thus it will do its purpose.’ And at the same time he held out the cup to Socrates. 

And he having received it very cheerfully, Echecrates, neither trembling, nor changing at all in colour or countenance, but, as he was wont, looking steadfastly at the man, said, ’what say you of this potion, with respect to making a libation to anyone, is it lawful or not?’ ‘We only pound so much, Socrates,’ he said, ’as we think sufficient to drink.’ ‘I understand you,’ he said, ’but it is certainly both lawful and right to pray to the gods that my departure hence thither may be happy; which therefore I pray, and so may it be.’ And as he said this he drank it off readily and calmly. Thus far, most of us were with difficulty able to restrain ourselves from weeping, but when we saw him drinking, and having finished the draught, we could do so no longer; but in spite of myself the tears came in full torrent, so that, covering my face, I wept for myself, for I did not weep for him, but for my own fortune, in being deprived of such a friend. But Crito, even before me, when he could not restrain his tears, had risen up. But Apollodorus even before this had not ceased weeping, and then, bursting into an agony of grief, weeping and lamenting, he pierced the heart of everyone present, except Socrates himself. But he said. ’What are you doing, my admirable friends? I indeed, for this reason chiefly, sent away the women, that they might not commit any folly of this kind. For I have heard that it is right to die with good omens. Be quiet, therefore, and bear up.’

“When we heard this we were ashamed, and restrained our tears. But he, having walked about, when he said that his legs were growing heavy, lay down on his back; for the man so directed him. And at the same time he who gave him the poison, taking hold of him, after a short interval examined his feet and legs; and then having pressed his foot hard, he asked if he felt it; he said that he did not. And after this he pressed his thighs; and thus going higher he showed us that he was growing cold and stiff. Then Socrates touched himself, and said that when the poison reached his heart he should then depart. But now the parts around the lower belly were almost cold; when uncovering himself, for he had been covered over, he said; and they were his  last words. ’Crito, we owe a cock to Aesculapius; pay it, therefore, and do not neglect it.’ ‘It shall be done,’ said Crito, ‘but consider whether you have anything else to say.’

“To this question he gave no reply; but shortly after he gave a convulsive movement, and the man covered him, and his eyes were fixed, and Crito, perceiving it, closed his mouth and eyes.

Socrates speech before death

He points out that among those present are many former pupils of his, and fathers and brothers of pupils; not one of these has been produced by the prosecution to testify that he corrupts the young. (This is almost the only argument in the Apology that a lawyer for the defence would sanction.) 

He refuses to follow the custom of producing his weeping children in court, to soften the hearts of the judges; such scenes, he says, make the accused and the city alike ridiculous. It is his business to convince the judges, not to ask a favour of them.

After the verdict, and the rejection of the alternative penalty of thirty minae (in connection with which Socrates names Plato as one among his sureties, and present in court), he makes one final speech

And now, O men who have condemned me, I would fain prophesy to you; for I am about to die, and in the hour of death men are gifted with prophetic power. And I prophesy to you, who are my murderers, that immediately after my departure punishment far heavier than you have inflicted on me will surely await you. If you think that by killing men you can prevent some one from censuring your evil lives, you are mistaken; that is not a way of escape which is either possible or honourable; the easiest and the noblest way is not to be disabling others, but to be improving yourselves.

He then turns to those of his judges who have voted for acquittal, and tells them that, in all that he has done that day, his oracle has never opposed him, though on other occasions it has often stopped him in the middle of a speech. This, he says, "is an intimation that what has happened to me is a good, and that those of us who think death is an evil are in error." For either death is a dreamless sleep-which is plainly good or the soul migrates to another world. And "what would not a man give if he might converse with Orpheus and Musaeus and Hesiod and Homer? Nay, if this be true, let me die and die again." 

In the next world, he will converse with others who have suffered death unjustly, and, above all, he will continue his search after knowledge. "In another world they do not put a man to death for asking questions: assuredly not. For besides being happier than we are, they will be immortal, if what is said is true. 

Summary of Socrates  philosophy

The Platonic Socrates was a pattern to subsequent philosophers for many ages. What are we to think of him ethically? (I am concerned only with the man as Plato portrays him.) His merits are obvious. He is indifferent to worldly success, so devoid of fear that he remains calm and urbane and humourous to the last moment, caring more for what he believes to be truth than for anything else whatever. He has, however, some very grave defects. 

The trial of Socrates had complex implications for both politics and religion in ancient Athens. Athenians saw their judicial system as deeply entwined with their religious beliefs, and this is reflected by the involvement of powerful gods such as Athena, Apollo and Zeus. Political implications also featured heavily within the trial; some skeptics saw it as an excuse to control or limit political freedoms or corrupt moral standards. Additionally, Socrates' teachings were viewed by the prosecution and several powerful figures in the city-state as a challenge to traditional morality and religious practices.

He is dishonest and sophistical in argument, and in his private thinking he uses intellect to prove conclusions that are to him agreeable, rather than in a disinterested search for knowledge. There is something smug and unctuous about him, which reminds one of a bad type of cleric. His courage in the face of death would have been more remarkable if he had not believed that he was going to enjoy eternal bliss in the company of the gods. Unlike some of his predecessors, he was not scientific in his thinking, but was determined to prove the universe agreeable to his ethical standards. This is treachery to truth, and the worst of philosophic sins. As a man, we may believe him admitted to the communion of saints; but as a philosopher he needs a long residence in a scientific purgatory.

External link 


A History of Western Philosophy Book by Bertrand Russell
Ahbel-Rappe, S. and R. Kamtekar (eds.), A Companion to Socrates, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2005 Annas, J., Ancient Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000
Benson, H. H. (ed.), Essays on the Philosophy of Socrates, New York City, NY: Oxford University Press, 1992 Rudebusch, G., Socrates, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009 
Taylor, A. E., Socrates, Boston: Beacon Press, 1932 Taylor, C. C. W., Socrates: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000
Vlastos, G., The Philosophy of Socrates: A Collection of Critical Essays, Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1980 Vlastos, G., Socrates: Ironist and Moral Philosopher, New York City, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1991
 Vlastos, G., Socratic Studies, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994

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