Wisdom Books: The Last Days of Socrates By Plato

“Socrates spent a lifetime analyzing ethical issues, and the “Euthyphro” finds him outside the court-house, still debating the nature of piety with an arrogant acquaintance. “The Apology” is both a robust rebuttal to the charges of impiety and corrupting young minds and a definitive defence of the philosopher’s life. Later, condemned and imprisoned in the “Crito”, Socrates counters the arguments of friends urging him to escape. And finally, in the “Phaedo”, Plato shows him calmly confident in the face of death, skilfully arguing the case for the immortality of the soul.”

~ Amazon.com


Here is a passage from “Euthyphro” chapter:

EUTHYPHRO

[2a]

Euthyphro
What strange thing has happened, Socrates, that you have left your accustomed haunts in the Lyceum and are now haunting the portico where the king archon sits? For it cannot be that you have an action before the king, as I have.

Socrates
Our Athenians, Euthyphro, do not call it an action, but an indictment.

Euthyphro
What? Somebody has, it seems, brought an indictment against you; [2b] for I don’t accuse you of having brought one against anyone else.
Socrates
Certainly not.

Euthyphro
But someone else against you?

Socrates
Quite so.

Euthyphro
Who is he?

Socrates
I don’t know the man very well myself, Euthyphro, for he seems to be a young and unknown person. His name, however, is Meletus, I believe. And he is of the deme of Pitthus, if you remember any Pitthian Meletus, with long hair and only a little beard, but with a hooked nose.

Euthyphro
I don’t remember him, Socrates. But [2c] what sort of an indictment has he brought against you?

Socrates
What sort? No mean one, it seems to me; for the fact that, young as he is, he has apprehended so important a matter reflects no small credit upon him. For he says he knows how the youth are corrupted and who those are who corrupt them. He must be a wise man; who, seeing my lack of wisdom and that I am corrupting his fellows, comes to the State, as a boy runs to his mother, to accuse me. And he seems to me to be the only one of the public men who begins in the right way; for the right way [2d] is to take care of the young men first, to make them as good as possible, just as a good husbandman will naturally take care of the young plants first and afterwards of the rest. And so Meletus, perhaps, is first […]

Here is a passage from “Apology” chapter:

APOLOGY

So I should have done a terrible thing, [28e] if, when the commanders whom you chose to command me stationed me, both at Potidaea and at Amphipolis and at Delium, I remained where they stationed me, like anybody else, and ran the risk of death, but when the god gave me a station, as I believed and understood, with orders to spend my life in philosophy and in examining myself and others, then I were to desert my post through fear of death or anything else whatsoever. It would be a terrible thing, and truly one might then justly hale me into court, on the charge that I do not believe that there are gods, since I disobey the oracle and fear death and think I am wise when I am not. For to fear death, gentlemen, is nothing else than to think one is wise when one is not; for it is thinking one knows what one does not know. For no one knows whether death be not even the greatest of all blessings to man, but they fear it as if they knew that it is the greatest of evils. [29b] And is not this the most reprehensible form of ignorance, that of thinking one knows what one does not know? Perhaps, gentlemen, in this matter also I differ from other men in this way, and if I were to say that I am wiser in anything, it would be in this, that not knowing very much about the other world, I do not think I know. But I do know that it is evil and disgraceful to do wrong and to disobey him who is better than I, whether he be god or man. So I shall never fear or avoid those things concerning which I do not know whether they are good or bad rather than those which I know are bad. And therefore, even if [29c] you acquit me now and are not convinced by Anytus, who said that either I ought not to have been brought to trial at all, or since was brought to trial, I must certainly be put to death, adding that if I were acquitted your sons would all be utterly ruined by practicing what I teach—if you should say to me in reply to this: “Socrates, this time we will not do as Anytus says, but we will let you go, on this condition, however, that you no longer spend your time in this investigation or in philosophy, and if you are caught doing so again you shall die”; [29d] if you should let me go on this condition which I have mentioned, I should say to you, “Men of Athens, I respect and love you, but I shall obey the god rather than you, and while I live and am able to continue, I shall never give up philosophy or stop exhorting you and pointing out the truth to any one of you whom I may meet, saying in my accustomed way: “Most excellent man, are you who are a citizen of Athens, the greatest of cities and the most famous for wisdom and power, not ashamed to care for the acquisition of wealth [29e] and for reputation and honor, when you neither care nor take thought for wisdom and truth and the perfection of your soul?” […]

Here is a passage from “Crito” chapter:

CRITO

[46a] since we did not save you, and you did not save yourself, though it was quite possible if we had been of any use whatever. Take care, Socrates, that these things be not disgraceful, as well as evil, both to you and to us. Just consider, or rather it is time not to consider any longer, but to have finished considering. And there is just one possible plan; for all this must be done in the coming night. And if we delay it can no longer be done. But I beg you, Socrates, do as I say and don’t refuse. [46b]

Socrates
My dear Crito, your eagerness is worth a great deal, if it should prove to be rightly directed; but otherwise, the greater it is, the more hard to bear. So we must examine the question whether we ought to do this or not; for I am not only now but always a man who follows nothing but the reasoning which on consideration seems to me best. Aud I cannot, now that this has happened to us, discard the arguments I used to advance, but they seem to me much the same as ever, [46c] and I revere and honor the same ones as before. And unless we can bring forward better ones in our present situation, be assured that I shall not give way to you, not even if the power of the multitude frighten us with even more terrors than at present, as children are frightened with goblins, threatening us with imprisonments and deaths and confiscations of property. Now how could we examine the matter most reasonably? By taking up first what you say about opinions and asking whether we were right when we always used to say that we ought to pay attention [46d] to some opinions and not to others? Or were we right before I was condemned to death, whereas it has how been made clear that we were talking merely for the sake of argument and it was really mere play and nonsense? And I wish to investigate, Crito, in common with you, and see whether our former argument seems different to me under our present conditions, or the same, and whether we shall give it up or be guided by it. But it used to be said, I think, by those who thought they were speaking sensibly, just as I was saying now, that of the opinions held by men [46e] some ought to be highly esteemed and others not. In God’s name, Crito, do you not think this is correct? For you, humanly speaking,[…]

Here is a passage from “Phaedo” chapter:

PHAEDO

Echecrates
Well then, what was the conversation?

Phaedo
I will try to tell you everything from the beginning. On the previous days [59d] I and the others had always been in the habit of visiting Socrates. We used to meet at daybreak in the court where the trial took place, for it was near the prison; and every day we used to wait about, talking with each other, until the prison was opened, for it was not opened early; and when it was opened, we went in to Socrates and passed most of the day with him. On that day we came together earlier; for the day before, [59e] when we left the prison in the evening we heard that the ship had arrived from Delos. So we agreed to come to the usual place as early in the morning as possible. And we came, and the jailer who usually answered the door came out and told us to wait and not go in until he told us. “For,” he said, “the eleven are releasing Socrates from his fetters and giving directions how he is to die today.”[…]

 

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