Plato 's Article ' Why Was Socrates Prosecuted ' Essay

Plato 's Article ' Why Was Socrates Prosecuted ' Essay

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M. F Burnyeat’s article, “Why was Socrates Prosecuted”, explores the idea of how the reader would vote, had they been one of Socrates’ jurors. As the article progresses more and more of Burnyeat’s previous juror-readers begin to find Socrates guilty as they read further along in Plato’s Apology and begin to analyze one of the two accusation made against him in depth. Burnyeat’s work, however, does not fully explore the idea that Socrates “crimes” were harmful to the people of Athens. This part of the charges is crucial part to both the accusation that Socrates believed in different gods then those of Athens and the accusation that he corrupted the youth, and much of my decision regarding his guilt or innocence would be determined by the truth of this statement. In both accusations I find that Socrates did not harm and is therefore innocent.
It seems likely that Socrates was indeed guilty of believing in deities other than those of the state. As mentioned in Burnyeat’s article, Socrates avoids denying this charge by responding to an entirely different accusation. He makes it seem as if his belief in any divinity was what was being called into question. In the Apology, he fools Meletus into saying that “ταῦτα λέγω, ὡς τὸ παράπαν οὐ νομίζεις θεούς” (Plato. 26c), which fundamentally changes the early accusation into something that Socrates can truthfully disprove. Throughout the dialogue between the two, he shows Meletus to be an untrustworthy accuser but never addresses the issue of his belief in the Athenian gods. As a juror, I would believe that this evasion indicated that he believed in other gods, because he chose to attack Meletus with an invented accusation and never denied the true charge. While I would question his belief...


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... that he clearly states that “οἱ νέοι μοι ἐπακολουθοῦντες… αὐτόματοι”(Plato. 23c). If this were the case, as I would be inclined to believe, the fault would rest not on Socrates but on the fathers of these young men. It would be the father’s responsibility to ensure that their sons were properly contributing to the city with their free time, not wasting their days by following around a man whom they thought was questionable. Due to these facts, I would find Socrates innocent of harming the state by corrupting the youth.
In the case of both accusations, it is clear that Socrates is innocent because he did not cause any true harm to befall Athens. He neither corrupted the youth nor did his belief in daimon cause the city’s religious and public sphere to become destabilized. It is for these reasons that I would have to vote not guilty if I were one of Socrates’ jurors.

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