Plato’s Apology is a rather fascinating piece that beautifully highlights his mastery of rhetoric, and which portrays Socrates as a rather sarcastic orator. The piece focuses on Socrates’ defense after he had been brought before the people of Athens under accusations of impiety and alleged corruption of the youth. In order to escape punishment, Socrates needed to persuade the juries that the accusations presented by his adversaries were untruthful. It’s rather humorous to see that Socrates adopted a rather sarcastic tone, seasoned with subtle irony to address his opponents. Perhaps the most interesting aspect about the way he handled the situation was that he was able to lead his adversaries to realize that their arguments were rather flawed.
As previously mentioned, the two main accusations presented against him were that he was an atheist and that he corrupted the youth by teaching them wrong values. He contested these accusations by presenting a series of thought experiments to his accusers and by utilizing the ethos, pathos and logos aspect of persuasion. By appealing to ethos, he established that he was an honorable man who had been highly respected by those who had known him. He also mentioned that he was seventy-years old, an age that not many reached. This sort of appeal would then serve to convince the juries that he was an aged, wise man of good character. Such an individual would certainly not be interested in corrupting the youth. By mentioning his old age he was also able to appeal to the element of pathos as it would certainly make the juries feel guilty about punishing an elder. His use of logos was presented when he questioned his opponents and attempted to rationally lead them to the conclusion that they were wrong.
This piece also does an extraordinary job of highlighting Socrates’ skeptic beliefs and his philosophical standpoint. Throughout the text he repeats that he is not certainly not the wisest man because all he knows is that he knows nothing. As a supporter of universal skepticism, it is not surprising that he would say such a thing about his knowledge. It is unfortunate that the juries eventually agreed that his punishment would be the death sentence. Personally, I was rather surprised at how he responded to this punishment. He willingly agreed to the juries’ decision and did not attempt to contest it, although he did add some sarcastic comments about him not fearing death because one cannot be sure if death is indeed a bad thing. His respect for the social contract between the individual and his society led him to believe that he had to agree with whatever judgment the people of Athens had decided to push forth.
In general, I found this piece to be rather amusing, although, the topic was not particularly comic. It was Socrates’ sarcastic tone that transformed the piece into something that was comical and entertaining. I do not know if this was the exact manner in which Socrates actually responded, but, I do know that if an individual were to speak this way in a contemporary court that they would be in big trouble.