Posted on 29 December 2018
In the year 399 BC Socrates, accused of ‘introducing new gods and corrupting the youth,’ was put on public trial.
It was not in order to torment his fellow beings that Socrates kept on stinging them with unwanted truth. Something within him left him no choice.
He always said that he had a ‘divine voice’ inside him. Socrates protested, for example, against having any part in condemning people to death. He moreover refused to inform on his political enemies. This was eventually to cost him his life.
Trial and Execution
At his trial, with a slender majority, a jury found him guilty. He could very likely have appealed for leniency.
At least he could have saved his life by agreeing to leave Athens. But had he done this he would not have been Socrates. He valued his conscience, and the truth, higher than life. He assured the jury that he had only acted in the best interests of the state.
“No man will survive who genuinely opposes you or any other crowd and prevents the occurrence of many unjust and illegal happenings in the city.”
After the verdict was given, Plato quotes Socrates as saying the following:
“The next thing I want to do is to make a prophecy to you, the ones who voted against me; I’m now at that moment when human beings are most prone to turn prophet, when they’re about to die. I tell you, you Athenians who have become my killers, that just as soon as I’m dead you’ll meet with a punishment that – Zeus knows – will be much harsher than the one you’ve meted out to me by putting me to death.
You’ve acted as you have now because you think it’ll let you off being challenged for an account of your life; in fact, I tell you, you’ll find the case quite the opposite. There’ll be more, not fewer, people challenging you – people that I was holding back, without your noticing it, and they’ll be all the harsher because they’re younger, and you’ll be crosser than you are now. If you think killing people will stop anyone reproaching you for not living correctly, you’re not thinking straight.”
Socrates was condemned to death by drinking the poison, hemlock.
Because his philosophy focused on the individual and right versus wrong, Socrates is regarded as the first Moral Philosopher. Unlike the Natural Philosophers, he wasn’t concerned with nature’s laws.
This shift in thinking would lead to a whole new school of thought that would concern itself with the philosophy of morality. Socrates impact on the philosophy that followed him would be so great that all the philosophers that preceded him would become known as the PreSocratics.
Despite dying over 2,400 years ago Socrates remains a challenge to complacency and a model of integrity.
Image from history.com