• Philosophy 302: Ethics The Ethics of Socrates
  • Socrates (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
  • Socrates: The Father of Western Philosophy | Ancient …

Although this is ridiculous as a charge against Socrates, the Presocratics and the Sophists were vulnerable.

The Ethics of Socrates - Philosophy Home Page

The Ethics of Socrates - Lander University

But then that would have required planning a defense, and this is what Socrates didn't do.
defend myself against Meletus..." Having addressed "the earlier accusers" of those who have generated and spread the kind of reputation he has, Socrates now moves to the real charges against him at the moment, and one of his real accusers, Meletus.

The ethics of Socrates is briefly outlined

Condemning something for their lack of dignity would be no better than the jury condemning Socrates for his lack of deference.
This applies equally whether we are talking about the real crimes of people like Alcibiades or just about Socrates' trivialization, so it is a genuinely valuable part of his defense.


Abstract: The ethics of Socrates is briefly outlined.

Attacking Socrates for the sins of the Presocratics and Sophists, indeed, makes no more sense than defending these same people against insult.
Evidently, the historical Socrates was the sort of person whoprovoked in those who knew him, or knew of him, a profound response,and he inspired many of those who came under his influence to writeabout him. But the portraits composed by Aristophanes, Xenophon, andPlato are the ones that have survived intact, and they are thereforethe ones that must play the greatest role in shaping our conception ofwhat Socrates was like. Of these, Clouds has the least valueas an indication of what was distinctive of Socrates' mode ofphilosophizing: after all, it is not intended as a philosophical work,and although it may contain a few lines that are characterizations offeatures unique to Socrates, for the most part it is an attack on aphilosophical type—the long-haired, unwashed, amoralinvestigator into abstruse phenomena—rather than adepiction of Socrates himself. Xenophon's depiction of Socrates,whatever its value as historical testimony (which may be considerable),is generally thought to lack the philosophical subtlety and depth ofPlato's. At any rate, no one (certainly not Xenophon himself) takesXenophon to be a major philosopher in his own right; when we read hisSocratic works, we are not encountering a great philosophical mind. Butthat is what we experience when we read Plato. We may read Plato'sSocratic dialogues because we are (as Plato evidently wanted us to be)interested in who Socrates was and what he stood for, but even if wehave little or no desire to learn about the historical Socrates, wewill want to read Plato because in doing so we are encountering anauthor of the greatest philosophical significance. No doubt he in someway borrowed in important ways from Socrates, though it is not easy tosay where to draw the line between him and his teacher (more about thisbelow in section 12). But it is widely agreed among scholars that Platois not a mere transcriber of the words of Socrates (any more thanXenophon or the other authors of Socratic discourses). His use of afigure called “Socrates” in so many of his dialogues shouldnot be taken to mean that Plato is merely preserving for a readingpublic the lessons he learned from his teacher.

Socrates, it should be kept in mind, does not appear in all ofPlato's works. He makes no appearance in Laws, and there areseveral dialogues (Sophist, Statesman,Timaeus) in which his role is small and peripheral, while someother figure dominates the conversation or even, as in theTimaeus and Critias, presents a long and elaborate,continuous discourse of their own. Plato's dialogues are not a staticliterary form; not only do his topics vary, not only do his speakersvary, but the role played by questions and answers is never the samefrom one dialogue to another. (Symposium, for example, is aseries of speeches, and there are also lengthy speeches inApology, Menexenus, Protagoras,Crito, Phaedrus, Timaeus, andCritias; in fact, one might reasonably question whether theseworks are properly called dialogues). But even though Plato constantlyadapted “the dialogue form” (a commonly used term, andconvenient enough, so long as we do not think of it as an unvaryingunity) to suit his purposes, it is striking that throughout his careeras a writer he never engaged in a form of composition that was widelyused in his time and was soon to become the standard mode ofphilosophical address: Plato never became a writer of philosophicaltreatises, even though the writing of treatises (for example, onrhetoric, medicine, and geometry) was a common practice among hispredecessors and contemporaries. (The closest we come to an exceptionto this generalization is the seventh letter, which contains a briefsection in which the author, Plato or someone pretending to be him, commits himself to several philosophical points—while insisting, at the same time, that no philosopher willwrite about the deepest matters, but will communicate his thoughts only in private discussion with selected individuals. As noted above, the authenticityof Plato's letters is a matter of great controversy; and in any case,the author of the seventh letter declares his opposition to the writingof philosophical books. Whether Plato wrote it or not, it cannot beregarded as a philosophical treatise, and its author did not wish it tobe so regarded.) In all of his writings—except in the letters,if any of them are genuine—Plato never speaks to his audiencedirectly and in his own voice. Strictly speaking, he does not himselfaffirm anything in his dialogues; rather, it is the interlocutors inhis dialogues who are made by Plato to do all of the affirming,doubting, questioning, arguing, and so on. Whatever he wishes tocommunicate to us is conveyed indirectly.

Commentary on the Apology of Socrates

(1) as "defense" and "defender" do adequate jobs of expressing the meaning of defense, "apologetic" is free to assume a slightly different meaning, perhaps because of (2) that "apologetics" is tainted by associations, e.g.

Commentary on Plato's Apology of Socrates

This feature of Plato's works raises important questions about howthey are to be read, and has led to considerable controversy amongthose who study his writings. Since he does not himself affirm anythingin any of his dialogues, can we ever be on secure ground in attributinga philosophical doctrine to him (as opposed to one of his characters)?Did he himself have philosophical convictions, and can we discover whatthey were? Are we justified in speaking of “the philosophy ofPlato”? Or, if we attribute some view to Plato himself, are webeing unfaithful to the spirit in which he intended the dialogues to be read? Ishis whole point, in refraining from writing treatises, to discourage the readers of his works from asking what their author believesand to encourage them instead simply to consider the plausibility orimplausibility of what his characters are saying? Is that why Platowrote dialogues? If not for this reason, then what was hispurpose in refraining from addressing his audience in a more directway? There are other important questions about the particular shape hisdialogues take: for example, why does Socrates play such a prominentrole in so many of them, and why, in some of these works, does Socratesplay a smaller role, or none at all?

Translated by Woods & Pack, 2007

Once these questions are raised and their difficulty acknowledged,it is tempting, in reading Plato's works and reflecting upon them, toadopt a strategy of extreme caution. Rather than commit oneself to anyhypothesis about what he is trying to communicate to his readers, onemight adopt a stance of neutrality about his intentions, and confineoneself to talking only about what is said by his dramatispersonae. One cannot be faulted, for example, if one notesthat, in Plato's Republic, Socrates argues that justice in thesoul consists in each part of the soul doing its own. It is equallycorrect to point out that other principal speakers in that work,Glaucon and Adeimantus, accept the arguments that Socrates gives forthat definition of justice. Perhaps there is no need for us to say more—to say, for example, that Plato himself agrees that this is howjustice should be defined, or that Plato himself accepts the argumentsthat Socrates gives in support of this definition. And we might adoptthis same “minimalist” approach to all of Plato'sworks. After all, is it of any importance to discover what went oninside his head as he wrote—to find out whether he himselfendorsed the ideas he put in the mouths of his characters, whether theyconstitute “the philosophy of Plato”? Should we not readhis works for their intrinsic philosophical value, and not as tools tobe used for entering into the mind of their author? We know whatPlato's characters say—and isn't that all that we need, for thepurpose of engaging with his works philosophically?