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Trial and Execution of Socrates Democracy on Trial.

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1 Trial and Execution of Socrates Democracy on Trial

2 Events in Athens  411 BCE : Aristocratic Reaction; Council of 400 (Oligarchy)  410 BCE : Restoration of Democracy (Alcibiades)  404 BCE : Athens defeated by Sparta; Tyranny of 30 (Critias)  403 BCE (September): Fall of 30; Restoration of Democracy  399 BCE : Socrates charged with corrupting the young and not believing in the gods; convicted by a narrow margin

3 Bust of Socrates

4 Daniel Nicholas Chodowiecki “The Death of Socrates (?)” 18 th -19 th century

5 Johann Friedrich Greuter “Socrates (?) and His Students” 17 th century

6 Pietro Testa “The Symposium” (1648)

7 Jean-Louis David “The Death of Socrates” (1748)

8 Impiety Trials Reactionary Athenian Mainstream Culture?

9 Plutarch, Pericles, 32 “About this time also Aspasia was put on trial for impiety, Hermippus the comic poet being her prosecutor, who alleged further against her that she received free-born women into a place of assignation for Pericles. And Diopeithes brought in a bill providing for the public impeachment of such as did not believe in gods, or who taught doctrines regarding the heavens, directing suspicion against Pericles by means of Anaxagoras. The people accepted with delight these slanders, and so, while they were in this mood, a bill was passed, on motion of Dracontides, that Pericles should deposit his accounts of public moneys with the prytanes, and that the jurors should decide upon his case with ballots which had lain upon the altar of the goddess on the acropolis. But Hagnon amended this clause of the bill with the motion that the case be tried before fifteen hundred jurors in the ordinary way, whether one wanted to call it a prosecution for embezzlement and bribery, or malversation.”

10 Bad Press on the Sophists  Plato’s Republic, Protagoras, and Gorgias  Aristophanes’ Clouds (first production in 423 BCE )

11 Aristophanes, Birds Great Dionysia 414 BCE “And yet, only yesterday, before your dispensation in the skies became a fact, the Spartan craze had swept the faddish world. Why, men went mad with mimicry of Socrates, affected long hair, indifferent food, rustic walking sticks, total bathlessness, and led, in short, what I can only call a Spartan existence.” Lines , trans. W. Arrowsmith

12 Aristophanes, Clouds Great Dionysia 423 BCE SOCRATES: “You see, only by being suspended aloft, by dangling my mind in the heavens and mingling my rare thought with the ethereal air, could I ever achieve strict scientific accuracy in my survey of the vast empyrean. Had I pursued my inquiries from down there on the ground, my data would be worthless. The earth, you see, pulls down the delicate essence of thought to its own gross level.” W. Arrowsmith,[pg. 25]

13 Was Socrates A Sophist?

14 Oracle at Delphi Socrates proclaimed the wisest man. Socrates’ questions are in the service of Apollo; he is testing this statement, because he cannot believe it to be true. He finds it to be true insofar as the rest know nothing but think they know something, whereas Socrates knows nothing but also knows that he knows nothing.

15 Anti-Democratic Socratic Ideas?

16 Socrates in Plato’s Republic Horse Analogy: Horses are benefited by one or by a few (horse trainers), not by everyone

17 Compare Socrates in Plato’s Crito Body: Athlete Analogy: the trainer-expert benefits the body; the common man corrupts the body Soul: Philosophers benefit the soul; common men corrupt the soul

18 Plato on Democracy (Dion of Syracuse) “[Dion intended] to put a curb upon unrestrained democracy, which he did not regard as a constitution at all, but rather as a kind of supermarket of constitutions— to use Plato’s phrase—and to introduce a blend of democracy and monarchy on the Spartan and Cretan model.” Plutarch, Dion, 53

19 Selected Passages from Plato’s Republic

20 “Then it follows, Polemarchus, that it is just for the many, who are mistaken in their judgment, to harm their friends, who are bad, and benefit their enemies, who are good.” (334d-e)

21 “That certainly wouldn’t be surprising, for, even as you were speaking it occurred to me that, in the first place, we aren’t all born alike, but each of us differs somewhat in nature from the others, one being suited to one task, another to another.” (370b)

22 “Then, a whole city established according to nature would be wise because of the smallest class and part in it, namely, the governing or ruling one. And to this class, which seems to be by nature the smallest, belongs a share of knowledge that alone among all the other kinds of knowledge is to be called wisdom.” (428e-429a)

23 “Now the members of this small group [the philosophers] have tasted how sweet and blessed a possession philosophy is, and at the same time they’ve also seen the madness of the majority and realized, in a word, that hardly anyone acts sanely in public affairs and that there is no ally with whom they might go to the aid of justice and survive, that instead they’d perish before they could profit either their city or their friends and be useless both to themselves and to others, just like a man who has fallen among wild animals and is neither willing to join them in doing injustice nor sufficiently strong to oppose the general savagery alone.” (496c-d)

24 Socrates’ Disciples  Alcibiades  Critias


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