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Socrates goes public

November 6, 2010

Throughout lecture and discussion it was said Socrates is a very private man. There is this difference between the private realm and the public realm. While Socrates seems to always be in the private realm he is actually a very public guy. Firstly, he claims to have conversations and philosophical arguments and teaching one on one, very private conversations. Yet, others always seem to overhear which is what gets him in to trouble. He is charged with corrupting the youth. “The youth” makes up quite a big portion of any population not to mention everyone else in addition to that age group. Already Socrates is extremely public, he has had so many conversations with different people with different people listening in that almost the whole community knows his opinions on everything. Secondly, he continues and makes himself and his ideas even more public. Once he is put on trial the jury is made up of 500 people, plus everyone else watching in the audience. Considering how popular Socrates was one can assume the audience would be quite big, much larger than the jury. Therefore, now all his ideas are on display for the whole community. Not to mention, everyone witnessing gets to hear a full on debate between Socrates and Meletus. This is why i conclude Socrates operates in the public realm, not the private realm. If he truly was a private man then nearly no one would know his opinions let alone the whole community.  In fact, while Socrates claims to keep his conversations private he knows full well they aren’t. Generally, people know if someone is listening in to their conversations, and Socrates acknowledges people do. However, he never says he stops people from listening in or stops talking until the conversation is private again. Socrates is public, and that is exactly what he wants. Socrates wants his opinions heard and for Athens to share them and go as far as to change laws based off them. Socrates objective is to get laws changed and when going about that laws are not changed privately, changing laws is a very public matter and it takes a very public man like Socrates to do it.

6 Comments
  1. matteric9 permalink
    November 6, 2010 10:30 AM

    Socrates was possibly one of the most arrogant philosophers involved with western philosophy. I never understood him as being part of the “private realm” that you are referring too. Socrates made it clear that he wanted to be involved in the community. In the Apology, Socrates is questioned regarding his stance on exile, and if he would consider it. He makes it clear that he has no interest in living a private life of exile and does not even consider the option.

  2. tungyat permalink
    November 6, 2010 12:07 PM

    As a leading philosopher of his time, the last thing Socrates was would be, well, private. He traveled around with a large group of followers which would no doubt be conspicuous and as described in the apology, went around to different “wise men” in something close to public humiliation of all of them, in proving that they were not “wise” in the end. As matteric9 also noted, he would rather choose the option of a public and politically significant death than private exile, removing himself from the public scene of Athens.

  3. darriensherman permalink
    November 6, 2010 3:16 PM

    I think you bring up a very interesting point that I never thought of before. I’m curious to know whether it was primarily Socrates’ fault for being an icon in the public eye. It is possible that Socrates’ students spread his philosophies and ideas through word of mouth because they were excited about them and wanted to recruit more students to promote change in Athens. I am arguing how much is Socrates at fault for being in the limelight and how much of his fame can be attributed to his students?

  4. jacobjam permalink
    November 6, 2010 4:39 PM

    Even though Socrates does state that he consider himself a “private” man, I believe that throughout lecture and discovering Socrates’ true position as a member of the community, it is quite clear that Socrates is a communal man. He has shown, throughout both readings, that he is a true supporter of his community and cares to be somewhat involved. Therefore, although Socrates may argue that he is a “private” man, I believe his true purpose throughout his city is to act in a communal manner. His “private” advising will allow him to to contribute to his community as a whole because of the tactics you stated. This being said, I know that Socrates is in fact a very community-loving man and wants to be a community-advising man. I think this is very important with Socrates. Although it may seem that Socrates defends himself, using his “private advising” as support, it is clearly seen that Socrates would like affect his community as a whole.

  5. yequan permalink
    November 6, 2010 11:37 PM

    I have to say that it is still very interesting to talk about Socrates. As I was reading Apology, I feel that Socrates was so arrogant, but he did have a purpose of every word he said. I agree with some opinions above that Socrates wanted to influence pubic community and even the law and Athens’ politic system. But just as he stated, he regarded himself “private”, and my interpretation is that Socrates would like to influence the public in a “private” way. So he talked and argued with person individually instead of going to have a public speech. To some extend, Socrates was an politician.

  6. britneyrupley permalink
    November 8, 2010 5:55 PM

    I don’t think that Socrates was ever a private man like he stated he was. As you have pointed out, no one would know anything about Socrates if he were a private man. Yet, we are here today learning about him and discussing him. I feel as though he might have been one of the most public men of his time. Similar to the Paris Hilton of our generation, everyone knew and knows everything about Socrates and his scandals.

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