SOCRATES: Innocent or Guilty?
Since the time Socrates has gained fame for accepting his death for the charges of corrupting the youth and not believing in the G-d’s, scholars, professors, and students of all kinds have argued and debated the truth behind his guilty sentence. There are those who believe that Socrates was simply guilty, and only further proved this by his informal and obnoxious behavior in the courtroom. There are others who believe in his guilt, but feel that it did not deserve the death penalty. Still, there are others who believe he was innocent, plain and simple, and was used solely as an example. Who to believe is found in the account that Plato leaves us, telling the story of Socrates’ trial, his behavior and defense during the trial, and the seemingly insufficient prosecution that led to the penalty of death.
For those who believe in Socrates’ innocence, I would have to agree. Though I am in no way a historian in the subject of Socrates, I have been able to analyze the texts that are left for us by Plato. For me, Socrates’ defense against the charge that he doesn’t believe in G-d’s is fairly sufficient. He admits to not believing in the G-d’s of Athens, but does assert that he lives his life by the words of some sort of higher being, or spirits. As he mentions, “I live in great poverty because of my service to G-d” (23c). I agree with his argument when he says that claiming he is an atheist is completely false, considering he does believe in higher power spiritual beings. Therefore, for the charge of not believing in the G-d’s, I would cast my vote as not guilty.
Next is the claim that Socrates has corrupted the youth. However, in what I have seen there is no proof that the youth is corrupt in any way. I agree, however, that waiting many years to find out whether Socrates’ words were actually words of corruption is pointless, especially considering Socrates’ old age at the time. Next, Meletus and the rest of the prosecution claim that Socrates, and Socrates only, is the one person in Athens that does not better the youth, and is in fact harshly corrupting them. Again, I am hesitant to believe that one person can be blamed for the sole corruption of an entire generation of young adults. Therefore, for this charge as well, I would have to cast my vote in Socrates’ favor, not guilty.
I acknowledge that there are still those who believe in Socrates’ guilt, and that they believe that his obnoxious and seemingly insincere defense led the majority to vote in the prosecution’s favor. Moreover, I can fathom the idea that the mixture of his intolerable behavior and the fact that the city wanted to make an example out of Socrates would lead to his guilty conviction.
Finally, the only way that Socrates was found guilty, in my eyes, is that there is some information and evidence that was lost in translation. Some part of Plato’s recount of that day vanished over the years, and we are now stuck with a case with little to no evidence. I cannot imagine that a majority in any country or for any reason could find a man guilty and deserving of death given the information we have from Apology. Although it is hardly imaginable that we will recover any other information on the case of Socrates, I hope one day we do so I can find solace in Socrates’ guilty sentence.