A study Guide by Thelma English (130 total points possible)

Download 50.53 Kb.
Size50.53 Kb.
The Last Days of Socrates, by Plato
Hugh Tredennick and Harold Tarrant translation

A Study Guide by Thelma English (130 total points possible)

No other people in the world valued free speech more than the Classical Greeks, especially the Athenians. It is near irony that a philosopher such as Socrates would be executed for just that. The accusations of charging for advice and corrupting the youth are easily discounted today. A good modern day lawyer would have made an argument based on the accepted freedom of speech granted all citizens as an attack on his citizenship. A search into the Greek language reveals no less than four words for freedom of speech, more than any other language, ancient or modern1, yet the concept was so taken for granted that only one even appears in the Platonic dialogues. Later Greek philosophers, under the shadow of Macedonian (Alexander) and Roman dominion, would privately withdraw to analyze mankind. The Achaean League of Greek city-states, which was a successful experiment in representative and federal government during the last period of freedom for the Classical Greeks, became a model for the founding fathers when framing our own Constitution. Plato’s The Republic (a detailed discussion on the nature of Justice) has played an important part in modern political thinking. It is unfortunate that this model included the successful use of slavery as an integral part of society.

But do you think that any one is happy who is in the condition of a slave, and who cannot do what he likes?”2
In our recent exploration of Greek Tragedies by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, we have seen democracy continuously developing in Athens (see democracy in your Glossary of Information). The youngest of the three great tragedians, Euripides, is sometimes called the Walt Whitman of Athens3 (Whitman’s poetry celebrates the greatness of American democracy). We have read the closing Chorus lines of many plays that reflect the changing Greek thought. In Euripides’ Electra, a base born peasant even has the privilege of saving the princess’ honor (when the evil Aegisthus marries her off to him to remove her possible claim to the throne), albeit only to return her to her royal stature later, clearly drawing class lines. Keep this changing thought in mind as you read the dialogues and complete this assignment.
STUDENT ANSWERS WILL VARY. The object of our Socratic studies is not to produce answers that are identical with the answer ‘key.’ The object is to have the student interact with the text, assimilate the information, and offer interpretation, insight, and assessments of the dialogues.

  1. At this time, please review your Glossary, studying the brief biographies of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. What is worth noting about their relationships (hint: check their birth & death dates)? One or two paragraphs are sufficient.[7]

  1. Utilizing the information in your Glossary or class notes only, define a Sophist or Wise Man.[2]

  1. What character trait did Socrates identify with knowledge [p. xxiii, cf. 1 cor. 8:1b]? [2]

Since an intelligence common to us all makes things known to us and formulates them in our minds, honorable actions are ascribed by us to virtue, and dishonorable actions to vice; and only a madman would conclude that these judgments are matters of opinion, and not fixed by nature.”4

and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us . . . For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”5

  1. Which parody by Aristophanes caricatures Socrates [p. xxviii, 19c,d]? [4]

  1. According to the Oracle at Delphi, who was wiser than Socrates [p. xxviii ff, 20e, 21a]? [2]

A life without examination is not worth living.” Socrates6

  1. Explain contributions to the study of Logic attributed to Socrates (the Socratic Method)? [4]

See your classroom notes and the Glossary.

  1. Define logic. [1]

  1. Define metaphysics. [1]

Plato organized Socrates’ idealism into a systematic philosophy based on Forms/Standards, or Ideas. In this translation we read about this concept as a “standard.” In his theory, objects of the real world are regarded as merely shadows of eternal Forms/Standards or Ideas. Only these changeless Forms/Standards should be the object of a Philosopher’s search for true knowledge since the physical world (as heard, seen, and touched) is just opinion based on limited experience. Thus, per Socrates, knowledge and perception are fundamentally different. Aristotle later carried the philosophy further; he stated the material universe consisted of four elements: fire, air, earth, and water (plus a fifth element of heavenly bodies “above the moon”). In the writings of Plato and Aristotle Greek philosophy reached its height, producing thought that continues its influence today, even in Christian theology. Four major schools of individual philosophic thought sprang from these philosophers: the Cynics, Epicureanism, Skepticism, and Stoicism. Although we will only mention these philosophies, students should gain insight into their word usage in the English language.
Therefore let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ”.7

  1. What possible reasons are given to us for the writing of the dialogues? See classroom structured notes. [2]

  1. Define rhetoric. [1]

This dialog relates for us a discussion between Socrates and Euthyphyro. They discuss the meaning of piety/holiness, which is interesting, because Socrates has just recently been charged with impiety and will be tried in an Athenian court. Socrates may have thought the Athenian populace did not understand the meaning of piety and sought to clarify it for them. Euthyphro is a Sophist claiming to be wise, while Socrates humbles himself, claiming ignorance. Using his Socratic method (now known as dialectic, meaning no more than ‘conversational art’) he will lead Euthyphro in this gentle satire to reveal his inability to advise on moral and political matters.
Keep in mind that some have stated the purpose of philosophy is not to answer questions but to question the answers that have been given. This is very apparent in our current culture where the philosophy of relative morality is popular.
While thinking as he pleased would have offended no one, attempting to convince others to think as he did gained the animosity of Meletus and others. Later, Plato would record Socrates in The Republic,
Those [tales], I said, which are narrated by Homer and Hesiod, and the rest of the poets, who have ever been the great story-tellers of mankind. But which stories do you mean, he said; and what fault do you find with them? A fault which is most serious, I said; the fault of telling a lie, and, what is more, a bad lie . . . For a young person cannot judge what is allegorical and what is literal; anything that he receives into his mind at that age is likely to be indelible and unalterable; and therefore it is most important that the tales which the young hear first should be models of virtuous thoughts.”8

  1. Define piety. [1]

  1. Define holiness. The assistant translator has changed the first edition ‘piety’ to the present edition ‘holiness’ (note the limitations placed on a reader who can only read in translation). [1]

One of Socrates’ main complaints against the Sophists is that they accept whatever is told them without questioning or researching for themselves the truth of a matter, or a definition. He never insists that his own view is perfect, only attempts to lead others (Socratic method) to question what they have been told (elenchus) and make them think for themselves. Socrates had a knack for making people resent him, his style was too revealing and his modesty probably seemed insincere.

Read footnote #17. Socrates uses the word “standard” which refers to his later Forms (as Plato will classify the ideas of Socrates). Socrates asked simple questions that revolutionized philosophy. He would ask, “What is it?,” usually about one of five significant moral or aesthetic qualities (piety/holiness, wisdom/knowledge, prudence/moderation/temperance, courage, justice). The Socratic definition defines what the nature or the quality of the thing is, the essence or truth of it.

  1. Define aesthetic. [1]

But I think that it is true that where reverence is, there fear is also.” Socrates
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” Solomon9

  1. According to the Hebrew Wisdom Literature what is knowledge (cf. Prov.1:7, 9:10)? [1]


In the year BC 399 three Athenian citizens (Meletus, Anytus, and Lycon) press charges against Socrates (by this time a 70 year old man), that he is a menace to society. He was known to be a free thinker, his wife and children lived in poverty as he refused payment for his philosophical conversations, wandering the streets of Athens barefoot. He may have inspired a lack of respect for authority; he certainly made his own disappointment clear to the political powers. The ‘divine voice’ which he claimed to obey hardly helped his case.

This is believed to be an authentic account of Socrates’ defense of himself before the Athenian Council (court). As Plato was present with Socrates when he made his defense before the Athenian Council, and because it is harmonious with Xenophon’s Memorabilia10, we may conclude that his words were accurately recorded. However, since Plato was a favored pupil, we may also surmise that some bias may be included.

  1. What is the approximate date for the written account of Plato’s Apology? See text and lecture. [2]

  1. What significance is derived from the composition date? In other words, how might the date affect the accuracy of the written account? [3]

  1. This particular jury will have fewer mature members because of the depletion of their generation by the Peloponnesian War, just ended. How might this effect the outcome? How many men would a typical Athenian jury consist of? [5]

  1. Restate Socrates’ initial statement to the Council (after hearing the case against him) in your own words (this is section 17a-17b, the first paragraph of the dialogue). You may summarize if you do not leave any of the thought out (expect 75 - 100 words). [4]

  1. Define disseminate, p.40. [1]

  1. In 19b-19c, p.41, what is the charge against Socrates (cf. footnote 8)? [4]

The play referred to here is The Clouds, by Aristophanes (the ‘Eddie Murphy’ of ancient Greece).

  1. What is the charge against Socrates in 19e, p. 42? Is this true? [4]

  1. Define notoriety. [1]

  1. In 20e, p. 43, who is the “god at Delphi”? [2]

  1. In 21b-22a, p. 44, what is Socrates’ conclusion in respect to the truth of the Delphian Oracle (see also 22e)? [4]

  1. In 22a, explain “cycle of labors”, as it is used here metaphorically. [2]

  1. Define ignoramus. [1]

  1. Using 23a-b as a starting point, give three definitions of wisom. First, give Socrates’ definition of wisdom. Next, define wisdom, using a dictionary. Finally, give the Hebrew Wisdom Literature’s definition (see Proverbs 9:10, 11:2, Eccl. 1:18, and Deuteronomy 4:6 for a good start). Cf also 1 Cor. 1:22; 3:18-19; Rom. 1:22, Place your 3 definitions in a list format, please. [6]

  1. Define pestilential. [1]

  1. Define calumny. [1]

  1. Paraphrase the paragraph on page 48. [5]

  1. Define affidavit. [1]

  1. Define levity. [1]

Anaxagoras lived BC 500?-428. He was a Greek philosopher who correctly predicted a solar eclipse and taught that matter was composed of atoms. Since Socrates knew his theories, some assumed that he accepted them.

  1. Who does Socrates compare himself to in 28c, p. 54? [2]

  1. What is the significance of the three locations mentioned in section 28e, p. 54? (Cf. p. 219 footnote 38 also) [2]

  1. Define culpable. [1]

  1. What does Socrates claim to be his chief occupation in 30b, p. 56, the way he spends his time in serving his god? [2] cf. 2 Cor. 13:5. [3]

  1. Define benefaction, p. 56. [1]

  1. What pesky insect does Socrates compare himself to on p. 57? What is the point of this comparison? [4]

  1. What argument does Socrates present to prove that he has never exacted a fee from anyone in 31c, p. 58? [2]

  1. Define travesty (31d). [1]

  1. In 31d and 33c, pp. 58-60, we learn of a special guidance Socrates claims to receive, what is it? [4]

  1. In 36d, pp. 65 & 221 note, what ‘punishment’ does Socrates sarcastically suggest for himself instead of the death penalty? [4]

  1. Define effrontery. [1]

  1. Define impudence. [1]

  1. Define servility. [1]

  1. Define iniquity. [1]

  1. Who is the ‘Great King’ whom Socrates admires as the epitome of worldly happiness (Cf. p. 69 & note p. 222)? [2]

  1. What are the two possibilities for after death that Socrates proposes in 40c, d, e, 41a, p. 69? [4]

  1. Record your own reflections and questions on the attitude and composure of Socrates as he faces certain death in the city he has served faithfully, in obedience to what he considers to be God’s direct commands to him. [3]

Well, now it is time to be off, I to die and you to live; but which of us has the happier prospect is unknown to anyone but God.” Socrates
For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Paul11
This dialog is controversial, some sources even going so far as to deny it Platonic authorship. The use of elenchus (confutation, refutation, disproof, invalidation, successful cross-examination, conviction) is not found here (the standard Socratic method of questioning a companion till they come up with a Socratic conclusion).
It is recorded that Plato misses out on Socrates’ last day due to illness. Months or perhaps years later, he puts together this dialog between Socrates, Phaedo, Simmias, Cebes, Crito, Apollodorous, and several others. These men had previously hoped to help him escape, offering their personal fortunes as accomplices. They meet in despair, amazed at Socrates’ composure and resolution.
Since he is soon to die, his friends ask again for his beliefs on the nature of the soul. They have many questions, and he attempts to answer them in a clear manner. Is the soul immortal? Are there good and bad souls? What happens at death? The ever present questions of the unsaved plague him. Sadly, he is not able to present even a shadow of the truth, which has not been revealed to the world yet. It will be 400 years before the Christ will be born and “the mystery”12 will be unveiled.

  1. Define altruistic, p. 102 [1]

In Greek mythology, Psyche was a young woman loved by Eros. She united with him, gaining immortality, after Aphrodite’s jealousy was overcome by Psyche’s unending labors in her temple, and became the personification of the soul.

  1. Define the Greek term psyche, p. 104. [1]

  1. Define hedonistic, p. 108. [1]

  1. Define philosopher (per the introduction to the Phaedo), p. 108. [2]

  1. Define Anaxagorean, p. 112. [1]

  1. Define eschatology p.113 (Greek eskhatos, last + logy). [1]

  1. Who are “the eleven” in 59e, p. 119? [2] (read all footnotes!) [2]

  1. In what sense are philosophers eager for death? In 64a, p. 124, we have a hint, why might Socrates hope for prizes in the “next world after death”? [3]

..the philosopher’s soul is the most disdainful of the body, shunning it and seeking to isolate itself.” Socrates13
We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” Paul14

Heraclitus ‘the obscure’ was an Ephesian Greek philosopher, c. 535-475 BC. He was also known as the ‘weeping philosopher’ from his gloomy outlook. His writings are considered to be both difficult to understand, and profound. He taught that all knowledge was based on the senses.

One cannot help but wonder what Socrates would have done with a copy of the Hebrew Wisdom Literature had he been educated to read Hebrew. Only sixty years after the death of Socrates, Alexander would begin a library at Alexandria, and command all worthy literature to be translated into Greek. It is recorded that “six of the elders out of every tribe” would assist to “have it [the Law/Pentateuch] translated out of Hebrew into Greek.”15 This Greek text is commonly referred to as the Septuagint, or the LXX.

  1. How is the death penalty administered? How do Socrates’ friends bear his death? [2]

Socrates’ last words may be a mixture of humor and piety. Asclepius was the god of healing. The offering could have been a thanksgiving offering, implying that ‘death is the cure for life.’

  1. What are Socrates’ last words? [2]

The ancient world had great respect for tradition, especially religion. Christian writers 600 years later tried to overcome the problem of Christianity’s newness by tying the faith into the wisdom of the Greek philosophers.

Justin Martyr, a notable second century apologist, welcomed classical philosophy. He believed that Plato’s teaching on eternal Forms referred to the One True God, and that Socrates and Heraclitus, like Abraham, was a ‘Christian before Christ.’ He taught in Ephesus and Rome, addressing his dialog, First Apology16, to the Emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161AD) in an attempt to explain misunderstandings about Christianity. He was martyred in Rome.

1 I.F.Stone, The Trial of Socrates, Little, Brown and Company, 1988, p.215.

2 Plato, Lysis, section 207.

3 I.F.Stone, The Trial of Socrates, Little, Brown and Company, 1988, p. 221.

4 Cicero (106–43 BC), Roman orator, philosopher. De Legibus, Book One, chapter 16.

5 Paul to the Greeks on the Areopagus & later to the Romans, Bible, NAS, Acts 17:26, 27; Rom. 1:19, 20.

6 Apology 38a.

7Apostle Paul to the Colossians in the Roman province of Asia, Bible, NKJV Colossians 2:16, 17.

8 Plato, Republic, Book II, section 377, 378.

9 Solomon, son of David, Bible, NKJV, Proverbs 1:7.

10 Xenophon, a Greek soldier who recorded his ordeals leading 10,000 men in the Anabasis, was also a disciple of Socrates and a historian.

11 Apostle Paul to the Philippians, Bible, NKJV Philippians 1:21.

12 Apostle Paul to the believers at Colosse, Bible, NKJV Colossians 1:27.

13 Plato, Phaedo, 65d.

14 Apostle Paul to the church at Corinth, Bible, NKJV 2 Corinthians 5:8

15 The historian, Josephus, in The Antiquities of the Jews, 12.2.39, 48.

16 This document is in your syllabus.

Socrates Study Guide/Student 2 Week 2006/07

Directory: 200607

Share with your friends:

The database is protected by copyright ©essaydocs.org 2020
send message

    Main page