Socrates; Guilty or Innocent

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					Philosopy                                                                    Dressler         1
Dr. Harasym

                                Socrates; Guilty or Innocent

       The debate continues (all based upon Plato’s recollection of the court hearing) on

whether or not Socrates was guilty or not as charged during his trial. Many critics agree

that the charges placed upon him were not sufficiently refuted, are effectively distorted.

       Socrates failed in his attempt to defend himself from the charge of corrupting the

youth. He began the core of his defense with the horse analogy. His conclusion from the

analogy was that, like the few horse breeders that improve their horses, only a few men

improve mankind whereas the rest corrupt mankind. It is foolish to say that all men

improve the youth except for him, and he alone corrupts it. It appears that Socrates is

trying to say that he is just one of the many who corrupt society. This provides

absolutely no support for his defense, and if it does anything at all, it makes him sound as

though he is trying to avoid directly stating that he does not corrupt the youth.

       To make his defense even more inconsistent, one should question just how similar

a man to horse relationship is to that of a man to man relationship. When a breeder

breeds horses, do the non-bred horses truly corrupt the bred ones? It is wrong to believe

that all humans either corrupt society or help it. All good people are prone to making

errors and thereby corrupting society. All inherently evil men must do good to friends so

that they will in turn help the person who is evil maintain their power. Do untrained

horses harm trained ones, or do they have no effect? It appears that these two situations

being compared are nothing more than a false analogy. To distort his argument even

further, the coherence of his original horse analogy to the trial was completely lost when

he tried to reverse the burden of his charge directly onto his accuser, Meletus, by saying,
Philosopy                                                                      Dressler         2
Dr. Harasym

“It would be a very happy state of affairs if only one person corrupted our youth, while

the others improved them. You have made it sufficiently obvious, Meletus, that you have

never had any concern for our youth….” This is probably nothing more than a distraction

from the charges aimed at him. He most likely made this aggressive move in order to

divert the attention of the jury to the flaws of the accuser, which reduced his offensive

ability to prosecute Socrates, and at the same time, injured Meletus’ overall credibility

even though the conclusion drawn had virtually no logical support.

       The most direct statement he makes concerning the invalidity of the youth

corruption charge is this, “Either I do not corrupt the young or, if I do, it is unwillingly,

and you are lying in either case.” This is a completely impertinent statement to the actual

charge that he was previously accused just of a few lines before; corrupting the youth

intentionally. “… Do you accuse me here of corrupting the young and making them

worse deliberately or unwillingly? – Deliberately.” He later proceeds in defending

himself from the charge of corrupting the youth intentionally by saying, “… If I make

one of my associates wicked, I run the risk of being harmed by him. However, this

statement is extremely weak because it is merely a risk. Every day that we walk out side

our homes; we risk being hit by a car or even things like being abducted by aliens. Not

every risk means that the event is highly probable. If anyone teaches others how to

shoplift, for example, they run virtually no risk in being harmed by them. Also, if one is

taught how to hypnotize people or pickpocket but is never seen again, they too pose no

threat to the original corrupter. In Socrates’ case, if one upsets society by teaching that

the Sun is made of stone and Moon is made of earth, does he run the risk of being

harmed? These counterexamples prove that his manner of defense is very weak.
Philosopy                                                                    Dressler          3
Dr. Harasym

        The charge of not believing in the gods the city believes in was not directly and

strongly refuted either. He successfully showed that Meletus believed him to be an

atheist, and not a believer in other gods, as he had previously stated. After explaining

that the Oracle of Delphi had presented a riddle for him to explore, he then asks how he

can believe in spiritual things, but not in gods. It could be debatable as to whether or not

he actually believed that the Oracle’s riddle was something spiritual, or if it was nothing

more than an interesting fortune cookie which, through his own curiosity, drew him to his

quest. But, assume he had proved that he believed in spiritual things, what has been

established by this point could easily have lead to a very convincing argument if it were

only introduction. However, the bulk of his argument concerning his religious beliefs

ends at this point, leaving to jury with an aftertaste of ambiguity concerning whether or

not he believes in the city’s gods.

        The bulk of Socrates’ subject matter appeared to be centered upon discrediting

Meletus. He proved that many of Meletus’ statements were wrong and proved himself to

be innocent of charges which were never truly made against him, but never fully cleared

himself of the actual charges. Therefore, the charge of corrupting the youth and impiety

still stand.

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