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Socrates’s Trial

Socrates was a Greek philosopher who greatly influenced the ancient and modern philosophy. His life and teachings were considered rather controversial in Athens, and dramatists used to mock him during their plays. His followers, Plato and Xenophon among them, described him as an intelligent man and who could convince others. He was tried on various charges, was convicted, and died from poisoning at the age of seventy. He gave a speech during his trial that was later read by Plato as an apology.

Charges Against Socrates and His Responses

First, Socrates was accused of corrupting the young. The public accused him of being a criminal who negatively influenced the youth. In response, during the trial, he argued that the mentioned charge was a “stock charge” against all philosophers. He stated that he knew nothing and that he could not teach them. He further said that people were using him as a scapegoat, and that he was not the only person who corrupted the youth (Hughes and Hemlock 39).

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Second, he was accused of being an atheist. Socrates did not believe in the gods of the Athens; instead, he used natural explanations for natural processes. He was also accused of neglecting the gods of the state and introducing new divinities that were against the will of the state. In response, he made an apology and referred to those gods that people believed in. He said that he preached because the gods wanted him to do so (Danzig 66).

Third, he was accused of presenting bad arguments as strong ones. The public claimed he made all his arguments look credible, but people considered his thoughts were flawed. Socrates responded that he did not claim to teach people anything but their ignorance, and that he never asked for a fee for his services. He further said that he stayed poor because of his love to Athens. He also responded that he possessed more wisdom than other people.

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Fourth, he was accused of being a wrongdoer. Socrates made speculations about the heaven and things beyond reality. Earlier, he had an interest in science, and later, he emphasized on ethical and epistemological inquiries. He asked the people in the courtroom whether they have heard him practicing and inquiring about the natural sciences. He said that he did not practice or know anything concerning natural sciences.

Reasons That Led to Socrates’s Trial

Socrates and his followers had political views that were different from those that were popular in the society at that time. One of his students, Critias, was the leader of the Thirty Tyrants, who overturned the participatory democracy of the city and attempted to introduce the oligarchic rule. Socrates wanted to be sentenced in order to show that he opposed the Athenian democracy. Furthermore, Socrates claimed that the policies were created by those with knowledge and competency but not by common people. He and his followers also criticized many Athenian leaders. Moreover, Socrates supported the undemocratic laws of Sparta and Crete.

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Further, many controversial figures in Athens were believed to have been close friends with Socrates. The public also believed that he mentored them. For instance, Alcibiades, a famous Athenian statesman, was one of his students. During his career, he moved to Sparta after he had been accused of mysteriously gaining political prominence. This was one of the reasons that led to Socrates’s prosecution (Ward 12).

Moreover, Socrates criticized the religion practiced by the people of Athens. According to Waterfield (17), he made several references to “Daemon”. He claimed that daemons guided him in his life. Thus, people suspected that it lead him to reject the state religion.

In conclusion, various reasons, such as political and religious views, led to the trial of Socrates. However, many people, especially the youth, regarded Socrates as a great philosopher. They believed that he was not accorded a fair hearing during the trial and, thus, that he was wrongfully convicted. They thought that Socrates was a hero and a martyr who fought and contributed to freedom and justice. However, his enemies believed that he was corrupting the youth with his false teachings.

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