Sunday, January 24, 2010


Unpublished outline for Apology of Socrates, January 14, 1985, Interdisciplinary Studies in Letters and Science (ISLS) program, Chabot College, Hayward, CA, by Lurene Helzer. The ISLS program was a special selection of courses at the community college for students who showed interest in obtaining full degree at university, and had minimal qualifications or requirements for doing so. I think I had to be approved for entrance to the program. Photo by H.D. of Grand Teton in 2007.

Lurene's email in 2014:

Lurene Helzer
Outline for Apology of Socrates
January 14, 1985

I Socrates defends his speaking style.
A) Quotes enemies as saying “Don’t be deceived by his eloquence.”
B) Calls himself deficient, but truthful.

II Socrates speaks of old charges from old accusers.

A) Calls them the accusers who he can not defend himself against, since the rumors are ancient.

III Says he will try to abolish evil rumors.

A) Says he hopes to succeed “if it be well for you and me.”
B) Makes the defense “as god wills” and in obedience to the law.

IV Speaks of old charges.

A) Old charges said to be…

Searches below earth and in heavens
Makes the worse appear the better cause
Teaches the above to others

B) Mentions the Comedy of Aristophanes and says he is uninvolved in these studies.
C) Urges those who know him to speak of him truthfully to others.

V Socrates talks about teaching for money.

A) Refutes the charges.
B) Calves/Humans argument.
C) Says that he is not knowledgeable enough to teach.

VI Socrates speaks of his wisdom.

A) Says that, according to the gods, there is no man wiser.

VII Socrates explains why he has an “evil name”.

A) Explains his search for a man wiser than himself.
B) Talks of a politician who is unwise, but thinks he is wise.
C) Talks of his advantage over the politician since he admits that he is not wise, and he knows it.

VIII Socrates goes to others to search for the meaning of the Oracle.

A) Finds the Oracle irrefutable.
B) Goes to challenge the poets, and finds them unwise because they do not understand their own poetry.
C) Finds himself superior to them because they think they are wise by virtue of their poetry.

IX Socrates challenges the artisans

A) Comes to the conclusion that he has neither their knowledge or ignorance.
B) Finds the meaning of the Oracle.

X Speaks of wisdom and his devotion to God.

A) Says that only god is wise; the wisdom of men is little or nothing.
B) Speaks of his search of wisdom in others.
C) Says he is in poverty because of his devotion to god.

XI Speaks of his numerous enemies.

A) Says his enemies are angry at him instead of themselves for their lack of wisdom.
B) Mentions his enemies by name.
C) Says that their hatred is proof of his telling the truth.

XII Socrates introduces the new charges.

A) Corrupter of youth.
B) Does not believe in the gods of the state.
C) Believes in other new divinities.
D) Proceeds to question Meletus about the first charge.

XIII Socrates questions Meletus.

A) Meletus says that Socrates is the only corrupter of youth.
B) Socrates accuses Meletus of contradicting himself.
C) Socrates says Meletus has no interest or knowledge in youth.
D) Socrates discusses the second charge, and the third.
E) Meletus calls Socrates an atheist.
F) Socrates calls him a liar and proceeds to unveil his contradictions.
G) Socrates asks Meletus if it is possible to believe in horsemanship, but not horses, and in same way, of gods.

H) On the strength of that defense, he proves Meletus a contradictory man.

XIII Socrates closes his argument against Meletus.

A) Says men should not be concerned with death.
B) Says men should be concerned not with death, but disgrace.

XIV Socrates talks about fear of death.

A) Calls the fear of death a pretense of wisdom; the appearance of knowing the unknown. Asks if it is not a conceited and disgraceful ignorance.
B) Says he will never avoid a possible good rather than a certain evil.
C) Vows to never alter his ways.

XV Socrates warns them about killing him.

A) Says that they will suffer more than themselves, and that it is not natural that a good man is injured by a bad man.
B) Warns them that they will not find another like him.
C) Calls his poverty proof that he does not teach for pay.

XVI Socrates talks of his duty toward the state.

A) Explains why he does not advise the state.
B) Says that the oracle always forbids him from doing certain things.
C) Says that no man who is really concerned with righteousness will save his own life in war.

XVII Socrates tries to prove that he is unyielding to death.

A) Tells of his experience as a senator.
B) Says that his only fear was doing an unrighteous or unholy thing.

XVIII Socrates explains why people like to converse with him.

A) Says that people like to hear the pretenders of wisdom cross-examined.
B) Says he is on a mission from God.
C) Says that if he had corrupted the youth, they would have taken revenge.
D) Speaks of his friends.
E) Says that his friends support him for the sake of truth and justice.

XIX Socrates closes his defense.

A) Explains why he does not bring his family into court.
B) Says such conduct is a disgrace.
C) Says that men fancy that something dreadful will happen to him if he dies.
D) Says that men make the mistake of linking life with immortality.

XX Socrates says his last words of defense.

A) Says a judge should not make a present of justice, but give fair judgment.

XXI Socrates acknowledges his condemnation.

A) Condemned by thirty votes.
B) Says that he has escaped Meletus.

XXII Socrates speaks of his penalty.

A) Says he is not afraid since he does not know whether death is good or evil.
B) Says that the greatest thing a man can do is converse about virtue.

XXIII Socrates speaks to the men who have sentenced him to death.

A) Socrates says men should avoid using every way of escaping death.
B) Socrates says the difficulty is not avoiding death, but avoiding unrighteousness.
C) Socrates calls his condemners condemned to suffer by the truth.

XXIV Socrates leaves a prophecy for his accusers.

A) Says that they will have many more accusers than he has now.
B) Says that they can avoid the accusers by improving themselves.

XXV Socrates talks of the Oracle.

A) Calls his condemnation good.

XXVI Explains what might happen after death that is good.

A) A state of unconsciousness, like a single dreamless night.
B) An opportunity to converse with others who have died and to continue searching for wisdom.

XXVII Socrates says that death can not harm him.

A) No evil can happen to a good man either in life or after death.
B) Says he is not angry with his accusers.
C) Says they have done him no harm, but can only blame them for doing him no good.

XXVIII Socrates asks for his friends to look after his sons.

A) Tells his friends to correct his sons if they think they are something when they are nothing.
B) Describes this as justice.

XXIX Socrates departs the court.

A) Says god only knows if life is better than death. –30--


Unpublished essay on The Apology, Plato, January 14, 1985, Interdisciplinary Studies in Letters and Science (ISLS) program, Chabot College, Hayward, CA, by Lurene Helzer. One thing I remember clearly about the instructor, Ms. Barbara Pope, is she did a great job of challenging students like me by demanding superior academic performance.

There were no easy grades in this course, probably because she thought easy grades would deter us at the university level. The assignments, like the one here, obviously were not light, either.

There is nothing simple in the arguments put forward by Plato. In my nightmares, Plato is an attorney interrogating me as I cry.

In The Apology, Plato writes of his friend Socrates defending himself against a society that does not understand his search for true wisdom and his daily commitment to virtue.

Socrates attempts to defend himself mainly by exposing the weaknesses in others. In The Apology, he tells the jury about these weaknesses both by demonstrating them in Meletus and by telling the jury of his experiences in his travels.

Socrates exposes Meletus’s weaknesses in front of the courtroom by making an argument of analogy:

“Tell me: does this also apply to horses do you think? That all men improve them and one individual corrupts them? (pg. 28)

Later, he calls the bluff:

“You have made it sufficiently obvious, Meletus, that you have never had any concern for our youth; you show your indifference clearly; that you have given no thought to the subjects about which you bring me to trial.”

Socrates attempts to explain why he has made enemies in the past by explaining the weaknesses he had exposed in some politicians:

“Then, when I examined this man – there is no need for me to tell you his name, he was one of our public men – my experience was something like this: I thought that he appeared wise to many people and especially to himself, but he was not. I then tried to show him that he thought himself wise, but that he was not. As a result, he came to dislike me, and so did many of the bystanders.” (pg. 25)

The weakness that Socrates tried to expose in others was not a lack of wisdom, however:

“….those who were thought to be inferior were more knowledgeable.” (pg. 26)

So it appeared that, according to Socrates, the only requirement of wisdom was to simply know that you were not wise. This was the weakness that Socrates continually tried to point out in others. He reasoned that no wisdom that was attainable by man was truly wisdom.

“….human wisdom is worth little or nothing…” (pg. 26)

Similarly, Socrates did not consider certain accusers to be his enemies, but the weaknesses that they possessed.

“This will be my undoing, if I am undone, not Meletus or Anytus but the slanders and envy of many people. This has destroyed many other good men and will, I think, continue to do so. There is no danger that it will stop at me.” (pg. 31)

As weak as he thought humanity was, Socrates had faith in the rewards of consistent virtue.

“….and keep this one truth in mind, that a good man cannot be harmed either in life or in death.” (pg. 42)

Of course, to point out the weaknesses of others is not proof of innocence in Socrates. Knowing this, Socrates remained constant with his own words.

“….death is something I couldn’t care less about, but that my whole concern is not to do anything unjust or impious.” (pg. 35)

Socrates leaves one ironic question in the work, however. What is to be attained by the unattainable wisdom? --30--

Bibliography necessary. I think this is answered! It’s what the entire work of Plato is about – What is wisdom? And he uses the life of Socrates as an object demonstration of true wisdom. Bring the paper for our conference and will talk about it. Also, look over the form, paragraphing, etc. and see what you think needs to be changed. These good ideas and supported well! – B. Pope

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