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Socrates as a martyr essay

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Socrates was a great Greek philosopher and the proponent of the “ Socratic Method”. He is famed for his sayings such as: “ Knowing nothing” which is a sign of humility and some hints of martyrdom. Athenians carried out a death sentence for a capital offense that made him a martyr to other and an anti-democrat to some. It is ironic for Athenians to execute their so-called “ gadfly” or self-appointed man of wisdom among wise men. But his humility has withstood the temptation of being engulfed by sheer arrogance, yet most of his detractors have condemned him of corrupting the youth of his country.

There are numerous accounts that Socrates was a martyr indeed. In his series of dialogues, He admits that he can avoided his trial and went home to mind his own business instead. But the great philosopher knew that this was unbecoming of a man of wisdom. A philosopher per se is undaunted by a trial alone which he can defend himself by his principles alone. After his conviction, Socrates could have prevented his own execution if only he listened to Crito to escape. Crito bribed the guards for Socrates to escape and prevent his imminent execution.

This proves that Socrates can hold his own mettle and make a stand without signs of arrogance. He told Crito that if ever he escaped and delayed his execution, he will only violate the Laws of Athens which would make him a deliberate hypocrite of his own principles and works. Socrates was a martyr indeed, he believed that if he escaped from prison he would break an intangible “ contract” to his city and the Gods will not favor him with such act. The apparent reasoning behind his refusal to flee from prison and prevent imminent death is the main subject of Crito.

The city’s laws are crucial for his so-called Socratic principle which has subliminal hints of favoring the Gods. Socrates believed that he was better of dead than defying the Gods of his city. During his gradual death, he exclaimed to Crito that they owe a debt to Asclepius and should sacrifice a cock. Even at the brink of death, Socrates was ever humble which makes him a martyr. His last words were implied to mean that his apparent death is the remedy for the freedom of his soul in his body. By being a humble philosopher, Socrates made enemies throughout his life.

Throughout his trial, Socrates conveys the true reason for his bad reputation. He retaliates by challenging allegations against him, and declares that his accusers have not given enough thought to their claims. He explains why never held public office as well which gives an overview on the life he has chosen to live. He addresses to his fellow Athenians that their obsession with wealth and the material world must never take precedence over the care of the soul. He discusses his inevitable sentencing to death, and gives his truthful perspective on death and the afterlife.

One of the most convincing dialogues from the Apology was: Socrates belief in purity and goodness of the soul is truly revealed, when he responds to his verdict, which is a sentence to death. He accepts his verdict with composure. As he had anticipated this, Socrates tells the jury that he cannot be harmed by the so-called punishment of death. It is only his physical body that can die, but his true nature is an eternal soul made of purity and goodness. His soul cannot be vanquished.

He makes its clear that despite the court’s verdict he will not resort to dramatic emotions and petition to live even a little longer. He does not want to do what other humans might do, for example, plead for more time or bring his wife and children to court so that the jury will have mercy on him. He says that his death sentence “ may well be a good thing, and those of us who believe death to be an evil are certainly mistaken. I have convincing proof of this, for it is impossible that my familiar sign did not oppose me if I was not about to what was right” ( Socrates, Apology , 41).

Dissecting this essence of this statement from the Apology implies that Socrates is firm that after his death his soul will be perpetual and will have a significant effect on other people. Martyrs are exceptional and unique people like what he said that he refuse to do what other people might do in his situation. Socrates is quite sarcastic for a martyr due to the statement that says his death has a noble purpose because people will have an apt sense of evil and those who believe that evil itself is “ evil” will be mistaken by his death.

Another proof that Socrates is a humble philosopher is that The Oracle at Delphi claims that there is no wiser man than Socrates. He took this statement as a riddle of sorts. A precursor that will lead him into debates with the people considered “ wise” by the people of Athens. Socrates as a martyr has defied all who oppose him, he held is own principles. He questioned the men of Athens about their knowledge of good, beauty, and virtue. Finding they knew nothing and yet believed they know too much. He came to a conclusion that he was wise only as far as “ that what I don’t know, I don’t think I know.

Socrates paradoxical wisdom made the prominent Athenians drown into mediocrity and retaliating with accusations that lead to his trial. This shows that not only was a martyr but an iconoclast as well. He emancipated from the conventional wisdom that blinded the prominent men of Athens. Eventually, it paved the way to his trial that made him even more prominent than any other Athenian. The sheer envy of the prominent Athenians didn’t affect Socrates’ principles and beliefs, instead he remained humble that is a sign of martyrdom. Socrates as an anti-democrat

It is often argued that Socrates believed that the “ ideals belong in a world that only the wise man can understand”. This made an issue that the philosopher the only type of person suitable to govern others, which made him look like an anti-democrat among the prominent Athenians. According to Plato’s account, Socrates was in no way subtle about his particular beliefs on government. Socrates never held public office even he with his innate wisdom that trampled the egos of the prominent men of Athens, He never considered to govern that implies that he wasn’t either an anti-democrat or democrat.

Yet he deliberately objected to the democracy that ran Athens during his adult life, not because he was an anti-democrat but rather he saw that Athens was gradually drowning in mediocrity in its continuous gratification of material wealth. It was not only Athenian democracy: Socrates objected to any type of government that did not conform to his ideal of a perfect republic led by philosophers, and Athenian government was far from that.

Although he defied the type of government that Athens implemented, it is not plausible enough that he was against democracy. He simply wanted to change way of living in Athens and not its government by being an epitome of “ good” principles that makes him a martyr in his own right. It is, however, possible that Plato’s account is colored here by his own views. During the final years of Socrates’ life, Athens was in spontaneous flux due to a massive political upheaval.

Democracy in Athens was at last overthrown by a junta known as the Thirty Tyrants, which was led by Plato’s relative, Critias, who had been a student of Socrates. The Tyrants ruled for about a year before the Athenian democracy was reinstated, at which point it declared an amnesty for all recent events. Four years later, it acted to execute Socrates (Brun, Jean, Socrates, Presses universitaires de France, 1978). Such argument is often denied, and the question is one of the widest philosophical debates when trying to determine what, exactly, it was that Socrates believed.

The strongest argument of those who claim that Socrates did not actually believe in the idea of philosopher kings is Socrates’ constant refusal to enter into politics or participate in government of any sort; he often stated that he could not look into other’s matters or tell people how to live their lives when he did not yet understand how to live his own. It is rather confusing if he was an advocate of any type of government yet his opposition of the government of Athens is not plausible enough to conclude that he was an anti-democrat.

Socrates believed he was a philosopher engaged in the pursuit of Truth, and did not claim to know it fully. Socrates’ acceptance of his death sentence, after his conviction by the Boule (Senate), can also be seen to support this perspective. Proof that Socrates was never an anti-democrat yet a martyr of sorts, that held his own principles for the betterment of Athens, yet was viewed as mockery of the Laws of Athens and the prominent people of Athens that lead to his imminent trial and death. It is often claimed that much of the anti-democratic leanings are from Plato, who was never able to overcome his disgust at what was done to his teacher.

In any case, it is clear that Socrates thought that the rule of the Thirty Tyrants was at least as objectionable as democracy; when called before them to assist in the arrest of a fellow Athenian, Socrates refused and narrowly escaped death before the Tyrants were overthrown. He did however fulfill his duty to serve as prytanis when a trial of a group of generals who presided over a disastrous naval campaign were judged; even then he maintained an uncompromising attitude, being one of those who refused to proceed in a manner not supported by the laws, despite intense pressure.

Judging by his actions, he considered the rule of the Thirty Tyrants less legitimate than that of the democratic senate that sentenced him to death. (Brun, Jean, Socrates, Presses universitaires de France, 1978) Socrates’ death is considered iconic and his status as a martyr of philosophy overshadowed most contemporary and posthumous criticism at the time. However, Xenophon attempts to explain that Socrates purposely welcomed the hemlock due to his old age using the arguably self-destructive testimony to the jury as evidence.

Direct criticism of Socrates disappears at this point but there is a noticeable preference for Plato or Aristotle over Socratic philosophy even into the Middle Ages. Socrates was never an anti-democrat or an advocate of any form of government. He simply wanted the people of Athens to be spared of the mundane mediocrity that has overwhelmed their lives. He simply wanted to be a good example which made him a martyr.

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