Plato's The Apology is an account of the speech Socrates makes at the trial in which he is charged with not recognizing the gods recognized by the state, inventing new deities, and corrupting the youth of Athens. Socrates' speech, however, is by no means an "apology" in our modern understanding of the word. The name of the dialogue derives from the Greek "apologia," which translates as a defense, or a speech made in defense. Thus, in The Apology, Socrates attempts to defend himself and his conduct--certainly not to apologize for it.
For the most part, Socrates speaks in a very plain, conversational manner. He explains that he has no experience with the law courts and that he will instead speak in the manner to which he is…show more content… Indeed, his wisdom is deeply humbling, as it casts all pretensions to human knowledge into question. With a smile, Socrates accepts that he is better off the less he thinks he knows, and passes this wisdom along with appropriate wit.
This irony, then, deeply informs the elenchus, Socrates' preferred mode of inquiry. It is important to note that almost all written accounts of Socrates are dialogues (The Apology is an exception)--Socrates never lectures on his beliefs in a one-sided manner. This supports the idea that Socrates has no knowledge of his own to put forward. His method of inquiry consists of identifying what his interlocutor thinks he knows, and then slowly dissecting those claims of knowledge. The Apology, however, is presented almost exclusively in the form of a monologue, because Socrates is not discussing and dismantling any one particular claim so much as he is laying out the method behind these dismantlings. As such, it is an invaluable commentary on the other dialogues.
The elenchus acts to disabuse Socrates' interlocutors of their pretensions and thereby deepens their wisdom. For Socrates, wisdom and virtue are closely connected, so his efforts serve to improve society as a whole. In Socrates' view, if we are all wise, none of us will ever do wrong, and our self-knowledge will lead to healthier, more fulfilling lives. Thus, the philosopher, according to Socrates, does not merely follow abstract intellectual pursuits for the sake of