Critical Analysis of Plato’s Apology 40c-42a

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Critical Analysis of Plato’s Apology 40c-42a

Plato’s Apology is one of the most well-known pieces of Plato’s writing today, perhaps due to a certain dramatic style and context that can appeal to any reader. The ‘Apology’ is the defence speech of Socrates before the court at a trial for his life. He has been accused of deliberately corrupting the young and of non-belief in the Athenians’ gods. It is widely accepted that this is a true event, Socrates was tried, found guilty and put to death. What is not known for certain is the accuracy of Plato’s account of his defence. David Leibowitz tells us that the Greek title is ambiguous and could mean a defence speech either for or by Socrates. From this it is hard to discern if the Apology as
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Socrates supposes that anyone, private person or Great King, would have fewer days or nights more pleasant than a night of dreamless sleep. The reference to the Persian King lends emphasis to his theory in that the Persian kings were often seen as a paradigm of worldly happiness . If even a man such as this would prefer a night of dreamless sleep to most of his other days then it must surely be a very pleasant thing. Socrates ignores here the issue that this sleep would be endless, so leaving the sleeper unable to ever appreciate it in the only way humanly possible, by contrast to other nights and days.

Another interesting interpretation of the king as example is raised by T.G. West. He suggests that the Persian King might prefer to be asleep than awake due to a faulty way of life. Tarrant tells us the King is a paradigm of worldly happiness but West calls him a “paradigm of someone who cares for money and his body instead of how his soul will become the best and most prudent possible” . If we accept this interpretation it would seem that Socrates is making a subtly ironic comment on the good of death, that it is merely good for someone whose life is unsatisfactory. If this is truly Socrates’ view, has he inadvertently told us that his life is unsatisfactory? If so it surely cannot be for the same reasons as a political man such as the king who has neglected the
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