How Free Is Free Speech?

1835 Words Dec 7th, 2014 8 Pages
Lauren Noall/Plato
3 December 2014

How Free is Free Speech?

I. Introduction Why would a seventy-year-old philosopher be put to death for what he was teaching in a society enjoying more freedom and democracy than any the world had ever seen? Plato (427-347 B.C.E.) is especially important to the understanding of the trial of Socrates because he, along with Xenophon, wrote the only two surviving accounts of the defense (or apology) of Socrates. Plato’s account is generally given more attention by scholars of the two authors because he, unlike Xenophon, actually attended the one-day trial of Socrates in Athens in 399 B.C.E. Both Plato and Chaerophon, another important witness present at the trial, knew how Socrates engaged in the Athenian intellectual community, what he shared with its members, and how original it may have been. Plato has been both a pupil and somewhat ardent admirer of Socrates, and for this reason his version of the trial may have been somewhat biased in favor of one whom he regarded as a great hero. At any rate, historians may be fairly certain that, even though Socrates has been to some extent idealized by his pupil, the account given represents what Plato believed to be true about his teacher. The turbulent history of Athens in the several years preceding his trial had a lot to do with the decisions to prosecute and ultimately convict Socrates. An examination of that history may not provide final answers, but it does provide…

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