Socrates’ Speech in Apology

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Aristophanes’ Clouds, if read hastily, can be interpreted as a mindless satyr play written in 419 BCE. Yet the chorus warns the reader not to expect the play to have farcical ploys like “a hanging phallus stitched on” the actors to evoke a laugh, but has underlying seriousness as “she [the play] comes in trusting only her words” (Clouds 538-44). Even if the play does use some low devices, the play’s message is sophisticated and can be read as a warning to Socrates. Aristophanes is a “friendly critic” of Socrates and warns Socrates to change his ways for Athens and for the good of himself (Whidden). Plato’s Symposium and especially his Apology of Socrates justify the claims made in Clouds about the dangers of philosophy and Socrates to…show more content…
They are referred to as a “voice” that Socrates hears, not unlike a conscience, that “turns me [Socrates] away from whatever I am about to do, but never turns me forward” (Apology 31d). Socrates uses that as the reason why he never got into politics, as the majority rule is usually against his own code of morals (31d). Socrates is not exactly godless or immoral for he would not condemn a group of prisoners without trying them separately. His “whole care is to commit no unjust or impious deed” (32d). Socrates may have moral standards, but perhaps his followers would not. This leads into the charge that he corrupts the youth, for if Socrates can question the gods, they can too. Athenians acted out of fear of heavenly retribution, not morals (Whidden). Those youth found it acceptable to do whatever they wanted because of the apparent lack of gods and thunderbolts coming down from the heavens to smite those who deserve justice. Clouds’ Socrates argues, “If in fact he [Zeus] strikes perjurers, then how is it that he did not burn up Simon, or Cleonymus or Theorus? Yet they are vehement perjurers. But he strikes his own temple and Sunium, the cape of Athens, and tall oak trees. Why?” (Clouds 398-402).
Those youths have mimicked Socrates’ style of rhetoric and argument. Pheidippides is an extreme satiric version of these sophists, as he uses the weaker speech to justify why he has beaten his father and why he
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