Talk:Apology (Plato)

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NPOV?[edit]

The language in this article needs a lot of cleaning up. Statements like "Socrates proves to be a master rhetor who is not only eloquent and persuasive, but who plays the jury like an impresario" just shouldn't fly. 128.239.47.74 (talk) 13:59, 17 December 2007 (UTC)


And the word God should really be replaced with "the gods". It's obvious that Socrates was no monotheist; this is a lie perpetuated by the Christians that preserved his work, as well as the Muslims that claim him as a prophet. The fact that the Greeks had a rich tradition of intellectual polytheism threatens the world view of all modern monotheists. And really, if Socrates had been using the singular throughout his entire defense don't you guys think that his accusers would have said something? Socrates said "the gods", not "God". - Doug

Doug claims that, "It's obvious that Socrates was no monotheist". This is simply not true. Careful attention to when Socrates (recorded or represented by Plato) uses 'god' with and without the definite article shows that on the contrary, there is a strong monotheistic trend in his thought.

This is why the Oxford editor of Plato, John Burnet, ends his commentary on the Crito with the words:

'God leads the way'. Here there can be no question of any particular god. The words are definitely monotheistic

69.3.28.81 (talk) 08:42, 31 January 2009 (UTC)

While "God" might be a bit misleading, he does speak of "the god," in the singular (e.g., 37e). I don't think we need to attribute bad motives to people in order to settle a terminological question. RJC TalkContribs 07:24, 24 September 2008 (UTC)
I'm saying that the version of Plato's Apology we have today is not an accurate translation of what he originally wrote. Do we have any original greek manuscripts? If we do and it says "god" in the singular then I'll cede my point. - Doug
Our manuscripts of Plato are rather good: multiple, independent copies that say pretty much the same thing. And the Greek does speak of ο θεος at the place mentioned above (Ap. 37e); there are many other places, that's just the first one I came came across. Moreover, there is nothing specifically monotheistic about speaking of "the god." Absent any context, Zeus would be presumed. Or, since Apollo controls Delphi, it could refer to him. "Adonis" is literally "the Lord," Baal, "the Master," and Moloch, "the King," all in the singular, yet no one would say they are not part of polytheistic religions. So, Socrates' accusers wouldn't necessarily object to his speaking of "the god;" his "daimon" is another matter, but then again they did object to it, making it a part of their indictment. I think you're barking up the wrong tree: the only person I ever heard claim that Socrates was a monotheist was a high school English teacher — there isn't some great misunderstanding which must be combatted. RJC TalkContribs 06:09, 29 September 2008 (UTC)
That's what I was looking for, but does anyone know which god in particular he was reffering to? In Islam, Socrates is considered a monotheist as well a a prophet and Voltaire portrayed him as a monotheist in his play "Socrates". But you're right, modern scholars agree that Socrates was either a poly or henotheist. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 204.52.215.95 (talk) 08:25, 3 October 2008 (UTC)

Renaming proposal details[edit]

More can be found at Category_talk:Dialogues_of_Plato, but essentially the gist of my proposal with regards to the topic is that this page should be renamed Apology and then have an Otheruses-type template at the top linking to Apology (disambiguation), which has already been created. I believe that the philosophical/historical work by Plato is the most prominent of the disambiguations, and should be placed at Apology, as well as receiving the redirects from variants such as Apologia and The Apology.

Comments welcomed. --Girolamo Savonarola 03:27, 2005 May 16 (UTC)

The problem I see with this proposal is that Apology is not specific enough to Plato. Apology should be a disambiguation itself. Whig 08:50, 22 May 2005 (UTC)
I agree. Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 13:48, 22 May 2005 (UTC)

It was requested that this article be renamed but there was no consensus for it to be moved. violet/riga (t) 14:31, 24 May 2005 (UTC)

bullet[edit]

Does anyone else have a problem with this entire article being written in bullet form? User: ThomistGuy

Yes — it's ugly and unencyclopædic. Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 19:34, 1 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Major edits finished; more to come.[edit]

Okay, I just made a lot of edits. I may have deleted more than some would prefer. If anyone feels I went overboard, feel free to replace the missing paragraphs. Most importantly, I got rid of those festering bullet points! It was like reading bad class notes before!

Requested move[edit]

Please debate this move on Category talk:Dialogues of Plato in its full context. Thank you. --Girolamo Savonarola 21:21, 11 August 2005 (UTC)

Sophists[edit]

The word «σοφστής» had a variety of meanings, but its original meaning was certainly "wise man" (the Seven Sages were called «σοφσταί»). In the context of Athens the word was used to refer to what would in mediæval Europe be known as professors; although they fell into disrepute, they were originally highly regarded — the term «σοφστής» was tarnished with their reputations. At the time of Socrates I think that it's fair to say that «σοφστής» meant "wise man", but that its use as applied to the sophists was tinged with more than a little sarcasm. (I mistyped "wise man" originally, and nearly left in the mistake; "wide man" would have had a certain accuracy...) --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 09:56, 16 March 2006 (UTC)

Jury vote?[edit]

I remember hearing from my philosphy proffesor that more voted for the death penalty than for guilty but what was the actually vote count for death?

September 17, 2006

The oldest extant source that makes this claim is Diogenes Laertius 2.42 who says that 80 more voted for the death penalty than for the guilty verdict. But this has been disputed (e.g., by Brickhouse & Smith, Socrates on Trial 1989). All that Plato's text implies (38c) is that a majority voted in favor of death. Even if we accept Diogenes' claim, we can't infer from it what the total vote count for the death penalty was, because no one - not even Diogenes - gives a total number of jurors. (Diogenes does say (2.41) that the votes for Socrates' guilt exceeded the votes for his acquittal by 281; but this actually conflicts with Plato's Apology 36a where it is said that if only 30 more had voted in Socrates' favor, his acquittal would have been secured. Plato never makes clear how many total judges voted.) Modern scholars guess that the total number of jurors was 500 or 501, probably based on the Aristotelian Athenaion Politeia 68. But even that text is unclear, and the Athenaion Politeia is in any case an account of predominantly fourth century procedures, which may not even been in effect at the time of Socrates' trial. See P. Rhodes, 1981, Commentary on the Aristotelian Athenaion Politeia, p. 729. I've tried to clear some of these matters up in the body of the article. Isokrates (talk) 00:47, 24 July 2008 (UTC)
The version of Diogenes Laertius at Classical Persuasion has something different: "he had been condemned by two hundred and eighty-one votes, being six more than were given in his favour," suggesting a vote of 281-275, not that the guilty votes were 281 more than those for acquittal. We know (if we can trust Plato) from Socrates' joke at 36a-b that one third of the votes that convicted him would have been less than one fifth of the total votes cast (such that Meletus needed the votes brought by Lycon and Anytus to avoid the fine for frivolous prosecution). Since a vote total of about 280-220 would satisfy what we know from Plato's version of the Apology, and Diogenes adds one more guilty vote (assuming we can emend the margin he gives from six to sixty), I'm not sure that we can discount his testimony regarding the vote totals. And given the sources cited by MacDowell, The Law in Classical Athens, pp. 35-40, it seems rather likely that most juries in the Fourth Century had between 500-600 members. RJC Talk Contribs 01:39, 24 July 2008 (UTC)
Yes, the actual text at Diogenes 2.41 is uncertain, especially since its prima facie reading disagrees so plainly with Apology 36a; scholars have attempted to give it different renderings to try to mitigate this (see p. 151, John Burnet, Plato's Euthyprho, Apology of Socrates, and Crito). Thomas Brickhouse & Nicholas Smith say Diogenes' numbers "are senseless in themselves..." (Socrates on Trial, p. 26 n. 88). It should be kept in mind that Diogenes can, in any case, be extremely unreliable, especially when he does not cite a source and when he disagrees with earlier sources (as, e.g., he does on other points having to do with Socrates' trial). Again, as for the numbers of jurors who judged Athenian public suits (which included the suit against Socrates), P. J. Rhodes' notes on Athenaion Politeia 68 in his Commentary on the Aristotelian Athenaion Politeia p. 729 are definitive and give pretty complete references; Rhodes quite rightly reminds us that the Athenaion Politeia is an account of fourth century practices (which we cannot assume applied in Socrates' case which of course occured right at the close of the fifth). Our lack of good evidence about Socrates' particular trial makes it really impossible to determine the number of his judges, other than to say that it must have been between 500 and 1,501. Isokrates (talk) 16:19, 26 July 2008 (UTC)
Douglas MacDowell (The Law in Classical Athens, pp. 35–40) is able to get the size of the usual jury to between 500 and 600 for about this time. While his sources are from the early part of the Fourth Century, they do seem to point to a number of 500 (and 399 BCE is part of the Fourth Century). In addition to Athenian Constitution, he cites Isaios (5.2) and Demosthenes' Against Timokrates (24.9); the latter calls for "two jury-panels amounting to 1001 men." We know that a change in the allotment of juries occurred by the time Aristophanes wrote the Ecclesiazousae (393/2) and Plutus (388), but this system was put in place to avoid a new type of bribery introduced by Anytus following the defeat at the Battle of Pylos in 425 (cf. Athenian Constitution 27.5). The only problem MacDowell runs into is that a pool of 6000 jurors divided into ten panels yields juries of 600, even though everyone calls them 500: either the reforms introduced to combat Anytus' scheme shrunk the pool to 5000, or there were twelve panels instead of ten, or a panel of 600 was called a 500 because of predictable absenteeism. I think a useful distinction might be made between the system prior to and after the anti-bribery reforms, or the restoration of the democracy, but one between fifth- and fourth-century practices is tenuous. In any case, Socrates' trial occurred after the reforms, the restoration, and the close of the Fifth Century. (The system described in Athenian Constitution 63–5 was introduced after the anti-bribery reforms and before Demosthenes' Against Timokrates; it ensured the same number of jurors on every jury, eliminating the problem of no-shows.) Socrates' remark about 30 votes being enough to change the outcome means that the jury couldn't have had much more than 1100 members; if panels were 600 in size, he couldn't have had a double panel. So, either he had a single panel of 600, or a single panel of 500, or two 500-panels. Diogenes Laerius does occasionally get things right, and our presumptions shouldn't be that he is wrong just because he doesn't cite his sources. I'd say we have plenty of good evidence for the size of Socrates' jury. RJC Talk Contribs 22:25, 27 July 2008 (UTC)
Doubtless Diogenes can sometimes be correct; but the reason he's wrong in this case is not that he doesn't cite a source but rather that what he actually says conflicts with a far superior source, namely Apology 36a. The best scholars on the topic have confessed that what Diogenes says about the numbers is unhelpful. Also, although there's no denying that we are free to guess at the approximate number of Socrates' jurors based on evidence from other trials, we nonetheless can't say what was the precise number in Socrates' case without the same likelihood of being mistaken by 100 or even more, because what we do know is that there wasn't a fixed number that was used for every trial and none of our sources tells us the total numbers in Socrates' case. Isokrates (talk) 13:44, 28 July 2008 (UTC)
Yes, but with minor textual emendation, quite justifiable considering the fate of most manuscripts in the hands of scribes, Diogenes doesn't conflict with a far superior source. And we know that reforms instituted in response to Anytus' trial in 425, and sufficiently familiar by 393/2 for Aristophanes to make matter-of-fact jokes about it, would have yielded definite size for jury panels, even if not everyone on the panel could be counted on to show up. Socrates' trial took place in between these two dates. Even if we suggest a hypothetical additional reform to the system following the Government of the 400 or the Thirty Tyrants, or both, the trial would still take place between that reform and Aristophanes' comedy. Isaeus uses "in the presence of the judges, five hundred in number" (5.20) as a stock phrase at about this time, and when the Athenians wanted a precise number of judges they choose 500; these facts suggest that the size of a panel (or actual jury) before this last reform was roughly 500. While this in itself leaves room for error regarding Socrates' own trial, the facts that Diogenes does report a number that accords with Socrates' joke about 1/3 of the guilty votes being less than 1/5 of the total votes, and with emendation of "six" to "sixty" accords with Apology 36a, and yields a jury size close to what we would expect, all point toward taking him seriously here. The arguments against trusting him seem to be that we do not know things that we have some very good guesses about. RJC Talk Contribs 16:05, 28 July 2008 (UTC)
Good guesses certainly. But, again, no direct and tolerably solid evidence. Also, even on the "emendation" of Diogenes 2.41 on which Yonge's translation seems to be based, Diogenes will still conflict with Apology 36a. Younge's Diogenes has: Socrates was "condemned by two hundred and eighty-one votes, being six more than were given in his favour...", which (as you point out) suggests the vote was 281 vs 275. Plato, on the other hand, makes Socrates say: "As it is, a switch of only 30 votes would have acquitted me"; as Burnet points out, "...that means there was a majority of sixty..." (his italics). Isokrates (talk) 17:13, 28 July 2008 (UTC)
The emendation I speak of is from "six" to "sixty," a larger change in Greek than in English, true, but entirely in keeping with the sorts of errors that creep into manuscripts. And I would say that good guesses are tolerably solid when it comes to conclusions drawn from hard evidence, certainly when compared to what passes as "known" about the ancient world. RJC Talk Contribs 00:38, 29 July 2008 (UTC)
As for guesses, I have said enough. As for the emendation you speak of: Perhaps you know of some scholar who has suggested that Diogenes 2.41 reads that way; I at least wasn't aware of any. Or perhaps you're making your own suggestion. In any case, the proposed emendations are motivated by a desire to see Diogenes conform to Apology 36a. (Yonge's "six" evidently was too. As you may know, one manuscript of Plato's Apology has "three" instead of "thirty" at 36a6. This must have been the reading Yonge (or the editor of his Diogenes text) accepted when he (or the editor of his Diogenes text) added the phrase "being six" to Diogenes 2.41. Burnet mentions the Apology manuscript that has the "three" instead of "thirty"; he says the reading has "no authority at all". I trust that he's right.) But if we are struggling so to have Diogenes conform to Plato, then we must admit that the result does not constitute an independent source of information about the numbers and cannot even be said to corroborate the information we already had from Plato. The best scholars I am aware of conclude that Diogenes 2.41 doesn't tell us anything we can't find in better sources. Isokrates (talk) 13:29, 29 July 2008 (UTC)
Well, that just seems like question-begging. Everyone who cites the number 281 relies on Diogenes 2.41, and as you point out we don't have other sources for that. That number does corroborate Plato, and the question is whether we should discount it because of something else in our manuscripts. You might say that the "best" scholars have a healthy distrust of Diogenes, but the other ones do publish. MacDowell (whom I've cited in this discussion) trusts him quite a bit, for example. RJC Talk Contribs 16:16, 29 July 2008 (UTC)
From what you've said here, it's not clear what question you think I've begged or how exactly you think I've begged it. So it's a little hard for me to answer the charge. Instead, I'll respond to your point that "everyone who cites 281 relies on Diogenes 2.41...", because the point has wider implications for historical study. Of course it is often cited. That's just because, but for him, there is a historical vacuum concerning the precise numbers, not because it's in itself reliable. For the difference between voters, we have Apology 36a. And for approximations of total jurors for cases like Socrates', we have the sources you mention above. As is often done even by otherwise careful historians, a questionable source is cited when it speaks definitively on matters on which no other source speaks as definitively. (Take, e.g., the tenuous "evidence", often cited as fact, for Socrates' being a "stonemason".) Its uniqueness, not its quality, makes it stand out. It doesn't corroborate Plato because it can't stand alone; the most natural reading of it actually conflicts with Plato; I'm aware of no better judge of the matter than Burnet. The simple fact that others are inclined to tinker with the text (in light of Apology 36a) indicates that it's not considered independently reliable. Apparently not even MacDowell gives Diogenes' figure of 281 much weight; he does of course cite it, but says, "...there is a discrepancy of testimony about the numbers, but probably either 280 or 281 jurors (out of 500 or 501) voted against him" (p. 202). And this is after MacDowell has already (in the passage you cited above) determined, independently of Diogenes, the usual numbers of jurors for such trials. I don't know that there's more I can say on the matter; I've probably already extended this discussion excessively. Isokrates (talk) 18:30, 29 July 2008 (UTC)
You are probably right about the length of this discussion and the prospects of settling this issue. RJC Talk Contribs 20:28, 29 July 2008 (UTC)

Information about Apology[edit]

Hey guys. I came here looking for information because of citations in an essay for school. And the particular information I wanted was missing. It could be that no one knows, but here are some ideas for the article. Maybe a circa date of the writing of the story. Also maybe a place for the writing? Just some ideas for the article. Other than that it looks good! Deflagro C/T 19:33, 21 January 2008 (UTC)

Thanks, although I don't believe either of those pieces of information are known more accurately than "sometime between Socrates' death and Plato's" and "somewhere in the Eastern Mediterranean." RJC Talk 20:11, 21 January 2008 (UTC)


Somewhere I saw 399BC given as the date, but Burnet is more reliable: he only says "early 390s" (p84 op. cit.) 69.3.28.81 (talk) 08:48, 31 January 2009 (UTC)

"NPOV?" four years later...[edit]

The original point of the section "NPOV?" on this discussion page seems to have been swept under the rug in favour of a mono v. poly-theism debate but the point that the anonymous poster makes is still pertinent.

The anonymous poster wrote:

The language in this article needs a lot of cleaning up. Statements like "Socrates proves to be a master rhetor who is not only eloquent and persuasive, but who plays the jury like an impresario" just shouldn't fly. 128.239.47.74 (talk) 13:59, 17 December 2007 (UTC)

This article is still rife with these sorts of problems (though some major improvements have clearly been made). The introduction section is particularly bad:

"Socrates proves to be a master orator who is not only eloquent and persuasive, but even wise."

How do you quantify this? This is clearly an opinion. Wikipedia articles are supposed to be encyclopedic - this reads like a first-year philosophy paper.

Also distressing is the claim that, during the trial, Socrates speaks "the truth persuasively with wisdom."

Not only is the phrasing here clumsy, but he obviously doesn't speak "the truth" in a persuasive manner because he is unable to persuade the people trying him. (It also shouldn't even have to be said, but talking about "the truth" in these terms is wholly inappropriate in an article such as this one).

There's a lot of stuff like this throughout.

Also, the synopsis seems excessively long and a whole mess of citations need to be put in.

I'm hesitant to make any big changes as I've only a passing familiarity with the work being discussed in this article but I would be happy to do so if no one else is willing to step up and improve this article. Kid maximus (talk) 08:45, 16 September 2011 (UTC)

Be bold!. I am familiar with the subject, but don't have time to copyedit the article for fluffery. We could always play a game of WP:BRD. There is a problem that scholars address over the fact that Socrates claims that he is a bad speaker, and then speaks rather well. That does not have to be presented in the way it is now, however. RJC TalkContribs 13:57, 16 September 2011 (UTC)

Edit too soon[edit]

I hit reply too soon on an edit. I meant to say that Socrates' modesty is not conspicuous on the face of the dialogue. An attempt to render his defense as one of modesty seems original interpretation rather than a neutral portrait of what the dialogue contains. RJC TalkContribs 06:27, 11 October 2011 (UTC)

Assessment comment[edit]

The comment(s) below were originally left at Talk:Apology (Plato)/Comments, and are posted here for posterity. Following several discussions in past years, these subpages are now deprecated. The comments may be irrelevant or outdated; if so, please feel free to remove this section.

Perhaps it is time to re-evaluate this article's status? 69.3.28.81 (talk) 08:51, 31 January 2009 (UTC)

Last edited at 08:51, 31 January 2009 (UTC). Substituted at 08:05, 29 April 2016 (UTC)

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