In the Apology, Socrates is on trial for corrupting the youth and being an atheist. These allegations against him require that he puts up a defense against his accusers. In his defense, Socrates argues that being sentenced to death for the purported crimes is a possibility. During his defense as outlined in Apology, Socrates explores death as a way of constructing the nature of this concept. This paper represents Socrates consistent view on death in the Apology.
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Death Is Good
Socrates stood for his ideals and values during his defense even in the face of imminent death. Socrates would not sacrifice his integrity even in death showing that he did not fear death. Socrates approaches the subject of death by arguing that such destruction cannot be caused by those accusers, rather by,`` the envy and detraction of the world, which has been the death of many good men… there is no danger of my being the last of them’’(p.35). It seems that the norms and values upheld by the society result in the unjust death of otherwise good people. Socrates argues that the possibility of death will not influence the arguments he will make in his defense. By this, Socrates is implying that he cannot sacrifice his ideals in trepidation of death. He contends that, `` a man who is good for anything ought not to calculate the chance of living or dying; he ought to only consider whether in doing anything he doing right or wrong’’ (p.39). Hence, Socrates considers death as an honorable act in upholding the truth and avoiding evil. Socrates has a firm belief about the responsibility of searching for the truth as charged on him by God. Thus, giving up on this responsibility for the fear of death would be a wrong action on his part. He affirms this position by asserting that, `` if when… God orders me to fulfill the philosophers mission of searching into myself and other men, I were to desert my post through fear of death… that would indeed be strange, and I might justly be arraigned in court for denying the existence of the gods’’(p.40). Seemingly, Socrates shows willingness to face death so as to uphold the truth, by not denouncing what he has said or done in his life.
During the trial, Socrates suggests that he does not fear death as he does not have knowledge about what is involved in death. As he contends, ``for the fear of death is indeed the pretence of wisdom, and not real wisdom, being a pretence of knowing the unknown…’’ (p.40). Here, he alludes to the fact that death is a mystery thing that cannot be easily understood but need not to be feared. He perceives that choosing to go against his ideals for fear of death may lead to evil and prefers death for through this some good may be realized. Moreover, he contends a death sentence would hurt the prosecutors and city more than him. This arises from the assertion that a death sentence would go against God’s mission for Socrates, which is a great wrong. Therefore, his arguments for being released are not due to selfish reasons, rather for the realization of good in the entire state. In this case, good is about Socrates teaching philosophy to the people in the state to ensure that they uphold virtues. Socrates provides an account about a situation where he risked death by choosing to do what is right without considering the outcome of his actions. He recollects that later on, others viewed his actions favorably, although, they had previously believed that he had acted wrongly. Therefore, he admonishes people for failing to uphold their honor and integrity for fear of death.
Possibilities in Death
In various instances in the Apology, Socrates does not consider death as a bad thing. In fact, he uses various arguments to justify the goodness of death. Socrates begins an in-depth discussion of death by suggesting that, ``and let us also reflect upon how good a reason there is to hope that death is a good thing’’ (p.51). In considering death, Socrates views it as unconscious state. Therefore, if death is unconscious, Socrates considers this as sleeping without dreams, `` now if you suppose that there is no consciousness, but a sleep like the sleep of him who is undisturbed even by dreams, death will be unspeakable gain’’ (p.51). Socrates seems to prefer death rather than going against his philosophical ideals by assuming that it would only be a single night as he says that,``…I say that to die is gain; for eternity is then only a single night’’(p.52). Hence, he has no fear facing such a possibility, if decided upon by the court. Hence, as death is a dreamless sleep, it is a good thing for an individual. Socrates seemed to justify the goodness of death as it did not have pain that is existent in real life. Therefore, he sees that death as unconscious state that would enable him escape the unjust world. However, an eternity of unconsciousness is not a good thing, since individuals cannot derive pleasure from waking up from sleep that has dreams. In addition, the analogy that death is a dreamless single night is faulty, as one cannot wake up from it making it a bad experience.
Socrates considers another possibility in death that is passage into a different but conscious life. Socrates viewed death as a good thing as it would enable him to join departed wise individuals and ask them questions about truth and wisdom, without fear of unjust judgment. Socrates is ready to embrace death as it would free him from worldly unrighteousness into a world where righteousness is valued by dead wise individuals. In fact, he affirms this by suggesting that, ``but I see clearly that the time had arrived for me to die and be released from trouble’’ (p.52). Furthermore, he does not fear death due to the immortality it will bring him allowing him to continue with his work of searching for the truth. However, his view of death in his trial denies the possibility of suffering after death. Therefore, he fails to consider other possible destinations for the soul upon death. Additionally, Socrates seems to conclude that death is good, which contradicts his assertion about lacking knowledge on the concept. Thus, by making such assumptions about death in the Apology, Socrates proves himself wrong about his knowledge on the concept of death. In the end, Socrates is quick to point out that, ``…and we go our ways-I to die, and you to live. Which is better, God only knows’’ (p.53). In this case, Socrates admits his limitations about his wisdom and acknowledges that a higher power possesses all the knowledge about death.
In Apology, Socrates has a consistent view about death. In his analysis, he considers death as a good thing. In the beginning, he would face death for his ideals, if it became necessary. During the trial, Socrates considers death as a mystery that individuals should not fear. He goes on to argue that death is not evil as considered by people in the society; rather, it is a good thing. Specifically, death would enable him to uphold the truth and righteousness instead of sacrificing his virtues and ideals. Socrates view about death reflects the value of defending virtues instead of sacrificing beliefs for the fear of the outcomes, including death .This perception of death corresponds to his wisdom as he is able to examine death and its meaning to him. Hence, through reason, Socrates has beliefs that he understands the concept of death. He uses truth to develop a broader understanding and meaning of death. In his search for wisdom and truth, Socrates persisted even in death. This represents his philosophy about wisdom and truth.