Reading questions on Plato’s “The Apology of Socrates”

(1)  What does “Apology” mean in this context? Hint: it doesn’t have the meaning we usually ascribe to it.

(2)  How does Socrates begin his speech to the jury? What themes does he introduce? Be sure to examine how those themes develop throughout his speech.

(3)  After his preparatory remarks, Socrates responds to what he calls his “first accusers.”

  1. Who are the first accusers and what do they accuse Socrates of doing?
  2. Why did Socrates get such a bad reputation?

(4)  What are the current charges against Socrates?

(5)  Examine Socrates’ response to his current accusers, primarily his dialogue with Meletus. Note that there are effectively three arguments Socrates has with Meletus. For each one, ask:

  1. What is Meletus’ accusation?
  2. How does Socrates respond to Meletus’ accusations?
  3. Is Socrates’ response convincing? More to the point, does it actually refute the charges against him?

(6)  After his dialogue with Meletus, Socrates launches into a broader defense of his way of life. What is this defense?

  1. To whom does Socrates first compare himself in making this defense?
  2. Does Socrates really intend this as a serious comparison? Explain your answer.
  3. What are the values and virtues Socrates thinks should guide Athens?
  4. Later, Socrates shifts metaphors and instead of the first comparison he offers, he creates a new comparison of himself to a gadfly. What is a gadfly? What does this new comparison imply about Socrates’ role in the city? What does Socrates’ offer of this new comparison imply about his first metaphor?

(7)  Why doesn’t Socrates appeal to pity?

(8)  After his conviction, Socrates proposes a punishment; what is his proposal? Why do you think he proposes it?

(9)  What does Socrates say to those who voted against him? What does he say to his supporters?

(10) Do you think Socrates really means what he says about death at the end of his speech?

(11) Was Socrates’ defense designed to persuade people? Why do you think Socrates defended himself as he did?



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