If we had to pick one text in the entire history of philosophy to have you read, the Apology would definitely be it. The text has it all: a compelling hero (Socrates), a life and death situation (his trial), and one of the most eloquent statements about the philosophical life ever articulated (his speech). As you read the text, it will become evident that Socrates has very clear ideas about what the philosophical lifestyle demands of its practicioners. That he was willing to face death rather than abandon his most cherished principles also demonstrates just how seriously Socrates took his vocation as a philosopher.
This video provides background information that can help you to understand the issues being addressed in "The Apology".
As you proceed through this section, be sure that you are able to answer the following questions:
Why is Socrates on trial? What are the two charges that have been leveled against him by his accusers? (video lecture)
What were the real motivations behind the trial of Socrates? What was the actual goal of his accusers? (video lecture)
What form does the apology take that makes it different from Plato's other text? What is the structure of the text? (video lecture)
What are the origins of Socrates' reputation for wisdom? How does Socrates explain his own "wisdom"?
What does Socrates believe is his philosophical mission is to the Athenian people? What does he mean when he refers to himself as a gadfly?
Why does Socrates believe that doing wrong to others injures the wrong-doer more than the victim?
What counter-penalty does Socrates propose after being found guilty by the Athenian jury? Why do you think he made a proposal that was bound to antagonize those who were about to determine his fate?
Why arguement does Socrates give to support his conviction that the good person need not fear death?
If you think that you understand the basic ideas in the text, take the quiz for this unit.