Is Socrates being irrational in the way that he acts before the jury?

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To answer this question, we need to first answer a second question: what is Socrates' goal in the Apology? Clearly, he is on trial for his life, but I would argue that his primarily goal here is not necessarily to avoid execution, but rather to defend his reputation against the charges that have been leveled against it. For Socrates, as Plato depicts him, the pursuit of philosophy, and the teaching of philosophy, is always of primary importance. With this in mind, I don't think it's fair to call him irrational: in fact, it's quite the opposite, given how he uses intellectual reasoning and argumentation in his defense. This being said, I do think it's fair to question the tone of that defense. At the very least, he seems extraordinarily brash given just what's at stake. Consider, as just one example of this, the moment when he says that Athens should be rewarding him rather than executing him. With this in mind, I think there's definitely room to criticize him as well.

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There are a lot of things that can be stated in connection to this question. In light of this let me make three points.

First, we need to look at what Socrates does in view of his worldview, rather than our worldview. When we do this, we can begin to appreciate Socrates's logic of why he is unafraid to die, even if he is in prison unjustly. In short, he is not being irrational in his view of things.

Second, in light of point one, we can say that Socrates is unafraid of death, because he is a true philosopher. Socrates believes that he body is a prison of the soul. Hence, to leave his body is not a bad development. In fact, death would be gain for Socrates in a sense, because he can now meditate on the form or ultimate reality without the hindrance of his body.

Finally, Socrates as a philosopher believes in upholding the laws of the city. At times, the law could be interpreted and applied wrongly, but he still believes that people should uphold them. This is another reason why Socrates does not complain about his lot in life.

 

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