In the Apology Plato gives his account of the trial against Socrates. He gives a synopsis, from his perspective, of the events that ultimately led to his being put to death, covering the accusations against Socrates and Socrates’ defense against such accusations. While Socrates was found guilty and sentenced to death, the guilty verdict was quite obviously unwarranted.
The charges brought up against Socrates, officially, were corrupting the youth, impiety, and preaching new gods. Socrates chose to defend himself by means of logic and reason, which is unproductive in a room full of jurors who posses neither the ability to think logically or the desire to reason. While Socrates was undeniably innocent, I feel that it is necessary to note the fact that his defense was entirely unproductive due to the fact that he was in a courtroom full of people who had no interest in understanding his argument. In addition, the way in which he presented his logical and reasonable defense caused Socrates to look more egotistical than ever, giving people yet another reason to hate him.
Socrates’ main defense of himself was that he was being accused solely because he made enemies of people who were supposedly “wise men”. He was unimpressed by these men and their “wisdom” and even stated to the courtroom “In my investigation in the service of the god, I found that those who had the highest reputation were nearly the most deficient, while those thought to be inferior were more knowledgable”(Plato.25.line 23-25). One thing true of all people thought publicly to be “wise” is that they generally do not appreciate their wisdom (or their reputation) being publicly challenged the way that Socrates challenged it. While Socrates made valid his point that, the only reason so many held so much contempt for him was because he made fools out of their public figures and wise men, stating such only further angers the people already harboring contempt for him. This statement in court was only the first instance in which he shot himself in the foot, however his next major point should have been received by the jury, and used as the measuring stick with which to determine his obvious innocence.
Socrates was most offended by the charges of corrupting the youth and preaching new gods, mainly because his charges of “corrupting the youth” were based purely on the belief that he had been teaching the young men who trailed him often, and he took great offense to anyone accusing him of teaching anything, as his major point all that time was the fact that he knew nothing. When confronting these charges against him Socrates stated “If one asks them (his accusers) what he does and what he teaches to corrupt them, they are silent, as they do not know, but, so as not to appear at a loss, they mention those accusations that are available against all philosophers, about “not believing in the gods” and “making the worse the stronger argument”(Plato ).In this courtroom statement Socrates perfectly highlights the fact that there is no proof or actual valid charges to bring against him, and that he is literally on trial for making “wise men” and their followers look impotent. The plain fact that Socrates simply stated exactly what the charges against him were and listed off true and legitimate reasons why these charges are nonsensical, should have absolved him of all legal guilt and led to a nearly automatic verdict of innocence. The fact that such verdict was not found only further defines the fact that Socrates was on trial simply because he made fools of “wise people” and now he was going to pay.
Socrates goes on to talk about the fact that he teaches nothing, saying, essentially, that all he does is challenge people in their beliefs. It is not his fault that the minds of his accusers are too small and fragile to be challenged with such questions, or with the task of proving their “wisdom”. Socrates, in every possible way, takes apart the argument(s) against him piece by piece, however because he does it in such a way that irritates and angers people, his obvious innocence of the charges so haphazardly thrown together against him is irrelevant because his defense only made people dislike him more
Socrates essentially wandered far and wide to question people in such ridiculous depth that they were made to look foolish and became angry with him. The followers of these wise men he embarrassed also harbored a contempt for him, and despite Socrates’ more then successful defense of himself, this contempt spawned from irritation and harbored by many led to a guilty verdict and, ultimately his death. He was found guilty simply because no matter what he said or did, he was calling their public figures (or idols) unwise and essentially stupid; Socrates was condemned before he even went to trial.