Philosophy Socrates Has Been Accused of Not Essay

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Philosophy

Socrates has been accused of not recognizing the gods of the state, and also of inventing gods of his own. In fact, this is a two-part accusation. Socrates is first being accused for not believing in the state-sanctioned religion. Of course, it is impossible to know what Socrates does or does not believe. Based on his words, though, it would seem Socrates does actually believe in the gods although may not pay them the kind of respect that the Athenian courts would prefer.

The second part of the accusation is different. Here, the state accuses Socrates of inventing new divinities of his own. Socrates is in fact not starting a new religion and he does not tout the divine authority of any deity. If the accusation is taken collectively, that is, if declaration of guilt or innocence is made on the fulfillment of both these two parts, then Socrates is clearly not guilty.

In Plato's Apology, Socrates points out the logical fallacy in Meletus's argument: "I do not as yet understand whether you affirm that I…do believe in gods and am not an entire atheist…but only that they are not the same gods which the city recognizes - the charge is that they are different gods. Or, do you mean to say that I am an atheist simply, and a teacher of atheism?" Here, Socrates asks the state to clarify what the accusations are: is Socrates being accused of atheism, or is Socrates being accused of believing in non-state-sanctioned deities. Meletus unwittingly falls into Socrates's logical trap by stating, "I mean the latter - that you are a complete atheist." By accusing Socrates of being an atheist, the state's argument completely falls apart. An atheist cannot simultaneously be accused of inventing gods because by definition an atheist disavows all gods.

Socrates also asks Meletus and the state to define exactly how they define god or the gods and whether "demigods" and "spirits" fall into the classification. If so, then it is also impossible to accuse a man of atheism while simultaneously accusing him of belief in spirits.

In Plato's Euthyphro, a similar argument takes place in which Socrates points out the inconsistencies in Meletus's argument. Socrates here refers directly to the gods, as in the statement: "murder, and of other offences against the gods." Socrates never once states disbelief and defends his spirituality with aplomb. What Socrates is trying to say in both Euthyphro and the Apology is that morality exists independently of the gods. It is quite impossible to say whether or not gods exist anyway, since gods are intangible. Yet it is possible to define morality.

Socrates does, though, hint at his spiritual beliefs being startlingly different from those of the men of Athens. In the Apology, Socrates states, "Men of Athens, I honor and love you; but I shall obey God rather than you." Socrates here seems to slip into monotheism. In fact, Plato writes about "God" differently from mentions of the collective "gods." It is as if Socrates is affirming God not as an anthropomorphic entity such as the gods of Olympus are -- in which case part…

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Works Cited

Plato. Apology. Translated by Benjamin Jowett. Retrieved online: http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/apology.html

Plato. Euthyphro. Translated by Benjamin Jowett. Retrieved online: http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/euthyfro.html

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