Essay: Plato the Apology

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Plato: Apology, Allegory, And Ethical Behavior

The Apology of Socrates is a defense of philosophy. In the first part, Socrates shows how philosophy breaks down and challenges society. Later, he also shows that philosophy is helpful and good. Socrates basically uses these to show the dual purpose of philosophical thought and dialogue: philosophy can break down the social order, but it will eventually rebuild an even stronger society. In order to really understand where he was coming from with his thoughts as discussed by Plato, though, it is also important to understand more of Plato's work. One reason is that the things Plato discusses are seen throughout many more of his works. Another reason behind this is The Apology has not actually been proven as the true tale of what took place when Socrates was tried and found guilty.

While some believe that this is the case, others are of the opinion that The Apology is a fabrication that Plato created, and the purpose behind that fabrication is really not clear. With those things in mind, Plato and how he looked at the world is important to the understanding of The Apology and other works he created, such as The Allegory of the Cave. The way Plato looks at issues is often confusing, because he generally talks about them in a very abstract way and uses allegorical methods to discuss them, but that does not mean that they cannot be addressed and understood.

The Apology will be discussed here, but also discussed will be The Allegory of the Cave and the overall nature and origin of justice that Plato dealt with. The reason behind this is to show that Plato was not only very focused on these kinds of issues, but that he also had much to say on issues like justice and an understanding of people who are different from others. Socrates should not have been persecuted because he was not like everyone else, but those were the times in which he lived -- and some of those kinds of attitudes still exist, which helps to keep what Plato had to say then still relevant now.

The Nature and Origin of Justice

The way Plato addresses his issues can be difficult to follow, especially when he uses dialogues between himself and other people to discuss how people react to influences outside of their control. Even in The Apology, Plato uses a lot of dialogue between Socrates and those who are involved in his trial (Kahn, 2004). Some of this dialogue can be confusing, even though Socrates says he will speak plainly. The wording of that time period is much different from the wording that is used now, and deciphering it can be a bit confusing. Where justice is concerned, though, Plato is relatively clear and concise (Kahn, 2004).

According to Plato, the nature and origin of justice is that men who are capable and have the opportunity to do wrong to others will generally do so, and men who do not have the kind of strength that they need to keep themselves from harm will not do any harm to other people (Kahn, 2004). What Plato is trying to say with that statement is that human nature very often makes people get away with things that they can get away with, and the people who are not able to defend themselves very well often do not try to harm other people because they know that the reciprocal harm they could end up receiving would not be worth what they could potentially gain from harming someone else, even if the desire to do that harm to other people is there, and even if it is very strong (Kahn, 2004).

Plato's argument, though, makes people sound as if they are not very nice and as if they would go around hurting anyone they could if they felt they were big and strong enough to get away with it, but yet that is not entirely what Plato is trying to stay with that statement. What Plato actually means is that people who are more capable when it comes to fending for themselves will not be as concerned about how others perceive the actions that they take (Kahn, 2004). This is not due to a lack of ethics or morals on the part of these people, but rather due to the fact that human nature does not really make everyone perceive ethics in the same way (Kahn, 2004). Some people feel very differently about ethics and morals than others, and it is important to make sure that those differences are understood, not persecuted -- which is something that did not take place for Socrates in The Apology.

Ethics, Perception, and Allegory

In order to better understand the issues and concerns that Plato had with ethics and justice, and the principles that came through so strongly in The Apology, other works of Plato should be touched on. For example, ethics, and what is right and wrong, are also considered in 'The Allegory of the Cave.' The people who were suddenly released from the cave in the story would not know how to react to the sunlight, because the world they found themselves in would not seem like it was real to them (Plato, 1935). It would not fit with the perceptions that they otherwise had of what life was actually like.

Their ethics would not be the same as those of people who had always lived in the light, because their perceptions of the world and how it works for them and for others would not be the same as the people who had spent all of their time above ground, where it was very light outside, they could see all around them, and the sun was warm (Plato, 1935). That does not mean, though, that the ethics of the people in the cave were right or wrong, or that the ethics of the people above ground were right or wrong (Plato, 1935). They were simply different from one another, just as the way Socrates lived his life was different from what his accusers thought he should be doing. While that did not make him 'wrong,' it made society feel as though he was doing things that society did not or should not agree with, so they shunned him, tried him, and sentenced him to death because he was different (Guthrie, 1986). Plato does a good job of clearly pointing this out.

Because of the differences in perceptions that so many people have, it cannot be said that someone who has come from a different place has worse ethics, or better ethics, than other people do. Often, the ethics can only be seen as different, although there are some things that almost everyone in a society would see as unethical. Despite this, though, there will always be a few people who do not agree with most of what society says, and society will brand these people as 'wrong.' Many people tend to agree with Plato's argument and the points that he makes, because the ethics of people who belong to one culture are often very different from the ethics of people who are part of another culture (Guthrie, 1986). This does not make these ethics right or wrong, but only reminds these people that they are different from one another (Guthrie, 1986). How they handle those differences will be up to them -- and differences are often not handled very well.

The main conclusions that Plato really comes to in his writings like The Apology and The Allegory of the Cave are that people perceive ethics very differently, and those people who come from other cultures and places are generally seen as having different opinions because of the way they view the world (Guthrie, 1986). In some ways, this ties into the opinions that have been produced and discussed by other philosophers, such as Descartes and Aristotle, who believed that perceptions of a world were flawed because of the inability to rely on the senses (Aristotle, 1958). Where The Apology is concerned, a difference of opinion between part of society and one man led to that one man's death. It seems a rather senseless act, but being outspoken has often been the cause of martyrdom for a lot of individuals (Guthrie, 1986). It happens in all societies and cultures, although it is sometimes more violent than others.

Plato's arguments are very hard to dispute (Nails, 2006). Most of his opinions that deal with human nature and ethics are solid, and they cannot and will not be destroyed by a lot of speculation and light discussion. What he believes about human nature can be easily seen by observing people and watching what people do in relation to specific events, and that is true of people today, just as it was true of people during Plato's lifetime (Nails, 2006). Because of this, there are a lot of individuals today who agree with Plato and think his… [END OF PREVIEW]

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