Plato’s “The Allegory of the Cave” as Means to Explain “The Apology” Essay
Authors sometimes use one work to explain or elaborate on the intricacies of another piece of theirs. Plato is one such example as he uses “The Allegory of the Cave” as means to better decipher “The Apology of Socrates. ” Plato himself never appears in either dialogue, but it is clear that he disagrees with how Socrates’s trial ended and hopes to prevent another unneeded execution in the future. In “The Apology of Socrates,” Socrates is accused of not recognizing the gods of the state and of corrupting the youth of Athens.
Despite the many instances in which these allegations are challenged and, quite frankly, disproved, Socrates is still put to death. “The Allegory of the Cave” is a hypothetical scenario that not only explains what happens to Socrates in “The Apology,” but also offers some insight into why Socrates lives his life the way he does. Many parallels can be drawn between “The Allegory of the Cave” and “The Apology of Socrates.
The man who is released from the chains that bound his intellect and full understanding of what is truly Good can be connected to Socrates himself. His description of this imaginary man’s journey out of the cave and into the daylight is painful and disorienting, but undeniably rewarding: “Then if he called to mind his fellow prisoners and what passed for wisdom in his former dwelling-place, he would surely think himself happy in the change and be sorry for them. Socrates has made the ascent, and has made his life mission to liberate the others left in the bleak darkness of the cave. The chained prisoners in the cave are like the Athenian councilmen who are judging Socrates’s trial. Socrates describes the prisoners as having been in the cave since childhood, “… chained by the leg and also by the neck, so that they cannot move and can see only what is in front of them, because the chains will not let them turn their heads.
In “The Apology of Socrates,” Socrates further elaborates on how the men have been conditioned since childhood not to believe or take faith in his questioning ways: “But far more dangerous are these, who began when you were children, and took possession of your minds with their falsehoods, telling of one Socrates, a wise man, who speculated about the heaven above, and searched into the earth beneath, and made the worse appear the better cause. ” Although this may not be what Plato intended for the reader to interpret, it can be speculated that the men behind the parapet in the cave are Meletus, Anytus, and Lycon.
The men behind the parapet are still in the cave, but are definitely Socrates describes his journey to challenge those who are commonly regarded as wise and intelligent, and acknowledges the fact that he has made numerous enemies. He asserts that three men have led the charge to persecute Socrates in a court of law, in an attempt to discredit or do away with him and his ways: “Meletus, who has a quarrel with me on behalf of the poets; Anytus, on behalf of the craftsmen; [and] Lycon, on behalf of the rhetoricians. Socrates accuses Meletus, Anytus, and Lycon of taking advantage of the somewhat narrow-minded councilmen and their misconceptions about him in order to heal their egos and regain their dignity. The connections between “The Allegory of the Cave” and “The Apology of Socrates” aid the reader’s understanding of why Socrates receives the ultimate punishment in “The Apology of Socrates. ” “The Apology of Socrates” is an account of Socrates defending himself against the allegations being brought against him, and leads the reader to sympathize with the wise old man.
He cleverly begins by reminding the councilmen that he has never had any run-ins with the law up until this point in his life: “I am more than seventy years of age, and this is the first time that I have ever appeared in a court of law, and I am quite a stranger to the ways of the place…” He hopes this will be an indication that he has been an upstanding citizen of Athens, who is unrightfully being thrust into a negative light by his accusers.
He goes on to tell the story of why he began to challenge the intellectuals of society in the first place. Socrates tells of a deceased friend by the name of Chaerephon who “… went to Delphi and boldly asked the oracle to tell him whether… there was anyone wiser than I [Socrates] was, and the Pythian prophetess answered that there was no man wiser. ” This troubles Socrates, and he contemplates what this statement really means.
Unable to come to a sound conclusion, he devises a plan to get the answer he seeks: “I reflected that if I could only find a man wiser than myself, then I might go to the god with a refutation in my hand. I should say to him, ‘Here is a man who is wiser than I am; but you said that I was the wisest. ’” After meeting with a man who had a reputation for being wise, however, Socrates departed without the man wiser than he.
He left the man, thinking to himself: “Well, although I do not suppose that either of us knows anything really beautiful and good, I am better off than he is – for he knows nothing, and thinks that he knows. ” After encounters with multiple men who possess supposed wisdom, Socrates realizes the prophecy must be correct: “… but the truth is, O men of Athens, that God only is wise; and in this oracle he means to say that the wisdom of men is little or nothing…” Socrates proceeds to question Meletus in front of the councilmen.
He questions Meletus about the charges he has brought against him and his reasons for doing so. Socrates essentially talks circles around Meletus, who contradicts himself in every aspect as Socrates pushes for answers. Frustrated, Socrates dismisses his accuser with a haughty huff: “Such nonsense, Meletus, could only have been intended by you as a trial of me. You have put this into the indictment because you had nothing real of which to accuse me….
I have said enough in answer to the charge of Meletus: any elaborate defence is unnecessary…” Despite his explanation and showcase of unfair assumptions, Socrates is sentenced to death and is eventually executed. Ironically enough, Socrates basically predicts his own fate as he explains the freed man’s role in the cave scenario: “They would laugh at him and say that he had gone up only to come back with his sight ruined… If they could lay hands on the man who was trying to set them free and lead them up, they would kill him. Socrates being put to death was a huge mistake on the Athenian council members’ part. By challenging other intellectuals, Socrates is simply applying the definition of philosophy to his own and others’ lives. He believes it is a person’s duty to use his rationality to question himself and others in hopes of living more justly and truthfully. He also eradicates the charges of not recognizing the gods of the state and of corrupting the youth of Athens.
After explaining why so many people have him as an enemy, he declares that he will never stop in his search for seeking the Good, which he believes is the gods’ purpose for him: “And so I go my way, obedient to the god, and make inquisition into the wisdom of anyone… who appears to be wise…” Besides that, there is no one more concerned for the future and well-being of his homeland than Socrates. He states that, “It is for us, then, as founders of a commonwealth, to bring compulsion to bear on the noblest natures.
They must be made to climb the ascent to the vision of Goodness, which we called the highest object of knowledge…” As he explains in “The Apology of Socrates,” Socrates does not teach the youth of Athens to rebel against authority or encourage them to become atheists. He simply wants the future leaders of Athens to be “… more thoroughly educated… and more capable of playing [their] part both as men of thought and as men of action. ” Socrates believes that “… [one] can have a well-governed society only if [one] can discover for [one’s] future rulers a better way of life than being in office. It was ultimately unjust and detrimental to society to do away with someone as insightful and concerned with the future of his country as Socrates. Socrates was an incredibly intelligent man who did not deserve to die. It is incredibly frustrating and challenging for the reader to wrap his/her mind around why someone so pure as Socrates is found guilty, but Plato does a wonderful job of presenting how this happened with “The Allegory of the Cave. ” The details in this particular story help make “The Apology of Socrates” easier to understand, yet more difficult to accept as a just and fair outcome.