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Date Added: 2004-08-05

Translator: Benjamin Jowett

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Philosophy and Rhetoric
By Gabrielle Gillmer on September 1, 2009

Plato's Apology : an extant on how not to speak before a law court if one wants to save their life when facing the death penalty. At least that's how it reads.

Socrates' eloquence (spoken through truth not rhetoric as Plato would have him think) is a smoother read than most of the other 104 law court speeches we have handed down from antiquity (this in itself makes me think it was not a real speech, despite the obvious format which men of Plato's standing would have understood a speech to take anyway) but if Plato's point was to bark at Athenian moral attitudes and revoke the democracy, he's done a good job. And he made it no secret that he wasn't sympathetic to the democracy.

Written several years after the fact Plato is probably using Socrates' personality to bring this point along; after all Socrates was a close mentor to Plato while still alive. In this light, the philosophy that Socrates expounds is probably Plato's way of sharing his opinion through a figure well known, well hated and central to understanding the difference between a sophist and a philosopher, as they understood it in the 4th century BCE, more than an account of what Socrates himself said in his last public appearance.

Still, it was surprisingly enjoyable to read and a recommendation for anyone interested in law, philosophy or antiquity in general ought to have a go.