Monday, May 21, 2012

Plato's "Apology": A Summary

Socrates: "Look, I don't know what I'm doing here. I'm seventy, I've never been in court before, but, I guess some people are trying to have me killed? And I'm supposed to defend myself? Just bear with me here, you guys. I'm just going to do what I normally do. Sorry if that's not proper.

"Everyone is all, 'Oh, Socrates! He thinks he's sooooo smart, he knows everything that happens in Heaven and below the Earth, and he makes arguments do all kinds of weird shit, and he teaches other people to do that.' And they've been telling you all this since you were little kids, so now you're thirty and you've heard for twenty-five years that I'm a huge asshole, and I've got a single day to undo that."

"Look, here's what really happened. I didn't want to make a big deal out of it or anything, but apparently the Oracle said I'm the wisest man alive. And I don't want to brag, because I was like, 'wait, what? I don't know shit.' But, you know, the Oracle is kind of a big deal, and I didn't want to go around telling people the Oracle is just straight up wrong, because that's actual blasphemy instead of the shit you dragged me in here for, but I figured if I could actually find someone wiser than me that I could say, 'Me? No way, Jimmy, he's definitely your guy,' then I wouldn't have to worry about wisdom or whatever.

"So THAT is what I started doing. I went to all the bros who had these great reputations for wisdom, bros who claimed to know tons of shit, and I'll be damned if they weren't mostly just fucking idiots. It was like, the better a reputation a man had, the fucking dumber he was. I'm not saying I knew more than them - I'm pretty sure that I know jackshit. But these guys also didn't know anything, and were pretty sure they knew everything. And when I tried to point out that they didn't know anything, they just got pissed off like it's my fault they've got their heads up their asses, which is why they told you guys growing up about how I think I'm smarter than everyone, even though I've literally never said that, ever.


"Then I went to the poets, who said cool things, but they thought their poems meant this high-flying bullshit or whatever when they clearly didn't mean anything like that. After that I went to the politicians to see if they were wise, which turned out pretty much exactly as you'd expect with politicians.

"So finally I went to the craftsmen, and they knew some cool things like how to sculpt and how to make chairs and shit, but they all thought that because they knew this really specific thing, they could be authorities on all kinds of other crazy bullshit. It was like, 'I believe that justice is the highest blah blah blah, and you know I'm right because look at this chair I put together.' Which is retarded, and that seems like a pretty dumb handicap to have, and I figured it was better to be aware that I know nothing than to know like five things and think I know a million.

"So, I think what the Oracle meant is that obviously no one knows anything, but I'm the only one who really knows that I don't know anything at all, and everyone else is going around deluding themselves and just generally circlejerking. And it turns out, you can only tell everyone that "Hey asshole, you're wrong about everything you think you know," before they start to complain, and start making up shit so no one thinks they got embarrassed by a guy who knows nothing, which is why so many of you have heard about what an asshole I am - jealous, lying dickbags told you.

"But you know how you can be pretty sure I'm not just doing this to be a dick? I'm fucking poor, man. I'm not like those guys who charge people to teach them rhetoric or whatever - and fucking good for those guys, making a living - instead, I just wander around and question others all the time. And now, Maletus brings charges against me, as if he's such a pious guy who can't stand to see the gods slandered, and the youth corrupted, when really, he's just trying to get famous. Watch this.

"Hey Maletus! Who is it that makes the youth even better? No, don't give me that look, come answer the fucking question. This is your chance, hotshot."

Maletus: "Uh, the laws?"

Socrates: "No, idiot, which people?"

Maletus: "Uh, the jurymen. All the jurymen are great guys! And the audience too."

Socrates: "Yeah, good! And the Councillors and the Assembly?"

Maletus: "Yeah, I mean, they improve the youth, too."

Socrates: "So you're saying literally every Athenian but me improves the youth. I'm only fucking asshole who is corrupting them?"

Maletus: "Yeah, I guess so."

Socrates: "Oh, well then fuck me, right? No wonder you want me dead. But does that seem right? Everybody except their teacher makes them dumber? Maletus, when you're training a horse, are you saying EVERYBODY improves the horse except the trainer? It's the trainer who corrupts the horse? No, of course not. Fuck, we should be so lucky that only one guy corrupts the youth and everyone else improves them, and if you'd thought about it for like half a second, you'd see how little sense you're making. And hey, this wickedness thing - don't wicked people make life worse for those around them?"

Maletus: "Yeah dawg, the wicked suck."

Socrates: "And does anyone want shitty friends? Is there anyone in the entire fuck world who is like, 'You know why I don't hang out with Bob anymore? He's a nice guy and he makes me better. Will, now there's a proper asshole who makes me miserable all the time.'"

Maletus: "Uh, no, that doesn't make sense."

Socrates: "Great. You're doing great. So you think I accidentally am corrupting the youth? You must think that, otherwise you wouldn't have brought charges, you'd have tried to correct me privately."

Maletus: "Yeah, no, I'm pretty sure you're doing this deliberately."

Socrates: "So what you're saying is, I'm intentionally turning everyone around me into an asshole, even though I know that assholes will hurt me eventually? Because by your own admission, that would make me retarded. And I think we can all agree that, after 70 years, I'm not an idiot. But hey, you're on fire. So what about this whole impiety deal? Are you saying I don't believe in the gods? That I teach 'new' spiritual things?"

Maletus: "YES. Right. That. You definitely don't believe in gods."

Socrates: "See, when I heard this, I thought you had to be fucking joking. I was like, 'He's joking, right? This is a funny joke.' Like you put a funny joke in there because everything else is so serious. I don't believe in gods, but I believe in 'new' spiritual things? Aren't spirits either gods or children of gods?"

Maletus: "Well yea-"

Socrates: "Well then how in the living fuck do I not believe in gods? If I teach there are spiritual things, then there have to be spirits - it makes no sense to say 'No, there are no spirits. But there are spiritual activities!' that's like, 'There are no humans, but there are human activities!' So there are spirits, which means there are either gods and children of gods. But if they're children of gods, there have to be gods, right? It can't be like, 'Tim? He's Larry's kid, and also Larry doesn't exist.' So basically you're saying, 'Socrates doesn't believe in gods; instead he believes in gods.' Which is why I thought that you were joking. Because that would be hilarious.

"So I think it's pretty clear that the charges that have been bought before you are utter horseshit. but maybe you're thinking you should convict me for other reasons. Maybe you're saying to yourself, 'Hey Socrates, why did you keep pissing people off if you knew they were going to try to have you killed? Maybe you're not guilty, but why take the risk just to be an asshole to some people?' And to that I say, 'Eat a dick, hypothetical juror.' I'm not going to disobey the gods just to avoid death; why the fuck would I take the risk into account when trying to decide whether or not to do the right thing? Were the soldiers of Troy inferior because they said, 'Death? I don't give a shit, as long as justice happens on the way.' Spoiler Alert: No. Besides, I don't know shit about what happens after death, so how can I be afraid of it? You want me to not do a thing that I know is awesome, just so some mysterious thing I know nothing about won't happen? Yeah, fuck that noise.

"Lastly, maybe you're thinking you should convict me so that the youth don't go around trying to do what I do, corrupting other people. Maybe I didn't intentionally corrupt them, but now you have to put me to death to make an example of me. First of all, that's fucking stupid because it isn't just. Second of all, you fucks should be so lucky. All I do is make people better - you're fucking welcome. I spend day in and day out questioning people, showing them their errors, and helping them get over that. Criticism is awesome - it means you get to be you, but a slightly more awesome version of you. Don't you get it? I'm a gift to this fucking city, and if you get rid of me, you will regret it.

"Why didn't I go into politics, if I'm such a gift? Because fuck that. First of all, the gods told me not to, and I think they had damn good reasons to do so - I'm not trying to get all corrupted by politics, and I'm not trying to get put to death for not compromising my principles. I guess I'm already here for that, but I wouldn't have lasted a week if I had tried to make a principled stand in a public life. Yeah, no thanks. So, you know, I'll just stick to the private life the gods commanded me to stick to, thanks very much.

"Look, if I was corrupting the youth, either someone would have grown up and seen that they were corrupted, or someone's pissed off helicopter parent would have done something about it. You think I'm making these kids into assholes and their parents are like, 'I'm super-glad our son is hanging out with that Socrates guy - I always wanted him to grow up as an impious heretic and a liar!'? Which is why I get dragged before a jury every week by someone's dad oh wait no the other thing where that never happens. Literally zero of them has testified before you today, so, you know, boo-yah.

"And that's pretty much it. Sometimes someone comes in here and cries like a bitch because they want to be acquited, and they don't tell you 'I'm innocent!' so much as 'I have kids to feed!' and I think that's the stupidest thing because what the fuck does 'I have kids!' have to do with guilt or innocence? So, don't acquit me because you feel bad for me, acquit me because I'm fucking innocent. I'm not going to beg for my life, sympathy is a dumb, dumb reason to vote."

[The jury gives a verdict of guilty, and Maletus asks for death.]

Socrates: "Oh man, that was close, huh? Well, now I have to tell you how to sentence me based on what I think I deserve. Uh, well since I spent my entire life showing people their errors and helping them improve, I think you should sentence me to have feasts thrown in my honor all the time. I think that's the best punishment - give me free meals forever like a hero. That is what I deserve. Seriously. Seriously. But since I don't think you'll go for that, you should just go ahead and fine me 30 minas. I guess my friends have agreed to pay that for me? Yeah. But I'm not going to ask for exile or imprisonment, since I'm damn sure those things will suck and I have no idea if death will suck.

[The jury condemns Socrates to death.]

Socrates: "Welp, that's pretty shitty, isn't it? Oh well. I did my best. I feel pretty good about giving a just defense and still being condemned to death rather than crying and supplicating and pretending to be guilty just to survive. If that were better, warriors would practice dropping their swords and begging for mercy, and then we would never have conquered dick. Besides, I'm not worried even a little bit about death. Either it won't feel like anything, like sleepytime, and I have been known to enjoy a nap from time to time so no biggie there; or else I'll just go to the underworld, where I can keep doing philosophy, which, who doesn't want that? None of you fuckers is wise, but I'm pretty sure if I got to question Odysseus or Homer or all those other dudes, I'd find someone wiser than me. Fuck, if I was absolutely sure I could go to Hades and keep doin' it big with all those awesome dudes, I'd die a thousand times over. So, I go to die and you go to live. Who's the real winner here? Hard to say."

---
You can read the full text of the Apology, along with single-line summaries of each paragraph, over at Wikisource.


If you want it on Kindle, several translations are public domain so check out one of those. If you prefer the feel of paper, get the Five Dialogues from Amazon. To see what happens after the Apology, check out the summary of Plato's Crito!

17 comments:

  1. MOAAAAAAAAAAAR

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  2. Before I finish: do you know how annoying it is to start a paragraph with a quotation mark and never close a paragraph with one? DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA, BRO? WHY? WHYYYYYY????!!

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    1. I'm a grammar Nazi, and I guess you don't realise that's exactly how you're supposed to use quotation marks. I'm defending PhiloBro because he's RIGHT. Jeez.

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    2. Oh merciless Plato, that's right!

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quotation_mark

      I didn't know that. But I still think it's rather annoying!

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  3. Dude, from all the glorious, academic shit that has been said about Socrates for about 2000 years now, this is the only text he would actually enjoy...my regards...

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  4. Lord, that is most humorous. Never hath Socrates been portrayed in such clear terms.

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  5. Man, an entire series of all the Platonic dialogues would just be bitchin'.

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  6. Classic summary of Plato's Apology which will be read for generations.

    Bro, don't know if you'd be down or not, but one day years from now publishing the collected summaries in a book is an idea I like and I'd throw down some fliff.(-perhaps with some wisely chosen pictures? Don't know if comic style would work. Maybe classy Renaissance painting style. Or pencil)

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  7. Another treat, Bro. Thank you.

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  8. This is just perfect. I find it helps to read these before or after the text to really put it in a modern perspective.

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  9. If I were an prof I would give this to my students to read before they translated it. When I was translating this stuff, Plato totally did write stuff like, "And then he was all like". Way more engaging and understandable to read it with this tone rather than spend an entire semester translating before you understand it.

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  10. If you ever publish awesome blog as a book you should collaborate with the Zen Pencils dude (gal?) for illustrations. . .

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  11. Love Socrates, love the Apology, love this. Thanks.

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  12. That's somewhat of a far shot, but - did you happen to get the source material from the new issue of the Philosophie Magazin which came out 2 weeks before your post here?

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  13. thank you, thank you, thank you. I was half way through reading the real deal, which I could follow, but it was a slow read. I ran across your interpretation. BRILLIANT and HILARIOUS! I just hope my professor doesn't ask me too many questions, I might start cursing.
    CHEERS <3

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