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Why Meletus Raised Charges Against Socrates? Essay


Introduction

Plato was of the view that Socrates was accused falsely of inciting the youths against the ruling class yet he was the righteous person in society. Socrates was a man who valued and he never did something that would amount to discrimination. He accepted to be subjected to the societal laws because he did not want controversies with his accusers. Three individuals accused Socrates of meddling in the affairs of the state, given the fact that he worshiped a different god other than the culturally accepted one. Moreover, he was accused of inciting the youths against the owners of the means of production. Each accuser had his own set of charges meaning that Socrates was tried severally. It is true that Socrates was a threat to various groups in society who never appreciated the existence of justice (Plato, 2002).

He advocated for justice, but he was against the idea behind democracy because for him, democracy was the tyranny of the multitude. Plato shared with Socrates the view that democracy was the worst form of leadership because it encouraged the rich to control the powerful sectors in a production system. By then, the thirty demo tyrants, who were supposed to offer a verdict through consensus, ruled Greece. According to Plato, democracy is the tyranny of the multitude meaning that people without experience are allowed to make major national decisions. This article looks at the charges that Meletus raised against Socrates. The article further evaluates the validity of the charges.

Charges against Socrates

Meletus was one of the three new accusers of Socrates. The old accusers never took Socrates to the courts, unlike the new ones such as Meletus, who raised a number of charges against him. Meletus accused Socrates of two major issues, including corrupting the minds of the youths and worshiping a god that was against the socially acceptable one. In Greece, the society had an established form of religion that was supposed to be obeyed by all people. Socrates summoned Meletus at the elenchus room or at the cross-examination hall to respond to his claims. Socrates wondered why he was accused of influencing the youths negatively yet his aim was to sensitize the young people embrace justice as their main principle in society. He requested Meletus to outline to him some of the positive influences in society.

Meletus responded by claiming that each individual was expected to respect the bylaw because laws remove the beast hood in an individual. In this regard, Socrates had gone against the law providing that each individual would obey the laws of the land. Every person had a responsibility of ensuring that peace and tranquillity prevails in society. For Socrates, he was against peace and stability because his statements were inflammatory and would easily encourage the youths to engage in armed conflicts with the owners of the means of production. Socrates went ahead to question Meletus on the type of the people who would have positive influence to the society. Meletus confirmed that only those who obey the law would have a prolific influence to the lives of the majority in society.

After persistent questioning, Meletus responded that the judges were in a position to determine what is good for the society. In this case, all members of the national assembly were people who had positive influence. The national assembly represented people from all quarters hence its power was valid. Moreover, members of the national assembly had a tendency of meeting at the public place, unlike Socrates who met the youths secretly to intoxicate them with his misplaced ideas. The national assembly was open to all members of society, including the youths so there would be no need of inciting the youths against it. Socrates opposed the viewpoint of Meletus by employing the horse analogy, which states that only the horse-trainer has a positive influence to the life of the horse, but not any other person. Therefore, Socrates was of the view that no person can have a positive influence to the life of another person. In this case, no individual can improve another human being in terms of civilization.

In the second charge, Meletus noted that wicked individuals should never be allowed to coexist in society because their values are in contrast to the views of the majority. He observed that wicked individuals, just like Socrates, have the power of harming other societal members, both spiritually and physically. The presence of evil individuals in society brings about untold sufferings because the gods would punish the whole society for not getting rid of the ungodly individuals. Moreover, Socrates was harming himself for not following the mainstream religion because he would accumulate curses. Socrates asserted that he would not be so idiotic to injure himself and in case any mischief came about, it would be accidental. Socrates continued to defend himself by observing that an individual who harms himself should be approached and be guided to drop the behaviour that is perceived to be dangerous. Charges should not be raised against such an individual. Punishment should not be meted out to an individual who has various problems (Scott, 2000).

Regarding the claim that he was against the state religion, Socrates defended himself by accusing Meletus of not doing adequate investigation. In fact, Meletus brought charges against Socrates mainly because of issues related to religion. To Meletus, this was one of the negative influences in society because it would encourage many youths to revolt against other state regulations. Religion played a critical role in the lives of many Greeks because it acted as a symbol of national unity. Since Socrates was unwilling to embrace the state religion, he was considered a pervert hence he was not to be allowed to coexist in society. However, this charge was invalid because Socrates noted that Meletus was confusing him with another person, who was his close friend. Meletus confused Socrates with his friend Anaxagora, who was a great supporter of Socratic ideas. Socrates went ahead to prove that he subscribed to religious ideals that are embraced in society. To him, it would be impossible to believe human issues without believing that human beings exist. Similarly, it would be impossible to believe that an equine exists without believing that there are horses. A person cannot think that artistes exist without accepting the reality that music exist (Fagan, & Russon, 2009).

Socrates went a notch higher to prove that religion is a cultural belief that differs from one individual to the other. In fact, Meletus produced an affidavit proving that Socrates believed in some form of supernatural being. He further believed that gods and their children are the only forms of supernatural beings that must be respected in society. The dialogue between Socrates and Meletus was very poor because the reasoning of the two was meagre (Tanner, 2010). Socrates was not interested in establishing the basis of Meletus’ reasoning, but instead he simply dismissed his views as ignorant and dishonest. Socrates seemed to bully Meletus because of his intelligence in matters related to law. He pushed Meletus to answer questions that demanded time within a short period. At times, Socrates took up questions and answered them in a way that did not support his defence. Socrates ensured that Meletus’ evidence was rendered useless. This would prove that Meletus did not have enough skills to prosecute Socrates. Socrates was unwilling to compromise further because the old accusers had accused him of interfering with societal order (Gray, 1998). In this piece of writing, Plato accused Meletus of contributing to Socrates’ death yet he was a virtuous person.

Validity of the Accusations

Socrates was one of the philosophers who sacrificed his life for the sake of justice in society because. All the charges raised against him were untrue, but he accepted to die to prove that he was a real advocate of justice. Meletus accused him falsely of inciting the youths against the owners of the means of production. Plato was one of his students and a friend. Socrates was a pious individual who advised the youths to keep off from unnecessary activities, such as engaging in bribery and political hooliganism. He wondered whether the issue of piety was even of any significance to the gods (Mcpherran, 1999). Socrates raised some of the questions that were of concern to many individuals, but no one was willing to listen to him. On the one hand, he noted that there are always gods, which love piety while on the other hand he observed that there is piety that is loved by gods. The question is whether piety influences the gods to be pious or the gods love piety simply because it is pious. In the first case, the gods love the piety because of certain unknown reasons. The reasoning of Socrates on this issue was that the gods might decide to love something without giving a reason because they are holy (Plato, & Jowett, 2011). Socrates implied in the second question that the gods are also objective or rational.

In the theological world, the reasoning of Socrates is very important because something godly is good while something ungodly is automatically bad. Something good is believed to originate from God meaning that the nature of piousness leads to the recognition of a monotheistic God, which is translated to mean Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in the modern society. In this regard, God is omnipresent and makes arbitrary decisions. This issue has generated a number of controversies in the theological world. Islam is one of the religions believing that God is omnipotent and can decide to love something without any solid reason. Therefore, the accusations raised against Socrates because he suggested that gods are pious were unacceptable. In the second question, Socrates suggested that the gods love piety because piety is moral. This means that the gods are also objective because they give a reason for loving something (Calder, 2002). In this case, Socrates meant that piety is good because it is moral. This implies that the gods give a reason for loving something, as seen in the Jewish religion.

In the political arena, the issue of whether the leader is always correct has always raised controversies. Leaders make decisions, which are sometimes unfavourable to the populace. In this regard, it is believed that gods choose leaders hence their decisions should not be questioned. To this extent, Socrates decided to die because leaders wanted him to die. Socrates accepted to die because leaders decided that he had committed a crime by siding with the youths. Socrates never incited any youth to rebel against the government because he always did the right thing. He simply taught the youths the things that would help them in life, such as morality. People should not rely on democracy, but instead they should focus on achieving justice. For anything that a leader does, he or she should consider whether justice would be achieved at the end.

In the social life, those in authority should not do things just because they are in a position to shape public opinion, but instead they should be objective in whatever they do in order to achieve justice. Democracy is the worst form of governance because it amounts to the tyranny of the multitude. Democratically elected leaders are not good leaders because they do not aim at achieving justice. They aim at fulfilling the interests of the majority who elected them. The majority are not always right because they are not the best in society. The best leaders should be chosen based on a certain criteria, such as the education system. This was something that sent Socrates to jail because the owners of the means of production never wanted to hear something that would jeopardize their position in society.

References

Calder, W. M. (2002). The unknown Socrates: Translations, with introductions and notes, of four important documents in the late antique reception of Socrates the Athenian. Wauconda, Ill: Bolchazy Carducci Publishers.

Fagan, P., & Russon, J. E. (2009). Re-examining Socrates in the Apology. Evanston, Ill: North-western University Press.

Gray, V. (1998). The framing of Socrates: the literary interpretation of Xenophon’s Memorabilia. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner.

Mcpherran, M. L. (1999). The religion of Socrates. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press.

Plato, & Jowett, B. (2011). Apology. Auckland: Floating Press.

Plato, (2002). Five Dialogues: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Meno, Phaedo. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 2002.

Scott, G. A. (2000). Plato’s Socrates as educator. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Tanner, S. (2010). In praise of Plato’s poetic imagination. Lanham: Lexington Books.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Why Meletus Raised Charges Against Socrates?" May 21, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/why-meletus-raised-charges-against-socrates/.

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