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In Plato’s Apology of Socrates we see a philosopher in collision with his society – a society he nonetheless claims to have benefited through his philosophic activity. It has often been asked why democratic Athens condemned a philosopher of Socrates' character to death. This anthology examines the contribution made by Plato’s Apology of Socrates to our understanding of the character of Socrates as well as of the conception of philosophy Plato attributes to him. The 11 chapters offer complementary readings of the Apology, which through their different approaches demonstrate the richness of this Platonic work as well as the various layers that can be discerned in its presentation of Socrates.
While the contributions display variety in both topics and angles, they also share common features: An awareness of the importance of the literary aspects of Plato’s courtroom drama, as well as a readiness to take into consideration the historical context of the work. Thereby they provide contributions to a manifold understanding of the aims and impact of the work, without losing sight of the philosophical questions that are raised by Socrates’ confrontational and unrepentant defense speech. Allowing the character of Socrates to take center stage, the chapters of this volume examine the philosopher in relation to ethics, and to politics and democracy, as well as to the ideology, religion, and virtue shared by the Athenians.
Readers will also find reflections on classical Platonic subjects such as the nature of Socratic philosophical inquiry and of philosophy itself, as well as on the notoriously ambiguous relationships between philosophy, sophistry and rhetoric, and their several relationships to truth and justice. The anthology emphasizes and explores the equivocal and sometimes problematic aspects of Socrates as Plato presents him in the Apology, illuminating why the Athenians let the verdict fall as they did, while drawing out problematic features of Athenian society and its reaction to Socrates’ philosophic activity, thereby encouraging reflection on the role philosophy can play in our modern societies.