Short Writing Assignment #1

Short Writing Assignment #1

Topic A:

Suppose Meletus overheard the discussion in the Crito and went to Plato’s Socrates saying “In your discussion with Crito you indicated you were able to propose and defend substantive theses–you claimed to know whether escape would be just, that it is never right to return a wrong for a wrong, and you claimed to know what sort of life is worth living.  In making such claims you show you do not really believe that human wisdom amounts to little.  That is, you lied during the trial when you professed ignorance.  It seems to me your sentence is just!”

     How would you respond to this charge?  Is Plato’s Socrates inconsistent?  Can Plato’s Socrates both claim to be ignorant and to know?

     An alternative way of raising the same question would be to address the notion of “Socratic Ignorance”–to write a paper which answers the question “Is it really true that Plato, Socrates, and other people are on the “same level” in terms of their knowledge?”  Here you would refer to (at least) the Apology and the Crito and would explain what Plato’s Socrates does, and does not, know.  You would also clarify and explain any (apparent) contradictions between his claims in these works.

Topic B:

In his Apology Plato’s Socrates clearly indicates he would continue to philosophize even if the court ordered him not to–clearly he does not believe one must obey the laws of the state.  In his Crito, however, he accepts a death sentence and refuses to escape from an unjust conviction–he chooses to obey the state’s laws.  It seems there is an inconsistency or contradiction here–either one has to obey the laws or one doesn’t!  Which is Plato’s real view?  If Plato’s Socrates is willing to disobey a bad law which says “Don’t philosophize,” why won’t he disobey the state when it comes to life and death?

Topic C:

In the Apology, Plato’s Socrates says:

to do this [pursue his dialectical activities] has, as I say, been enjoined upon me by the god, by means of oracles and dreams, and in every other way that a divine manifestation has ever ordered a man to do anything.  This is true, gentleman, and can easily be established.1 [33c]

In the Crito, on the other hand, he says:

we must therefore examine whether we should act in this way or not [that is escape], as not only now but at all times I am the kind of man who listens only to the argument that on reflection seems best to me.2 [46b]

There seems to be a fundamental inconsistency here however.  Either he follows the dictates of the god(s), or he follows the dictates of reason.  Which view truly represents Plato’s “true view,” and how is the other contention to be explained?

Topic D:

Suppose you encountered someone who maintained:

much of what Socrates went through at the end of his life could have been easily avoided if he had only taken his own advice and lived a private life (Apology, 32a).  He would not have offended the rich and powerful, he would not have been put on trial, and he would not have had to reason with Crito about the appropriateness of escaping.

How would you reply?  Would “being private” in this sense mean giving up anything that he holds to be important?  If so, clarify what would have to be forsaken, and why you think he would not be willing to do so.

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