A Response to Socrates’ Apology

            Socrates’ apology occurs in the context of his trial, according to which he has been accused of corrupting the youth of Athens. Socrates, by encouraging a philosophical method that questions various social normativities that by definition are unquestioned by society, has become a danger to the stability of Athens. Accordingly, his self-defense is a defense of the right to think freely and strive towards a concept of truth.

The intent of Socrates’ defense is to underscore the validity of his questioning presuppositions. Hence, Socrates in the Apology compares himself to a gadfly, pestering the decision-makers of Athens. The gadfly is one who does merely let these decisions/assumptions go unchallenged, but instead attempts to uncover their logic. To the extent that their logic is inconsistent, Socrates, as a philosopher, must reject this entire causal chain.

Simultaneously, Socrates compares himself to a gadfly sent by God. This means that Socrates does not merely strive to undermine authority structures. Instead by suggesting that he is a gadfly sent from God, Socrates implies that his questioning of the State is at once a striving for immutable truth. The reasoning for his questioning of the State emerges when the decisions of politics are inconsistent: logic and rationality are means by which we separate truth from falsehood.

Accordingly, Socrates’ apology defends truth. And truth must be defended because inconsistent falsehoods are everywhere in our social life. If a social organization condemns someone for exposing these inconsistencies, then the social organization is covering up its own inadequacies.