26: The Death Speech of Socrates - Excerpt from The Apology + Analysis (RELEASED)

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In Western philosophy, we have yet to move beyond the life and death of Socrates. Though his time has long since passed, we would be remiss to think there’s nothing to be gained, or to be remembered, by returning to accounts of this legendary figure. Socrates, the gadfly of Athens. A man, held in such high esteem that he is revered even to this day, despite writing nothing down to be recorded for posterity, and otherwise lacking in the accouterments of worldly and material success. Not a conqueror of lands and peoples, but of minds, and maybe even souls. Despite the persistence of his spirit, he was put to death by the city he sought to serve, mocked and derided, in his own time, by men and women less noble than himself. In my recent conversation with Michael Millerman, on the political philosopher Leo Strauss, we talked of the irresolvable tension between the philosopher and the city, between knowledge and custom, between truth and piety. Strauss, too, believed in returning to the Great Works, to begin anew our confrontation with the most fundamental questions. Questions surrounding the interplay among these forces are eternal and remain relevant for philosophers and in all places and all times. If the aim of this show is to move beyond mere entertainment or a frivolous notion of education, then in seeking a way forward for political theory, we ought to individually revisit these old questions, the forms in which answers of various kinds were bequeathed to us, and gradually begin to live out our presuppositions in practice. Philosophy, after all, is most fundamentally about doing, not just thinking. So here, presented for you now, is an excerpt of Socrates’ parting words upon receiving the sentence of death from his Athenian jurors, followed by a brief analysis of this particular segment of Plato’s Apology, which I wrote for a senior seminar on the 4 Trials. The cited translation is from 4 Texts on Socrates by Thomas G. and Grace Starry West.

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