02/25/2016 Journal

02/18/2016, 11am-12:30pm, Lecture

In lecture today we took our first exam. I believe I did well on this exam.

02/22/2016, 6pm-9:30pm, Apology of Socrates

After reading the Apology of Socrates I realized that Socrates has been portrayed very differently in history books than this speech portrays him. I’ve always thought of Socrates as having great rhetoric and an amazing orator. Although Socrates is able to articulate his point, he in no way uses convincing rhetoric to plead his case. In fact, I don’t even think Socrates is trying to convince his audience of anything. I believe Socrates just wants his story to be told correctly before he dies.

It was very interesting reading Socrates’ Apology because it gave me more insight into the type of person Socrates was and what he really held dear. It was also interesting to me that Socrates is so highly revered in academia. I find this interesting because although Socrates was a truth-seeker, something many people in academia claim to be as well, he did not do much with the truth once he found it. I think in some cases people in academia do this same thing, but by and large this is not true. As I was reading Socrates’ defense, I kept asking myself why is this so important? And I don’t mean why is this so important specifically for this class, but in general. Many students across the world and for millennia have read Socrates’ defense, but why? Why read a court proceeding about an ancient man who claims to not be wise and he was found guilty of corrupting the youth. The fact that so many students are instructed to read Socrates’ defense is rather ironic. I am hoping by the end of this journal entry I will understand the reasoning behind Socrates’ importance and, more specifically, the importance of this particular text.

At the beginning of Socrates’ defense two things become very clear. One, the case is stacked against him. And two, Socrates’ does not understand his audience. The first thing is made clear by Socrates’ opening remarks, in which he comments on the prosecutions statements. From Socrates’ remarks I was able to glean the prosecution’s accusatory statements against Socrates’. It seems that the prosecution has made Socrates into a villainous character and has instructed the jury to not believe a word he says. These statements are clearly effective because it is also clear from the beginning of Socrates’ defense that the audience is not listening to him. In fact, Socrates is unable to quiet the crowd throughout his entire speech which brings me to my next point — Socrates does not understand his audience. Socrates begins his speech discussing how he is going to speak in the “native” tongue without using any flair or ornamented speech. Socrates even brings up how a lot of people in the jury may actually know him personally and will recognize the speech he uses in the court as the speech he uses in the agora or common places. At first, this whole explanation led me to believe that Socrates was trying to appeal to his audience by saying he’s just like them. He was trying to act as if he is an everyday person and not a rich man trying to pull the wool over their eyes. This reminded me of Hillary’s desperate plows to appeal to the youth, many of which she has been mocked for.

But as Socrates continues, I realized that he is just explaining how he will be speaking and that the audience doesn’t want him to speak as if he is in the agora. Shortly after Socrates’ explanation he finds himself pleading with the audience to quiet down. It is clear that Socrates’ words are falling on deaf ears, but he never seems to change his message. He just continues speaking, telling a long, drawn out account of why he is standing before the jury.

Many of the notes I wrote in the margins of my print out of Socrates’ Apology show my clear frustration with Socrates’ defense. I was mostly confused because Socrates was in no way persuasive and his rhetoric was awful. I felt that if Socrates was at trial he should at least be persuasive. Socrates clearly did not feel this way and may have believed that the truth would suffice. I like to believe that Socrates was smarter than and simply did not want to lower himself to his oppressors level in order to live. I believe Socrates felt that his truth-seeking was worth dying for and that his death would prove that seeking truth is more important than persuasion. Unfortunately, courts today are more about persuasion than they are about truth-seeking. So although Socrates is immortal through literature, his message still seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

Although I think Socrates devotion to the truth can be seen as noble, it doesn’t quite make sense. Socrates never makes an explanation as to how his truth-seeking mission can help the world and in fact he only proves that he has left people angry and upset. You could also argue that in his exploration for the truth he created more lies because of the people he angered. I am not saying that Socrates created these lies directly, but he definitely did so indirectly because he chose to prove to people that they were unwise and then gave them no understanding to what the purpose of that knowledge was. I think that because Socrates simply sought out to prove people were not as wise as they thought, he set up a situation in which people were going to get angry. He never used the truth to help people or better the city of Athens, so what was his point.

Socrates reminds me a lot of Agent Fox Mulder from X-Files. Agent Mulder is also dedicated to finding the truth that the government so adamantly wants to hide from its citizens. The problem with Mulder is that there is no clear reason behind his exposing the government. He simply wants to prove to the world that aliens exist and allow people to do what they wish with this information. This idea can be very dangerous and even for Agent Mulder and his partner Agent Scully, knowing the truth is more disastrous than advantageous. In fact, in season two, after seeing an alien first hand, Agent Scully tells Mulder that she believes him but she is scared now because of all the implications this knowledge brings. And what is Scully to do with the knowledge that aliens exist knowing that she has no real control with the aliens? I think in this case the knowledge proves to be more catastrophic and maybe ignorance is bliss.

The Truth Is Out There… but do we really need to know it?

Another real life example of a truth-seeker is Edward Snowden. In a recent interview I saw with Snowden, he stated that when he found the information he was not sure what it all said so he chose to release it to the press and allow them to decide what was important and what wasn’t. Snowden and WikiLeaks creator Julian Assange were both real-life truth-seekers like Socrates.

John Oliver’s interview with Edward Snowden
Julian Assange: creator of WikiLeaks

They simply put the truth out there for the world to see. They had not other motive than allowing citizens to know the truth of what was going on behind the governments closed doors. These releases of truth could have had serious consequences to the US national security, while some of the information seemed strange to even release. Much of the information found on WikiLeaks are things people really don’t care about or may be mundane in substance, but Assange wasn’t trying to uncover a big governmental conspiracy. He was just trying to create more transparency, in order to make it easier for people to seek the truth. In fact, Assange’s site has become a great source for many journalists and has allowed important stories to be told like the story of Bowe Bergdahl being told on Serial.

Serial Podcast Logo.
Bowe Bergdahl, a US Army Vet who was held captive by the Taliban for five years and is now under investigation by the military and could face prison time.

I think this ability to control information and understand what the masses need/should know and what is better kept hidden is part of being an effective leader. But leaders can be wrong in the things that they allow to be hidden and can begin to hide things in order to make themselves look good. I think that’s why we need truth-seekers in the world to uncover truth without caring what it is they are uncovering. It ensures that we receive the truth without bias, but it can great chaos when you don’t have people, like journalists, making use of that information.

02/22/2016, 11am-12:30pm, Lecture

In lecture today we discussed the reading of Socrates’ Apology.

Dr. Sandridge begun the discussion with explaining that Socrates’ “Apology” was more of an explanation than an apology for his actions. This helped explain why Socrates was not very persuasive in his defense and why he did not actually show any remorse for his actions.

We discussed a lot of the content within Socrates’ Defense and some of the context of the trial. I found it interesting that many of my classmates felt that Socrates was a good leader. From reading his defense, I never felt that Socrates was a good leader.

02/24/2016, 3pm-6:30pm, Apology

During this study time I re-read Plato’s Apology. Most of what Socrates said is believable. I think the only things about Socrates that I don’t believe is that the god of Delphi actually spoke to his friend. I think that many people in Athens believed Socrates and believed that people could speak directly with the gods. I also think that Socrates claiming that he never has doubted the gods is false. I think he has questioned the gods before and I think his portrayal in Clouds was more accurate than he would like to admit.