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APOLOGY OF SOCRATES.
I HAVE already observed, in the general Introduction of this translation of Plato, that the reader is not to conclude, because certain works are placed in an appendix, that by this I mean to deny or to call in question with regard to all of them, that they are writings of Plato. My only reason for assigning such a place to the following work which has been at all times loved and admired for the spirit that breathes through it, and the image it presents of calm moral dignity and beauty, was, in the first instance, that it contents itself with its peculiar object, and makes no pretensions to the title of a scientific work. It is true, that the Euthyphron likewise has unquestionably an apologetic reference to the charge brought against Socrates; but, on the other hand, its connection with the notions started in the Protagoras, clearly entitled it to be subjoined to that dialogue. But the
Apology is so purely an occasional piece, that it can find no place in the series of its author's philosophical productions. Yet there is certainly one sense, in which, let not the reader be startled, one might perhaps say that it is not a work of Plato's. I mean that it can scarcely be a work of his thoughts, a thing which he invented and fabricated. For if we attribute to Plato the intention of defending Socrates, we must first of all distinguish the times at which he might have done it, either during his process, or subsequently, no matter how soon or how late, to his execution. Now in the latter case, Plato could only have proposed to vindicate the principles and sentiments of his friend and master. But this vindication he, who was so fond of combining several ends in one work, might easily have coupled with his scientific views: and accordingly we not only find detached intimations of this kind scattered over his later writings, but we shall soon be introduced to an important work, one which cannot be denied to be closely enough interwoven with his scientific speculations, in which a collateral object, but one made distinctly prominent, is to place the conduct and virtue of Socrates as an Athenian citizen in a clear light. Now this is intelligible enough: but Plato could scarcely have found any inducement at a later period to compose a work which merely confronts Socrates with his actual accusers. It must have been then during the process that he
wrote this speech. But for what purpose? It is manifest that he could have rendered his master no worse service, than if, before he had defended himself in court, he had published a defence under his name, just as if to help the prosecutors to the arguments which it would be their business to parry or to elude, and to place the defendant in the difficult situation of being reduced either to repeat much that had been said before, or to say something less forcible. Hence the more excellent and the better suited to the character of Socrates the defence might be, the more harm it would have done to him. But this is a supposition which will scarcely be maintained.
After the decision of the cause, there were two purposes which Plato might have had, either that of making the course of the proceedings more generally known at the time, and of framing a memorial of them for posterity, or that of setting the different parties and their mode of proceeding in a proper light. Now if we inquire about the only rational means to the latter of these ends : all will agree that the speech should have been put into the mouth, not of Socrates, but of some other person defending him. For the advocate might have brought forward many things, which the character of Socrates rendered improper for him to urge, and might have shown by the work that, if the defendant's cause had only been pleaded by a person who had no need to disdain
resources which many men of honour did not think beneath them, it would have had a very different issue. Now if there were any foundation for an anecdote, not indeed a very probable one, which Diogenes Laertius has preserved from an insignificant writer, Plato's most natural course would have been, to publish the speech which he would himself have made on the same occasion if he had not been hindered.* He would then have had an opportunity of exemplifying those great precepts and expedients of rhetoric, the force of which he had himself first disclosed; and undoubtedly he might have applied them with great truth and art to the charges concerning the new deities and the corruption of youth. And so it would have been far better for him to have used any other person's name for the
of retorting on the accusers of Socrates, and to have spoken of his merits in a different tone. Whereas in a speech put into the mouth of Socrates himself, yet different from that which he really delivered, he can have had no other object than to show what Socrates voluntarily neglected or involuntarily let slip, and how his defence should have been framed so as to produce a better effect.
*“See Diog. Laert. II. 41. where it is related that Plato was prepared to defend Socrates; but in the first sentence of his speech was interrupted by the petulance of the jurors, and compelled to descend from the bema. But this anecdote is too little attested and too improbable in itself to build upon.”