Socrates was a Greek philosopher who founded the fundamental principles of western philosophy. He is best known for influencing the greatest minds of the ancient world, and engaging in long philosophical discussions on education, religion, politics, and ethics. Despite being one of the most knowledgeable men in the western world there are no records or text s that Socrates wrote himself. Our knowledge of his teachings comes directly from his disciples . Plato, o ne of Socrates's most successful pupils, recorded his teachings and the important conversations he had with people in the book The Trial and Death of Socrates . This text contains four dialogues: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, and Phaedo. T he four dialogues are set in different periods of Socrates life, from the beginnings of his trial in Athens to the day of his execution .
The first dialogue, Euthyphro, is about a conversation that Socrates has with a man named Euthy p hro at the court of Athens. Socrates has been called to the court because a man named Meletus charged him with corrupting the youth of Athens. Euthyphro is at the court because he plans to charge his own father as a murderer. After finding out why Euthyphro is at the court, Socrates praises him because he must be a greatly devoted person if he's willing to charge his own father with murder. Euthyphro agrees with Socrates that he has a great knowledge of religio n. Both men then debate on the essence of piety and justice. During the debate, Socrates keeps questioning Euthyphro's idea of piety and forms strong arguments that refute his assertions. After Socrates proves Euthyphro wrong he leaves and becomes confused on what piety is. The purpose of this debate was to highlight the inconsi stencies of the statements made by Euthyphro. Euthyphro's knowledge derives from teachings that are widely accepted in Greek society, but Socrates proves that each of Eut hyphro's answer is contradictory and flawed . Unlike Euthyphro, Socrates is not afraid of examining information. He believes that beliefs and knowledge should be justified instead of being repeated. Socrates was trying to show Euthyphro th at he should think for himself and not blindly state what he was taught because it will lead him to a life full of ignorance.
The second dialogue, Apology , takes place inside the Athenian court house. Socrates is there to defend himself from the accusations of corrupting the youth made by Meletus. Socrates is not actually apologizing in this part of the text, but instead justifying his actions. He starts his argument by referring to the prophecy that was given by the oracle at Delphi, which states that Socrates is the wisest of all men. At first Socrates believes this prophecy is false and immediately tries to refute it by finding someone who is wiser than him. After surveying the intelligence of everyone in the room he concludes that he is the wisest man there because he does not pretend to know what he does not know and is aware that his knowledge is limited. After this Socrates explains why the court should not charge him with corrupting the youth, and asserts that he will not stop teaching his philosophy to others if he is convicted because he did not force his teachings on anyone . His main argument to justify his actions is , "The life which is unexamined is no t worth living" (TDS, pg. 37-38. By saying this Socrates argues that people who unconsciously accept the ways of society are not living life to its full potential. He believes that life is not worth living if you try to live in a completely oblivious manner. Even though Socrates defends himself with logical arguments the Athenian court charges him with the crime and sentences him to death.
Crito is the shortest dialogue in The Trial and Death of Socrates. The dialogue is a conversation between Socrate s and his wealthy friend Crito and takes place in a prison cell. After the trial, Crito visits Socrates in prison to persuade him to escape. He wants Socrates to take advantage of the immense support from his followers and break out of prison. Crito tells Socrates