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Plato’s Portrayal Of Socrates Essay

2450 words - 10 pages

Plato’s Portrayal of Socrates

The portrayal of Socrates by his student Plato creates one of the most controversial characters of all time. There are few other personalities in history that have drawn criticism and praise from the furthest ends of each spectrum. Socrates has been called the inventor of reason and logic, and at the same time has been condemned as a corruptor and a flake. Perhaps he was all of these. Despite this disagreement, one is a certainty: Socrates had a very interesting and active sense of humor.

In order to successfully demonstrate Socrates’ sense of humor, it is necessary to define a few terms. To begin, we must define “comedy” as it was looked upon in the ...view middle of the document...

In Socrates’ context, sense of humor is an appreciation and utilization of a specific type of comedy, intellectual comedy in this case

Driving on to Plato’s portrayal of Socrates, we can declare and easily show that Socrates’ sense of humor is that of intellectual humor. In the Apology, Socrates uses his humor mostly to shock the court and the judges, as shown above, but also to help insult his accusers by using very clever wordplays. When the direct conversation between Socrates and Meletus begins, Socrates accuses that, “[Meletus] jests in a serious matter, easily bringing human beings to trial, pretending to be serious and concerned about things for which he never cared at all.” (Apology, 24c). The Greek word that “care” was translated from is meletē. In fact, “Socrates puns on Meletus’ name by arguing that ‘Mr. Care doesn’t really care.’”5

In Plato’s Euthyphro, however, Socrates’ humor changes slightly. Still intellectual, it changes only in that he uses it for very personal enjoyment rather than something as public as the stage of the Athenian court. Euthyphro is the story of a meeting on the street between Socrates and his friend Euthyphro. Their exchange begins as each of them speak about their respective legal dealings, Socrates being prosecuted for impiety and corrupting the youth, and Euthyphro prosecuting his own father for murder. Euthyphro’s extraordinary circumstances interest Socrates and, as expected, he begins to ask questions dealing with the definitions of certain concepts, specifically, piety, impiety, and the concept of dear-to-the-gods or loved by the gods. The culmination of this leads Socrates to run the conversation in a circle. “Don’t you perceive that our argument has gone around and come back to the same place?” (Plato, Euthyphro, 15b-c). The humor in this is masked by the fact that it is aggravating for the Euthyphro, who is the butt of the joke, and that Socrates does not laugh out loud but simply on the inside is entertained and satisfied by proving that Euthyphro’s ridiculous reasoning, was actually ridiculous.

An interesting tangent here is the relationship that comedy has with the interactions between men and gods. Socrates’ relationship to the gods is unique. Part of his conviction, corrupting the youth, stemmed from the original accusation that he does not believe in the Athenian gods and teaches this to youths, thereby corrupting them. Socrates’ discussion of this leads to the very interesting concept of daimonia6, the “daimonic beings” which Meletus accuses Socrates of believing in and teaching about, instead of the Athenian gods. Socrates uses this fact to argue back in a circle and contradict Meletus as expected; however, this is not the interesting part. What should be noted is that there is some non-worldly influence guiding Socrates. He has always claimed that his original motivation to question people came from the Oracle of Delphi, which said, “that no one was...

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