Socrates’ Critique of Democracy and His Innocence
Explain whether they constitute a critique of democracy and whether they give support to Socrates’ innocence regarding the charges brought against him.
Effectively, Socrates is making an argument against democracy but he does draw an important distinction between the means that is the democracy and the end that are the Laws. The democracy, as Socrates points out, is a system where both the opinions of the knowledgeable and the ignorant hold the same value so the verdict of a jury made of these opinions aren’t indicative of what is good and just and, rather, are often irrational and random (Crito, 48a-b). By using such a jury, who possess imperfect knowledge about the craft they seek to practice (justice), democracy harms itself just as an ill man who seeks the advice of those who aren’t doctors harms his body. Furthermore, the jury, as we know, is made up of landed, idle aristocrats who are very much attached to particulars and so, according to Socrates, would make terrible seekers of truth (Phaedo, 68c) and because of this, they aren’t qualified to judge others because they themselves aren’t able to judge what is true and what is just. This would help explain the charges against Socrates as Socrates plainly shows that the charges brought to trial by Meletus, Anytus, and Lycon were contradictory to the nature of his work as a philosopher because they weren’t grounded by reason and his activities weren’t prohibited by law; rather, his accusers had a problem with his questioning of their authority and made up charges that they could prosecute him for (Apology, 23d). At the same time, Socrates also defends democracy for the laws that it creates because it was the democratic rule of the city that allowed him to defend himself in front of a jury. So, rather than criticising the whole of democracy itself, he is just criticizing the willful fallibility of the people participating in the system who, in the end, sentences him to death.