Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Meno and Phaedo

How Socrates' Understanding of a Universal Order Undermines His Logic

In the Apology, Socrates tries to convince the jurors that, if they kill him, they will only be harming themselves. This argument is part of Socrates’ larger defense of his actions as he seeks to avoid drinking the hemlock. Socrates makes two claims: (1) that the jurors cannot harm him, and (2) that by executing him, they will only be harming themselves. To strengthen his position Socrates relies on an idea of the universe as having an inherently rational order. This idea is at the foundation of many of the premises in his argument. Socrates requires us to accept his perspective of the universe if we are to validate his logic. Unless we take issue with his pre-conditions, there is no flaw in the logic of his argument. Thus while his argument is valid, it is not sound; the premises upon which Socrates builds his argument are faulty.


Socrates’ first claim -- that the men of the jury cannot harm him – rests on the premise that a better man cannot be harmed by a worse one. It does not seem plausible to Socrates that the order of things would allow for evil to triumph over good; it would not be “permitted that a better man be harmed by a worse,” (Plato, Apology, 30d, p.35). Though this argument takes place in the Apology, the...

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