Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Meno and Phaedo Character List
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Written by Timothy Sexton
Socrates is the major figure in each of the dialogues, and together they form a series that tells of his trial and subsequent suicide. By this point, Socrates is about 70 years old and considered by some the wisest man in Athens and by others the most dangerous man in Athens. In Euthyphro, Socrates is facing trial on charges of impiety and the subsequent dialogues will follow the course of that legal entanglement and form the basis for much of the debate which takes place.
Euthyphro enjoys the unusual vocation of professional prophet, but his meeting with Socrates outside the Athenian courtroom stems from his being there to deal with his own charges of impiety by prosecuting his own father for murder despite the killing being an accident. The primary differentiation between the two which makes for a successful philosophical debate is that while Socrates is modest about his own wisdom, Euthyphro is very satisfied the state of his own insight.
Meletus is the man who has leveled the accusations against Socrates which bring him to trial. He is one of just three prosecutors, but is famous for being the one that Socrates wins a clear moral victory over despite actually being found guilty and punished to death. The accusations that Meletus makes against the old man—sacrilege and corruption of the young—are proven illogical by Socrates during cross-examination when he uses logic to prove that these accusations are direct conflict with other and therefore cannot both be true.
It has been a month since Socrates was found guilty and sentenced, but the execution was delayed due to the annual voyages of the state ship to Delos. The ship is now scheduled to return meaning Socrates will shortly be executed and so his friend Crito has arrived in an attempt to use logic to convince the philosopher that the wise thing is to escape while he still has the chance. This dialogue is essentially the argument made by Socrates that while man-made laws are by definition subject to charges of not being just, it is incumbent upon each individual to act in a morally just manner by obeying even those laws he considers unjust.
By the dialogue of Phaedo, Socrates has died. As a result, this dialogue is framed as one between Plato’s friend Phaedo and a philosopher named Echecrates. The basic purpose of the character of the philosopher is to ask guiding questions and so that Phaedo can be involved in a dialogue rather than making it into a monologue. Within the dialogue between the two living men, however, is the real meat of the Phaedo dialogue.
The real meat is that which takes place in the cell in which Socrates awaits his execution on the last day of his life. Crito and two students named Cebes and Simmias are already in attendance with Socrates when Phaedo arrives. With input from the visitors, the final argument of Socrates is concerned with the vastness of the universe, the immortality of the soul and the morality of suicide.
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