Dear ATCA Colleagues
[Please note that the views presented by individual contributors
are not necessarily representative of the views of ATCA, which is neutral.
ATCA conducts collective Socratic dialogue on global opportunities and
Origin of Socratic Dialogue -- Dialogos -- in Ancient
In the tradition of The Great Spiritual Masters and Philosophers, Socrates,
is regarded as one of the finest. Some regard Socrates as the greatest
ever philosopher in history. His death reveals how difficult it is to
fight "vested interests" which no philosopher has ever been
able to fight effectively on a single handed basis.
We feel that we can achieve the Socratic mission by engaging a much wider
influential global community which is within the so called "vested
interest" side of the global economic equation. This was the principal
driver behind establishing ATCA in October 2001, Open
ATCA on IntentBlog in August 2006, and The
Holistic Quantum Relativity Group in April 2007. We are lucky to be
living in an age of transparency with the information revolution and mass
communication which can be a highly effective tool to reach out to the
wisdom-seeking peoples across nations.
ATCA marked its five years of existence on 8th October 2006, by reminding
ourselves what Socratic Dialogue really means through the thought provoking
story of Socrates in His final days. The version below is compiled from
various sources including Plato's narrative. The accusations, the trial,
the three apology speeches and final condemnation to death in 399 BC are
worth noting, especially in the 21st Century as we need to appreciate
the method of Socratic Dialogue once again. Let us hope and pray, we don't
go the same way!
Socrates -- Accusations, Trial, Apology and Condemnation to Death (399
A friend, in consulting the Oracle at Delphi, asked was any man wiser
than Socrates? The Oracle replied that there were not! Upon being told
of this answer Socrates maintained that this implied that he, alone, had
this claim to wisdom -- that he fully recognised his own ignorance!
From that time he sought out people who had a reputation
for wisdom and, in every case, was able to reveal that their reputations
were not justified. Socrates regarded this behaviour as a service to Divinity
and decided that he should continue to make efforts to improve people
by persuading and reminding them of their own ignorance.
What we now call the "Socratic method" of philosophical
inquiry involved questioning people on the positions they asserted and
working them through further questions into seemingly inevitable contradictions,
thus proving to them that their original assertion had fatal inconsistencies.
Socrates refers to this "Socratic method" as elenchus. The Socratic
method gave rise to dialectic, the idea that truth needs to be approached
by modifying one's position through questionings and exposures to contrary
Contrary to popular understanding, Socrates did not seek
to involve himself in the political life of Athens in ancient Greece as
he felt that there would inevitably be compromises of principle that he
was not prepared to make. As a prominent citizen he was called upon to
fulfil minor political roles where his sense of principle had caused him
to place himself in some personal danger by holding out alone against
the unconstitutional condemnation of certain generals. He later refused
to participate in the arrest of an innocent man that had been ordered
by a corrupt body of "Thirty Tyrants" who ruled Athens in the
wake of her defeat by Sparta. This refusal might have cost Socrates his
life but for the overthrow of the Thirty Tyrants and a restoration of
This restored democracy was however markedly traditionalist
and reactionary in its religious views -- this led it to see Socrates,
as a teacher of novel ideas of morality and justice, with some disfavour.
Socrates had also alienated many powerful men by acting as a relentlessly
questioning Gadfly causing them to face their personal ignorance or own
to shortfalls in office.
In 399 BC Socrates was accused of "impiety" and
of "neglect of the Gods whom the city worships and the practise of
religious novelties" and of the "corruption of the young".
The trial, last days, and death of Socrates are successively narrated
in several works by Plato. These works are The Apology (ie Defence Speech),
Euthyphro, Crito and Phaedo.
The Apology consists of three speeches made by Socrates at his trial before
a jury of five hundred or so Athenians who had gathered to hear him answer
the charges. He had not prepared any defence but, being sure in his own
mind that he was innocent, was hoping that his words of truth would secure
an acquittal. He at this time was more than seventy years of age and he
asked the jury to make allowances if he spoke in the sort of language
he might use in discussions in the market-place as he was unfamiliar with
law courts and the stylised language used in formal trials.
Apology -- The First Speech
Socrates told the jury that he thought that he had two sets of accusers,
old and new, and that the old accusers he feared more so and wished to
present a defence against them first of all.
Socrates saw these old accusers as being influenced by prejudiced opinions
that he had indulged in natural philosophy physical speculations or took
money as a teacher.
Those who indulged in physical speculations were routinely assumed to
recognise no Divine Plan. In earlier days a play by Aristophanes had featured
a character named Socrates who seemed to be such a person but Socrates
called on those assembled at his trial to produce evidence that he, the
real Socrates, had ever taught along those lines.
In response to the idea that he took money as a teacher Socrates insisted
that the life he led had brought him utter poverty rather than monetary
reward. He lived that life in response to what the Pythian prophetess
at Delphi had told his friend Chaerephon:- that no one was wiser than
Socrates suggested that he had made many abiding enemies by personally
approaching people who had reputations for wisdom only to reveal through
questionings that their wisdom was specious. Others had been alienated
by young persons who had witnessed Socrates' methods of questioning similarly
revealing yet other people's pretensions to wisdom to be baseless.
Socrates made the case that his questions had tended to vindicate the
utterance of the Oracle at Delphi by showing that he, Socrates, did indeed
have a particular claim to Wisdom in that he at least fully recognised
his own ignorance.
Socrates then addressed his new accusers in the form of Meletus the prosecutor.
These new accusers accused Socrates of Impiety, of neglecting the Gods
approved by the state, and, of introducing new divinities.
Meletus, who was obliged to answer Socrates' questions delivered before
the jury eventually committed himself to a straight assertion that Socrates
was a complete atheist. Socrates then showed the fatal contradiction in
Meletus accusation -- how does someone whom the prosecution holds to be
a complete atheist come to be accused of introducing new divinities or
Having exposed the contradictions in the "new accusations" Socrates
again mentioned that he feared his old accusers -- those who had their
pretensions exposed in the past -- more so than the new.
As the trial continued Socrates insisted that he had lived his life the
way he had in response to "Divine Intervention" calling him
to fulfil a philosophic mission. Even were he faced with death as an alternative,
(death might for all he could know or deduce be a great release into good),
Socrates insisted that he would not give any undertaking to cease from
moral teachings designed to encourage people to pay great attention to
the "improvement of the soul". Socrates went so far as to suggest
that if the Athenians sentenced him to death that it would be a sin against
God. God had made him into a sort of Gadfly that was intended to stir
the Athenian state into moral improvement. Socrates response to this call
from God was to live a life of an unpaid teacher and he was in a state
of utter poverty through neglect of private affairs.
Socrates maintained that he has long lived with an inner "oracle
or sign" that occasionally forbade him from following certain actions
and reminded the jury of the real danger that he put himself at the time
of the unconstitutional trial of the generals and again when he refused
to obey the Thirty Tyrants over the arrest of an innocent man. Socrates'
great concern was not to avoid danger that might arise by alienating the
powerful but rather to avoid committing any unrighteous or unholy act.
Socrates then spoke of his followers stating that they enjoyed hearing
his cross-questioning of those with pretensions to wisdom and that Meletus
was making no effort to call any of them as witnesses for the prosecution.
As to his family Socrates said that whilst it is far from unknown for
accused persons to bring their tearful families to the attention of the
court as an argument for leniency he, Socrates, could only regard such
behaviours as being discreditable. Socrates hopes that his arguments alone
will convince the court of his innocence and will not resort to such devices.
In the event the five hundred or so strong jury before which Socrates
was standing trial found him guilty by a narrow majority of sixty. Meletus
moved that the sentence should be death, in reply Socrates had the right
to propose a sentence that the court might select as an alternative.
Apology -- The Second Speech; The last days of Socrates
Although now an officially guilty man Socrates, true to his own estimation
of his past actions, suggested that he has actually done great good to
the state and that he deserved reward rather than punishment!
The trial jury was asked to entertain the idea that he, Socrates, should
be maintained at public expense, such as was awarded to famous Olympian
charioteers, so that he would have leisure to impart beneficial instruction.
Socrates then backtracked a little from this suggestion, reminded the
court that no one actually knew if death was a disaster or a release,
and said that he was reluctant to suggest a real penalty in preference
to death which might be a blessing. He had no money to pay any fine, he
did not feel he deserved imprisonment, exile would bring great uncertainties
for a man who even in a foreign city was bound to continue to instruct
towards the "improvement of the soul".
Socrates openly suggested that he could himself pay a small fine of one
Mina but that his friends were prepared to pay, on his behalf, a fine
of thirty Minae.
In the event the trial jury thought that Socrates proposed alternative
- the fine of thirty Minae - was significantly too lenient and voted for
the sentence of death rather than the fine being imposed and voted that
way by an increased majority.
Apology -- The Third Speech
Socrates asked those who had voted in favour of his being guilty to bear
in mind that, even though he did not consider himself to be wise, the
rivals of Athens would say that the Athenians had ordered the death of
a wise man who lived among them. He also reminded those who had condemned
him that although he was not to be around much longer as a Gadfly other,
younger, and possibly less considerate, people might well fulfil the same
role in the future.
To those who had voted in favour of his being declared innocent Socrates
gave assurances that he was not afraid of death, his sure guide - the
inner Oracle or sign, - had not made its presence felt in ways that would
have led him to believe he was on a wrong path.
Whether death led to a state of utter unconsciousness or else to a transmigration
of the soul Socrates foresaw something that would be not completely unwelcome.
To go into an eternity of a single, quiet, night or else to have the opportunity
as a transmigrated soul to converse with, and to question, the heroes
Amongst his closing remarks Socrates asked his friends there present to
visit punishments and troubles on his three sons if they seemed to care
more about riches than about virtue, or if they seemed to be pretentious.
Socrates' closing words in this third speech of Plato's Apology were,
"The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways - I to die,
and you to live. Which is better God only knows."
In most circumstances Socrates would have been obliged to submit to execution
by drinking the deadly poison Hemlock within twenty four hours of his
sentence. It happened however that executions were traditionally suspended
whilst a certain sacred ship made an annual voyage to the Island of Delos.
This ship was presently on the seas and this allowed a certain stay of
Plato continues his narrative of the last days of Socrates by presenting
him in the days immediately following the trial in his "The Euthyphro."
We look forward to your further thoughts, observations and views. Thank
For and on behalf of DK Matai, Chairman, Asymmetric Threats Contingency