Summary of the Last Days of Socrates by Plato

by Andrew Button

"The Last Days of Socrates" is a collection of dialogues in which the author describes the trial and execution of Socrates. These dialogues were never actually arranged into a series by Plato. Rather, they were put together in that way by later editors, who saw commonalities between the four works. "The Last Days of Socrates" consists of "Euthyphro," "Apology," "Crito" and "Phaedo."

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Euthyphro

"Euthyphro" is set in ancient Greece in the days leading up to Socrates' trial. In this dialogue, Socrates and Euthyphro debate the definition of the term "piety." In this work, the title character is in the process of charging his father with manslaughter. Socrates finds it surprising that someone would bring charges against his own father, but observes that he must be pious to bring charges against someone he loves. Socrates finds the subject of piety interesting because he himself is being charged with impiety. Over the course of the dialogue, Socrates and Euthyphro debate the meaning of the term, arriving at no solid conclusion.

Apology

"Apology" describes Socrates' defense against the charges that have been brought against him. Socrates stands accused of charging money to teach rhetoric, disrespecting the gods and corrupting the youth. Socrates defends himself under cross-examination by Meletus by saying that he is too poor to be a sophist (a teacher of rhetoric), that his accusers are the ones who corrupt the youth, and that he has never said anything negative about the gods. After he is sentenced to death, he admonishes orators who rely on emotions instead of logic.

Crito

"Crito" is set in Socrates' prison cell, just days before his execution. In this dialogue, Socrates and his wealthy friend Crito debate the definition of the term "justice." Crito advises Socrates to escape from prison so that he may continue his philosophy. Socrates refuses to do so. Crito claims that justice is selflessness and that a just person does the courageous thing for the betterment of his family and community. Socrates responds that injustice is never a good response to prior injustice and that he must take the sentence he has been given.

Phaedo

In "Phaedo," Socrates discusses the nature of the afterlife with a student. In this dialogue, Socrates offers four arguments supporting the idea that the soul is immortal. First, there is the claim that the soul is made up of basic forms, which are unchanging and eternal. Second, the fact that we are born with certain innate knowledge proves that the knowledge is eternal. Third, people generally agree the soul is different from the body. Fourth, the soul is by definition living and thus cannot die in any meaningful way. At the end of the dialogue, Socrates is executed by poison hemlock.

About the Author

Based in St. John's, Canada, Andrew Button has been writing since 2008, covering politics, business and finance. He has contributed to newspapers and online magazines, including "The Evening Telegram" and cbc.ca. Button is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Memorial University in St. John's.

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