To die for the search for wisdom was Socrates’ noblest cause. Every loathing by the people of Athens was the result of Socrates’ constant nagging about the pretentious behavior of people with regards to wisdom. During the final hour of his life, he explains why he does so. His last breath gave us enlightenment about wisdom, death, and most importantly, ourselves.
The excerpt entitled The Defense of Socrates from Plato’s Apology explains the former’s inquisitive yet utterly frank nature and the reason why he was condemned to death. But in directness, he says he has wisdom that any men can attain and that which was proclaimed of highest in rank by the God of Delphi. This god made him confused enough to disprove this assertion by searching for the wiser man. Socrates, knowing his own capability or the awareness of what he does not know, has met pretentious people claiming to be wise. Men ranging from politicians and poets, in their mastery of their affairs and the art, to artisans in the fineness of their products were tested. None stood out. In the process however, he accumulated enough hatred that resulted to his trial. This loathing trickled from his obsessive questioning to people about their wisdom. Socrates would find flaws in their statements, therefore their ignorance, and interpret it as their feigned wisdom over his feigned ignorance.
He would have been given freedom had he accepted to forbid himself of further inquiry and speculation to people through his manner in exposing the ignorance of others. Socrates, however, remained obeying God and stood by his practice and teaching of philosophy, to exhaust a man in all his excuses of ignoring wisdom and soul and prioritizing the less important. He stood by this notion, accepted to be called a mischievous person for his teachings, and declared not to change his ways even if death comes so repeatedly.
In talking about death and punishment, he disagrees that prosecution condemns a man with injury. He pronounced that no evil can harm a good man for which he would continue discussing right after he compared himself to the gadfly, his poverty as sufficient witness to the truth in his words, his knowledge yet avoidance of politics, and devotion. For who wouldn’t want a state of the mind where the mind itself is undisturbed, or where there is a change and transfer to another world? This was a gain for Socrates; in dying were tranquility and a chance of renewal after what would seem like a single night.
In his final moments Socrates asked but one favor: to mold his sons the way he was. He would want them to grow and care not about riches but knowing the unknown. Both he and his prosecutors would be contented in this wish, the later deeming this as justice and the former a continued search for wisdom. Socrates left the world leaving us to wonder that which only God knows, if living is worthier than death.
In my part, I am amazed on Socrates' demeanor. His behavior, known as the Socratic irony, would strike me down fast if he would meet me and start to interrogate. As a human being, I tend to reflect deep down and think about things like my reason to exist, on why there is a need of empathy and to express feelings myself. In this nature I am aware that I am far from becoming wise. Yet sometimes my pride and the greed for power or at least a reputation in the community as an intellectual with a superior mind have pulled me away from pure wisdom seeking.
By reading Socrates’ defense, I remembered the idea of the ivory tower, where a writer sits atop. He pretends to have a wide array of knowledge as he has a full view of the world from this tall building. But in reality, he merely knows the surface of a very deep twisting, interconnected tunnels of information. I might claim that I may have already gone down such a tower and mingled with people, but I can never say I learned everything. For if a person like Socrates would ask me, I would eventually end up mute, unable to explain more for then I had reached the capacity of my wisdom.
Just as relevant is the bravery in Socrates. It was not just any bravery, and was even far from being foolish. He chose to speak up his mind and stood by his principles. He was never dissuaded by punishments and even appreciated the death offer. In his devotion he was engulfed in poverty. Still, he never faltered.
As I end this writing, I am overwhelmed with a mixture of sadness, regret, and astonishment. Out of laziness, I am once again saddened by the fact that it is quite a struggle to keep moving forward in life and experience new things. I am panged with guilt for all the times I had wasted and invested on the less important. And yet I am a little bit shocked of myself, having reached this far. If indeed our souls leave our rotting body and be given rebirth, then one cycle of life is just another attempt to garner wisdom.