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Socrates’ Defense

I’ve just finished reading the first of Plato’s dialogues in the collected works edition that I mentioned yesterday. I must say, “Very interesting.” I didn’t realize just how interesting it would be. Maybe the “dry philosophical parts” come in later. I’ve run into a couple of issues I could use some help on, so if you have any thoughts, I crave your commentations.

First, a Summary

This dialogue deals with the trial of Socrates. He’s been accused by the Athenians of being an atheist and of corrupting the Athenian youth. The dialogue doesn’t begin with the case against him, but with his defense. He lays out the reasons, both past and present, why these charges have been brought against him, and gives reasons why they are not based on truth. At one point he questions his main accuser, Meletus. He goes on to argue that far from doing harm to Athens, he has actually been of invaluable service to its citizens by prodding them towards truth and goodness. I love the following quotations (sorry they are kind of long):

… Are you not ashamed that you give your attention to acquiring as much money as possible, and similarly with reputation and honor, and give no attention or thought to truth and understanding and the perfection of your soul?
     And if any of you disputes this and professes to care about these things, I shall not at once let him go or leave him. No, I shall question him and examine him and test him; and if it appears that in spite of his profession he has made no real progress toward goodness, I shall reprove him for neglecting what is of supreme importance, and giving his attention to trivialities. I shall do this to everyone that I meet, young or old, foreigner or fellow citizen, but especially to you, my fellow citizens, inasmuch as you are closer to me in kinship. This, I do assure you, is what my God commands, and it is my belief that no greater good has ever befallen you in this city than my service to my God. For I spend all my time going about trying to persuade you, young and old, to make your first and chief concern not for your bodies nor for your possessions, but for the highest welfare of your souls, proclaiming as I go, Wealth does not bring goodness, but goodness brings wealth and every other blessing, both to the individual and to the state.

And this gem:

… For this reason, gentlemen, so far from pleading on my own behalf, as might be supposed, I am really pleading on yours, to save you from misusing the gift of God by condemning me. If you put me to death, you will not easily find anyone to take my place. It is literally true, even if it sounds rather comical, that God has specially appointed me to this city, as though it were a large thoroughbred horse which because of its great size is inclined to be lazy and needs the stimulation of some stinging fly. It seems to me that God has attached me to this city to perform the office of such a fly, and all day long I never cease to settle here, there, and everywhere, rousing, persuading, reproving every one of you. You will not easily find another like me, gentlemen, and if you take my advice you will spare my life. I suspect, however, that before long you will awake from your drowsing, and in your annoyance you will […] finish me off with a single slap, and then you will go on sleeping till the end of your days, unless God in his care for you sends someone to take my place.

However, the jury finds him guilty. In the sentencing phase, he is given the opportunity to suggest his own sentence. His response: “Well, what is appropriate for a poor man who is a public benefactor and who requires leisure for giving you moral encouragement? Nothing could be more appropriate for such a person than free maintenance at the state’s expense.” (You’ve got to love his boldness.) The jury has different ideas, however, and sentences him to death. But Socrates goes on to state how he does not fear death and it will actually be a great benefit to him, at worst like a dreamless sleep and at best like a conversation with all of the great heroes of the past.

Now, the Questions

First, since I don’t know classical Greek, I’m entirely dependent upon the translator for what he’s given me here. This one is Hugh Tredennick in 1954. (Incidentally, he’s given some great words like “effrontery”). Anyway, what I’m mostly wondering is how to take Socrates’ use of the term “God.” I don’t think the Greeks were monotheists, so I’m a bit confused by this. At other points in the dialogue, he even seems to acknowledge other deities. What was Socrates’ view of God? Is the translator smuggling in the majuscule title of God from Christianity? Or is that something that is there in Socrates.

The second question somewhat pertains to this as well. I quoted several sections above because I thought they really captured some great thoughts. The first is about not placing wealth above a pursuit for truth. (That is certainly a message needed in modern America.) The second is about prodding our neighbors from their sleep. I can see some distinctly Christian applications for both of these statements. But to what extent am I taking these out of context to make Christian applications from them? Is that something that is okay to do? Or is it just as wrong as when people take the Bible out of context? I guess I could use some pointers on how to appropriate non-Christian writers to make Christian points.

Comments about these questions, or the quotations, or anything else are very welcome.


So I finally did it. I bought Plato’s collected works. I realized yesterday that I’ve been reading about Plato for some time—mostly summaries and introductions in larger books—but I’ve never actually read Plato. So, I tried at the public library yesterday to find some of his dialogues, but their entire philosophy section consisted of two (small) introductory summary-style books. I was very disappointed. So when I got the Borders 40% off coupon in my email this morning, it seemed obvious what I needed to do.


Well, today I’ve reached my Mosesian half-life.1

That’s probably exaggerating a bit. Modern medical technology is making the average life span ever longer. But on the other hand, we are never guaranteed another day or even minute.

It’s strange to think about all the same. By one measure, my life is half over. Aren’t I supposed to be having a crisis now? I said this to a friend the other day and his reply was, “You are. You quit your job and came back to school.” If that’s so, well, it’s kind of tame, isn’t it. No Harley or leather jacket or tattoo or anything. Oh well. Such is me.

There are many regrets, of course. How could there not be when I sin like I do? But I’m not dwelling on them. Mostly today I’ve been thinking about the Lord’s kindness and mercy to me despite all of those things. I’ve been praying for the coming years: that God would help me shake off the burdens and redeem the years I’ve lost and make me fruitful as his follower (to the praise of His glory).

The following song really sums up how I feel right now. It both looks forward to the end and aims for what might be accomplished in the interim. It’s very others-focused. [listen]

The Invisible Choir by Kris Delmhorst

lyrics adapted from: George Eliot, “The Choir Invisible

Oh may I join that invisible choir
I want to join that invisible choir
Made of those sweet immortal voices
That lift our hearts up higher

I want to live after I die
I want to live after I die
I want to make a bit of beauty
And leave a little light behind

Or be the balm to someone’s sadness, the song for someone’s gladness,
A cup of strength to someone in their fight
Or maybe sweeten an existence, inspire a persistence,
Or breathe the breath that makes the spark of love burn bright

Oh may I reach the heaven most high
I want to reach that heaven most high
And be a little star a shining
In someone’s darkest night



1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.
2 Before the mountains were brought forth,
    or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

3 You return man to dust
    and say, “Return, O children of man!”
4 For a thousand years in your sight
    are but as yesterday when it is past,
    or as a watch in the night.

5 You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,
    like grass that is renewed in the morning:
6 in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
    in the evening it fades and withers.

7 For we are brought to an end by your anger;
    by your wrath we are dismayed.
8 You have set our iniquities before you,
    our secret sins in the light of your presence.

9 For all our days pass away under your wrath;
    we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
10 The years of our life are seventy,
    or even by reason of strength eighty;
    yet their span is but toil and trouble;
    they are soon gone, and we fly away.
11 Who considers the power of your anger,
    and your wrath according to the fear of you?

12 So teach us to number our days
    that we may get a heart of wisdom.
13 Return, O Lord! How long?
    Have pity on your servants!
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
    that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
    and for as many years as we have seen evil.
16 Let your work be shown to your servants,
    and your glorious power to their children.
17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
    and establish the work of our hands upon us;
    yes, establish the work of our hands!
(English Standard Version)

Photos: Finishing Up

After the view of the falls, the overnight trail crosses Fall Creek over a wooden bridge. It’s cool looking down with the rushing water only feet below. A little disorienting. Rhododendrons grow along the banks and overhang the water. Here’s a picture looking straight down:
Looking Down

Afterwards, it’s another half mile or so to get back to the Nature Center. Just prior to that there’s another view of Cane Creek Falls from the opposite side of the basin. Here’s a small waterfall I could barely see before, Rockhouse Falls (125′):
Rockhouse Falls

And here’s a view of Cane Creek Falls again:
Cane Creek Falls

After that, another suspension bridge across Cane Creek, another mile of walking, and I was back at the van for the trip home. It’s always good to be going home after a trip to the woods. It makes you remember the comforts of home with a little more appreciation after being without them, even if it’s only for a night or two. So in honor of going home:

Aerial ViewYou can see an aerial view of the sites of the pictures on Flickr by clicking on the map link beneath each picture.

See all my pictures from this trip.

Photos: Fall Creek Falls

Well, I finally got there: the namesake of the park: Fall Creek Falls. The water was going much better then the first time I was there.

The trail from Piney Creek Falls was just as dull as the one that led to it and suffered from the same downed trees and general blahness. The overnight trail borders a road for a while and then crosses it twice before reaching a view of the falls that is off to the right of the main parking area. To see it from the main observation point I had to leave to trail to the left. All the pictures below are from that observation point. There is a trail that leads from this observation point down to the base of the falls. I was too tired at that moment to follow it on this trip. But, I hope you enjoy the pictures I did get…

A wide-angle view of the falls:
Fall Creek Falls

A little more narrow view:
Fall Creek Falls

Some detail shots:
Fall Creek Falls - Detail

Fall Creek Falls - Detail

Fall Creek Falls - Detail

See all my pictures from this trip.

Photos: Cane Creek to Piney Creek Falls

The ascent from Cane Creek was not quite as steep as the descent to the creek. That was good. My cardio health is not all that great, so the uphill sections are always more challenging. The path wound around and through and over entire fields of large boulders. Many of them had been moved and positioned into a kind of rough staircase. Thankfully, the way throughout was really well marked so I didn’t get lost.

The trees in this area, for the most part, didn’t have leaves yet. But the grey of the bark and limbs set off some other amazing colors:
Fallen Trees

This picture gives some vague idea of what the trail was like:
Boulder Path

After scrambling to the top of the bluff I walked through more of the type of forest I’d seen on the first day. This section was somewhat dull, to be honest. There were many downed trees that had fallen across the path. And the sound of water vanished as I moved away from Cane Creek.

It wandered back and forth — southwest, east, west, southeast — until I eventually arrived at another suspension bridge. This one was longer than the first and spanned across the gorge with Piney Creek at the bottom. The sound of the water was really great. Here’s a picture from before I got on the bridge:
Suspension Bridge

From the middle looking up Piney Creek:
From The Middle

Looking back the way I’d come:
Suspension Bridge

Around the corner from the bridge the sound of the water rushing trebled. It really got loud. And I kept getting glimpses of Piney Creek Falls through small gaps in the trees. So my expectations were really high. But when I got to the overlooks of the falls, both were really kind of blocked by trees. It was a bit disappointing to be honest. Here is the clearest view that I could find:
Piney Creek Falls

I spent a great deal of time here trying to find a better view. Unfortunately I never did. I wished there was a trail to the base. There probably was and I missed it.

See all my pictures from this trip.