Socrates was dedicated to the pursuit of genuine knowledge, the pursuit of truth. This might explain his enthusiasm to call everything into question as well as his fortitude in accepting nothing less than a sufficient account of the nature of things.
Socrates, though well known in his time—for conversational skill and public education—wrote nothing. This means that any detailed knowledge of his theories and methods stemmed directly from the mouth of someone else—namely Plato.
The trouble with this is that Plato himself was also a philosopher and he injected his own ideas into the dialogues that he presented as discussions between Socrates and other famous figures. It is commonly thought that Socrates was accurately represented in the early dialogues of Plato and later was used more of a means of communicating the Plato’s thoughts.
Socrates In “The Apology”
In the Apology, Plato paints a portrait of Socrates being put on trial—charged with the undermining of state religion as well as the corruption of Greek youth. The speech that Socrates gives is a very good representation Socrates’ approach to philosophy as well as his approach to life.
The Apology shows the ironic modesty, questioning habits, devotion to truth and dispassionate reasoning that is commonly associated with the thinking of Socrates—instead of the thinking of Plato which is reflected in the later dialogues.
Socrates begins his speech by explaining his mission as a philosopher and explaining that, “no one is wiser than you” (Plato 451). He then goes on to explain thathe has a wisdom that none of them seem to possess—he is aware of his own ignorance—thus his principle of ironic modesty (Plato 447-453).
He moves to his questioning habits—the goal of Socratic interrogation is to help people as well as fuel people to achieve self-knowledge, even if the results are negative. The speech goes on to reveal Socrates’ devotion to truth—even after the Jury has convicted him he will not abandon his pursuit of knowledge and truth—this is shown in his denial of accepting exile as a punishment.
Socrates maintains that public discussion of major issues is needed for a life to be valuable. “The unexamined life is not worth living” (Plato 456). He would rather die for what he believes in than save his own life.
The final part of the Apology embodies Socrates’ sense of dispassionate reason. He is refined and dignified in speaking his final words after he had been condemned to death. Socrates is offered as a model for the future of philosophy as well as the pursuit of truth. The views and opinions expressed in this dialogue closely resemble Socrates’ thinking and not Plato’s.