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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Philosophical Questions That Are Still Relevant Today
As Socrates abstained from recording his philosophies, we must thank Plato for having the insight to preserve Socratic thoughts for posterity. As a student of Socrates, it seems that Plato, through his own writings, attempts to preserve the memory of his well respected teacher.
In The Last Days of Socrates, Plato begins with Euthyphro and we see the Socratic method...
Published on January 23, 2003 by Matthew P. Arsenault

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3.0 out of 5 stars Non Fiction
Socrates runs afoul of the authorities and others, and expounds upon the situation that he finds himself at the time, and in the process, you see something of the political and legal system at work in the process, and what some of his followers thought about the whole thing.

Really quite readable.
Published on September 2, 2007 by Blue Tyson


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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Philosophical Questions That Are Still Relevant Today, January 23, 2003
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As Socrates abstained from recording his philosophies, we must thank Plato for having the insight to preserve Socratic thoughts for posterity. As a student of Socrates, it seems that Plato, through his own writings, attempts to preserve the memory of his well respected teacher.
In The Last Days of Socrates, Plato begins with Euthyphro and we see the Socratic method in action. Socrates and Euthyphro discuss the nature of piety, and through a serious of thought provoking questions, Socrates argues for what he feels is the proper relationship between Man and God.
Next, Plato discusses the trial of Socrates by the Athenian aristocracy. Again, we see Socrates using his rhetorical skills in illustrating the hypocrisy and prejudice pervading throughout the Athenian government. Socrates discusses what role a good citizen should play in government. He announces his being a "gadfly" on the hide of the establishment, and we also find Socrates exposing his own intelligence by claiming that he, in fact, knows very little. The Apology is by far my personal favorite section of the book.
After Socrates conviction, we find him discussing the morality of obeying or breaking laws in Crito. He meets with one of his close friends and the two discuss Socrates' options in regard to his death sentence. Here we see Socrates espouse the belief that it is acceptable to break an unjust law, however, one must also accept the consequences for breaking said law in order to preserve the stability of society.
The Last Days of Socrates tackles many complex issues which are as relevant today as they were when first committed to paper in the 4th century B.C. This should be standard reading for any introductory course in political theory, and a must have for anyone interested in philosophy or ethics.
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49 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Masterpiece of Plato, May 6, 1998
By 
I wondered that why there isn't any church putting Jacque Louis-David's painting the Death of Socrates on the wall. If you hear the story of Socrates' sarcrifice, you would understand why this old man is worth of the worship from millions. Imagine you are in the situation of Socrates. Assume that you are a patriotic citizen of a country. For all the years of your life, you try to make your fellow citizen smart and do them goods by spending all your time making speeches on the streets, defending justice and teaching the students without any charges. Assume that you have annoyed the ruling class of this country and they prosecute you on the court for corrupting the youths of your country-they could not prove that though. Assume your fellow citizen vote and put you to death on the court for you are too poor to pay a satisfactory fine and reject to proclaiming justice in exchange for your release. Assume that your best friend asks you to escape from jail since it is unjust for you to accept this unreasonable condemnation, and he guarantees that all the financial problems would be taken care of and your friends who help you escape would not be suffered, so that you can live in the countries that you prefer and raise your children by yourselves. Is anybody there would refuse to escape? However, Socrates does. He launches three arugements. 1. We should never injury others on any circumstances. Escape from jail and breaks the laws is certainly an act that would put the Laws of Athens on the blink of destruction. 2. You should respect your country's command as if you respect your parents. Since a person's birth, his country provides the protections, regulates the supply of food and enriches him with education. Thus, a person shouls respect his country like or more than he respects his parents. 3. There is a contract between the government and the people. If a person does not like the Laws of a country, he can choose to leave it. If he chooses to stay, that means he signs the contract with government of not ! breaking the laws. If he does not break the laws, the government can't do anything on him. If he does, the government reserves the rights to punish him or even execute him.
This book comprises the last part of Socrates' life: Euthyphro, the cause of his accusation, The Apology ,his cross-interrogation at the court, Crito, his refusal to escape from jail, and Phaedo, his Sarcrifice. There are the most important chapters in Plato. The weight of Socrates' sarcrifice is like the cruxifiction of Christ; if he does not die, he is not the Messiah. So, if you don't have too much time to read the Complete Works of Plato, this book undoubtedly would be the best choice for you to understand Plato.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of those desert isle books, December 2, 2001
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C. Sellers "oncogenic" (belton, tx United States) - See all my reviews
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I will not presume to analyze this, and leave that to the experts deep into the facets of philosophy. I will say that this book is excellently written by Plato, using many technically interesting devices, conversations, soliloquys and conversations inside conversations each one expertly serving its purpose. In this thin tome you can find the roots of the scientific method, modern philosophy, method of inquiry, arguements of law, political thought, fundamentals of christian thought and belief, basis of thought that will guide the inquiry into the nature of the universe itself, from physical position of the planets in the heavens to the theory of relativity. It is impossible to estimate the importance of this work on the history of human thought. Plato succeeds expertly in providing Socrates scorn of the shifting state of human reasons, his Socratic method, his personal life, his public life and his rare and enduring example of bravery. A truly amazing book, that really requires studying over simply reading.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE INDIVIDUAL AGAINST THE STATE, December 29, 2007
By 
Cheri Montagu "Writer" (San Francisco Bay Area, CA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Last Days of Socrates (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
THE DEATH OF SOCRATES is a very inspiring book to read, especially now, when many of us may be facing the same situation he faced--though with a crucial difference. Whatever distortion of the real Socrates may have been introduced by Plato or other writers, enough comes through to paint a portrait of the first true individual in history-- the first person to be guided by his own individual conscience to do what is right, regardless of the consequences. Reading the Apology, one thrills to Socrates intransigence in the face of the Athenian jury which sentenced him to death. CRITO presents the best argument for government under law ever offered, and thus the beginning of the tradition of civil disobedience later taken up by Thoreau, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. When Socrates' friend Crito urges him to flee, saying that most people will think he was really guilty if he does not, Socrates says, "Why should we pay so much attention to what most people think?" Then he engages in a symbolic dialogue with the Law of Athens, which can be thought of as comparable to the US Constitution. It is clear that he is grateful to the Laws for having given him the opportunity to be a dissenter. The crucial fact is that they have permitted him the right to attempt to persuade his fellow citizens by permitting him free speech. Even when he was arrested for his teachings, he was allowed to speak in his own defense. Although the verdict was unjust, he was a victim not of the Laws but of his fellow men. (p. 95)

However, the tradition of civil disobedience which Socrates founded is only meaningful in a democracy, where people have the right to dissent and to have a fair and public trial. And it is rapidly becoming obsolete. For on October 17, 2006, President Bush signed into law the Military Commissions Act, initiating the gravest crisis in US history, not excepting the Civil War, Pearl Harbor, and 9/11 itself. Congress has had over a year to repeal or amend that act but has failed to do so. Now it is up for review by the Supreme Court. If that body, now nearly half-filled with "rubber stamp" justices, fails to strike down the law as unconstitutional we shall have to resort to a very different tradition than that of Socrates, one which has its roots in medieval England, and was transformed in the 17th century into John Locke's social contract theory. Jefferson expressed it in the immortal words of the Declaration of Independence: speaking of the American colonists, he wrote, "But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them to absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government and provide new guards for their future security." Faced with the prospect of living in a society which would have made his dissenting individualism impossible, I'm sure Socrates would have agreed.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent work..., February 20, 2003
By 
J. Edgar (ohio United States) - See all my reviews
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All I have to say is... amazing. Socrates was an incredible philosopher and Plato was an incredible writer... together they make an unbeatable combination.
This is an excellent book for both people who are already familiar with Socrates and for those who would like to become familiar with Socrates.
Socrates sets down principles for life that, in a perfect world, everyone would follow... always questioning your actions and your ideas, trying to get to the root of knowledge and eliminating inconsistencies and contradictions in your logic, dedicating yourself to knowledge and truth rather than pursuing selfish things like money and flesh. This is a book that can help you in many areas of your life and I highly recommend it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Free soup for Socrates!, July 20, 2009
This review is from: The Last Days of Socrates (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
The life and legacy of Socrates can be interpreted in many different ways, and have been so interpreted. While that is frustrating, it could be argued that it's also inevitable. The words and deeds of great men have different effects on different people. Most scholars base their accounts of Socrates on Plato's dialogues, especially the four dialogues included in this volume: "Euthyphro", "Apology", "Crito" and "Phaedo". They deal with Socrates' trial, execution and death. And no, they don't answer the eternal questions. Rather, they raise more questions than they answer. But then, that's the point!

What makes Socrates so important? The reason, of course, is his philosophy. The whole point of philosophy is to reject tradition and revelation as automatic sources of knowledge, to be taken simply on faith. Instead, human reason is paramount. True, philosophy doesn't *necessarily* reject tradition and revelation, but it does say that such sources of knowledge should be scrutinized by reason. In this sense, philosophy is subversive and radical. At least in a society gone terribly wrong... I mean, who would need philosophy if society had been perfect?

Socrates wasn't the first philosopher, nor even necessarily the "best" one. The reason why his name has been associated with the philosophical endeavour is, of course, the story of his life and above all his death. Socrates became the first known martyr of philosophy, placing his conscience and convictions above politic. Socrates showed how dangerous philosophy can be, by questioning both the oligarchic regime of the Thirty Tyrants in Athens, and the later democracy. He was the perennial dissident, the man who questioned everyone and everything. Ironically, it was the democrats who had him railroaded and executed. A warning for the future?

I don't think Socrates was necessarily a "radical" in the modern sense of that term. He seems to have mingled in high society, and some of his friends and disciples had connections with the oligarchic regime. Neither his disciple Plato nor Plato's pupil Aristotle were democrats, not even by Greek standards. Socrates didn't seem to believe that society could be changed, and therefore tended to avoid politics, except when he was duty bound as a citizen to perform political tasks (he also fought as a soldier). In some ways, Socrates actually resembled a guru. His teachings were oral, he had a circle of admirers and disciples, and he may have imparted somewhat different teachings to each of them. There are also hints at a fundamentally religious worldview, as when Socrates says that a little god or daemon were giving him advice, when he talks of reincarnation and Heaven in "Phaedo", or when he takes seriously the oracular statements of the priestess at Delphi.

Yet, by his bold questioning of established politics, ethics and religion, Socrates nevertheless showed the radical potential of philosophy and rational discourse. On a more somber note, the trial and execution of Socrates also shows that some people, even in a democracy, simply can't stand the truth.

Free soup for Socrates? Still today, many people, rulers and commoners alike, would consider that proposal to be very provocative indeed.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A decent anthology., December 3, 2004
By 
Jon Torodash (New York, NY USA) - See all my reviews
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This is the kind of text used in those bread & butter Western civ. or survey philosophy courses. The translation is fine, but not particularly critical, literal, interpretive, or anything you can associate with a particular goal on translating. It's just the text. Maybe we could call it "pragmatic."

The notes are very nicely done, comfortably introducing the reader to a lot of important background concerning ancient Greek philosophy and the culture(s) which spawned it. I think this is a fine book for becoming acquainted with Plato and generating interest for further study.

What really to say about the content that other reviewers haven't already mentioned? The four books take us from outside the courthouse all the way through a post mortem wrap-up between the interlocutors. Justice, integrity, immortality of the soul, the afterlife... All of philosophy is just footnotes to this guy, after all.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Collection of Immortal Works, April 20, 2010
By 
This magnificent compilation has four Plato writings: "Euthyphro," "Apology," "Crito," and "Phaedo." Though apparently early works and not as complex or philosophically influential as later ones, they are immensely important in portraying Socrates' trial and death. They are our clearest picture of the historical Socrates and would be invaluable for this alone. Indeed, I have read hundreds - perhaps thousands - of books, and this is one of my ten or so favorites, mostly because of how moving the depiction of the great man's last days is. The story of Socrates' Apology and last moments is part of world literature's very fabric, an immortal part of Western cultural heritage. Anyone who wants to learn about Socrates should start here. However, the works have great value even aside from this; a few have indeed questioned their historical veracity. This does not affect their philosophical, literary, and political worth, which is of the highest, making the book doubly essential.

"Euthyphro" is the least important work philosophically and probably not meant as historical, but it is still worthwhile. It examines the important "What is piety?" question and, like many Platonic dialogues, does not have anything like a definite conclusion. Some find this aspect frustrating, and it is certainly beguiling, but those who have experience with it come to love it. Like Socrates, Plato is after all too intelligent to give hard and fast answers; in all likelihood, he knows there are not any. What he does is far more important - lead us to think for ourselves and come to our own conclusions if we can. "Euthyphro" is a good, if relatively minor, example. It also introduces what philosophers call the Euthyphro Problem; here it is "Are good things good because they are loved by the gods, or are they loved by the gods because they are good?," but it has been restated in innumerable forms. This is in some ways an unrepresentative dialogue and thus an unfortunate one to begin the book, because it seems to prove the stereotype that philosophy obsesses over inane, probably unanswerable questions of no practical use. The Euthyphro Problem seems truly asinine as given - or, in our post-postmodern world, simply irrelevant. However, we can begin to see its importance when we replace "good" and "loved by the gods" with whatever seems most pressing. Such is after all the kind of thing Plato wanted; we are not supposed to read in narrow literal terms but use him as a starting point for our path to wisdom. This is an instructive example of how Plato has been immensely influential far beyond his apparent significance.

"Apology" is Plato's least philosophical and most unrepresentative work but arguably his most important and is among many readers' favorites, including mine. The book's title is misleading in that this is prose rather than dialogue; it purports to be Socrates' self-defense at his trial. It is historically priceless if so, as it gives his last public statements and some background about his life and the lead up to the trial. Even if not, it is of immense worth as a passionate, sound defense of individualism and free speech; its timeless evocation of these all-important concepts is forever associated with Socrates and the main reason he has been immortalized. The work also piercingly examines the often vast law/conscience gap and is thus an early higher law document. Finally, it is a sort of mini-dialogue in itself touching on and in several ways tying up classic Socrates/Plato themes like the nature of piety and goodness, responsibility toward the gods and the state, interpersonal relations, and life vs. death issues. It sums up Socrates and perhaps Plato better than any other work.

"Crito" is a possibly partly historical account of the title character visiting Socrates in jail to inform him that he is able to escape via bribe; Socrates famously says that he accepts his sentence and argues down contrary pleas. This gives incredible potential insight into Socrates, in many ways telling us more about his character and thought than a full biography ever could. Again, though, it transcends this philosophically and otherwise and is particularly relevant politically. It also examines the law/conscience gap and gives further background on Socrates but is notable above all as a very early example of the social contract theory of government. This is an astonishing example of how advanced Plato was, as the theory is generally considered to have been founded by Thomas Hobbes nearly a millennium later. Even more amazingly, it is put forth more clearly and persuasively here than perhaps anywhere else, making the dialogue essential for anyone interested in political theory.

"Phaedo" ostensibly details Socrates' last moments, including his last look at his wife and child, his last dialogue, his last words to friends, and his actual death. A large part of Socrates' image comes from this, and its potential historical value is inconceivable, though its historicity can easily be doubted since the work itself strongly suggests that Plato was not there. Even so, it is likely accurate in regard to the things that really matter and certainly a fine account of how it very well could have been. It is extremely moving; shot through with pathos, it is one of the most affecting things I have ever read. One can surely not read it without being overcome by emotion; I can hardly even think of it without misty eyes. Anyone who respects and admires this central Western civilization figure will be profoundly touched; his famous last words seem comic out of context but are very much otherwise here, telling us much about Socrates and moving us yet further. This would be one of the greatest works of all-time if it had no other aspect, but it is also a fine dialogue appropriately dealing mostly with death. Plato examines perennial questions like the soul's immortality and metempsychosis very thoroughly and thought-provokingly, and the conclusion - unsurprisingly, given the circumstances - has uncharacteristic certainty. It may not convince our cynical, empiricist, science-loving, twentieth century-surviving age, but the argument is certainly well-made and in many ways admirable. The dialogue touches on other important subjects also and is generally seen as the culmination of Plato's early, Socrates-centered thought.

It is important to realize that these four works were not originally published together, but the trial and death connection means they are often collected. There are many such editions, but unlike some, this has supplemental material and extra value in that many versions lack "Euthyphro."

The ever-important translation issue must also be kept in mind. It goes without saying that anyone who cares about intellectual issues, especially applied ones, must know Plato, as should anyone who wants to be even basically well-read. However, this is far easier said than done for most; he is so different from what now passes for literature, to say nothing of pop culture, that he is virtually inaccessible to general readers. Yet the importance of persevering cannot be overemphasized; the payoff is well worth the effort. As nearly always in such cases, reading him becomes far easier after the initial difficulty; no attentive reader will ever think Plato easy reading, but he is utterly absorbing once we get used to his style. He has a near-poetic beauty that all agree has never even been remotely approached in philosophy, and such mesmerizing prose is rare in any genre. His dialogues are an incredible form at once intellectually and aesthetically pleasing - an inspired combination that has perhaps never been bettered; many have appropriated it, but none have matched it. All this means that picking the right translation is probably more important with Plato than any other writer. For the average reader, the more recent, the better is generally true, though older translations like W. H. D. Rouse's and Benjamin Jowett's are still very accessible. The important thing is to read Plato in some form, and those who happen on a translation that does not work for them should keep trying until their mind opens in a truly new way - and once done, it will never close again.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Philosopher at bay, May 1, 2008
By 
Mary E. Sibley (Medina, Ohio, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Last Days of Socrates (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
In Athens, during the fifth century B.C., the Sophists were wise men. They were not philosophers, or scientists, they were itinerant teachers. Socrates was a moralist and a religious man. Plato was forty years younger than Socrates. THE APOLOGY and the CRITO are founded on fact, shaped by Plato's artistry, (he was a poet, also).

Socrates was indicted for impiety. A public action was brought against him as a menace to society. Orators and poets disliked Socrates's influence on the young. He asserted in THE APOLOGY that the true champion of justice must confine himself to private life. Socrates received the death penalty. He did not think he should stoop to servility because he was in danger.

Death is either annihilation or migration of the soul. Crito visited Socrates in prison. Crito urged him to escape. He claimed that Socrates was throwing away his life when he might save it. Socrates argued with Crito that he had no problem with the laws and, thus, he had a duty to be law-biding. Aiding Socrates's escape would be a breach of faith.

PHAEDO is the last conversation. Socrates believed a man should be cheerful in the face of death. A love of wisdom, not the body, makes a person cheerful. Soul resembles the divine, body resembles what is mortal. No soul which has not practiced philosophy may attain the divine nature. Pythagoreans have a theory of the soul. The soul is imperishable. Friends were admonished by Socrates to just be themselves. The philosopher faced death handily.

Amazing and wonderful, the three titles are a compelling work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How is one to rate..., February 19, 2008
This review is from: The Last Days of Socrates (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
...a 2400 year old work of philosophy? The question, itself, is not without philosophic interest.

Rather than presume to judge Plato, or Socrates, or Plato-as-Socrates, I will simply add my own voice to the chorus of general opinion and say: TLDoS is as resonant and, in its way, relevant, today as it was so many aeons ago. Though hardly a work of unassailable logic it is, nonetheless, a deeply thoughtful, imaginative, and passionately argued one. As I made my way through it, I had to remind myself, from time to time, that what I had before me was a work of ancient literature. Tredennick and Tarrant are to be commended for their eminently readable translation. As I am not a classicist, I cannot speak to the quality of the translation, but if the quality of the endnotes serves as any indication, I would venture to guess that the translation is first-rate.

A very complex Socrates -- as remembered, as imagined, and perhaps also as invented -- emerges from the four dialogues in TSDoS. That this same Socrates still has power to reach across the ages to confound, inspire, frustrate, entertain, and teach is as sure a testament to his legacy, and to the legacy of classical Greek philosophy, as any.

Read and learn.
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The Last Days of Socrates (Penguin Classics)
The Last Days of Socrates (Penguin Classics) by Plato (Paperback - April 29, 2003)
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