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The Trial of Socrates Paperback – February 1, 1989
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Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Wrong. Stone's initial puzzlement hardens into a damaging case against Socrates. He never defends the Athenians' decision to execute him (because he finds it indefensible), but he produces a case for the prosecution that's hard to answer. If, like me, you'd always vaguely considered Socrates to be a model upholder of free thought, free speech and liberty in general, you're in for a shock. Socrates' contempt for democracy and the democratic process was all but a gauntlet thrown in the Athenians' faces. He claimed at his trial to be a gadfly, a reminder of uncomfortable moral truths which the polis was inclined to forget, but on the occasions when Athens was faced with tough moral decisions, Socrates was nowhere to be seen, and had nothing to say. His favourite disciple, Alcibiades, was a right-wing thug. He never ceased to praise the totalitarian government of Sparta, and to heap contempt on the participatory government of Athens (okay, women and slaves didn't have the vote in Athens, but it would be a couple of thousand years before they got it _anywhere_.Read more ›
I.F. Stone's book demonstrates how Plato's views were those of a disgruntled aristocrat railing against the (relative) democracy of classical Athens who stripped his class of many of its privileges. Some of his associates went beyond railing and actually committed treason in an attempt at restoring the said privileges.
Unfortunately, Stone misses his target, and actually believes Plato when the latter fraudulently ascribed his own opinions to Socrates. Most of Stone's scathing criticism and debunking of Socrates should really be understood as applying to Plato. There is very little we can know about Socrates himself and his views, as he did not write, and any speculations on the man are likely to be fruitless or unsupported by hard evidence.
A much more rigorous (and devastating) critique of Plato is Karl Popper's "The Open Society and its Enemies", but it is certainly less accessible to the layman. For all its flaws, Stone's book is a good read and a first step in reversing centuries of undeserved praise granted to Plato.
I first read Plato's Apology, Crito, and Phaedo (Plato's description of the trial and death of Socrates) in first or second year university. As it is to many young people, it was a moving experience, and one that set the stage for much of my later interest in Greek history and philosophy. The execution of Socrates has usually been treated as a stain on the otherwise monumental achievements of Athens. The contrast between the Athenians' receptiveness to a multiplicity of ideas has always seemed to me, and to many others, to stand in stark contrast to their handling of Socrates. (This seeming contradiction is a useful one, however, since it reminds us that ancient Greek culture, while incomparably influential on Western civilization, was not a uniformly noble affair). Stone questions this seeming contradiction as a journalist would and finds more worldly reasons for the execution, namely that the Athenians believed Socrates to be an active opponent of the democracy, whose teachings directly counseled his pupils (especially Critias and Alcibiades) to commit treason by siding with the Spartans to install an oligarchy in Athens.
Stone's central premise is not new.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a lively and captivating book -- fascinating. The story is very well told. The author is smart and talented.Published 7 months ago by Barklestork
"Socrates, what is the trouble about you? Whence have these prejudices against you arisen?"
This question was asked by an Athenian jury of 500 in his famous... Read more
Most people, even those who care about the history of philosophy, do not know enough about Athens in the time of Socrates to make sense of his trial. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Jordan Bell
This is a wonderful book that every American should read. It gives a more realistic account of a philosopher who has been whitewashed in American literature for centuries. Read morePublished 13 months ago by GeorgeOnWick
It's a classic brilliant book. Everyone should read this book, and more than once. I highly recommend it for your edification and pleasure.Published 21 months ago by Marilyn Bachrack
Another perspective on Socrates. A great book from a great writer. Times may change, however politics do not. A good read.Published on January 31, 2014 by Mark Tosi
Stone answers a host of puzzles about the life and trial of Socrates. His book is well researched and highly insightful.Published on December 11, 2013 by CEC