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Socrates’ Response to the Divine in Plato’s Apology

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image of Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek Political Thought

Several recent interpretations of Plato’s Apology of Socrates portray Socrates as on a divine mission. Socrates, following his friend Chaerephon’s encounter with the Delphic oracle, would be obeying a divine command by living the examined life. This is odd because, as we know from the text, the oracle does not specifically tell Socrates what to do or how to do it. This paper argues that Socrates’ pursuit of the examined life is his reasoned and personal response to the oracle, which he accepts as divine but which does not provide him with any specific commands. Socrates is portrayed as providing a reasoned, not religiously inspired, response to the divine. As as result, there is no reason to doubt the compatibility of Socrates in the Apology with Socrates in the other dialogues, as some scholars have argued.


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