Argument Analysis for Socrates' Defense Speech

Contact: Dr. Jan Garrett

Last revised date: September 15, 2004

A sketch of the logic of Socrates' Defense Speech as reproduced in chapter 1 of Manuel Velasquez, Philosophy, 8th edition.


IC=intermediate conclusion

(sometimes intermediate conclusions are left unstated; expressing them explicitly will clarify the reasoning)
A=assumption (unstated, used as premise)

FC=final conclusion

:. = "therefore" or "so" (used to indicate a conclusion)

There are two charges against Socrates:

1) he is impious, which is treated as meaning that he is an atheist;
2) he corrupts the youth.
Socrates wants to disprove both.

Thus, the logic of his refutation of the first charge is roughly thus:

Several premises are buried in the facts about how he got involved in philosophy and how that, in his view, reflects the will of the gods.

(1, P) I took seriously the unclear statement of the [god Apollo's] oracle at
     Delphi concerning my supposed wisdom.
(2, P) I tried to see whether its apparent meaning was true by questioning
     reputedly wise persons.
(3, P) When I found nobody wiser than me, I realized the oracle wanted me
     to discover this, and the gods wished me to expose sham wisdom (of
     reputedly wise persons who are not wise).
(4, P) I understood that they wanted me to get people to examine
     their lives.
(5, P) I acted on their wish.
(6, IC) I have tried to discover the will of the gods and live in accordance
     with it. (Based on 1-5)

(7, A) Anyone who tries to discover the will of the gods and live in
     accordance with it cannot be an atheist.
(8, FC) The charge of atheism is groundless. (based on 6,7)

He undermines the second charge--that he is a corrupter of youth--by proving that he is deliberately engaged in improving people (at least as he understands improving).

This leaves open the possibility that he is corrupting the youth accidentally, but his accusers do not want to reduce the charge to this less serious offense.

Here is where he lays out his vision of philosophy as improver of souls.

(9, P) I think that body and soul (inner self) are distinct;
(10, P) I think that soul is more important to the person than body;
(Velasquez, Philosophy, pp. 26-27, see also p. 29)
(11, P) I think that inquiry about justice and other virtues improves the soul;
(12, P) I think that self-satisfied ignorance about such matters is unhealthy for souls

(13, P) I promote inquiry about justice and other virtues
(14, P) I challenge self-satisfied ignorance about such matters
(15, IC) I am only doing things I believe will improve souls. (9-14)

(16, A) Anyone who only does things he believes will improve souls is not trying to corrupt them.
(17, IC) I am not trying to corrupt people. (15,16)

(18, A) Anyone who is not trying to corrupt is not a deliberate corrupter.
(19, FC) I am not a deliberate corrupter. (17, 18)