Peter Jones

Hiding Your Arts

The Art of Plato

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Plato’s Apology of Socrates, the speech Plato put in Socrates’s mouth when he was on trial for his life in 399 BC, begins with Socrates professing ignorance (as usual) about the right way to make a defence speech (apologia means ‘defence’ in ancient Greek). He begins:

‘I don’t know what you felt, gentlemen of the jury, as you listened to the prosecution speech, but I must tell you I was completely bowled over. So persuasive! Mind you, not a word of it was true. Of the many false charges, one in particular surprised me: that you must be on your guard when you listen to me, in case, master orator that I am, I pull the wool over your eyes. This is a disgraceful assertion, gentlemen, since I am, in fact, a hopeless orator unless by ‘master orator’, of course, they mean an orator who tells the truth…’ 

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