The best way to die: Wisdom, boasting and strength of spirit in Xenophon's apology

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Abstract

Xenophon's Apology of Socrates before the Jurors is a modest work, aiming at explaining Socrates' seemingly foolish behavior in court. But the explanation Xenophon offers has only made things worse for critics. In Xenophon's portrait, Socrates seems to use the court cynically for the purpose of arranging a suicide, and he does this by engaging in an offensive form of boasting. Numerous attempts have been made to ameliorate these faults, but all of them involve distorting Xenophon's portrait of Socrates and importing foreign concepts. Xenophon's Socrates is not a martyr for the sake of a philosophical mission, nor does he expound a new philosophical conception of justice in his speech in court. His deathwish cannot be argued away, and his outrageous boasting must be acknowledged for what it is. But while Socrates' behavior may seem as offensive to his critics as it was to his judges, from Xenophon's point of view it was a supreme display of wisdom and strength of spirit, qualities that are at the center of his theory of the good life. The seemingly outrageous boasts that Socrates offers are not only an effective means to a good end, they are also the transparent expression of a heart filled with justified pride in a lifetime of virtuous achievement.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationClassica et Mediaevalia
PublisherMuseum Tusculanum Press
Pages155-189
Number of pages35
ISBN (Print)9788763543958
StatePublished - 2014

Publication series

NameClassica et Mediaevalia
Volume65

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy
  • History
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Classics
  • Linguistics and Language

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