In The Apology, Socrates has to defend himself against several charges. Some of these charges are; corruption of youth, impiety, and that he claims to be a professional teacher. (This despite the fact that the jury believes that he is an unqualified philosopher.) In his defense of the charge that he is a professional teacher, Socrates claims to have human wisdom and that it is this that makes him wise. He explains that Chaerephon, a boyhood friend, went to Delphi and asked the god if anyone was wiser than he was. The reply was no one. In his argument, Socrates reveals why he is the wisest. He states that there are many men that "think that [they] know something that [they] do not know, whereas I am quite conscious of my ignorance At any rate, it seems that I am wiser..I do not think that I know what I do not know"(42). Socrates clearly states that that it is his knowledge of his ignorance that makes him the wisest man alive. The men that he refers to are the sophists that travel from place to place "teaching" for money. These men claim to know many things that they do not. The danger that Socrates is trying to point out is that if these men are thought of as wise, then people will never discover true knowledge. Therefore, Socrates goes on a quest of sorts to see if this oracle is true. Socrates never claims to have the answers that people seek. By openly admitting his ignorance, he takes the first step towards understanding what wisdom and knowledge are. This is the human wisdom that Socrates refers to. Acknowledging that while in the human form, we can never truly see for ourselves absolute goodness, absolute wisdom, and absolute justice, Socrates tries to explain that we are able to cast off our human inequities (practice death) and discover that there are things not of this world that we must strive for to save our soul. It is in this way that we maintain and seek to improve our spiritual integrity.
Socrates recognizes that the things of this world can cause one to go astray in his or her quest for a "clean" soul. The desires and pleasures of the flesh (excess food, drink, and sex) can overtake ones life. If we make success and monetary gain the driving force in our lives while we are here on earth, we will surely miss out on the wisdom that Socrates speaks of. For example, in the book The Death of Ivan Illyich by Leo Tolstoy, we see an example of what happens to a person who lets the pleasures of this world consume their life. Ivan is a successful lawyer that is driven by status and fame. On his deathbed however, he realizes that the things that make life worth living (Joy, love...) were not present in his life because other things distracted him. Ivan's (fictional) life is an example of what Socrates is trying to explain. Since his human form restricts what he can learn in this life, he must separate himself from those things that will distract him, and in doing so, he will maintain his spiritual integrity. When he passes from this world to the next, (he assumes that there will be a next) he will be able learn those things that could not be taught while he was on Earth. That is why his spiritual integrity and practicing death is very important.
Socrates states that escaping wickedness it harder than escaping death. Maintaining your spiritual integrity means that you must deny yourself the pleasures of the flesh. Socrates did not mean that we must sever off any source of pleasure in our lives. In his cave allegory he talked about those chained people that would experience pain if they turned around to look at the light. In a sense, that allegory can be applied to his teachings about maintaining your