1. In Ion, Ion claims that his skill at reciting and explaining Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey makes him an expert in every field on which Homer touches. What does Socrates think of this?
Ion is a great reciter of the works of Homer, the best in his mind. He draws in large audiences to hear him utter the fine words of the Odyssey and Iliad with such passion and emotion, which is unmatched by any other reciter in all of Greece. His skill has even granted him a golden crown by the Homer Association. Socrates envies Ion’s skill since in order to be a great reciter, you must learn the meanings of the poet’s work, not only their verses. Ion claims to speak exquisitely, in his own right, about Homer in interpreting and explaining his poetry and its excellences in every field on which he brushes upon. However, Socrates begs to differ and begins his argument on how Ion is a great reciter simply by a divine power possessing him while he eulogizes the works of Homer. Socrates states that Ion speaks so eloquently not from knowledge but instead from inspiration. Ion’s thoughts are being breathed into him by a divine power without Ion’s acknowledgement, similar to being possessed. Socrates breaks this down to Ion by avowing that reciters and even poets themselves have no knowledge of the skills and fields they so magnificently rhapsodize, instead they are part of a chain of iron rings. Socrates provides the analogy of a magnet with the power to draw an iron ring to itself and through that of another and another. Socrates is trying to explain to Ion that the magnet is the divine power and the first ring are the Muses, the second are the poets, the third are the reciters and the rest are the audiences who receive this inspiration by opening themselves to the poetry. In conclusion, Socrates’ argument is that the work of poets and reciters are not from any human skill or intelligence but is the product of the gods working through them.
2. In Apology, Socrates says that his mission as a philosopher was set for him by the oracle at Delphi. Explain this.
In the Apology, Socrates is on trial being prosecuted on several charges. His accusers, Meletus, Anytus, and Lycon, wanted Socrates punished for inquiring into things under the earth and in the heavens, and making the weaker argument the stronger, and teaching these same things to the youth. Socrates was put on trial to defend himself and his actions but Socrates only wanted to explain the “wrongdoings” he had committed. He explains that wisdom is not necessarily what you do know; it is being able to realize what you have no knowledge of, admitting it and openly seeking answers in order to gain that knowledge. Socrates begins his defense by stating that his “wrongdoings” were unintentional and it all began when the oracle at Adelphi deemed him as the wisest of all, according to his good friend Chaeraphon. Socrates claims to have been baffled by this indictment, since he always believed he knew nothing; however, he also accepts the fact that Apollo cannot lie so he set out to see if he could solve the puzzle handed to him and find anyone wiser than himself. Therefore this became his life’s mission, to expose false knowledge. He began his mission to disprove the Oracle by questioning others who had a reputation for wisdom. Socrates interrogated politicians, poets and the skilled craftsmen. In questioning the politicians, he discovered that they thought they were very wise, but in fact, they knew very little to nothing at all. The poets wrote implacable works yet seemed incapable of explaining them, and Socrates concluded that their genius came from inspiration rather than intelligence. With the craftsmen, Socrates found men who did have great wisdom in their craft; however they believed their expertise in one field led them to be experts in other fields where they had no knowledge of. In each case, Socrates confirmed that he truly was the wisest since