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The Trial of Socrates by I. F. Stone

The Trial of Socrates (original 1988; edition 1988)

by I. F. Stone, Pearl Lau (Cover designer)

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959149,040 (4.02)26
Title:The Trial of Socrates
Authors:I. F. Stone
Other authors:Pearl Lau (Cover designer)
Info:Boston: Little, Brown and Company
Collections:Your library

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The Trial of Socrates by I. F. Stone (1988)


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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
A really outstanding example of popular intellectual history. Contrary to what is stated in the review by "Chris" above, Stone was actually meticulous in distinguishing between the historical Socrates, the Platonic Socrates, the Xenophantic Socrates, and so on. Also, while "outing" the Platonic Socrates as an anti-democrat may not be news, the way Stone explains this in the specific social and ideological context of classical Athens has clarified a great deal for me. He really transformed my thinking on the Sophists, for example.

The tone is polemical rather than scholarly, but the book is extremely well researched and I have been learning a lot from it. It is heartening to think this book became a bestseller. ( )
  middlemarchhare | Nov 25, 2015 |
I like to go through topical phases with my reading… choosing a country or time in history and reading a combination of 8 or 10 related books. Mixing it up with a combination of history, bios, memoirs, and fiction helps give a clear perspective and adds depth to understanding. Right now the focus is on Ancient Greece.

The 4th book into my Ancient Greek phase is "The Trial of Socrates". The first 2 were history books covering theTrojan, Messenian, Persian, and the Peloponnesian Wars. The stories of many armed conflicts were mixed with philosophy, theology, politics, and cultural issues. The 3rd was a novel titled "Aphrodite" written in 1896 by the French author Pierre Louys. "The Trial of Socrates" therefore, followed as a welcome variation.

Focusing on politics, culture, and philosophy during the Greek Classical period of Democracy, I. F. Stone tells the story of Socrates’ rise to infamy, with analytical details about his trial and execution.

Aside from the fascinating well-told story of Socrates, there are always valuable lessons to be learned from history. Examples: One of the first- and most primary- rights to be taken away when obliterating democracy is the right to free speech. And one of the surest and most efficient ways to insure the downfall of democracy is to deprive the citizens of the right to bear arms.

Throughout the book are references to the Dialogues of Plato and Stone’s analysis provides enlightenment as to why Socrates became a martyr. He was Plato’s mentor and hero. Stone summarizes “his (Socrates) martyrdom, and the genius of Plato, made him a secular saint, the superior man confronting the ignorant mob with serenity and humor. This was Socrates’ triumph and Plato’s masterpiece. Socrates needed the hemlock, as Jesus needed the Crucifixion, to fulfill a mission. The mission left a stain forever on democracy. That remains Athens’ tragic crime.”

I can’t help but wonder though… if Socrates had been allowed to live, would he have lost his charm and faded into obscurity? At best, he appeared to be a clownish buffoon. At worst, his peers viewed him as a pompous ass. If by time travel he could miraculously be transported to America today he would be despised by everyone. He did not believe in democracy, free speech, equality, education for the poor, or the paid profession of teaching. He didn’t believe in education at all except for the elite ruling class under private tutors. For Stone to compare him to Jesus in any way is blasphemy. Socrates and Jesus were polar opposites. Nevertheless, Socrates will always be revered as the “father of philosophy.” The one thing he did bring to civilization was the power of free thought.

"The Trial of Socrates" is an easy book to read, rich in historical detail, deep in philosophical reflection, and sound in theory. ( )
  LadyLo | Oct 28, 2015 |
If you've read some Plato, found Socrates vaguely annoying but you're not sure why, Stone can help you out. He juxtaposes Socratic idealism with the messy business of living in the real world, and shows that Socrates' philosophy doesn't offer much practical advice. Not to mention that Socrates was an elitist and really thinks that average people have nothing to offer the world.

Stone also discusses Athenian democracy, and how messy any democracy is because it tries to deal with real life situations which don't have black-and-white answers. Socrates was (and is) less than helpful in this endeavor.

Stone goes on to explain how Socrates ended up pissing the Athenians off so much that they decided to get rid of him.

Stone's writing is lucid and fun, though he tends to make his point very thoroughly, which if you're more interested in the point than the details can be a bit tiresome.

Another reviewer here on LibraryThing questions Stone's understanding of the Greek historical sources. Quite, frankly I'm not sure it matters. He's really talking to modern idealists who don't want to participate in modern democracies because they're messy. Stone is saying it's better to get your hands dirty rather than wait for the ideal solution to come out of the sky. ( )
1 vote aulsmith | Oct 7, 2014 |
Socrates for Dummies.

This is typical of the kind of Anglo-Saxon popular history on classical Athens (see Peter Green, Tom Holland, John Hale, et al.) that takes at face value the Greeks’ political-mythologizing, makes a fetish of “freedom” and “democracy,” and fails utterly to grasp the fundamentals of Greek philosophy. For Stone, democracy is good → Socrates had a “vendetta against democracy” → Socrates was bad. For aficionados of the simplistic and superficial only. ( )
  HectorSwell | Mar 3, 2014 |
Interesting book which shows the real reason why Socrates was executed, because of his political beliefs against democracy. The key point of the book is the chapter that describes Socrates interview with the dictators. He could have chosen to say an offense to the dictators, but he did not. On the other hand he decided to offend the democratic jury forcing the democracy to kill him, proving that democracies are not much different from dictatorships (which we can see nowadays in Guantánamo) and becoming a martyr. ( )
  caju | Apr 16, 2007 |
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I. F. Stoneprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
David, Jacques LouisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To my wife, Esther
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385260326, Paperback)

In unraveling the long-hidden issues of the most famous free speech case of all time, noted author I.F. Stone ranges far and wide over Roman as well as Greek history to present an engaging and rewarding introduction to classical antiquity and its relevance to society today. The New York Times called this national best-seller an "intellectual thriller."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:27 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Combines classical scholarship with techniques of modern investigative journalism in an attempt to unravel the mystery behind the trial and conviction of Athens' most prominent philosopher.

(summary from another edition)

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