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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars

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Plato takes us on a journey to Socrates' final moments and in the four dialogues Plato describes the trial and death of Socrates. In Euthyphro, Socrates talks about what it means to be good / just; in Apology he rebuts the charges (of impiety) against him in court; in Crito, he is wrongfully sentenced to death yet refuses to escape from prison; and in Phaedo, Socrates faces his death admirably and discusses the immortality of the soul. Overall it was a wonderful read and we see Socrates character through the eyes of Plato who clearly greatly admired his mentor. A great introduction to western philosophy; to Socrates; to Plato; and an easy read. Great for first year philosophy students. I still re-read this every so often although it has been nearly 5 years since I bought it when I was studying philosophy at university!
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on 19 April 2008
The last days of Socrates is Plato's main work concerned with Socrates and his beliefs. The book is set out in four dialogues between Socrates and his followers (apart from one monologue):

Euthyphro: Socrates questions what it is to be holy and just and in doing so raises questions of God.

Apology: Socrates refutes charges against him to a jury.

Crito: Socrates is condemned to death and explains why it would be 'unjust' for him to escape jail.

Phaedo: The most important dialogue where Socrates gives his account for the immortality of the soul.

Whether Socrates was real or just created by Plato doesn't matter, he is an extremely admirable character and over the course of the book you will like him more and more which makes the ending where he faces death all the more depressing.

This book is a good introduction to Socrates, Plato or Philosophy as a whole and it is very unlikely that something in this book will not stay with you forever. As for further reading I would recommend 'The republic' Plato's blueprint for an ideal society which contains most of his philosophy and where Plato explains 'the myth of the cave'. one of the most influential ideas in philosophy.
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on 21 November 2016
Good read
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on 3 May 2017
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This book contains the four dialogues that track the trial, condemnation and death of Plato's Socrates on charges of heresy and corrupting the youth of Athens. All of them allow Plato to articulate his views on the best way to live a responsible life, as well as his thoughts on death and the soul.

The Phaedo, especially, is one of the most moving pieces of writing in western literature and really deserves to be more widely read.

I don't have Greek so can't comment on the accuracy of the translation, but it reads extremely well, flowing and smooth, and captures the changing moods of the dialogues as we move towards death.
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on 11 July 2008
I thought I might be getting in over my head with this,considering the antiquity and seemingly academic nature of the subject.Then I thought "well your just reading it to impress people",finally in the quest for knowledge I relented and purchased it.
I was suprised from the start how my fears where unfounded and found the book very illuminating and understandable.The basic concepts of Greek philosophy are put forward and validated through dialogues in such a way as to be accessable to all.On completing this I immediately ordered the Republic and found this to be slightly more demanding in some areas but on the whole understandable.
Overall the experience of reading these two books has spurred me on to read more on this subject and you should not hesitate to purchase them.
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on 22 October 2009
Plato brings to life completely the incredible character of Socrates in four short books.

The first, "Euthyphro" shows the Philosopher in action, cross-examining and pretty much destroying the pious pretensions of another; "The Apology", Socrates' case for his innocence at his trial; "Crito", a conversation with this close friend while the philosopher is incarcerated in an Athenian prison, and "Phaedo", an account of Socrates' final conversation with his followers on the eve of his execution in 399 BCE.

Although the author is Plato, many of the words of his master Socrates are probably quoted verbatim, particularly likely in the detailed accounts of his legal self-defence, giving us a true glimpse of an extraordinarily larger than life character with a philosophy that baffled (and indeed outraged) many of his peers.

In other areas some of the dialogue spoken by others in conversations with Socrates seems very similar, leading at least this reader to believe that Plato is really concentrating on showing the character of Socrates and less so that of the many people he spoke with. Alternatively it could be that Socrates' oratory was so mindbogglingly intense that nobody could get a word in edgeways, and thus all of those he conversed with had no choice but to reply, when they got the chance, with the same "Yes Socrates" and "I suppose it must be, Socrates" responses, or words to this effect.

I loved Socrates by the end of this book, my second and long overdue re-read of it; but I'm under no illusion that he most certainly wouldn't be a person I'd want to get sat next to in a pub. Genuinely and passionately believing himself to be, somewhat Blues-Brothers like, on a mission from God (though via the Oracle at Delphi rather than Whoopi Goldberg), his task to prove to anyone who thought they might be wise that infact they couldn't possibly be.

Naturally both Socrates' premise and methodology - that of an intense philosophical cross-examination inflicted upon his subjects often randomly, and certainly not at their request - landed him in trouble. Intelligent, witty and sarcastic by turn, Socrates demolished his opponents with such rigour that he attracted an abundance of young hangers-on who promptly went forth and emulated his questioning style to the point where he was finally arrested on charges of "corrupting the young".

There is much humour here, and very accessible it is too; while the past is indeed a different country when it comes to the logic behind Athenian sentencing, any modern reader will recognise and very probably laugh out loud at Socrates' use of sarcastic flattery while he slowly and laboriously pulls to pieces the arguments of his subjects.

There is of course tragedy here too; Socrates is so highly principled that he has no fear of death and will not kow-tow just to get himself off the hook. Instead, in his defence he makes a lengthy philosophical speech which clearly irritates and bores the court - but also angers them as in typical style, Socrates blows their case out of the water with his famed use of logic.

Nevertheless the story still ends in tragedy; but at the same time Plato, determined to immortalise his master, has ensured that the (mostly) true stories of Socrates' religious and philosophical beliefs, his character and personality, and his amazing and unshakable strength of character in the face of death, have indeed always remained with us.
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on 10 November 2003
This was my first attempt at Plato's work, and I have to say I was impressed. Expecting a complex and difficult text (having just worked through Kant's 'Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals' and being forced to read each sentence three times!) 'The Last Days of Socrates' was a relief. It was easy to read and a fantastic introduction to Plato; as a Philosophy A-level student I found the ideas both accessible and interesting. The ideas contained in 'Phaedo' in paticular were extremely useful in relation to Plato's concept of life after death, while 'Apology' is a magnificent defence of philosophy based on Plato's memory of Socrates. Overall a fantastic read, a brilliant book to begin any study of Platonic ideas and a great groundwork to begin a course in Philosophy because, as Whitehead said, the entire history of philosophy since has been simply 'a series of footnotes to Plato'. After reading this I would recommend 'The Republic', one of Plato's most famous works, if you want to investigate further.
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on 31 August 2005
I guess if you're reading this review you are probably already going to buy this book. If you're still thinking about it then just buy it. It aids in your understanding of the ancient Greek psyche in so many ways, Socrates (Plato) idea of the afterlife and its insight into the metaphysics of the day still strike chords with the modern psyche. It is also massively important as a (maybe) historical document dealing with classical Athens.
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on 19 December 2010
The life and legacy of Socrates can be interpreted in many different ways, and have been so interpreted. While that is frustrating, it could be argued that it's also inevitable. The words and deeds of great men have different effects on different people. Most scholars base their accounts of Socrates on Plato's dialogues, especially the four dialogues included in this volume: "Euthyphro", "Apology", "Crito" and "Phaedo". They deal with Socrates' trial, execution and death. And no, they don't answer the eternal questions. Rather, they raise more questions than they answer. But then, that's the point!

What makes Socrates so important? The reason, of course, is his philosophy. The whole point of philosophy is to reject tradition and revelation as automatic sources of knowledge, to be taken simply on faith. Instead, human reason is paramount. True, philosophy doesn't *necessarily* reject tradition and revelation, but it does say that such sources of knowledge should be scrutinized by reason. In this sense, philosophy is subversive and radical. At least in a society gone terribly wrong... I mean, who would need philosophy if society had been perfect?

Socrates wasn't the first philosopher, nor even necessarily the "best" one. The reason why his name has been associated with the philosophical endeavour is, of course, the story of his life and above all his death. Socrates became the first known martyr of philosophy, placing his conscience and convictions above politic. Socrates showed how dangerous philosophy can be, by questioning both the oligarchic regime of the Thirty Tyrants in Athens, and the later democracy. He was the perennial dissident, the man who questioned everyone and everything. Ironically, it was the democrats who had him railroaded and executed. A warning for the future?

I don't think Socrates was necessarily a "radical" in the modern sense of that term. He seems to have mingled in high society, and some of his friends and disciples had connections with the oligarchic regime. Neither his disciple Plato nor Plato's pupil Aristotle were democrats, not even by Greek standards. Socrates didn't seem to believe that society could be changed, and therefore tended to avoid politics, except when he was duty bound as a citizen to perform political tasks (he also fought as a soldier). In some ways, Socrates actually resembled a guru. His teachings were oral, he had a circle of admirers and disciples, and he may have imparted somewhat different teachings to each of them. There are also hints at a fundamentally religious worldview, as when Socrates says that a little god or daemon were giving him advice, when he talks of reincarnation and Heaven in "Phaedo", or when he takes seriously the oracular statements of the priestess at Delphi.

Yet, by his bold questioning of established politics, ethics and religion, Socrates nevertheless showed the radical potential of philosophy and rational discourse. On a more somber note, the trial and execution of Socrates also shows that some people, even in a democracy, simply can't stand the truth.

Free soup for Socrates? Still today, many people, rulers and commoners alike, would consider that proposal to be very provocative indeed.
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