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The Trial of Socrates


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About the Author

I. F. Stone was an investigative journalist and writer, best remembered for his newsletter I. F. Stone's Weekly, which was ranked by New York University in 16th place among the top 100 works of journalism in the United States in the twentieth century. He won numerous awards, including the Eleanor Roosevelt Award, the American Library Association Intellectual Freedom Award, the Columbia University Journalism Award, and the American Civil Liberties Union Award. He died in 1989.


How could ancient Athens, a society that prized and protected free speech, have condemned Socrates to death? Readily, in Stone's estimation. The philosopher we meet on these pages is an arrogant, bullying elitist who welcomed death and did his best to antagonize the jury that sentenced him. Socrates's mock modesty and aloofness irked his interrogators. His open disdain for democracy did not play well in a city-state recently convulsed by temporary throwbacks to dictatorship. Stone, the famed, feisty political journalist, spent over a decade learning classical Greek and delving into primary sources. He not only exposes the social snobbery lurking behind Socrates's dismissal of Athenian democracy, but also attacks the class prejudice underlying his hostility toward the Sophists, teachers who challenged the institution of slavery. In this iconoclastic portrait of a secular saint, Socrates emerges as a thoroughly dislikable, albeit superior, man who upheld unpopular truths. (February)

Since his retirement in 1971, former muckraker Stone has turned classicist. He is especially fascinated by Socrates's trial because it represents a ``black mark'' for the free and democratic Athens that he admires. Stone argues that while the Athenian verdict cannot be defended, it can be understood: Socrates was an anti-democratic reactionary whose philosophy posed a genuine threat to liberal ideals. Stone's portrait of Socrates sharply contrasts with the popular hagiographies and will stimulate a wide range of readers, although specialists will find much to argue with. Recommended for general collections.Richard Hogan, Southeastern Massachusetts Univ., North Dartmouth

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