Volume 61, 2018
Philosophy of Religion
Pavlos E. Michaelides
Silence: The Religious Proof of Socrates’ Wisdom in Plato’s Apology
This paper explores Socrates’ realization that the silence of his divine sign (daimonion) sanctions that ‘something good’ was born interiorly from divine ignorance (Ap. 40b). In effect, rooted in ignorance the Socratic daimonion points the way to the god by way of silence. Foremost, the god speaks directly in silence, is silence-in-itself. The daimonion either speaks by tramping Socrates’ morally unwarranted actions, even in small matters (40a4-6), apotreptically reducing him to silence; or else speaks by its very silence through lack of intervention as on the day of his trial (40b-d). Either way, daimonion, divinely grounds and confirms the good and virtuous ex silencio. The daimonion, wholly asymmetrical utterly non-rational and mysterious, constitutes the crux of Socrates’ enigmatic profession of ignorance initiating his perpetual state of aporia; but more positively, is here explored as that which unceasingly initiates the interior realization of virtue and knowledge, engaging transformative silence steeped in thauma –wonder– personal encounter, dialogue, philosophical inquiry, eros and enthusiasmos (to be filled with the deity, theion ti daimonion ti —, something godly, morally ingenious). Socrates himself, points to the silence of daimonion on the day of his trial and during the entirety of his defense, as great proof (mega tekmerion – 40c2) that his speech and actions were right and divinely sanctioned; that the happening of his death is likely to be “a good thing” (40b7). Mostly, Socrates’ divine silence conceals the moral-religious proof of his exemplary philosophic way of life, his freedom of speech ignorance and wisdom.