Socrates could start to talk to a stranger and induce him to participate in a conversation. His manner of dispute gained interest: he didn’t push or thrust his opinion on anybody and seemed to let an interlocutor to win the dispute. He asked questions and then, at the end, he simply abandoned a person confused and lost.
Athenians suspected that Socrates wasn’t just killing time and there should be some purpose of those conversations, but they could not understand it.
So what did he look for? What did he want? Who was he? Many Socrates’ contemporaries were trying to find answers to these questions.
Socrates believed that he was a servant of the God, and claimed that he had a daimonion – divine or spiritual sign. As he said, it started when he was a child; it was a voice, which spoke whenever Socrates wanted to do something wrong, to stop him. It was something mystic, some kind of guardian angel, intuition. And this daimonion didn’t stop him from what he had been doing all his life-cognition and self-cognition.
Testing others for wisdom, Socrates didn’t consider himself wise. When oracle Pythian said that there was no one wiser than Socrates, he put a lot of doubts on that: “I’m very conscious, that I am not wise at all; what then does he mean that I am wisest? For surely he does not lie” Though Socrates believed that oracle could not lie, he still wanted to find proof for his words and he began his investigations. So he turned to some “public men”* and soon understood that “he appeared wise to many people and especially to himself, but he was not”. Socrates tried to explain that to the person, but as a result he’s got a new enemy.
That fact didn’t stop him and he proceeded his investigations. He went to different people- politicians, poets and craftsmen. The result was the same: they “also say many fine things without any understanding of what they say” and claim to be wise. Socrates realized that the difference between him and all those people was that he knew that he was not wise and they thought that they were wise. So Socrates came to the conclusion that oracle probably wanted to say: “this man among you, mortals, is wisest who, like Socrates, understands that his wisdom is worthless”?.
This episode showed that Socrates was trying to betray people in dogmatism and started from himself by accepting and declaring: “I know that I don’t know”. This internal honesty was necessary prerequisite for his investigations. He was extremely honest to himself and to the other people; flexible and eager to start his investigations all over in order to get to the truth.
Athenians didn’t understand Socrates, his way of life, his “occupation” was something that nobody could explain and it is quite natural for human beings to be afraid of something unknown , so that one of Athenians attempted to get rid of annoying philosopher. Socrates went to court and was brought these charges: studying sky and earth, making strong argument and teaching the same the others, corrupting the young and didn’t believe in gods of his city. Socrates pleaded not guilty, though he accepted that he might be guilty from Athenians point of view for having lived the life of the philosopher-examining himself and others; encouraging himself and others to live a life of virtue.
Those ridiculous charges didn’t unsettle Socrates. Probably he believed that he could explain all these people that his actions were issued from good intentions. Nothing harmful could do an old man and his conversations with young people. He wasn’t running after anybody and thrusting his opinion: many people were looking for the answers to the questions, which they believed he knew. And he was like a full-time volunteer, willing to help people.
Socrates wasn’t of course ashamed of what he had been charged for, because he considered whatever he had done was the right thing. Socrates defended himself, brought out clearly all his steps, but he had been brought in a verdict of guilty. After that, he changed the line of his conduct. Of course he realized that his values differed from other citizens long before the trial. Socrates opposed himself to Athenians, his wisdom to their wealth, his truth to their reputation, his best possible state of soul to their honors. He was talking in different language, the one he tried to teach the other people. People didn’t hear him before the trial and of course they were deaf in the court. Everything was useless, so Socrates had nothing else to do except warning Athenians that they were doing huge mistake. He believed that something that has been done wrong would come back later and become much more crucial disaster, than the one they’ve done before.
Athenians didn’t punish Socrates by bringing him to the trial and putting him to death, they punished themselves. And Socrates didn’t want that to happen.
Socrates was talking about spiritual thing; his goal was to obtain the best possible state of soul, and he’d been searching for it the whole life. He accepted a possibility or reincarnation, so that soul is something that he could use couple more times, whereas body is single-use and there is no need to care about it much.
And Probably Socrates felt that it had been his responsibility to tell Athenians to take care of themselves before it’s not too late.
So summarizing I must add one more important thing. Socrates was great philosopher and of course he knew that he was different, but he did nothing for the future generation to remember him as a sage or simply great and cleaver man. A servant of the God, as he called himself, did not put any attempts to make his name and his fame everlasting. There is no need for humble and self-effacing man.