Socrates was put on trial 2,400 years ago, but he is as relevant as ever. Plato was right to call him “Socrates become beautiful and new” (Second Letter).
One of the ways Socrates is timeless is that he equates piety with the search for truth and thus calls the rejection of philosophy impiety. In a beguiling statement, he says this:
If you say to me, Socrates, this time we will not mind Anytus, and will let you off, but upon one condition, that are to inquire and speculate in this way any more, and that if you are caught doing this again you shall die; - if this was the condition on which you let me go, I should reply: Men of Athens, I honor and love you; but I shall obey God rather than you, and while I have life and strength I shall never cease from the practice and teaching of philosophy.
It is hard to interpret this statement. Either Socrates is being sincere or ironic. Either he is a humble, pious, god-honoring man standing up against an irrational group of hubris-blinded atheists or he himself is a hubris-blinded atheist with a death wish, seeing how far he can mock these men before they silence him.
Socrates is either God’s gift to Athens or the world’s first – and greatest – troll.