How far is it possible to reconstruct the thought of the historical Socrates?.
Socrates is among the most famous of classical philosophers of all time. Yet he has never written any of his work down. Therefore how is it that he has come to be so widely known even today? It is only through the works of others that we can hope to learn more about Socrates, and it is through the work of others that we must try to reconstruct the thought of Socrates as far as possible.
The first work used to do this is The Defence Of Socrates, written by Plato. This is the speech that Socrates is said to have given in court when accused of corrupting the young and impiety. Plato was supposedly a pupil of Socrates, and it therefore has to be kept in mind that he would have been biased for Socrates and would have wanted to portray Socrates in a good light. It should also be known that Plato wrote this work from memory after the event happened, and it cannot be taken to be completely accurate as a result of this. In this speech, Socrates would have obviously discussed his thoughts to show that his philosophies were not doing any harm.
In this speech, Socrates gives the jury the picture of himself that is normally portrayed others who are ignorant of his thinking, saying that he is known as a "wise man" who "ponders everything about the earth and investigates everything beneath it, and turns the weaker argument into the stronger" (18b-c, page 28, Defence of Socrates, Oxford World Classics, Plato). He says that it is also thought by others that he is guilty of impiety and not recognising the gods recognised by the state and, to make things even worse, teaching others about his views and urging them to follow him. Socrates then says that these accusations are merely rumours and that none of them are true.
Socrates then goes on to prove that these allegations are false, speaking of what his thoughts really are to do so.