For those of us who find the life of Socrates to be a truly philosophical life, perhaps THE model of the philosophical life, some aspects of his two Apologies (for I take Xenophon’s Apology as seriously as Plato’s) truly stand out.
First, these apologies are intended as a defense, a juridical defense of a way of life which physically endangers he who holds fast to its foundations. If this is so, then the first striking aspect of Socratism nowadays lies in that it is very rare to have an academic philosopher actually have to engage in such a public defense. This is odd and puzzling. Perhaps it is because philosophy has opened a space for itself among our democratic societies. But most likely, in doing so, philosophy has lost its most original and powerful reality. To put it boldly, one could even say that philosophy has actually retreated although it thinks itself to be at the very forefront.
Second, the Apologies show something that is altogether striking. Socrates’ audience, once he begins his voyage towards learning of his own wisdom which lies in knowing that he does not know, is not an academic audience. My life within academic circles has allowed me to see argumentation amongst academicians many a time. But herein lies what is striking, Socrates sought in the Apology as his interlocutors others, namely, artisans, poets, and politicians. It is these who find themselves angered by Socrates’ words and actions. It is they who take him to court. In this respect one could say that Socratic philosophy is essentially agoristic, it has its place primarily in the agora, the public space par excellence. Nowadays academic philosophy has lost sight of this and therefore has lost sight of the political foundations of Socrates’ life (Heidegger specially so). In this respect, if one has worked outside academia, it is not surprising to find the very real anger by many towards the “uselessness” of the philosophical life. Little in academic circles prepares one for such anger. Much can and has to be done to redress this.
It is little wonder that in classical political philosophy the civic virtue of courage is mentioned repeatedly. It is mentioned in order to moderate it via the courage of reflection. Little is heard of such topics today; for instance, Aristotle’s books on the virtues within both of his Ethics are quickly passed over as irrelevant to our condition. This amounts to a kind of unreflective surrender. In this same vein, little is said about rhetoric itself, the public political art par excellence. As a matter of fact, this is precisely why Xenophon is no longer taken seriously in academic circles themselves! (How many philosophers actually are such that excellent generals write about them?)
Agoristic philosophy is the foundation of Socratic political philosophy. Actually, agoristic philosophy is the foundation of all serious philosophy (both beyond the seriousness of the spoudaios and the seriousness of the modern intellectual.)