Socrates concludes that "God only is wise," and that the Oracle, speaking for God, meant that "the wisdom of men is worth little or nothing." The Oracle means that "He . . . is the wisest, who, like Socrates, knows that his wisdom is in truth worth nothing" (72).
Socrates defends himself, his life's work, and the role of his dialogue-based philosophical inquiries in a number of ways, but his most simple, clear, succinct and effective defense, and refutation of the legal, social, political, ethical and religious charges against him, is the following:
I go about the world, obedient to the god, and search and make enquiry into the wisdom of any one . . . who appears to be wise; and if he is not wise, then in vindication of the oracle I show him that he is not wise; and my occupation quite absorbs me, and I have no time to give either to any public matter of interest or to any concern of my own, but I am in utter poverty by reason of my devotion to the god (72).
In other words, Socrates is saying that he is obeying God, or the god, or the Oracle, rather than defying or denying God, when he sets out every day to prove the Oracle right when it was declared that no man was wiser than Socrates.
Socrates argues that the fact that his humble work caused so many powerful people and institutions such fear and consternation indicates the true power of philosophy, of a philosopher who merely investigates carefully and reasonably whether what people say is true or not.
To Socrates, it is the mission of philosophy to do precisely what he is doing. He is, he says directly, a "gift" from God to the city and people of Athens. He argues at one point not for his own sake, but for the sake of Athenians "that you may not sin against the God by condemning me, who am his gift to you." He tells the city and its people that "if you kill me you will not easily find a successor to me, who . . . am a sort of gadfly, given to the state b