In this post I give Scott Senn's resolution of the seeming contradiction in the Apology. In a subsequent post I'll give the resolution I favor and discuss readers' comments.
Senn attributes the following view to Plato's Socrates. The only "intrinsic good" (read simply: good) is virtue. All other things are instrumentally good at best; and they are instrumental for one thing only, namely, one's growth in virtue. If the jury takes away such instrumental goods, then, it merely prevents Socrates from further growth in virtue (and in that sense it can harm him); but it cannot take away or diminish the virtue that Socrates already has (and in that sense he is invulnerable to being harmed).
The resolution seems new only in its use of a distinction between, as Senn calls it, "damaging" versus "obstructing". Senn gives these definitions:
X damages P =df. X causes P to lose some intrinsic good that P already possessed, or X causes P to gain some intrinsic bad that P did not already have.And then Senn explains:
X obstructs P =df. X decreases P's ability to gain intrinsic good (or decreases P's ability to be rid of intrinsic bad).
... Socrates thinks he cannot be damaged. On the other hand, when he does allow that he may suffer injury (Ap. 25 D 1) or something bad (25 E, 37 B-38 B), he must (if he is not contradicting himself) be thinking only of the obstructive kind of injury. This fits very well 37B-38B; for clearly being silenced is bad only obstructively: it takes away his ability to discuss and examine (37 E-38 A), the value of which (it is natural to suppose) is instrumental. It is plausible that Socrates would similarly explain the badness of imprisonment and exile: they would take away his freedom to philosophize with whomever he wants, especially those reputed to be wise. Likewise, being fed in the Prytaneion is 'good' because it will help him continue to examine people (36 D). In the whole passage (surrounding and including 37 B-38 B), therefore, it seems that he is discussing things that are bad only obstructively and good only instrumentally. Only these do the Athenians have the power to bring about. We need not think that Socrates has in mind any other kind of injury at 25D-E.Your views on the successfulness of this resolution?