A Philosopher's Blog

A Socratic Challenge

Posted in Philosophy, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on September 23, 2012
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  1. WTP said, on September 23, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    Was not Socrates considered the “gadfly” of Athens at the time? What we would probably refer to today as a “troll”. He went around asking questions of others, but found based solely on his own opinion (well, unless we believe in the omniscience of oracles) that all others were not as wise as he. One wonders if Socrates had walked in the shoes of those actually running things, perhaps he wouldn’t have been so judgmental. From what I understand, there is no evidence from his day that the man ever held a job of serious responsibility for other men. Granted there is some evidence he was a soldier in his youth, but no indication that he was any sort of a military leader. At best he was a committee member. When fate did put him into a position to make a decisions in the trial of the generals resulting from the Battle of Arginusae, he dithered on parliamentary procedure and dodged responsibility.

    Much of what we know of Socrates is hearsay and conjecture from those contemporaries and later historians who admire him. The latter based mostly on the word of his lackeys such as Plato. Yet as wise as he supposedly was, he didn’t believe in the written word. Though upon reflection it might be said in some context this was wise in a Machiavellian sense for the convenience thorough which he could then dodge being held accountable for what he had said. Especially with those who were already in agreement with him or who wanted to curry favor with him. By what I have read there was a bit of a cult built up around this man. Of course in today’s world there are many examples of people dodging what they’ve been recorded to having had said. They do so today by redefining the terms and playing language games. Eric Blair warned us that vague writing can be used as a powerful tool of political manipulation some 70 years ago.

    Say what you will about politicians, as bad as they are they’re better than those who criticize the leopard for having spots.

  2. ripple said, on September 23, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    Let’s remember that Alcibiades was a student of Socrates.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on September 23, 2012 at 7:31 pm

      Why? That is, what is the significance of Alcibiades in terms of the importance of remembering him?

    • ripple said, on September 23, 2012 at 8:05 pm

      Socrates ended up taking much of the blame for Alcibiades’s treachery.

      • WTP said, on September 23, 2012 at 9:04 pm

        Alcibiades, having been a student of Socrates, may have learned a little too well. Given Socrates leveraging of his propensity to equivocate, were Socrates in the same situation as Alcibiades, I’m not entirely sure that Socrates would not have behaved in a similar manner. Though Alcibiades was basically an opportunist who lacked the other redeeming qualities of his teacher.

      • Michael LaBossiere said, on September 24, 2012 at 11:40 am

        Socrates did get blamed for the corruption of the youth. However, Socrates certainly did not endorse such side-switching. In the Crito he addresses the matter of loyalty and demonstrates his faithfulness to Athens by drinking the hemlock rather than fleeing. While Alcibiades was certainly an impressive person, he apparently did not learn the most important lessons from Socrates, namely those involving ethics.

      • WTP said, on September 24, 2012 at 12:22 pm

        Yes, the Ethics Of Socrates…which basically boils down to “don’t actually do anything for which you can be held responsible”. A’s problem was that he actually implemented ideas, thus leaving a tangible record by which he could be judged.

  3. George Collingwood said, on September 23, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    I discovered the other day that Winston Churchill was a bestselling author. His sales really stacked up. The only other significant thing that I know about him is that he was a dead shot and also that he made enemies really easily. That’s two things, but apart from the fact that I can’t count, this tells me he’d have done more or less anything (anything honourable) if it had helped him defeat his foe and (metaphorically) put a bullet right in his brainpan. The moral is, Don’t go around talking to princes unless you have to.

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