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Unapologetic Socrates Still Relevant 2419 Years Later

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posted on Sep, 18 2020 @ 01:54 PM
Hi friends

Happy Friday! Thank you for reading and I hope you join me for a discussion about Socrates’ Apology and its relevance to our climate today. Socrates was killed by enemies who didn’t like what he had to say. His words stand as a testament to the importance of questioning our officials, our societal values, ourselves, in order to ensure a pursuit of goodness and virtue rather than one of self gain, and also as a reminder of the value of our freedom to speak out against our government and/or leading figures freely without fearing for our lives or livelihood.

Nearly 2500 years have passed since Socrates defiantly faced his accusers and jurors in one of the most epic mic drops of all time. He refused to grovel and beg for his life, but rather delivered a scathing reproach towards his accusers, against the hypocrisy and pride of state officials, against the standard approach to justice (not based in a pursuit of truth, but rather based on subjective preferences).

We so desperately need a Socrates today to question the hubris and greed of world leaders.

In the vacuum of such a figure, however, in the very least we still have his words and the words of courageous thinkers like him who refused to be cowed by the crowd and who kept public figures in check by questioning their abuses of power and pride.

It was here in his Apology where he asserted the wisdom of acknowledging the limits of our own understanding, and that anyone who fancies him/herself clever is anything but. Imagine Socrates walking barefoot up to the likes of Bill Gates and giving him the Socratic treatment?

I am going to explain to you why I have such an evil name. When I heard the answer, I said to myself, What can the god mean? and what is the interpretation of this riddle? for I know that I have no wisdom, small or great. What can he mean when he says that I am the wisest of men? And yet he is a god and cannot lie; that would be against his nature. After a long consideration, I at last thought of a method of trying the question. I reflected that if I could only find a man wiser than myself, then I might go to the god with a refutation in my hand. I should say to him, "Here is a man who is wiser than I am; but you said that I was the wisest." Accordingly I went to one who had the reputation of wisdom, and observed to him - his name I need not mention; he was a politician whom I selected for examination - and the result was as follows: When I began to talk with him, I could not help thinking that he was not really wise, although he was thought wise by many, and wiser still by himself; and I went and tried to explain to him that he thought himself wise, but was not really wise; and the consequence was that he hated me, and his enmity was shared by several who were present and heard me. So I left him, saying to myself, as I went away: Well, although I do not suppose that either of us knows anything really beautiful and good, I am better off than he is - for he knows nothing, and thinks that he knows. I neither know nor think that I know. In this latter particular, then, I seem to have slightly the advantage of him. Then I went to another, who had still higher philosophical pretensions, and my conclusion was exactly the same. I made another enemy of him, and of many others besides him.

It often seems like our society today suffers from an overblown notion of our own expertise. Even the “experts” in many fields are overstepping their areas and assuming expertise where they have none. If we never get the opportunity to hold the so called world leaders to task, to ensure that they are using their platforms to pursue true righteousness rather than the illusion thereof (all the while lining their own pockets), we can in the very least question our own conceit and way of thinking/agency. Living a good life does matter and does make a difference. No matter how learned we are, how many years put into our areas of expertise, it always is an exercise in humility to consider all we don’t know.

Socrates goes on to condemn those who act (or don’t act) for fear of death rather than for want of honor

For this fear of death is indeed the pretence of wisdom, and not real wisdom, being the appearance of knowing the unknown; since no one knows whether death, which they in their fear apprehend to be the greatest evil, may not be the greatest good. Is there not here conceit of knowledge, which is a disgraceful sort of ignorance? And this is the point in which, as I think, I am superior to men in general, and in which I might perhaps fancy myself wiser than other men, - that whereas I know but little of the world below, I do not suppose that I know: but I do know that injustice and disobedience to a better, whether God or man, is evil and dishonorable, and I will never fear or avoid a possible good rather than a certain evil.

And discusses the virtue of doing what one knows is right or in pursuit of the truth regardless of threatened consequences.

In times when fear is used as a method of control, this message is both heartening and crucial to hear.

In his humility, Socrates then likens himself to a gadfly biting horses awake, and says that he is aware that his bites are irksome, but that without them, the recipient might slumber forever.

For if you kill me you will not easily find another like me, who, if I may use such a ludicrous figure of speech, am a sort of gadfly, given to the state by the God; and the state is like a great and noble steed who is tardy in his motions owing to his very size, and requires to be stirred into life. I am that gadfly which God has given the state and all day long and in all places am always fastening upon you, arousing and persuading and reproaching you. And as you will not easily find another like me, I would advise you to spare me. I dare say that you may feel irritated at being suddenly awakened when you are caught napping; and you may think that if you were to strike me dead, as Anytus advises, which you easily might, then you would sleep on for the remainder of your lives, unless God in his care of you gives you another gadfly

At this point in his speech, Socrates points out that he did not bring his family with him to help him grovel and petition to the court, rather that he has more respect for the truth and for the judicial system than to try to appeal to anything more than the law.

While Socrates enemies did their best to silence him forever, his voice lives on and their names remain in ignominy as such who so hated words of a fellow man that they committed the atrocious act of murdering a non-violent, old and respected man for holding a contrary belief.

edit on 18-9-2020 by zosimov because: (no reason given)

posted on Sep, 18 2020 @ 07:52 PM
a reply to: zosimov

But when the oligarchy of the Thirty was in power, they sent for me and four others into the rotunda, and bade us bring Leon the Salaminian from Salamis, as they wanted to execute him. This was a specimen of the sort of commands which they were always giving with the view of implicating as many as possible in their crimes; and then I showed, not in words only, but in deed, that, if I may be allowed to use such an expression, I cared not a straw for death, and that my only fear was the fear of doing an unrighteous or unholy thing. For the strong arm of that oppressive power did not frighten me into doing wrong; and when we came out of the rotunda the other four went to Salamis and fetched Leon, but I went quietly home. For which I might have lost my life, had not the power of the Thirty shortly afterwards come to an end. And to this many will witness.

Since Socrates has been given to us as an example to follow in our own humble way, it would not be altogether a boastful violation of humility to recount my own slight acts in a court of law. The familiar oracle within me seems disinclined at this moment to obstruct me in this.

I was called to serve jury duty one time for a very strange "test case" in which the Assistant District Attorney(ADA) and the Defendant and the Defendant's Defense Attorney had all come to some arrangement to try a Civil complaint as a Criminal Case. After the ADA explained this to the assembled prospective jurors I had the impression that this was not the sort of precedent that the courts should be making.

Civil cases result in fines and monetary reparations, whereas criminal cases can result in felony convictions, imprisonment, and a lifetime stigma of being a felon. It seemed a quite reckless blurring of distinctions and possible increased jeopardy for future Defendants not present to agree to such a strange arrangement.

The ADA, in the process of dismissal of prospective jurors asked, "If there was a law on the books that wearing green socks on Tuesday constituted the capital crime of murder, and it could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused had in fact worn green socks on Tuesday, would any of you have a problem with voting to convict the accused of murder?"

I expected to see every prospective juror raise a hand to respond that yes they would have a problem. But no. They all just sat there. She seemed astounded herself, or at least acted astounded, as she asked "None of you?"

Not only did I raise my hand, but I spoke right out, "I wouldn't want to have anything to do with a trial like that!"

Now here's the kicker. You would expect that the ADA would not want me on the jury since that was what she was actually attempting to do; take proof of a lesser civil offense and make it serve as proof of a felony crime. But it was the Defense Attorney who dismissed me from serving on the jury. Proof enough to me that this was a sham of a trial, with the outcome prearranged to be a guilty verdict, which both parties had agreed to ahead of time.

In a probably vain attempt to derail the whole plot, I was heard to say rather loudly on my way out. "Stupid laws like that can be changed over night, but felony convictions are for life."

posted on Sep, 18 2020 @ 08:45 PM
a reply to: pthena

I'm really glad you read the link (though wouldn't be one bit surprised if you've already spent multiple times reading the text), and even more glad that you stood up for what was right when it mattered most.

It really seems that a lot of people are intimidated by courts or by the majority (in juries or other circumstances where one voice may sometimes stand up to the many) to the point of not speaking up when they see blatant abuse.

Not surprised you did the right thing though, my friend

Hope you're doing well!

I'm having fun watching my favorite team in the NBA playoffs (also happen to be the underdogs and also have already made history in this series).

posted on Sep, 18 2020 @ 09:12 PM
a reply to: zosimov

Not surprised you did the right thing though, my friend

Well, now that I think about it, I should have put an age warning on that post. I hate to be a corrupter of the youth. Just think of all the green socks on Tuesday! As if that is somehow acceptable.

I skipped going to a birthday party. Then Ruth died, and I never got to meet her.

NBA is basketball right?
So if I look up who the underdogs are then I'll know who your favorite team is. The dossier grows.

posted on Sep, 18 2020 @ 09:15 PM
a reply to: pthena

It's my home team-- the Denver Nuggets!!

Might as well save your research skills for worthy endeavors

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