Monday, January 16, 2006
by Richard E. Noble
My opinion of Socrates, which, I presume, must have come from my brief inquires into Plato, was that of a moral hero; a man of great principle, who stood up courageously against authoritarianism, and tyranny; a philosopher of the noblest type with a deep love and respect for knowledge in its purest state. Not in the farthest reaches of my deepest cynicism had I ever contemplated Socrates as a Nazi; or somebody who might be inclined to lead others into the militant revolutionary overthrow of a democratic government.
This never occurred to me even though I was aware that Socrates was a political critic and cynic living in what has become to be known as the greatest democracy of all time. So then why it never occurred to me that Socrates didn’t care very much for democracy, is rather shocking to me. How many other rather obvious facts of history am I, or have I been, blind to because of personal preferences or prejudices, or just plain lack of objective insight. I always thought that I was insightful and observant but then again there was that introduction to a U.S. Mail Box and a Campbell’s soup can a little while back. It is amazing.
I must admit that I did always wonder what that charge of “corrupting the youth” was all about.
In any case, if you would like to read a new and extremely interesting point of view in regards to the legacy and memory of Socrates, I recommend a book written by I. F. Stone, the political writer, who should not be confused with the romantic writer, Irving F. Stone.
I. F. Stone did his homework on this one, even going so far as to make a study of the ancient Greek language. As amusing as it seems that radical critic of American Democracy and its political shenanigans, I. F. Stone comes to the aid of the Greek Establishment in their condemnation of the “gad-fly” (more appropriately, great big pain in the butt) Socrates.
This is a real eye opener for Socratophiles. I have no doubt that I am going to read it again, and maybe then once again. It is so filled with common sense, and historical insight that it makes me just want to slap myself in the face, and say wake up, Dumbo!
It is great fun to see not only how un-insightful one can really be, but even more fun to have a darn spotlight turned onto your gropings at the bedroom night table.(Speaking of bedrooms and gropings, we won’t even get into Alcibiades).
I really enjoyed this one. I have no doubt that I will be looking for more books by I. F. Stone.