9 Nov 2011

Socrates' debate with Gorgias and others

I'll get to Egyptian tomorrow, but for now please take a look at Plato's Gorgias on Perseus, which may be read both in its original Greek and also in English translation. It's then discussed on Youtube by an interesting online lecturer.

As I finally got around to reading Gorgias, I immediately appreciated how much it relates to the modern age. The seething anger of a growing number of people towards an insolent plutocracy is just beginning to boil over as the markets show increasing instability and as yet more responsible homeowners are being put out to the streets. To add insult to injury, these same victims are doubly left crippled in utter joblessness as politicians flutter about feigning stupidity. Democracy? Only in word, not in deed.

Socrates' words spoken more than two thousand years ago ring true as he rejects feel-good Rhetoric for the greater virtues of Truth. He proceeds to tear apart in laborious detail and unceasing wit all the ridiculous arguments put to him in favour of "might makes right" and in favour of childish selfishness at the expense of society. In effect, he establishes the beginnings of a logical morality, not based on cultish dogma or religious superstitions but only on pure reason. As the lecturer briefly notes, Socrates treats Truth in a quasi-religious way, being in keeping with the Apollonian traditions of his time (ie. the likening of justice and truth to a kind of illumination by the all-seeing sun god Apollo). Yet Socrates' public process of inquiry is anything but religious. Quite the opposite, it's defiantly anti-religious as he challenges the validity of all idle beliefs that do only harm to humankind. As then, we still have trouble heeding his insights and to our own peril.


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