Friday, January 24, 2014

What I think of Socrates...

I'm delighted to be at 12Stone Church this weekend. They just have a spectacularly blessed ministry down here. You can even watch an online 12Stone service 24 hours a day.

Dr. Steven Lennox and I drove down here today and had a great time with the OT and NT with the 12Stone Biblical Studies program. Last weekend, Bud Bence, Chris Bounds, and Dave Ward were down here doing church history, theology, and the book of Ephesians.

Last night was also my weekly philosophy class at IWU, and since there wasn't a lot of discussion on the R v. W post, I thought I would move the blog along. :-)
Socrates is often portrayed by teachers as this great hero of thought, the "first martyr" of philosophy. I imagine anyone who would take a guess would imagine I would follow suit. "O great Socrates! O foolish Athens!"  Look at the way he was portrayed in Barefoot in Athens.

I actually picture Socrates as a jerk and an idiot, a true trouble maker. Here's a guy who spends most of his time going around annoying important people. One of his drinking buddies goes to the temple at Delphi and asks if he's the wisest person in the world. The oracle says yes.

So Socrates uses it as an excuse to make the most important people in Athens look like idiots. Yeah, that's smart.  In Plato's dialogues, Socrates' arguments seem rife to me with the fallacy of equivocation. He takes the words of the person he's interrogating and then changes the meaning of the words in his responses. You can't do this sort of thing for long and not find yourself on the wrong end of power.

Then there is Socrates' idea that if you get your thinking right, your life will follow suit. It sure would be nice if these two were in sync, but he has it the wrong way around. Humans more often come up with thinking that will fit with their sense of living. We come up with ideologies that fit our hearts. There are plenty of people who believe the right things but choose not to live accordingly.

Finally, of course, Socrates was an idiot when it came to his trial and death. When convicted, a person could propose a counter-penalty to what his or her opponents proposed. But Socrates, after he was convicted of corrupting the youth and not believing in the gods, didn't counter-propose a fine or something reasonable. The Athenians might have gone for that. Instead, he proposed that they pay him to keep doing what he was just convicted of. Of course they're not going to vote for that.

Even while awaiting his death, there were offers of escape. The King of Sparta would have put him up and treated him royally. Instead, he drank the poison himself on principle. He had been found guilty.

So, basically, there is little of Socrates I like. Yes, the Socratic method makes for good teaching. But Socrates himself was annoying. Yes, there is great wisdom in realizing how much you do not know, but I suspect Socrates too much enjoyed showing important people this fact.

Admire him? Only a little. Mostly, I suspect he was a jerk.

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