Socrates is faced with the choice of death before dishonor in his Apology. What would you choose? Why?
In Plato’s “The Apology of Socrates” he says, “For neither in war nor yet at law ought any man to use every way of escaping death. The difficulty, my friends, is not in avoiding death, but in avoiding unrighteousness; for that runs faster than death.”
I read this in another post I wrote back in May of 2015, and it struck me once again how vitally important these words are to remember. There is no human on this planet that can escape death. It comes for us all. But, with effort, we do have a hope of escaping unrighteousness.
To force others into slavery so that you feel safer, to create laws and ordinances that trample the rights of others so that you may live another day, to encourage others to suffer with you as you struggle to survive, that is unrighteousness.
At the end of Apology, Socrates stands before those who will kill for teaching what he believes is right and he feels sorry for them. Death is an unavoidable event, but unrighteousness? He chooses to stay his course.
His choices were death or to live in exile the rest of his life knowing that he compromised his beliefs. There are two things that could happen to him after death: non-existence, a perfect sleep, forever without worry, or an afterlife with those that had died before him, chatting it up with the heroes and philosophers of old.
He chose death.
Death before dishonor is a logical choice and I hope that will choose the same.
Someone asked me what I do last week and I told them, proudly, “I’m a writer.”
“Really? What do you write about?”
“Well…I write a blog…about…stuff. Books and such mostly. Things I think about.”
It sounded so vague. I’ve read loads of articles about blogging and keeping to a topic or theme, but I just have never been able to do it. I write about what comes up in my life, what I’m reading, what I’m seeing, how I feel about things. I try to find the meaning behind what I’m experiencing. Philosophical stuff.
Wait. Is what I write here “philosophy”?
I’ve read a lot of philosophy. Most of it, Socrates and Plato, seem beyond my understanding, but I love it. My son recently took a philosophy class in college and I was thrilled to hear all about it. I didn’t take any classes like that when I was in college. I was too busy in the theater, building and painting sets, being an “artist.”
Then a few days ago, I was reading an article in Philosophy Now about “The Decline and Rebirth of Philosophy.” The article talked about how we’ve separated philosophy out of everything and treated it like a science. It’s just not a science. You can’t talk philosophy all on its own without history, religion, relationships, etc. It how we talk about those things. History without philosophy is just a list of dates. Religion without philosophy is just doctrine. Relationships without philosophy is just social contract.
I found comforting words from the article, like “fancying themselves as experts on subjects on which there can be no expertise.” There are no expert philosophers! How do you like that?
In my opinion, we’re all philosophers to a degree. We all think about the relationships between things. We all try to live by a certain philosophy of love, kindness, selfishness, whatever. Some of us just like to talk about it more.
I googled “simple definition of philosophy” and found this on Wikipedia,
Philosophy is a way of thinking about the world, the universe, and society. It works by asking very basic questions about the nature of human thought, the nature of the universe, and the connections between them. The ideas in philosophy are often general and abstract.
I’d say that’s exactly what I write about. I see things, I think about them, I connect them to other things. I ask questions. I wonder. Books, social media, family, flowers, non-profits, history, relationships, parenting, homeschooling; my posts tend to be all over the place but they’re not. They all revolve around “Why?” I want to know why we are all going crazy over social media, why we send our kids to schools, why we spend our sexual lives with only one person.
I’m not writing to solve anything. I’m not telling anyone what is right or wrong. I’m only adding to the ongoing discussion. It’s one of the great things about the internet! So many ideas. So many discussions to be had. And all we do is insult people and watch funny cat videos.
Here’s another gem from the article, “philosophical disagreements are by nature unresolvable.” That doesn’t mean there’s no point in discussing it! Philosophy will never be finished. It’s a fractal. The more we talk, the more discover, the more there is to discover. We’re complex beings in more ways than one!
Now I’m not only a “writer” when I tell people what I do, I’m also a “philosopher.” My blog is about my philosophy, my thought process, my life. I want to share those ideas through my writing, not only to see if anyone else thinks the same way, but how they may think differently. Or, on my bad days, if anyone is thinking at all.
I could sit here and quote Allan Bloom’s Interpretive Essay about “The Republic of Plato” all day long. I read the translation and then then the essay and felt that it was worth all the effort. In fact, I’d say read the essay first and then Plato. Maybe? Hard to say which would be better. Reading the Republic, I started to wonder what the point was. I’ve never been a big fan of Plato or Socratic Reasoning. I can’t seem to follow it. Call me lazy, but it takes too much effort. My son has shown me that some people find it natural and I’m just not one of those people. I’m glad I read it, again, and even more happy that the interpretive essay afterward was so enlightening.
This paragraph is what I want to share today, though.
If the infinite longing for justice on earth is merely a dream or a prayer, the shedding of blood in its name turns from idealism into criminality. The revolutions of Communism and Fascism are made in the name of perfect regimes which are to be their consequence. What matter if a few million die now, if one is sure that countless generations of mankind will enjoy the fruits of justice? Socrates thinks about the end which is ultimately aimed at by all reformers and revolutionaries but to which they do not pay sufficient attention. He shows what a regime would have to be in order to just and why such a regime is impossible. Regimes can be improved but not perfected; injustice will always remain. The proper spirit of reform, then, is moderation. Socrates constructs his utopia to point up the dangers of what we would call utopianism; as such it is the greatest critique of political idealism ever written. The Republic serves to moderate the extreme passion for political justice by showing the limits of what can be demanded and expected of the city; and, at the same time, it shows the direction in which the immoderate desires can be meaningfully channeled.”
This is exactly what libertarians have been trying to say. There is no heaven on earth. There is no perfect. The more you try to define it for others and use the force to create it, the more you move toward tyranny. Think about it. Religions in the past have done the same thing. There is no “greater good” reason in this life to use violence against others. Even God does not do it. So why do we think we can do it?
Any use of force is violence, in my opinion. Taxes, fines, jail, etc. = violence against others.