The essay due on Monday morning--concerning the role of the individual and government in ancient Greece: to what extent did Socrates' ideas/behavior challenge Pericles' account of the Athenian state and society?
A year ago I had no knowledge of the ancient world. Knowledge can inspire us and challenge us.
Socrates, in Plato's account of his trial, says that a truly just man could never participate in public discourse because he would naturally oppose State practices and eventually be killed for his opinions. Rather grim perspective of the corruption of governing bodies. Instead of participating in the community dialogue, he allowed the young rich men of Athens to follow him around and listen to him ridicule and humiliate the prominent poets, craftsmen and politicians of the day, proving that their basic human motivations weren't logical. The young men ate it up--here were respected men of the city who had worked for years to develop their crafts and cultivate expertise in their fields--and Socrates made them look like confused children.
What a friggin hero.
Naturally, enamored with this wisdom and strength (not virtue), they imitated his obnoxious orthopraxy all around the city, probably creating a whole new class of professionals. Professional irritants. Pulling up wheat and weeds indiscriminantly.
I cannot hide the fact that I think Socrates was a fatalist who, seeing the Golden age of Athens stretched too tightly around him, perhaps felt that the debunking of status quo- whether in regards to piety, justice or freedom--was not only natural but also beneficial. Although it would mean the end of the State as it was and life as he had enjoyed it.
He bites the hand that feeds him, and finally, the hand closes around his neck. What I find a little grotesque is that he did his duty on the surface and then under many guises of curiosity and searching undermined the State that had required the duty and valor of him.
He seemed wise out of context, apart from neglecting the care of his family and hiding his opposotion in circular and sarcastic debunking. A man who really cared about others would have risked himself more. He shows people to be foolish by proving that people often have a very hard time defining the things they feel most passionate about, almost as if to say that you only have the right to feel strongly toward things you perfectly understand and can perfectly define. In every era, it's the things that mystify us that capture our fascination and enrapture our affections. We are slaves to powers we don't particularly understand and that's nothing to be ashamed of.
This essay is going to be hard.