The Trial And Death Of Socrates--Hi, iconomy!
July 24, 2003 6:33 AM   Subscribe

As to The Uses and Disadvantages of Socrates, sources differ but seem to share in common an ideal fictional Socrates to speak their understanding of the common account. From Doug Linder's Famous Trials--for your bookmarking convenience--comes The Trial of Socrates, featuring ample background materials, including I.F. Stone's take. Marilyn Katz's Background Materials on Socrates' Trial and Death are essential, too. Several other accounts are offered online--consider Socrates and his Audience, The Accusations Against Socrates, Gadfly on Trial: Socrates as Citizen and Social Critic and the rather d.i.y. Socrates Had It Coming. But as to the historical Socrates, the man in context becomes key--as all of the above do contend, more or less, let it be noted--and therefore one needs to become become familiar with things like sexuality in Fifth-Century Athens, desecration of the herms, Eleusian Mysteries, the Peloponnesian War, the fateful Sicilian Expedition and the collective memory of civil war and civic memory in ancient Athens that ensued, as well as the personalities of Critias and Alcibiades to answer the question entitled in my own favorite account, the book entire: Who Was Socrates ?
posted by y2karl (39 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I want a town where the father of a handsome lad will stop in the street and say to me reproachfully as if I had failed him, "Ah! Is this well done, Stilbonides? You met my son coming from the bath after the gymnasium and you neither spoke to him, nor kissed him, nor took him with you, nor ever once felt his balls. Would anyone call you an old friend of mine?"

Aristophanes, The Birds


Oh, yeah, the More Inside part--now with 5th Century Athenian sexuality, too! ...well, let me refer you to Homosexual Eros in Early Greece , Being A Man In The Ancient World, from the Greek Symposium comes the helpful Social Customs and Sexual Relations and then there is Education and Pederasty in Ancient Greece--Pedagogic Pederasty--now there's a phrase and concept...

As for herms, you have Herm and Sacrifice, Pan and Sheperd as examples from Athenian vases, and it you scroll down the very intactivist Circumstitions's A Gallery of Intact Penises in Art, you will see the very example of the sort of Herm that was desecrated, as well you will at Classical Erotic Art--similar to what you can buy today from, ahem, the Pricstown Pen Is-Examiner, wherein men objectify men as thoroughly as men objectify women. Stop looking at me like that! I am so much MORE than just a penis! *bursts into tears, runs from room*
posted by y2karl at 6:36 AM on July 24, 2003


Well, there are many other things too that one could find to say in praise of Socrates, and amazing things at that; but whereas in the case of the other aspects of his behaviour, one might perhaps also say such things about someone else, the fact that there is no human being like him, whether among past generations or among those alive now - that's what deserves our complete amazement. With the sort of man Achilles was, one could compare Brasidas and others, and for Pericles' sort there'd be Nestor and Antenor ... But as for the sort of man this one is, so strange is he, both in himself and in the things he says, one wouldn't come even close to finding anyone like him if one looked ...

Alcibiades in The Symposium by Plato


*runs back in, breathless* Oh, yeah, I forgot--here's another key: Dêmos · Classical Athenian Democracy from the incomparable The Stoa, where I plan to spend much time in the near future. Incredible source, that.

The *takes a deep breath* AC/CLC2 Views of Antiquity component course on images of Socrates has a nice page of synopses of pertinent passages from the dialogues of Plato and Xenophon and Diogenes Laertius's biographical passage on Socrates, among other texts. Also icluded there are Orations 3, 8, 9 and 18 through 21 by Maximus of Tyre--a name new to these eyes.

This whole project sprung forth from my researching this exchange between 111 and Civil_Disobedient in that Blair Hornstine thread--Why must I know this woman's name and story? Aiyee! It isn't fair!--Civil_Disobedient had the better of it, in my opinion. But what did I know? This made me scratch my chin in wonder... and then get to sussing it out...

Heh, and for you game fans--and I know you've stuck it out this far!--there's the Socrates Argument Clinic. Enjoy!
posted by y2karl at 6:37 AM on July 24, 2003


All I know is that it's going to take me the rest of the day to go through all this material and see if I actually have anything to say on the topic.

Great post y2karl!
posted by tuxster at 6:38 AM on July 24, 2003


Wow... a 25,600 character front page post (including the 2 "more inside" follow ups & Title Tag essays). You may have set an all time record...
posted by jonson at 7:31 AM on July 24, 2003


Excellent, karl. F'ing excellent.
posted by trharlan at 7:33 AM on July 24, 2003


*bookmark for later*

good stuff.
posted by ColdChef at 8:14 AM on July 24, 2003


I was about to say this:
y2karl, you sum'bitch! You stole my thoughts and made a FPP out of 'em! You bastard!

Then I saw the the link, and I felt very, very small. Thanks for the props. In return, I'd like to add one small bit of interesting trivia that I loved using in support of Socrates' execution:

One of Socrates' favorite poets was Theognis, a Greek didactic, elegiac poet from Megara who lived in the 6th century BC. Interestingly enough, he and Socrates shared the same passions for sex and politics. In sex, he loved little boys (one in particular named Cyrnus, which he wrote a lot about); in politics, he was an elitist, not a democrat. Now, Megara is an area that sits between Athens and Sparta, and was constantly fought over during the Peloponnesian War; Theognis supported the aristocracy but they were later ousted by the lower-class mob. Theognis wrote a poem about this rabble, one that Socrates just loved telling his students...

Stamp on the empty-headed people! Jab
With your pointed goad, and lay the heavy yoke
Around their necks! You won't find, under the sun
A people who love slavery so much.

posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:45 AM on July 24, 2003


wow, excellent post. i have reading material for the next three days with this stuff. thanks.
posted by joedan at 8:56 AM on July 24, 2003


I can't read those little link description things.
posted by alterego at 9:54 AM on July 24, 2003


OK, it's a bit of a mumble-jumble, wheat and chaff post, and its somewhat trite assumption ("Oh! can we ever know who was Socrates? I think not!") can be misleading, since there are many interpretations but relatively few original sources to Socrates' life and thought. So first of all it's important to go to the three known reliable, historical sources for Socrates: Plato, Xenophon and Aristotle (who did not know him personally but obviously knew people who did and, hey, it's Aristotle). Go to these primary sources and make up your mind, I say. Read the commentators later, when you'll be able to choose those who matter and disregard the rest.

Since there are several Dialogues relevant to the discussion of Socrates' thought and later ordeal, it's very important to carefully read, aside from the "Apology" etc etc, the often-overlooked "Minos". Forget Aristophanes' "Clouds" and please: I.F.Stone did a good journalistic job for the middlebrow, but his populist assessment of Socrates as a conservative whose punishment was somehow overdue, if "unfair" (as in "they shouldn't have done that, but he had it coming, that smug elitist...") is too partisan and affected by those vulgar plagues, backwards reading and cultural relativism.

BTW, the conspiratorial, Thirty Tyrants/herms desecration is also entirely, 100% ex post facto.

The homosexual argument has nothing whatsoever to do with Socrates particularly, inasmuch as he was no different from the average athenian citizen and the "penetrative role" associated therewith.

These are the key concepts for a basic understanding of Socrates:
-Polis
-Athenian Democracy
-Virtue

My own 2 cents: Socrates, ultimately, died for the sins of anyone who despises the crowd. He was aware of the horrors that would be brought by ochlocracy centuries before it actually happened, and his worldview is more important than ever.
posted by 111 at 9:54 AM on July 24, 2003


111, it looks like you're quite knowledgeable about Socrates. If you had phrased your comment a little differently I might be more inclined to follow your suggestions and probably learn quite a bit. But your phrasing is so condescending it's offensive: mumble-jumble, wheat and chaff post, its somewhat trite assumption, I.F.Stone did a good journalistic job for the middlebrow.

In the off-chance that you're interested in constructive feedback: Try to further your points without knocking the poster's. Instead of making disparaging remarks about what was by most people's standards a well-researched post, make your contribution an addition, not a competitor to the original FPP.

Here in MetaFilter - as in virtually all interactions - the message is influenced by the medium. A little more consideration in how the message is delivered would go a long way.
posted by widdershins at 10:36 AM on July 24, 2003


Also, what were you trying to say with "the conspiratorial, Thirty Tyrants/herms desecration is also entirely, 100% ex post facto"? I do not think "ex post facto" means what you think it means.
posted by languagehat at 11:37 AM on July 24, 2003


Hear hear, widdershins. This prolly should go into MeTa, but 111 is edging much closer to membership in the very small club (e.g., can count on one hand with a couple of fingers missing) of MeFi members whose posts I completely dismiss. And 99% of that, in 111's case, is due to his/her continued scornful tone.
posted by Vidiot at 11:51 AM on July 24, 2003


BTW, the conspiratorial, Thirty Tyrants/herms desecration is also entirely, 100% ex post facto.

To what? Both happened years before the trial of Socrates and it was the Athenians' understanding at the time--not to mention the contemporary scholarly consensus now--that Socrates was accused and tried because he did not leave Athens during the murderous reign of the Thirty, for one, and that the infamous herm smashing Alcibiades was his protege, for another.

His one act of defiance was in not serving the arrest warrant on Leon The Metic (not his refusal to punish some soldier under his command--a 'factoid' you evidently pulled out of your ass...) Did he bother to warn Leon of the danger he was in? No. Was Leon murdered by the Thirty? Yes. As so many of the sources linked above note, Socrates, as portrayed by Plato, mounted a pretty piss poor defense vis-a-vis his cooperation with the tyrants.

111--You're a joke. Your inability to buttress your pettinesses with any documentation is telling. You have to make yourself right by making everyone else wrong--always. It's the birthmark of the self-doubting, insecure loser, to belittle other people the way you do.

I.F.Stone, to his credit, at least learned to read Plato in the Classical Greek--and when he was in his 70s, no less. Middlebrow is you, pal. This is the simplest explanation of your perpetual pretentiousness: you're an intellectual social climber, a pretender. Would a truly superior thinker, in command of the facts, stoop to the hamhanded condescension you've trademarked as your own? I think not.

Upon review: well, languagehat points it out a bit more subtly....
posted by y2karl at 11:53 AM on July 24, 2003


widdershins, thanks for your comments but I'm only a student. Philosophy is literally a lifelong process; Aristotle used to say that only the mature, serious man (spoudaios) was capable of truly autonomous thought. As to voicing one's opinions, read a book called "Wittgenstein's Poker" if you care about the issue of free speech, medium and message.

languagehat, the "facto" is not the trial, it's the thesis that Socrates was condemned for being friends with the wrong kind of people (Alcibiades, Critias et al) even though he eventually opposed their decisions, and it's merely one among several others theories.

Others say, for instance, that Socrates was actually put to trial because an athenian officer whose incompetence he publicly denounced pulled a few strings backstage, conspired against Socrates and voila, history is made.

Some others say Aristophanes harmed Socrates' public image with the "Clouds" play. While these theories can be defended, they're somehow shallow, vague and do not take into account the whole picture.

y2karl, I hope I'm a funny one. I do my best to always stick to the facts, even when the post is basically mediocrity masked by excess. Anyway, you're still misinformed.

Leon of Salamis' arrest wasn't Socrates' "one case of defiance". Even a remedial student with cursory knowledge of the facts would quickly dismiss such an assertion, since Socrates stood up against the government's tenets several times. Leon's was another, later story. Socrates actually refused to endorse the en masse conviction of commanders (he had long since quit being a soldier himself) who allegedly failed to rescue their troops. He believed they should be allowed separate trials, since at least one among them could be innocent.

It doesn't really take a genius to realize that Socrates couldn't possibly have been condemned by only one or two simple, watered-down reasons, but again I suggest that anyone with an interest in the whole affair-- which I consider the second most important historical fact of all time after the Crucifixion-- go to the contemporary sources. If you find yourself in doubt re particular details, look for a good reference book such as the Britannica and avoid making a fool of yourself in public.
posted by 111 at 2:21 PM on July 24, 2003


Y2Karl should get at least one gold star for this post and other amazing posts like it.

And: 111, you're a complete and utter asshat. You and insomnyuk should start a club. You could call it AsshatFilter.

Asshats unite!
posted by bshort at 3:07 PM on July 24, 2003


Even a remedial student with cursory knowledge of the facts would quickly dismiss such an assertion, since Socrates stood up against the government's tenets several times.

And which government would that be, that Socrates stood up against, if I may trouble your Omniscience to trifle with some small detail? Was it the democracy or the Thirty? There certainly would be quite a difference to the Athenians of the time.

The democracy was fickle and foolish and had blood on its hands often enough. The trouble is when the great men came in, they resorted to terror and murder. The story Leon of Salamis counts more because the one time Socrates refused the Thirty, he did so in the most obsequious and accommodating way.

As for the soldiers, I stand somewhat corrected , I guess--refusal to discipline a soldier under his command etc. becomes refusing to endorse an en masse conviction of commanders, with no citations in either case.

As for another of your because I said so statements--that Socrates couldn't possibly have been condemned by only one or two simple, watered-down reasons, not that I ever recall presenting any two such, myself, may I cite, as suggested, Britannica:

The students who flocked to him, including Plato, Alcibiades, and Critias (c. 480–403 BC), were many of the finest in Athens. When Alcibiades became a traitor and Critias joined the Sparta-imposed Thirty Tyrants, Socrates was decried by many, including Aristophanes. Accused of impiety and of corrupting the Athenian youth, he was condemned to death in 399 BC

Alcibiades, Critias and the Thirty monotonously appear once again...

And here from Doug Liner's take on the Trial of Socrates:

One incident involving Socrates and the Thirty Tyrants would later become an issue at his trial. Although the Thirty normally used their own gang of thugs for such duties, the oligarchy asked Socrates to arrest Leon of Salamis so that he might be executed and his assets appropriated. Socrates refused to do so. Socrates would point to his resistance to the order as evidence of his good conduct. On the other hand, Socrates neither protested the decision nor took steps to warn Leon of Salamis of the order for his arrest--he just went home. While good citizens of Athens were being liquidated right and left, Socrates--so far as we know--did or said nothing to stop the violence.

The horrors brought on by the Thirty Tyrants caused Athenians to look at Socrates in a new light. His teachings no longer seemed so harmless. He was no longer a lovable town eccentric. Socrates--and his icy logic--came to be seen as a dangerous and corrupting influence, a breeder of tyrants and enemy of the common man
.

Socrates stood with the oligarchs, the landed gentry against the demos--he was, as quoted above, sophistic in his philosophical debate, elitist in his intellectualism and an oligarch in politics. The Thirty were famously described as having killed more Athenians in nine months than the Spartans had in ten years. Socrates quietly dwelt among them and tacitly acquiesced to their tyranny. Critias, the great butcher of the Thirty,and the great traitor Alcibiades were Socrates' pupils--small wonder the Athenians thought him dangerous enough to condemn to death.
posted by y2karl at 4:17 PM on July 24, 2003


the "facto" is not the trial, it's the thesis that Socrates was condemned for being friends with the wrong kind of people (Alcibiades, Critias et al)

And it's a darned good thesis. The "several others theories" you mention pale in light of the fact that Socrates wasn't just "friends" with the worst dictators Athens had ever seen, but was their teacher. This wasn't some rich kids reading Socrates and thinking, "Gee, this really speaks to me." Remember that over hundreds of years of Athenian history, you had in a very small timeframe, recurring overthrows of Athenian power, with each tyrant more brutal than his predecessor. All the while, you've got Socrates essentially thumbing his nose at Athens, too chicken-shit to move to his beloved Sparta, yet all the while training future dictators to overthrow the country he lived in.

If I started a terrorist traning camp in Montana, and taught students the ideology (not necessarily the practical method) of overthrowing our government and replacing it with an Islamic state bent on terrorizing its own citizens, then one of my students (say, a wealthy son of an oil baron) actually went ahead and did it, and then the people rose up and overthrew him, only to have the same thing happen fifteen years later -- well, suffice to say, I don't think too many tears would be shed at my execution. To be blunt, the Athenians were tired of his shit.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:25 PM on July 24, 2003


Is anyone else as tired of this boorish pedant as I am?
posted by signal at 5:12 PM on July 24, 2003


Was it the democracy or the Thirty?

Both. He actually managed to irk citizens, oligarchs, tyrant wannabes et al at the same time.

Socrates never implied all the military commanders were innocent, but that some of them, at least one, could be, and at any rate all were entitled to individual trials.

As for another of your because I said so statements--that Socrates couldn't possibly have been condemned by only one or two simple, watered-down reasons, not that I ever recall presenting any two such, myself

Your point of view is too narrow in that it stresses the Socrates-Thirty Tyrants connection as the main reason.

Doug Liner is misleading, btw; the Thirty asked five men, Socrates being one of them, to go after the Metic.

On the other hand, Socrates neither protested the decision nor took steps to warn Leon of Salamis of the order for his arrest--he just went home. While good citizens of Athens were being liquidated right and left, Socrates--so far as we know--did or said nothing to stop the violence.

Backwards, heavy ideologized, naive thinking again. Why should he care about Leon? This is Athens the City State, not some fairy tale where altruism is a natural expectation.

Socrates stood with the oligarchs, the landed gentry against the demos--he was, as quoted above, sophistic in his philosophical debate, elitist in his intellectualism and an oligarch in politics.

This is an outright incorrect and populist view; Izzy Stone would probably appreciate it. Nowhere in the Dialogues or in the Memorabilia do we find this one-sided, cartoonish, superficial Socrates you try to picture; although he did have really conservative disciples like Antisthenes, Socrates asked more than asserted and never shunned complexity as you do.

Please quit this frantic googling around and read the Dialogues.

[Civil_Disobdient]: too chicken-shit to move to his beloved Sparta, yet all the while training future dictators to overthrow the country he lived in.

Nonsense. He stayed in Athens and died for his principles. He stood up against vulgar public opinion. How could that be cowardly?

Socrates expressly denounced the shortcomings of several political systems, including Attic democracy. To compare him to a mere political activist as you do betrays (again) an embarrassing unacquaintance with Plato's works and a hurried desire to judge a man whose ideas you don't seem to know very well by current politically correct standards. In a sense, that's even worse than what the 510 did, since they at least took the time to hear what he had to say.
posted by 111 at 5:17 PM on July 24, 2003


And the post facto is a bit rich, too--These post facto statements all come from his contemporaries:

Aeschines Against Timarchus 173

Did you put to death Socrates the sophist, fellow citizens, because he was shown to have been the teacher of Critias, one of the Thirty who put down the democracy, and after that, shall Demosthenes succeed in snatching companions of his own out of your hands, Demosthenes, who takes such vengeance on private citizens and friends of the people for their freedom of speech?

Xenophon Memorabilia 1.2.9

But, said his accuser, he taught his companions to despise the established laws by insisting on the folly of appointing public officials by lot, when none would choose a pilot or builder or flautist by lot, nor any other craftsman for work in which mistakes are far less disastrous than mistakes in statecraft. Such sayings, he argued, led the young to despise the established constitution and made them violent.

Xenophon, Mem, 1.2.13. Now I have no intention of excusing the wrong these two men wrought the state; but I will explain how they came to be with Socrates.

Xen., Mem, 1.2.56. Again, his accuser alleged that he selected from the most famous poets the most immoral passages, and used them as evidence in teaching his companions to be tyrants and malefactors:

like the above quoted verse of Theogonis, no doubt, or where Odysseus beats Thersites in the Iliad--hardly music to any demos ears.
posted by y2karl at 5:30 PM on July 24, 2003


Is anyone else as tired of this boorish pedant as I am?

Could you please be more specific?
posted by crunchland at 5:37 PM on July 24, 2003


To compare him to a mere political activist as you do betrays (again) an embarrassing unacquaintance with Plato's works and a hurried desire to judge a man whose ideas you don't seem to know very well by current politically correct standards.

Nonsense. He merely makes the distinction between your reading of Socrates, the literary creation of Plato, and the unknown historical Socrates--and whose side he took in the civil wars, as judged by the historical Athenians. Judging from the opinions of the scholars linked herein, it's part and parcel of the common understanding--advocates of your fin de siecle Victorian Socrates seem to be the exception.
posted by y2karl at 5:42 PM on July 24, 2003


111, from one smart guy to another:

There's no board of professors reading the MetaFilter threads and praising you for each put-down you post.

At the end of your life, nobody's going to care how smart you were.

At the end of your life, there won't be any award given out for the most intellectual points scored.

It goes without saying that you have a perfect right to think that someone's a fool, that someone shows an embarrassing lack of acquaintance with something or other, that someone is a naive thinker, that someone is worse than remedial student. You totally have that right.

You are free to hold your beliefs, but you are under no obligation to verbalize them.

Think before you type.

Conversation is not warfare.

111, I don't know what you're like in real life; the only facet of you I see is the one that you present here. But based on that facet, I think you have a heck of a lot to learn about social interaction. ("I" messages. Try them.)

In short: chill out, will you?
posted by Tin Man at 5:46 PM on July 24, 2003


Oh. Also. I came across this quote lately, from John Stuart Mill's Autobiography, that seems somehow apt:

"I remember the very place in Hyde Park where, in my fourteenth year, on the eve of leaving my father's house for a long absence, he told me that I should find, as I got acquainted with new people, that I had been taught many things which youths of my age did not commonly know; and that many persons would be disposed to talk to me of this, and to compliment me upon it. What other things he said on this topic I remember very imperfectly; but he wound up by saying, that whatever I knew more than others, could not be ascribed to any merit in me, but to the very unusual advantage which had fallen to my lot, of having a father who was able to teach me, and willing to give the necessary trouble and time; that it was no matter of praise to me, if I knew more than those who had not had a similar advantage, but the deepest disgrace to me if I did not."
posted by Tin Man at 6:00 PM on July 24, 2003


Er. "I came across this quote recently." Not "lately." I can't devalue intelligence and then use bad grammar, can I?

(Actually, maybe that would be appropriate, but still. :) )
posted by Tin Man at 6:03 PM on July 24, 2003


Guess what: these contemporary accounts were post facto as well! Since they deal with the trial's outcome, isn't that obvious to you?

Aeschines- asking a question;
Xen. I- nothing to do with the Tyrants particularly;
Xen. II- a teacher-disciple association widely known and by no means exclusive;
Xen. III- nothing to do w/ the Tyrants' affair per se; it would be expected that Socrates' accuser wouldn't praise him, but rather (falsely) portray him as an evil teacher of evil things.

As the 1st Xen. excerpt shows, "establishment laws" meant a lot more than "not overthrowing the government like the Tyrants did". The implication that Critias was a sort of practical outcome of Socrates' teaching was a useful rhetorical device that happened to reflect the public mood, without being an all-encompassing, incontrovertible accusation in itself.

like the above quoted verse of Theogonis, no doubt, or where Odysseus beats Thersites in the Iliad--hardly music to any demos ears.

The ruling citizens were the ones really affected by Socrates' ideas. Which again calls for a comprehensive assessment of his trial as opposed to a simplistic reasoning.

Socrates' connection with the TT didn't help him, but to say he was condemned because of it is an oversimplification. Why didn't the formal process simply state "high treason" instead of corrupting innocent minds, atheism etc? Why was he condemned by a narrow margin? Because there were several factors at work. The Thirty Tyrants are just a magic bullet used by people who can't deal with historical complexity.

On preview, Tin Man, thanks, but are we discussing or socializing? Aren't honesty and pursuit of virtuous knowledge (arete) ends in themselves?
posted by 111 at 6:16 PM on July 24, 2003


I don't think discussion can be separated from socializing. You yourself acknowledge the social element by denigrating the intelligence of people who don't know as many facts as you do, instead of focusing merely on the facts under discussion.

Pursuit of virtuous knowledge is a wonderful end. But so is acting kindly towards your fellow human beings. It's possible to do both.

As for honesty, that's sometimes a good end. But calling someone a fool, or naive, or embarrassing, or worse than a remedial student, are expressions of personal opinion, not expressions of fact. If you prefaced such comments with "I think," then you'd be honestly expressing your opinion: "I think you're a fool" or "I think your level of knowledge is worse than that of a remedial student." Still not great, still tactless, but at least better than turning such opinions into grand pronouncements of alleged fact.
posted by Tin Man at 6:58 PM on July 24, 2003


"a bit of a mumble-jumble, wheat and chaff post"

"the post is basically mediocrity masked by excess"

"this frantic googling"

[this is good]
posted by todd at 7:39 PM on July 24, 2003


111 acts like a turd, it's his schtick. Nice post y2karl.
posted by Hildago at 7:47 PM on July 24, 2003


Ah, the pursuit of knowledge through social interaction - add booze and you've got a symposium!

I've only read Plato in translation, but one thing I remember from the dialogues is the courtesy of the discourse. I am sure my friends here will correct me if I am wrong.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:43 PM on July 24, 2003


Critias had long been showing uneasiness, for he felt that he had a reputation to maintain with Charmides and the rest of the company. He had, however, hitherto managed to restrain himself; but now he could no longer forbear, and I am convinced of the truth of the suspicion which I entertained at the time, that Charmides had heard this answer about temperance from Critias. And Charmides, who did not want to answer himself, but to make Critias answer, tried to stir him up. He went on pointing out that he had been refuted, at which Critias grew angry, and appeared, as I thought, inclined to quarrel with him...
posted by languagehat at 8:55 PM on July 24, 2003


What a wanker (malakas)!
posted by signal at 9:00 PM on July 24, 2003


...And when Critias told him that I was the person who had the cure, he looked at me in such an indescribable manner, and was just going to ask a question. And at that moment all the people in the palaestra crowded about us, and, O rare! I caught a sight of the inwards of his garment, and took the flame. Then I could no longer contain myself. I thought how well Cydias understood the nature of love, when, in speaking of a fair youth, he warns some one "not to bring the fawn in the sight of the lion to be devoured by him," for I felt that I had been overcome by a sort of wild-beast appetite. But I controlled myself, and when he asked me if I knew the cure of the headache, I answered, but with an effort, that I did know.
posted by y2karl at 9:30 PM on July 24, 2003


Malakas! How apropos!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:15 AM on July 25, 2003


111, don't be so quick to dismiss Aristophanes. His portrayal of Socrates in the Clouds is vulgar and uncomfortable but is probably close to the popular view, in part because Aristophanes created that view. The caracature thus presented is a unworldly 'boffin' and closely associated with the new scientific materialism, immorality and tedious wordplay of the Sophists. Plato subsequently went to great lengths to distinguish his mentors' thought from those innovations - at the time the Athenians were probably not so discriminating.

The actual charge was that Socrates was "a doer of evil, who corrupts the youth; and who does not believe in the gods of the state, but has other new divinities of his own." There's a case that the prosecution was at least in part motivated by religious orthodoxy which was threatened by the new materialist science and Socrates took the fall.

At 111s suggestion I browsed the Minos which is new to me. I have to confess that, much as I love Plato, the tedious wordplay and conceptual shell game that he portrays Socrates as performing can be profoundly irritating. I can see how he made enemies (bless 'im). As we see here, it's so easy to do.
posted by grahamwell at 1:37 PM on July 25, 2003


In Search of the Historical Socrates
Special Edition DVD - featuring 87 different reconstructions!
Also includes two(2) Verstehende™ VR headsets!
(Academics - ask about our special OC discount! See how you can contribute to our expanding Alternate Version Library!)

(For a limited time, we'll include 111's spectacularly spacious post mortem coda - performed by the dazzling Ulterior Motives, featuring Grace Less on the discordion!)
posted by Opus Dark at 2:48 PM on July 25, 2003


...is probably close to the popular view, in part because Aristophanes created that view

You might want to rethink this. Comic playwrights do not (as far as I am aware) create popular views; they take views they see around them and embody them in amusing characters and situations. If they're good (and lucky), some of their characters and lines enter the popular mind and live on as stereotypes and cliches. But I seriously doubt that Aristophanes "created" the popular view of Socrates, or that there's any evidence to back up such an assertion. People were perfectly capable of creating their own views of a striking character who was always hanging around the agora expressing strong opinions.
posted by languagehat at 8:57 AM on July 26, 2003


The charge comes from Socrates himself (from the Apology 18 b to d):

".. far more dangerous (of the accusers) are the others, who began when you were children, and took possession of your minds with their falsehoods, telling of one Socrates, a wise man, who speculated about the heaven above, and searched into the earth beneath, and made the worse appear the better cause. The disseminators of this tale are the accusers whom I dread; for their hearers are apt to fancy that such enquirers do not believe in the existence of the gods. And they are many, and their charges against me are of ancient date, and they were made by them in the days when you were more impressible than you are now - in childhood, or it may have been in youth - and the cause when heard went by default, for there was none to answer. And hardest of all, I do not know and cannot tell the names of my accusers; unless in the chance case of a Comic poet."
posted by grahamwell at 10:57 AM on July 26, 2003


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