Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Economist on Socrates

The Economist had a wonderful article on Socrates HERE:

In the coming years, many Athenians...would learn to loathe Socrates. His dialectic was indeed surprisingly negative. Typically, he became obsessed with defining something abstract—What is justice? What is virtue?—and then twisted words to dismantle any opinion offered...

Nonconformism became a heroic value in the Western tradition that Socrates helped to found, especially in societies such as America’s that value individualism...Sometimes truth and virtue require dissent and rebellion. Other times the survival or security of the group takes precedence and requires solidarity. If Socrates the free thinker belonged to a team, a club, a firm or a country today, he would never compromise his values, but he might well compromise his group...Democracies do betray themselves. Challengers such as Socrates exist to test society in its commitment to freedom and, if society fails the test, to remind it of the virtuous path.

The entire article is a must-read. Socrates, who was viewed as funny, seditious, and/or "condescending," is compared to Jon Stewart. The bottom line: people who question society, no matter the time period or location, tend to encounter resistance and sometimes death. The less resistance, the more free the society.

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