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Started by KanKhaderKhanKan on Jul 29, 2015 4:49:24 PM
Socrates: A trickster or troll in toga?

Initially I use to have a positive view of this old fella, an intellectual martyr (e.g. Plato's apology) who died for his convictions during the Peloponessian war, but the more you read the dialogues of Plato - especially the later stuff - the more unsympathetic he becomes as a character.

See my first post why.

cozzer - 29 Jul 2015 16:51:59 (#1 of 166)


KanKhaderKhanKan - 29 Jul 2015 16:52:01 (#2 of 166)

Socrates rarely ever offers answers - using the cop out 'too ignorant to voice an opinion' then proceeds to ask others to give an opinion (why? For the entertainment of having their ignorance paraded and skewered?) - instead he baits/goads others (usually people who haven't harmed him in personally and whose works doesn't obstruct/interfere in the life of Socrates) just for a response like an internet troll. Now you may say he is attempting to enlighten them in some way an expert - which Socrates never publicly claims but it is a theme 'the cult of the expert' he returns and praises (see his dialogue Laches) when he dissects and interjects the answers of his victims (because if they are real Plato's uses them almost like a mannequin to display how clever and subtle Socrates methods - cleverness shared by with the sophists whom Plato despises for charging money - the only people in real life who use people to display their specialness are either children or narcissists).

Socrates himself also admits in one of his dialogues that not only are his actual thoughts on a subject are often so ill-thought out that they nothing more (see dialogue Theaetetus) then "everything you and I uttered today was but brainfarts", Socrates was an argumentative show-off who offered nothing practical (ie like a plumber offering plumbing advice to a customer: follow this general rule of thumbs to fix Y: instead he always takes his discussion away from the topic his enquirer asks) and in the beginning of every exchange in the dialogue Socrates only self-abases himself so as to bully any inquirer who had the temerity or stupidity to invite him to a discussion. Yes Socrates does a brilliant job in skewering the grandiose Athenians who offer easy/complacent answers but Socrates for me never comes across as reflective as say Montaigne or Kierkegaard was. He was not a tortured original like Nietzsche or even the Pre-Socratics. Socrates I believe was killed because he foolishly believed he could get away trolling grieving Athenian whilst disaster was visiting their city.

In fact the more I think about the matter the more Socrates really comes across as a medieval jester (ie an unpoetical, but egotistical, version of Lear's fool).

<rant over>

MaisonLazlique - 29 Jul 2015 16:54:51 (#3 of 166)

On the other hand, he did invent the plate.

RosyLovelady - 29 Jul 2015 16:59:47 (#4 of 166)

He wasn't as tiresome as that other old geezer dreamed up by Shakespeare. Bossy old Prospero, what a git.

KanKhaderKhanKan - 29 Jul 2015 17:00:11 (#5 of 166)

Let's take (assuming it's real) his famous hemlock scene from Plato: for a guy who drank poison he does chatter on and on, always having to have the final say, and for a brief moment as you reading the thought comes "couldn't the Athenians not give him a more stronger poison?". I think Aristophanes barb of Socrates - which seemed to have irked the latter enough that he mentions it in his trial - was certainly onto something.

KanKhaderKhanKan - 29 Jul 2015 17:02:16 (#6 of 166)

He wasn't as tiresome as that other old geezer dreamed up by Shakespeare.

One good thing one can say about Socrates is that he didn't seem (if the Theaetetus dialogue are an accurate guide) to take his own thoughts seriously which does lead me to wonder where he/Socrates was truly a troll in toga but he certainly was grandiose/held high-opinion about the role he thought he was playing (didn't he compare himself to Achilles during his trial?) in his city-state.

Dementor - 29 Jul 2015 17:13:44 (#7 of 166)

When I was young and less dense than now I concluded that most of what Socrates was doing was chaining together ambiguities in language rather than revealing true errors in logic.

Human language is imprecise. Talk long enough and you can eventually prove black is white.

KanKhaderKhanKan - 29 Jul 2015 17:19:44 (#8 of 166)

Human language is imprecise. Talk long enough and you can eventually prove black is white.

Like a sophist? According to Aristophanes, not a reliable/impartial source I admit, this what Socrates often did though I suspect these types of language ambiguities were something Socrates exploited for what though is matter of mystery (as we only got Plato's and Xenophon's accounts) but some form of egotistical exhibitionism (eg a poor man who trolled the rich and famous) must have played a role.

Unfair? Well compare this here is a description to what a psychologist called 'the anti-social personality':

In the mind of the antisocial, they are doing people a service, confronting them with the truth and with their blind spots. In the minds of everyone else, the antisocial is simply overly confrontational

Now here's what Socrates says in his famous trial speech when he compares himself to a gadfly:

And now, Athenians, I am not going to argue for my own sake, as you may think, but for that you may not sin against the God by condemning me, who am his gift to you. For if you kill me you will not easily find a successor to me, who, if I may use such a ludicrous figure of speech, am a sort of gadfly, given to the state by God; and the state is a great and noble steed who is tardy in his motions owing to his very size, and requires to be stirred into life. I am that gadfly which God has attached to the state, and all day long and in all places am always fastening upon you, arousing and persuading and reproaching you.

Notice how the two descriptions (ie the anti-social and gadfly) correlate? I personally think this indicates Socrates was a troll in toga or am I wrong?

SlasherBindman - 29 Jul 2015 17:31:45 (#9 of 166)

-10. Not a Mingmong thread.

browserbutton - 29 Jul 2015 17:37:58 (#10 of 166)

I don't think Socrates would have worn a toga, would he?

cozzer - 29 Jul 2015 17:40:45 (#11 of 166)

Damn, I was just about to make that point.

browserbutton - 29 Jul 2015 17:43:48 (#12 of 166)

He probably wore a himation or something similar.

KanKhaderKhanKan - 29 Jul 2015 17:52:32 (#13 of 166)

I don't think Socrates would have worn a toga, would he?

If you correct then my bad, then he's a troll in whatever clothing the Athenians of that time use to wear.

KanKhaderKhanKan - 31 Jul 2015 10:45:50 (#14 of 166)

No takers? Hmm...

That aside is it just me or is Shakespeare's "to be or not to be" a riff on the final portion of Socrates' trial speech?

Pentecost - 04 Aug 2015 11:16:42 (#15 of 166)

He used to wear a toga just to provoke people to tell him he couldn't do it.

MonsoonBloom - 04 Aug 2015 12:07:10 (#16 of 166)

Well, you've probably got a point. Although he was responsible for plato, and therefore for aristotle. Which isn't bad. As legacies go. Even if plato was a bit of a nazi.

tasselhoff - 04 Aug 2015 12:23:00 (#17 of 166)

Has anyone mentioned his stint as a cigarette-smoking footballer? He is a veritable polymath.

KanKhaderKhanKan - 04 Aug 2015 12:37:33 (#18 of 166)

Has anyone mentioned his stint as a cigarette-smoking footballer? He is a veritable polymath.

A 'transmigration of souls' or in this case 'transmigration of soles'.

aegiandyad - 05 Aug 2015 17:13:32 (#19 of 166)

Socrates died when Golden Age Athens – an ambitious, radical, visionary city-state – had triumphed as a leader of the world, and then over-reached herself and begun to crumble. His unusual personal piety, his guru-like attraction to the young men of the city, suddenly seemed to have a sinister tinge. And although Athens adored the notion of freedom of speech (the city even named one of its warships Parrhesia after the concept), the population had yet to resolve how far freedom of expression ratified a freedom to offend.

Socrates was, I think, a scapegoat for Athens's disappointment. When the city was feeling strong, the quirky philosopher could be tolerated. But, overrun by its enemies, starving, and with the ideology of democracy itself in question, the Athenians took a more fundamentalist view. A confident society can ask questions of itself; when it is fragile, it fears them. Socrates's famous aphorism "the unexamined life is not worth living" was, by the time of his trial, clearly beginning to jar.

barkis - 05 Aug 2015 17:21:05 (#20 of 166)

He died after the Peloponnesian War.

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