Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Response to Apology

Well, this is only a week and a few days late, so I am actually ahead of my college schedule. However, given the fact that my college schedule could have been maintained by anyone who rode the extremely short bus to school, the fact that I keep such a schedule should mean that I am quite the putz. Well, that is my defense, or in Ancient Greek, my Apology. This is my response to Socrates’ Apology in the court of Athens.

Socrates was, in my estimation, the greatest man that has yet lived. Marconi, Babbage, Newton, de Beauvior, Curie or any others are fairly insignificant in their influence by comparison. This dialogue is the simplest evidence of the verity of that statement. Socrates is direct and uses plain language in his dissection of his accuser’s arguments for his prosecution. He outlines his quest for wisdom, in present times this would be called the path to enlightenment. The Oracle at Delphi declared that there was no one in the land wiser than Socrates. He marched all over Athens asking questions of those whom others called wise and found them all lacking. Finding none able to satisfy his need for a wise being, be concluded that perhaps the Oracle was being sly and claiming that all are equally wise or, more likely, equally stupid. For those who don’t know the story of the Oracle of Delphi, the Oracle was a massive, say two storey, hollow statue inside of which the priests could give answers to seekers and pilgrims, while they lit torches and incense to provide atmosphere and invoke a godly presence. These things are pretty impressive even today, I saw one in one of the roman ruins along the west and southwest coast of Turkey. It was smaller and looked like it could barely fit one person inside at a time, but if I were a man less erudite, I would think it rather godlike. But I digress.

The bit about the poets is still very true today. The arrogance I have encountered among those who consider themselves artists continues in nearly all forms of art. The funny thing about artist’s arrogance even extends to those who relate to the artistic community. Like Jim Jarmusch’s film, a director I find quite funny, Coffee and Cigarettes or the movie Reality Bites, those who think they live some sort of bohemian lifestyle and aren’t even artists think that they have some sort of knowledge of the universe that can only come from being outside a society. I find the people that aren’t even artists that claim a sort of wisdom from being in proximity to artists or supporting artists to be extremely ridiculous. The artists are at least tapping into their inspiration and transforming this into some tangible product, but the neo-bohemian does nothing of the sort besides drinking lots of coffee. The artist has inspiration but no real comprehension of that inspiration or whence it comes. This is not wisdom. This reminds me of something I read in my high school philosophy class, probably by Jung or Capra, about the difference between Modern Man and Pseudo-Modern Man. Defense Exhibit 1 in the case for Socrates being the philosophical Elvis and doing everything first. On page 23, section 38A-B, you find elements of existentialism. Socrates discusses his desire to live an examined life and an implied pity, or perhaps disgust, for those who refuse to reflect on their existence. Defense Exhibit 2, your honor. On page 25, section 40A-41D there is a sort of Pascal’s wager. Death is either a sweet release or a meeting of all those who have died and reside in the underworld/Heaven. Defense Exhibit 3.

My favorite part of the dialogue is when he is directing questions to Meletus. Socrates seems to get pissed and really skewers the shit out of his accuser’s claims. In comparison with his jocular tone while conversing with Euthyphro, one gets the feeling that Socrates seems extremely angry and I can feel his voice rising in volume and forcefulness as he continues his obliteration of the frivolous claims of his accusers.

Socrates was never overconfident or frivolous in his defense, except perhaps for the part where he suggests the amount of his fine of one mina (something like one hundred or one thousand dollars), but even then he was making a sentence that was in accordance with his situation and the laws of Athens.

Buddha was an important thinker and so too with Confucius, Chief Seattle and many others from many cultures, but Socrates did so much so early and we are lucky that Plato’s writings are complete and have been saved throughout the years. To conclude, Socrates is and always shall be The Man.

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