Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Piety, then, is that which is dear to the gods.

It has been written that Socrates was a short, fat, bald man. Ugly, even. For a culture as obssessed with aesthetics as Athens, I can maybe see why his overly rational, questioning, i.e. not very externally beautiful way of speaking coupled with his physical ugliness did not much to endear him to the people who eventually sentenced him to death.

Of course, let's not forget that Scorates was still an old man when he drank the hemlock. It's not like he was a twenty-something rebel, or even a thirty-something so-called son of god and man. He was an old fart who enjoyed playing word games and messing with people's heads. And who lived on as the most recognizeable name in philosophy? Was it the people who made the old man drink the hemlock? Or was it the man who did the drinking?

I think that the Party in 1984 had the right idea when dealing with dissidents. Do not execute them. Do everything it takes to convince the dissident that he is wrong and that you are right and that he was foolish, perhaps even insane to hold his beliefs. And then you kill him, when he loves you the most. It destroys the possibility of a martyr.

By the way, the title of this article is not a quote from Socrates, it is Euthyphro speaking to Socrates on the subject of...well...piety. I think it's one of the funnier dialogues, if only because it solves absolutely nothing by the end.

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