Poisoned and poisonous

It’s nice to learn that I’m not the only one who felt that Socrates got nothing less than he deserved:

Professor Paul Cartledge has concluded that the trial was legally just and Socrates was guilty as charged. Prof Cartledge said: “Everyone knows that the Greeks invented democracy, but it was not democracy as we know it, and we have misread history as a result. The charges Socrates faced seem ridiculous to us, but in Ancient Athens they were genuinely felt to serve the communal good.”

Setting aside both the absurdity of trans-temporal justice and the particulars of Athenian law, my perspective is that Socrates is most rightly condemned by the doctrine and behavior of his followers. The fact that two of Athens’s worst citizens, Alcibiades and Critias, were his students, and the deplorable totalitarian vision of Plato’s Republic, are more than enough to retroactively damn their instructor. And the flimsiness and dishonesty of his logic make me seriously question the logical capabilities of anyone who is overly impressed by the Socratic method; while it is an effective critical device, it is simply not the effective means of constructing positive conclusions that many people appear to believe it to be.

An intellectually inclined Italian admiral once said to me, the entire history of the ideological war between left and right boils down to Aristotle versus Plato. If this is a reasonable summary, one can’t help but wonder how different the world could have been if the Athenians had had the good sense to put an end to the poisonous philosopher before he sowed his sophistic seeds.