I’ve heard it suggested that Socrates wasn’t a real man. It’s said he may have been a literary device created by Plato and used for illustrating philosophical lessons through story.
I have no patience for historical debates on the subject, but if forced, I’d agree that he never existed.
Socrates supposedly drank the hemlock tea – killing himself for the sake of his abstract ideals. He was so devoted to the ideal of Athenian justice, that he’d face death rather than exile (he didn’t have to die. Apparently, he was given multiple opportunities to flee).
I find this very hard to believe.
In fact, when push comes to shove, men are never willing to die for abstractions. I know I wouldn’t. I have a new name for the man who claims he would; I’m going to call him Fouxcrates.
I had an Army Sergeant First Class who taught me photography while I was in the military. I was very naive and idealistic back then. I made some light-hearted comment about fighting for liberty, and he stopped the class to correct me publicly.
“You think you’re fighting for liberty or freedom?” he asked. “No. When you’re in a combat situation, you’re fighting for the guy in the trench next to you! You’re fighting for his parents, and his wife. You’re fighting to make sure his children have a dad after the war. And he wants the same for you!”
I’ve heard his words over and over, from different people and in different expressions, throughout my military career. And while I’ve never been in a combat situation (not really), I have been in very stressful, dangerous environments and found it true. You’re there for the sake of your comrades – not for abstract ideals.
You wont find Fauxcrates in a fox hole.
Nevertheless, he exists. And what’s worse, while he’s not willing to die for his abstractions, he might certainly kill for them – at least, he’ll mask his desire to kill in the trappings of abstractions.
Damn Yankees were good at this. They hated the South and the Southern way of life. But it wasn’t (I don’t think) because of our different views of the world. Rather, it was the backward notions which stymied economic growth in the North which raised the ire. They wrapped their aggression in pious words and righteous language, but it was always about the money and power.
I’ve learned a new word to describe the disposition of Fauxcrates:
It is the dogmatic, zealous, right-hand-of-God, who feigns allegiance to an abstraction to cover his pettiness, to whom this label applies.
For me and mine … we’ll take sassafras over hemlock, any day.