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.

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19 Responses to Fauxcrates

  1. rogerunited says:

    Intransigence isn’t necessarily bad. The South was intransigent as was the North, as it turned out.

    • True, but one thing you should know about Southerners is that they love subtle jabs at those whom they would criticize… So, we see Mr. Terry using “intransigent” rather than the more stark critique of “stubborn”.

      It’s true that urban population centers in the north have very subtle office politics, but the Southern way of life is better in this regard, too. Because the Southerner keeps the subtlety in his casual conversation, the Southerner goes to work in an office environment that is considerably more civil, being that the subtlety is left elsewhere. And, the Northern office environment is subtle, working many times as an political and dangerous “snake-pit”…

      The difference might be due to the Anglican tradition of the south (more disposed to a royal heirarchy), with the other areas of the U. S. having more of a non-liturgical bare bones Puritanism (minimalist religion, being close to irreligion). The difference in Northern and Southern cultures may also be due to the differences brought up in St. Thomas Aquinas’ De Regno. That the man from a hotter climate has less blood and is forced to be more clever as he cannot afford to lose that blood. And, that the man from a colder climate produces more blood and can afford to be more physically aggressive as he can replace the blood more easily. I’m interested to hear your comments…

  2. I wasn’t aware that anyone seriously doubts the historicity of Socrates.
    For the Greeks living without the true religion, their philosophy was their faith, so it’s not surprising that they would die for it. Christians have always viewed the philosophy of Plato and Socrates as the best thing that mere men living outside of the covenant could come up with. Socrates promoted many ethical doctrines that went against the vicious spirit of paganism. For example, he taught that it is better to suffer a wrong than to commit a wrong; that is, ethically speaking, it’s better to be murdered than to murder someone else.
    Socrates also served as a soldier.
    I don’t see any reason to trash his memory.

  3. rogerunited says:

    Off topic, but here’s an NC lib who needs some Confederate Memorial Day spirit!


  4. So, Mr. Terry, what would reason would fans of Christian apologetics have against theonomists?

    • shotgunwildatheart says:

      Many Christians (who also practice apologetics) reject theonomy for various reasons.

      I’m a theonomist. As a matter of fact, I see theonomy as a vital part of my “deontological” Christian theory of ethics, and while I’ve taken the time to study many counter-views (and the attempted criticisms) of my position, I’ve not heard one that convinced me to give it up.

      Forgive me for the off-the-cuff attempt to answer your question; we can slice the pie in any number of ways. But in general, it’s my experience that Christians who argue against theonomy, offer the following categories of arguments:

      1. Emotional, knee jerk rejections like “how dare you believe something like that??? It’s unAmerican! Or “would you execute your three year old if he spoke back?!”

      2. They offer knee jerk exegesis or evangelical platitudes. “We’re dead to the law now!” or “Jesus let the woman caught in adultery go!”

      3. When they try to get sophisticated, they might start verse hurling – cherry picking Scriptures, imbibing them with antinomian meaning, and presenting them by the dozens.

      4. The serious critiques take the form of assertions of natural law ethics or counter-eschatological schemes (for instance, the Premill Dispensationalists or Meredith Klein’s “intrusion” ethics).

      • I appreciate your reply. I am also interested in a theonomic approach because I see a lot of potential for the improvement in Christian life. (ie. observing the Sabbath)

      • shotgunwildatheart says:

        I’ve been developing a sort of Sabbath ritual, though I’m not dogmatic about the outward forms.

        If I honor God by ceasing work and ceasing extravagant pleasures on His day – (ceasing them, because it’s a day of honoring, worshiping, and talking to Him), then I feel I’m getting at the spirit of the Law.

        Fortunately (with a few exceptions during my military career), I’ve been able to avoid having to work on Sundays.

  5. Julien says:

    Is there a historical debate? Aristophanes play “the clouds” written and performed prior to Socrates death should be enough evidence to dismiss the silly idea that Socrates was merely Plato’s dramatic character, although he was that too. Could he have been a literary creation by a number of Greek writers? Accounts survive from two students and a poet accuser. I see no reason to believe it was a group creation..but to each his own interpretation.

    • shotgunwildatheart says:

      You sound smart because you called another position “silly”!

      • Julien says:

        You never actually asserted a position on the subject either way, so the rhetorical gesture wasn’t necessarily aimed at you personally. But above all the purpose of my comment is the argument at hand and not the minor details of the rhetoric anyway. Is it your position that “Socrates was merely Plato’s dramatic character”, as I stated above? If so, how do you explain the other two writers on Socrates, including one which wrote prior to Plato? As far as I can tell-and you can correct any flaw you see here- there is only two legitimate options:
        1. Socrates was a living and breathing man.
        2. The three writers conspired in some way to create the myth of Socrates.

        However I don’t think we can just ignore Xenophon and Aristophanes to conclude that “Socrates was merely Plato’s dramatic character”. That would be silly.

  6. shotgunwildatheart says:

    I’ll trust to your learning on the matter.

    • Julien says:

      Ah, thank you. Yeah, I honestly don’t see any reason to doubt Socrates historical existence although how accurate the poetic representations of him are is certainly open to interpretation. I also think Socrates did die a martyr’s death-poetic in itself-but less significant than Jesus. Aristotle even gives an account of Socrates death when he himself was forced to flee from the democracy. He famously said something like: he didn’t want Athens to sin twice against philosophy. I think the question really should be; why did Socrates publicly commit suicide? As he said in the Phaedrus: “these bones would be running down the road to Megara right now if I hadn’t chosen to stay”. I don’t think there is a simple answer, but it remains an eternal question which presents itself throughout the ages of the west.

      I’m curious after reading some of your other blog posts how you appropriate the ancient greek and roman pre-christian philosophers. Do you think the pagan philosophers ought to be ignored or is there valuable insight in the ancient texts and should they be read?

  7. shotgunwildatheart says:

    Tell the truth, everything you’ve said here, is based on 30 seconds of Googling, right? lol

    Before we move on to discuss Greek philosophy, can you comment on the actual theme of this article instead of focusing on the very thing I said (in the second paragraph) I wasn’t interested in discussing?

    As for the ancient Greeks, they’re good for a cursory study (in my opinion) to see how philosophy developed in the West, and as a way to get introduced to the basic problems (which are still being discussed in philosophy to this day).

    But a concentrated, focused study of them? I wouldn’t suggest it for someone trying to learn philosophy. It’d be a waste of time when there is so much going on in the contemporary community.

    I’ve had numerous conversations with a philosophy professor from a university in Chicago, who suggested as much.

    I learned philosophy by starting with the ancients and working through to the moderns; that’s the “historical” approach. The other popular approach to teaching philosophy is to focus on the concepts instead of the history.

    My philosophy professor friend takes the second approach with his classes. It doesn’t give the student as good of a grounding in how all these debates fit into a historical context, but it does better prepare the student for interacting with contemporary literature.

    (For instance, he would teach the “One and the Many” problem, instead of teaching the development of the problem among the pre-socratics, and its culmination in Plato and Aristotle. This way, he could set the problem up, then discuss the contemporary debates in metaphysics, instead of getting bogged down in the imprecise articulations of the ancients).

    • Julien says:

      Tell the truth, everything you’ve said here, is based on 30 seconds of Googling, right? Lol

      -I’m not sure whether to take that as an insult of my intelligence or not haha, I’ve studied Socrates a fair amount and I’m sure that you would have appreciated the gravity of my words more if we were conversing face to face-then again maybe not-. At any rate, if you would have sat down and done your 30 seconds of research we probably wouldn’t be having this discussion, now would we?

      Before we move on to discuss Greek philosophy, can you comment on the actual theme of this article instead of focusing on the very thing I said (in the second paragraph) I wasn’t interested in discussing?

      -“You wont find “Fauxcrates” in a fox hole”- is probably correct especially in battle situations. And I agree ‘most’ things done in the name of an abstract morality are sham rhetoric covering over a persons true intent and this could be read into Socrates as well, the dialogues work on many levels. But nevertheless Fauxcrates /=/ Socrates. I think the article really boils down to your assertion- “when push comes to shove, men are never willing to die for abstractions”. I’d say that the example of Socrates refutes this claim and cannot be easily dismissed as you tried to do. That’s to say the possibility is always there for men to exercise the highest virtues, but they don’t- Gorgias or Protagoras would have been running down the road, but Socrates chose to stay, why?

      As for the ancient Greeks, they’re good for a cursory study (in my opinion) to see how philosophy developed in the West, and as a way to get introduced to the basic problems (which are still being discussed in philosophy to this day).

      -I really wanted to know how you view them in light of your theological world view. Do you see the greeks as pre-cursors to the Christian world or are they irrelevant?

  8. shotgunwildatheart says:

    Despite my lack of Googling, and your accusations of “sillyness”…the idea that Socrates wasn’t real, persists in the academic community.

    As for the topic of this article, we’ll have to be content with our disagreement. I think I’ll always have a more accurate view of men and society than you, given the position you’ve stated here; you are, of course, free to think the same.

    Far more interesting (to me, anyway), is your question about my views of Greek philosophers. How do I see them in light of the Christian worldview, and were they the precursors to the Christian world?

    This is complicated – I don’t think any Christian would disagree with the importance of Greek civilization (including its philosophy) in the development of Western civilization.

    Anyone who says they were irrelevant, is being grossly ignorant.

    However, I do believe Christianity was specially revealed and thus, should be separated in its origins (as a system of thought) from the ideals and philosophy of the surrounding Greek community – even if it has superficial similarities in some places.

    I admit, though, the situation is further complicated when reading ancient Christian thinkers like St. Augustine, Origen, Justin Martyr, and others, who had strong Hellenistic influences.

    So while I would want to clearly and avidly express the differences between Christianity as a system of thought, and Greek or other pagan philosophical systems – I do admit that culturally and socially, the “West” emerged from the milieu of Greek, Roman, and Christian, culture.

    To what extent the non-Christian philosophers played into this, I’m not sure any of us can calculate besides noting that their adherence to intellectual rigor and their curiosity was a priceless addition to the growth of civilization.

    Even those with incorrect philosophical views are able to contribute these sorts of things.


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