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June 16th, 2012

Reading Crito by Plato

"'Listen, then, Socrates, to us who have brought you up. Think not of life and children first, and of justice afterwards, but of justice first, that you may be justified before the princes of the world below. For neither will you nor any that belong to you be happier or holier or juster in this life, or happier in another, if you do as Crito bids. Now you depart in innocence, a sufferer and not a doer of evil; a victim, not of the laws, but of men. But if you go forth, returning evil for evil, and injury for injury, breaking the covenants and agreements which you have made with us, and wronging those whom you ought least to wrong, that is to say, yourself, your friends, your country, and us, we shall be angry with you while you live, and our brethren, the laws in the world below, will receive you as an enemy; for they will know that you have done your best to destroy us. Listen, then, to us and not to Crito.'

"This is the voice which I seem to hear murmuring in my ears, like the sound of the flute in the ears of the mystic; that voice, I say, is humming in my ears, and prevents me from hearing any other. And I know that anything more which you will say will be in vain. Yet speak, if you have anything to say.

Cr. I have nothing to say, Socrates.

Soc. Then let me follow the intimations of the will of God."  --Plato, Crito

The Internet Classics Archive | Crito by Plato


J
esus of Nazareth, meet Big Brother.

I try to substitute "community" for "State" and "mores" for "laws" but it doesn't help.  This is an Orwellian vision of the state which ignores the dignity of the individual, the "inalienable rights"  Since we can only trace modern political science into the fifteenth century c.e. perhaps i am asking way too much of Plato and Socrates if i want a more balanced view of the relationship between the individual and the community.  Socrates' living is a lot better than his thinking in this regard.

I keep looking for that "minority opinion" or "one" which Socrates is morally obligated to answer to and it seems to be the state and its laws.

"I don't care what others may think" is a good attitude, but it should not be based on a poor opinion of others.  That is arrogance.  "Those fools are incompetent to evaluate my actions or my life."  I am of the opinion that your opinion of me is none of my business.  That is the reason, and the only reason, i have for ignoring it.  Judging my life is not in the same class of activity as judging an Olympic Games event.

"Don't harm others even if others harm you" could come right out of the sermon on the mount three hundred years later or from Taoism or Buddhism a hundred years or more earlier.  The leap from there to the personalized state, the holy state, the totalitarian state as an entity that can be harmed by my effort to preserve my life loses me.
Like calculus, i can follow it up to a point, but then i fall into an abyss from which i have no escape.  Crito seems to have the same problem and he hesitates exactly where i would hesitate, but then he agrees (or pretends to agree) to follow Socrates to the end of his argument (above).

Crito is a friend and benefactor who is trying to save Socrates life.*  Socrates treats him with the kindness and digtnity he deserves.  Here his misanthropy is transferred to the mass of humanity whose opinions and actions are incapable of either good or evil.  Like amaebi says Socrates seems to love humanity but does not think much of individual human beings.

*  There is a movement going on around Santa Cruz, California declaring that Socrates did not die in prison, but was put into an induced coma and spirited away to live in seclusion to think and teach, and perhaps write, for another seven years.  If true, this would make Plato more Orwell than Orwellian.


Daily Tao - 35

When you get right with Tao,
everybody wants to be your friend.
When they're around you,
they can relax and enjoy themselves.

People can be easily distracted
by music or good food.
When we try to talk about Tao,
it seems boring by comparison.

It doesn't look like much.
It doesn't sound like much.
But no matter how much you use,
there's still plenty left.
-

The Beatrice Tao.

Daily Tao - 35

J
ust because i've heard it before doesn't make it trite or boring.

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