Friday, December 07, 2007

An Interesting Take on Plato and Socrates

'Let us go back to Plato for another illustration. The one thing which has caught everyone's imagination in Plato is the figure of Socrates, the archetypal teacher and prophet, "corrupting" the youth of Athens by showing them than when they express social stereotypes about love or courage or justice or pleasure they have not the faintest idea what they are talking about. We see this Socrates, in the Apology and the Phaedo, facing martyrdom without making any concession to the ignorance and stupidity of his accusers. But Plato himself was a revolutionary thinker, and in the Laws he draws up a blueprint for his own post-revolutionary society. In that society all teachers are to be most strictly supervised and instructed what to teach: everything depends on their complete subservience to the overall social vision. Socrates does not appear in the Laws, and no such person as Socrates could exist in such a society. We should be careful to understand what Plato is doing here. He is really assuming that those who condemned Socrates were right in principle, and wrong only--if wrong at all by that time--in their application of it.'

--Northrop Frye, The Great Code, p. 132

No comments: