Thursday, January 2

long lost goddaughter of Socrates

for spring semester, Classical Rhetoric will take care of my late-morning Tuesday/Thursday brain-stretching. it'll probably be good to get back to some of the older than old foundational western philosophies my Rhetorical Theory class touched on a whole year and a half ago. perhaps I'll get to revisit Bizzell and Herzberg's fat green anthology, even though it isn't technically on our booklist.

a bunch of other books are, though. Plato. Aristotle. Cicero. St. Augustine. our professor, Dr. Johnson-Sheehan (who will probably be an awesome professor, if the pattern of really great teachers who happen to have double last names continues...) emailed that we should all order I. F. Stone's The Trial of Socrates right away and devour it before our first day of class next week.

I'm about halfway through the thing and it's been a delightful read so far. methodical, but gentle and thought-provoking. not quite as relentless and heavy as some of the academic reading I've faced. it's like watching someone paint. Stone works through various themes, using shades and colors borrowed and mixed from Socrates's student-biographers and critics and successors. I'm still waiting to see how it'll turn out, though the poor philosopher's martyrdom has been thoroughly and rather unsympathetically foreshadowed.

he makes a curious character, this ancient icon. I wonder how he would feel, knowing the name Socrates has made its way into almost every half-educated human brain on the planet.

from the way Stone illustrates him and all his thoughts, I find the philosopher somewhat enchanting, in a puzzling, uncertain sort of way. I don't know if enchantment is what the author had in mind--much of the book focuses on how uselessly anti-democratic and impractical Socratic ideals were. so why am I so intrigued?

maybe it's because the portrait is so sketchy, or maybe it's that my own philosophies are currently so stretchable, but I see little specks of myself in this Socrates. I think he and I could've been friends. maybe.

a few characteristics of Socrates I sort of relate to:
-the asking all the questions
-a tolerance for absurdity and paradox
-an affinity for solitude and independence
-the assertion that perfect knowledge is more or less unattainable
-the willingness to poke holes in every point of view
-the inability to put forth any better, more coherent points of view
-an apparent apathy, even in times of awful national crisis

not all of these are characteristics I particularly admire in myself, nor does my sharing them with Socrates necessarily make them any more admirable. all I can say is it has made this treatise even more fun to read. from some angles Socrates still looks like a proud, lazy lunatic. but we all know lunacy and wisdom keep close company, eh?
{ quilt of image results for 'Socrates' }

I've dogeared a few pages in the floppy little paperback. perhaps I'll write more about those and my impressions once I've finished the story.


Janeheiress said...

Have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates? Morons?

amelia chesley said...

You're that smart? Then I propose a battle of wits.