What Would Socrates Do?



For better or worse, I’ve modeled my own life on the Greek and Roman philosophers I grew up reading about. Socrates, of course, is the grandfather of them all.

Socrates was annoying. He asked lots of questions, constantly, of everybody. He rejected traditions, even the most deeply held traditions of his own home country.

Socrates was humble. He did not believe he knew the truth. He only believed that he possessed a simple tool which could find truth.

That tool is what we call now a syllogism.

A syllogism is a funky name for a pretty simple equation:

if a implies b and b implies c => then a implies c

His goal, if we are to believe him, was to go around the country applying this equation to everything to test whether or not he was the wisest person on earth. His tests seemed to indicate that he was – not because he knew many things, but because he knew exactly one thing that nobody else knew: that he knew nothing.

Socrates did not worry too much about arguing with people. Yet he effortlessly took down some of the biggest blowhards of his time. Instead of opposing their bogus arguments, he simply asked questions until their reasoning fell apart. Like a judo master, he used the blowhard’s own momentum against them.

Socrates was an individualist – possibly the original individualist. He believed that a person’s virtue could not be harmed by another. Rather, a person can only harm their own virtue.

Socrates believed that the blowhards cannot harm us, unless we decide to harm ourselves at their behest.

Furthermore, the development of our own virtue is our own responsibility. If we feel upset, fearful, angry, we must look no further than ourselves for the culprit.

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