Socrates, philosophy and privilege

Socrates, Greek philosopher, 469 – 399 BC
Never wrote anything down, we know of him because of the writings of Plato and others.
Spent his days thinking of the big questions of life.
Died for his beliefs.

Socrates Quotes:

Wisdom begins with wonder.
The unexamined life is not worth living.
Be as you wish to seem.
Beware of the barrenness of the busy life.
To know, is to know that you know nothing. That is the meaning of true knowledge.

Socratic paradoxes:

  • No one desires evil.
  • No one errs or does wrong willingly or knowingly.
  • Virtue—all virtue—is knowledge.
  • Virtue is sufficient for happiness.

How many of us today follow our beliefs to our deaths? I don’t think that was quite what Socrates had in mind for people to follow them quite that far. Or maybe he did. I think he might be quite humbled or horrified that his words are in print. Buddha didn’t write down his philosophy either. I wonder what he would think? I think he would prefer that we thought and discovered our own principles and beliefs. Do we blindly follow others’ beliefs and claim them as our own without bothering to question them properly? Have we forgotten how to question? Can we be bothered to ask the hard questions when it is easier to say or do nothing for ourselves.

To be handed something on a plate already formed is the easy road to take. We can eat all we see and ask for more. We can ask what it made of and try to piece it together ourselves, it won’t be the same, only richer in flavour, it will be fresher and tastier because you have made the effort to explore. Cooking is like philosophy, don’t you think? What would you rather have: the microwaved frozen TV dinner or a home-cooked meal made with love and care? The name on the box may read identically as the recipe in your book but it will never be the same. And besides who really follows a recipe exactly?  What you create is not exactly as the next person who makes the same recipe, someone may prefer more spice, others more salt, others may be out of an ingredient and substitute, someone may have an allergy and substitute. Variety in cooking is just as important in thought, we may end up with the same conclusion but it is the way in which we got there that is important, is it not?

You may think you are talking about the same thing but your perspective will be different. When you discuss with other people about a thought or an idea are you able to articulate well enough for others to understand? Do you really understand the concept well enough to even attempt to explain it? Do you need to live a lifetime to understand your own philosophy? Or can a 12 year reach the same conclusion as an 80-year old? Will it mean the same? Do your principles stay the same throughout your life or do you grow into a different person through your experiences? Do our beliefs stand fast in the face of hardship and make you stronger, or do we alter our beliefs to bend with society to make the journey through life easier? Do you realise what your own beliefs are? Do you follow the crowd even if it goes against your own beliefs because it is too much effort or uncomfortable to do otherwise? Do you think holding onto your own beliefs is more important that keeping the peace?

In Socrates’ day the population was much smaller and discussions in the open squares were where people brought forth their ideas. That has shifted to politics in today’s world. We see many laws or policies that don’t match our own yet do we stand up and say, “I don’t agree.”? The majority sit back and change a channel and the idea is lost, the anger forgotten. We tend to forget of the struggles of those before us, the ones that made our lives easier, better and fairer. Do we stop and think of the women who stood up to say we want to vote? Do we stop to think of the men and women who fight for the freedom of those that have no strength? Do we stop to think how lucky we are that we can criticise the government with no fear of being imprisoned. Do we stop to think of the ease of our ability to move from one place to the next without interrogation? Do we stop to think about Turing when we switch on a computer? Do we think of Edison when we turn on a light? Do we think of Benz when we start the car?

It is a privilege to be here. Let’s appreciate what we have today and give thanks to those that helped change our lives for the better.

Robbie Williams – Better Man

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