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Socrates on “Pot”

CLICHÉS QUESTIONED

By Peter Kreeft | April 1984
Peter Kreeft is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Boston College. The above constitutes the first installment in a three-part series of articles drawn from his forthcoming book, The Desperate State Dialogues, to be released by InterVarsity Press this summer.

What is the old Greek philosopher Socrates doing on the campus of Desperate State Univers­ity? you may ask. And how did he get there? And is this the real Socrates or only an imitation?

The answer to the first question is clear: Soc­rates is doing at Desperate State just what he did in Athens: being Socratic. Even death did not change Socrates; his philosophizing was indeed, as he hop­ed, “a rehearsal for dying.” How many of us have such job security even after death? In his Apology Socrates expressed his hopes that he would be al­lowed to go on cross-examining people even after death. Here he gets his wish.

As to the second question, how he got here, I have no idea. I awoke one morning with my head full of Socrates and I cannot shake him loose from any place I go, especially my place of work. You see, I am a college philosophy teacher. Socrates would probably call me an intellectual prostitute, a Sophist, since I get paid for it. Imagine selling wis­dom for a fee!

Finally, as to the third question, is this the real Socrates or only an imitation? Only you, the reader, can judge that.

However he got here, here he is — the wonder­ful troublemaker, the gadfly of Athens who makes difficulties everywhere, especially where life is too easy for thought or thought too easy for honesty. Here he is, the philosopher without a system, the question-wielding swordsman of the mind, the one infected by the oracle’s puzzle spreading his good infection, questioning, under the conviction that “the unexamined life is not worth living.”

Felicia Flake: Hi! Lookin’ for a joint?

Socrates: I am neither a butcher nor a surgeon. Why should I be looking for a joint?

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