Friday, May 1, 2009

Book Review - Socrates

Socrates Ancient Greek in search of Truth - Pamela Dell: I picked this book in the library, since it looked like an quick and easy read of what could otherwise be intense philosophical stuff. And, I was very pleased. Pamela has done a great job relating 400BC system of government and practices to current terminology of democracy, courts, jury etc, so it becomes easy to appreciate history. I learned something interesting - when Socrates' father died, by law he became his mom's guardian, and she could marry only if he permitted. As well, she must marry if he demanded so! I wrote in my other blogs comparing laws on how societies or governments don't want to pick up the tab for a non-earning spouse or aged parents and instead pass laws to pass the buck - this was yet another example how society dealt with a hot potato no income individual. Any case, Socrates was a wise man, who debated well by asking good questions and positioning truth at all times, but even back in 400BC just as we see today in many parts of the world, the larger society is not always willing to go by what would be rational. For example, public officials in Athens were appointed by a draw of lots, without regard to their qualifications; Socrates questions this practice citing just as we wouldn't hire a carpenter that isn't qualified, we shouldn't appoint someone to public office without relevant qualification. Ultimately, he is convicted on charges of spoiling young minds and is sentenced to drink poison - interestingly by a jury vote 361-140. Socrates was given the option to go in exile - instead of taking it, he misjudged wisdom would prevail! Key learning, we should realize the system around us was, is, and will be driven by emotions, politics, human nature, and plenty other factors, more than just wisdom - back then and now, being wise doesn't imply being smart or savvy.

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