Why Facebook And Twitter Would Ban Socrates


https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=4efTh2_0YP7Ph1Q00Socrates @ National Botanic Gardens — Picture By UtDicitur via Wikimedia Commons — Modified By Author

Suddenly, you can’t get away from it.

Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, which encourage us to speak our minds, have now told us to be careful what we say. Many will tell you this isn’t a big deal. However, by the current standards, the cornerstone of modern philosophy would likely have been kicked off both Twitter and Facebook.

Yup, Socrates would’ve been banned — with much fanfare I might add. You might think this ridiculous or sensational. If so, you don’t know the philosopher well enough.

Socrates, over the years, has developed into a genial character. Just his name invokes the idea of wisdom. For instance, if someone happened to call you a “modern-day Socrates,” you’d likely take it as a compliment. Do a quick web search or even a look through your personal library and you’ll see the philosopher’s name mentioned in a positive light.

  • Author Nigel Warburton in his book A Little History of Philosophy refers to Socrates as the “patron saint” of modern philosophy.
  • The ever-popular Stoicism owes its beginning to the questioning philosopher. Without this “patron saint,” Zeno of Citium may never have started his journey of higher study.
  • The Oracle of Delphi also famously said no one is wiser than Socrates.

There’s also the instance of Socrates’ trial and death. Countless admirers have recounted his bravery. The tale is told as a straightforward soul courageously facing baseless charges of “corrupting the youth of Athens.” His corruption equated to teaching the youth to question authority. In the end, the heroic philosopher chose death over silence or banishment.

How would that guy be banned by Facebook or Twitter?

Well, the story leaves out his connections to a seditionist group that attempted to overthrow democracy in Athens. He also regularly spoke out against the government. Then, there’s his fondness of badgering people with questions to make them look like idiots — some moderators might call this “harassment”.

In other words, he harassed people endlessly, taught many members of a shady group that attempted to take over the capitol, and continuously spoke out against democracy. And you think Facebook and Twitter wouldn’t ban that guy?

Hmm, you’re starting to rethink this, aren’t you? Let’s examine our friendly neighborhood Socrates once again.

Spartans, Socrates, and 30 Tyrants

According to Will Durant in his book Heroes of History, Athens, the cradle of democracy, wasn’t always this way. During the Peloponnesian War in 431 BC, the surrounding land of Attica was invaded by the Spartans. The Athenian army was swept away, and the mass of the population was forced to hide behind the walls of Athens.

The 27-year war forced the Athenians to suffer through shortages and plagues. At a certain point, they even tossed out their democratic government in favor of what Durant calls an “oligarchy of demagogues.” After losing the war and negotiating peace with the Spartans, the city was made to end democracy for good.

According to Christopher Planeaux in the Ancient History Encyclopedia, the Spartans forced them to elect a council of 30 oligarchs to rule the land. They in turn appointed a council of 500 various magistrates and a force of whip-bearers to enforce the laws on the unwilling. The 30 also confiscated the land of troublemakers and redistributed it to 3,000 free men of their choosing. The members of this group were the only ones allowed to live in the city proper and carry weapons.

Socrates-Academy of Athens — Picture By C Messier, via Wikimedia Commons — Modified By Author

Socrates had often spoken out against democracy. After all, any idiot could vote or be elected to office. If you were traveling on a ship, the captain isn’t any randomly selected person. It’s a learned, skilled individual who deserves to take the helm. The philosopher thought the government should be led by “captains” of this nature — trained, intelligent men.

One such as this took a prominent role in the 30. Critias was a student of Socrates himself, so what could be better? Only, he wasn’t. It turns out Critias was a blood-thirsty menace. He, with his allies, and Spartan approval executed or banished those who were thought to be problems. Critias even executed members of the 30 who disagreed with him.

Durant says the student eventually silenced his teacher, Socrates, forbidding him of his famous discourses. According to Planeaux, the 30 began to turn the Athenian government into an exact copy of Sparta’s and murdered all who disagreed.

Eventually, some banished Athenians attacked the city and removed the 30, renewing democracy. Critias and other students of Socrates died fighting besides some Spartan reinforcements during the attack.

The Aftermath

After the 30 were removed in 403BC, peace was negotiated between the pro-democracy group and followers of the oligarchs. Only the 30 and their close associates would be prosecuted. The rest of the city received a general amnesty for crimes committed prior to the new government.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, this amnesty was hard to swallow for many Athenians. The horror of the 30 still occupied their minds and many collaborators appeared to be literally getting away with murder. And this is the environment Socrates’ prosecution took place in.

During the time of the prosecution, he wasn’t the only one being tried for similar crimes. Others were on the stand for impiety, and while they were there, their connections to the 30 could be mentioned. Of course, Socrates had a strong connection and a long record of annoying people.

His prosecutor, Anytus, had a history with Socrates as well. He had been forced into exile while the 30 ran Athens. Unfortunately, Anytus’ son stayed behind with the pro-oligarchy Socrates and became a drunkard according to Durant. So, the prosecutor had multiple reasons for hating the philosopher.

This also happened to be a delicate time, and the new democracy was fragile. As a result, possible current and former enemies of the state had to be dealt with. Socrates could have easily fallen into this category.

Socratic Method or Exercise in Belittlement

“He saw himself as one of those horseflies that have a nasty bite…they’re irritating but don’t do serious harm…”
— Nigel Warburton, “A Little History of Philosophy”

According to Warburton, Socrates was “unique, but he was also extremely annoying.” He endeavored to find the true nature of existence by questioning everything. However, in his questioning, he often went out of his way to show others they knew nothing.

Warburton explains an interaction with an officer in the Athenian military. If anyone would understand what the term bravery meant, it’s likely this individual. However, after a short conversation with Socrates, the officer soon became confused and couldn’t come close to having knowledge of “bravery.” The “brave” officer soon retreated from the philosopher.

Nissim Taleb in his book Antifragile takes umbrage with this method of questioning and thinks it’s useless. He explains you don’t need a complete understanding of things or ideas to make use of them. He points out various instances of traders in his former profession making fortunes from selling commodities and currencies they had no deep understanding of.

He also says the person being questioned doesn’t specifically get anything positive out of this. They’re just being tripped up by endless questions without easy answers. Imagine a child firing endless “why’s” against everything you say — eventually, you need to fill in a “because I said so” to get the world moving again.

Taleb even creates a character named “Fat Tony” in his book who might be the antithesis of Socrates and has the two debate. Tony tears apart Socrates by using his own method of questioning against him. His final response sums up all the negatives about Socrates’ method.

“The problem my poor old Greek, is that you are killing the things we can know but not express. And if I asked someone riding a bicycle just fine to give me the theory behind his bicycle riding, he would fall from it. By bullying and questioning people, you confuse and hurt them…You know why they are putting you to death? It is because you make people feel stupid for blindly following habits, instincts, and traditions. You may be occasionally right, but you confuse them about things they’ve been doing just fine without getting in trouble. You’re destroying people’s illusions about themselves. You are taking the joy of ignorance out of things we don’t understand. And you have no answer…to offer them.”

Add Socrates to the Twitter and Facebook Ban List


Socrates At The Louvre — Picture By Eric Gaba (User:Sting) Via Wikimedia Commons — Modified By Author

So, imagine the present day. Socrates hops on Twitter and pesters The Rock, his local mayor, and Snooky from MTV with endless questions.

As they answer these questions and look more foolish, they eventually block Socrates. So, he moves on to other prominent celebrities and the process is repeated. It’s not long before Twitter bans him for harassment.

Soon after, it’s discovered that Mr. Socrates has connections to a shadowy group who wants to undermine the government. In fact, one of his students happens to die in a small insurrection event at the capitol. Furthermore, Facebook finds endless posts of said philosopher panning democracy.

And don’t forget, he made The Rock and Snooky look like idiots too and has been banned from Twitter.

You know where we go from here. Socrates can’t be your Facebook friend anymore. Not to be outdone, the philosopher sets up his own app where he and his students can espouse their own views. However, Amazon pulls their servers away, effectively shutting them down.

Whatever you may come to think of the philosopher, Warburton is right. Socrates is the patron saint of modern philosophy. His annoying method was eventually reformed to help us ask the right questions of life.

While the Athenians may have killed him, he wasn’t completely silenced, and his thoughts could live on through Plato and Xenophon. We’ve benefited from them ever since. We might want to keep this in mind today as we silence those we consider “dangerous.”

Any one of them could be a future Socrates.

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Work out fanatic, martial artist, student, MBA, and connoisseur of useless information. I try and work a combination of history and philosophy into modern day life. I can be interesting and awful at the same, but you'll generally learn something worthwhile when you donate some of your time to read my work.

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