Saturday, September 25, 2010

Socrates in love

In a new book about Socrates, Bettany Hughes sees him as a pioneer bridge-builder too, connecting words to deeds, passion to action.
Hughes urges us to keep the Socratic flame alight, ‘above all to remember ta erotica - the “things of love”, the things that drive us to pursue the good’. She paints him as a very relevant reminder today that ‘eudaimonia (a kind of good karma, realising all your potential as a human being) is more important than jewels, baths, designer clothes, warships, dogma’. She endorses his critique of ‘the pursuit of plenty’ and ‘mindless materialism’, arguing that his key challenge is to suggest that it is ‘us’, not ‘them’, who can make things better. She even flirts with casting him as a bit of an anti-imperialist, a bit of a proto-feminist. In her telling, the city takes the criticism and the man is defended. She makes Socrates sound very like Jesus, ceaselessly haranguing the Pharisees. She even has Socrates echoing modern-day concerns about thoughtless consumerism making us miserable. The Hemlock Cup: Socrates, Athens and the Search for the Good Life, by Bettany Hughes
So the cliche is right: it's love that generates the passion that makes the world go 'round. Not stuff, not money.

If you like this book you'll probably love Chris Phillips' Socrates in Love.

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