socrates ad nauseam


Given the choice between Socrates dead or alive, Western thinkers have preferred him dead. At least as a symbol. A symbol of what? That’s where it gets complicated.

Almost all Western intellectuals regard the life and death of Socrates (470-399 BC) to be a cornerstone of cultural literacy. And yet, as Luis E. Navia, a professor of philosophy at the New York Institute of Technology, states in his recent Socrates: A Life Examined (Prometheus Books, 2007), “little of substance” about Socrates “can be affirmed without hesitation. Any trait associated with him, any idea attributed to him, can be contradicted by adducing passages from various sources.” And Navia should know — he’s a coeditor of Socrates: An Annotated Bibliography (Garland Publishing, 1988).

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