Having warmed up, then, by opening the studies of Plato’s Euthyphro and Xenophon, it occurs that the elements of the Socratic study of the soul might be best evident beginning with Plato’s Apology, taken up exclusively for this reason, with an eye to psychology. We have argued that it is possible for modern psychology to turn with Socrates to the study of the human things, resetting the comprehensive context and foundation of the modern study and care for the soul. Our modern psychology and psychiatry lacks any theoretical foundation, producing a variety of more or less useful or profitable ecclecticisms- all the while claiming an authority even greater than that thought due to medicine regarding the knowledge and care of the body. As may appear, the problem is that science or knowledge regarding man does not work as do other forms of knowledge, but begins in a knowledge of ignorance, and would proceed in a much more moderate way than is the current practice. Our study of the psyche- whatever has been attained- must be subsumed within a human context, a genuine study that is both scientific and of man. Both humanism and medical psychology have thus far failed miserably at a scientific knowledge of the psyche. The current crisis might be described as that in which sopho-mores in the study of man categorize and drug many with an assumed authority appropriate to one who knows the soul of each and its care and cure. We say: “The soul cannot be known in that way,” nor should humans be subject to the errors of the partial and false science of our contemporary psychology and psychiatry.
But our psychiatry can be corrected in the sense that a science or study aiming at knowledge (scientia), a genuine psychology, is possible. Considering the vastness of the subject, and the many unforeseen things too that might emerge, it might well be that the knowledge of man is attained only in part, and so in one sense not at all, even in the sense that the study of the physician might become comprehensive or complete. And what if such a science were possible, though were not attainable in the span of a lifetime?
Having, then, gone over the Socratic turn from the direct study of nature to the study of the human things, we will attempt to identify points in a Socratic teaching on the soul. As said, the study of the soul was just emerging when ancient Greece suffered the catastrophe of the Peloponnesian war and then Alexander. This- that psychology was emerging and that it emerges explicitly quite late- seems clear from the passage in Plato’s Laws (650 b) identifying the care of the soul with politics. There is no reason, especially given the contemporary crisis, that we should not pick up where Plato, Aristotle and Xenophon have left the emerging study. It is this study, rather than a Socratic doctrine, that we attempt to recover, and state that a lifetime in this pursuit is not sufficient to deserve the authority of the knowledge of the soul given by modern man to the psychiatrist. In another Platonic teaching, there is knowledge in the soul, knowledge of man and virtue, and this awakens with the lifelong pursuit, allowing one to judge circumstances more correctly, and even to see a way to assist in the healing of souls. Well intended practitioners no doubt might gain something by experience.
The knowledge of ignorance, the supremacy of the soul to the body, the bold statement that the unexamined life is not worth living (38 a), and the question of the effect of philosophy on the city, as well as the daimon of Socrates, are primary points, accessible in Plato’s Apology, in preparation for the fuller study of Plato’s Republic and the erotic works. We will try to show, too that the fear of death is, in the center of the dialogue, the obverse of thinking that one knows what one does not know, so that the conquest of the fear of death is the same as the achievement of the knowledge of ignorance. The fear of death is another side of the principle of Hobbes of self-preservation- a root of the modern thought on man prior to the beginnings of modern psychology, in a Renaissance repetition of the ancient Greek discovery of nature. Within the Socratic topic of the knowledge of ignorance is the distinction of our knowledge of divine things from our knowledge of human things, and the denial of Socrates that he posses either, beyond his knowledge of ignorance. The profession of ignorance is an enigmatic, if only half ironic, phrase. For as one great teacher said, “Socrates is boasting.” He is the only one to achieve the knowledge of ignorance. All others may expect to be hobbled by our thinking that we know what we do not, and it should not be surprising then that this has been the “Achilleus’ heel” of practical psychology. Pythagoras is credited with changing the name of the natural philosophers from Sophoi or “wise men, such as the seven, to philo-sophoi, which includes the idea that they are friends and seekers of a wisdom men do not possess.
This knowledge of ignorance, together with the Socratic assurance that the soul is more important than the body, is a good example of a famous Socratic paradox. On what would he base the supposed knowledge? But as with the principle of the Quest in the Meno, Socrates throws his glove down at this proposition, that the quest for knowledge is worthwhile, as though virtue is knowledge. But most of all, the Apology shows, even to the city, or to us, the philosophic life, which would be the health of the soul, the very first principle of any genuine psychology.
Socrates was prevented from considering his defense speech by the daimon (Xenophon, Apology, 5). Lysias is reported to have written him a speech for the occasion. One wonders what Xenophon might have said in the assembly. Socrates speaks extempore or in improvisation, and one must be reminded of the New Testament saying not to consider how one will answer (Luke 12:12). But to say the least, Socrates is honest when he says he is not a clever speaker, as the assembly has been warned to expect. He takes the occasion to replace the end of rhetoric that is to win even with the weaker speech: the purpose of rhetoric is to speak the truth. How does he know such things? The law compels Socrates to speak, and so he will speak the truth to Athens about his way of life. Whether it is good to compel the philosopher to tell the city the truth about his way of life, Athens will soon see.
The knowledge of ignorance in matters of the divine and nature distinguishes Socrates from the both the tradition of metaphysics and the tradition of theology. The Neoplatonists and even Plato and Aristotle attempt to say more about being directly, and everyone thinks they know about forms and substances and the things said. But Socrates is quite serious about the wisdom in these matters being the “possession of the God” rather than man, leading the men who think one thing or another on these into extremes Xen. Mem. I,i 10-16). Humility rather than assurance has its place regarding doctrine. Yet much can be said as hypotheses and an attempt to place something here that is better for the thinkers, as a sort of place holder, while saying what can be said about the good of things and their intelligibility. The class of things appears on one hand as a ratio, as of “doctor” in general to “good doctor.” On another, the good of each appears in the best example, the best particular. Shakespeare’s Prospero in The Tempest might be an example, as is Socrates in the Platonic cosmos.
An explanation from Leo Strauss here is most helpful: Socratic philosophy retains the appeal from custom to nature of the first philosophers, in combination with the appeal from hearsay to seeing with one’s own eyes. It retains the distinction between the good and the ancestral, and between things man made and things not made by man. But it has in common with the poets and conservative statesmen a concern with virtue and the things of man as such, or sui generis, similar, we say, to the concerns of the biologist with living physics, the zoologist with moving life, and the psychologist with intelligent or ensouled life, of the sort that also chooses its ways, in addition to its course. On this basis, Socratic philosophy seeks to see for oneself the truth according to nature of the virtue of man as such, instead of Greek or Hebrew man, for example. (Strauss, Natural Right and History, p. 86-88; 121; “On Genesis,” etc.)
The Socratic profession of ignorance is introduced right at the start, to distinguish Socrates from the impious natural philosophers. Answering the old accusers first, before the present charge of Meletus, Anytus and Lycon, Socrates addresses something like an ancient prejudice, where he is considered to be as he is shown in Aristophanes’ Clouds, a thinker things aloft who teaches sons to beat their fathers on the grounds that the wise ought rule. We do not hear the speech of the prosecution, or the speech of Anytus, [Note 1] but in the Apology, only see Socrates state the charges (19b) and then question Meletus. He states the accusation of the old accusers as though it were an official charge:
…there is a certain Socrates, a wise man, who has investigated all things under the earth, and who makes the weaker speech the stronger a thinker on the things aloft. Those, men of Athens, who have scattered this report about, are my dangerous accusers. For their listeners hold that investigators of these things do not believe in gods.
Socrates distinguishes himself from the Sophoi or “wise,” those who look into the things in the heavens and below the earth, not unrelated to those who make the weaker argument appear the stronger. The undermining of the traditional authority of justice accomplished by natural philosophy has unleashed a wave of rhetoricians onto Athens, prospering from their litigiousness as the city declines.
Socrates does not answer Meletus in court as he spoke to Euthyphro:
…whenever someone says such things about gods, I receive somehow with annoyance? Because of this, as is likely, someone will assert that I am a wrongdoer…And do you hold that there really is war among the gods against one another, and terrible enmities and battles, and many other such things, as are spoken of by the poets and which our temples have been adorned by the good painters, particularly the robe filled with such adornments which is brought up to the Acropolis in the Great Panathenia? Shall we assert that these are true, Euthyphro?
(Euthyphro 6 a-b)
From these questions, Socrates turns to the question of “what ever the pious” might be (6d), as Xenophon says in his Memorabilia, turning from the divine as from the natural to the human things, especially seeking the “what” of these (6 d). Then, when Euthyphro gets stuck, or returns to their refuted definition, Socrates- from an hypothesis- returns to the question of service: In what work is it that the gods or the divine would need us as servants? (Euthyphro 13 e).
But in the Apology, Socrates denies having “any share” in these things, such as are shown in the Comedy of Aristophanes. Nor does he claim to educate men for money. He tells of asking Callias, and Callias answering that Evanus of Paros was able to educate men in “such virtue human and political, or “the virtue of human being and citizen.” If anyone has such knowledge or ability, he does not dispraise it (19c; 20c), but Socrates denies having either sort. We do not quite believe him, but must hear him out. He may be correct in knowing enough not to teach for money! As distinct from these, he says he does have a certain wisdom, for which he calls as his witness the god in Delphi, to explain “my wisdom, if indeed it is wisdom of any kind, and what sort of thing it is,” his peculiar knowledge that he does not know. He tells the story of when Chaerephon went to Delphi and asked if there was anyone wiser than Socrates. To the extent that he is serious, he has just demonstrated belief in one god, even one “of the city.” Or: What does Socrates think he is doing, calling the God to witness at his trial in the court of Athens? “The Phthia,” or priestess, “replied that no one was wiser.” But Socrates was “conscious (sun-oida) that he is “not wise either much or little,” and so he considered:
…Surely he is not saying something false at least; for that is not sanctioned for him.” And for a long time I was at a loss about what ever he was saying, but then very reluctantly I turned to the following investigation of it. I went to one of those reputed to be wise, on the ground that there, if anywhere, I would refute the divination and show the oracle, “this man is wiser than I.”
That Socrates is aware that he is not wise contradicts the apparent statement that no one is wiser, unless no one else is wise either, and Socrates happens to be the only one who knows this. It follows. But why does Socrates try to confirm the God by refuting him? Perhaps, since we can know when some things are false, but not when something is true, human opinion advances by conjecture and refutation. Apparently, too, we can know things hypothetically based on the solidity of logic, which we can check like a mathematical equation, from various directions, though we do not get certainty about the assumptions or conjectures. But if no one is wise, are not prosecutions especially for “impiety” highly questionable?
Would not this make as much sense to us: “…So I decided to display my wisdom, and invite anyone who might exceed me, and confirm the god, to display theirs alongside.” What would Hippias have done? How does Socrates know to approach the question of human wisdom in negative terms? But that is only the first part of the reason that no one is wiser than Socrates. We try to enter into the aporia, the “at a loss,” or as Brann (OS, p. 23 explains, the “waylessness” of Socrates.
Leo Strauss (p. 41 SPPP) notes:
Chairephon’s question presupposed that he regarded Socrates as wise, as singularly wise, before he consulted the oracle. That wisdom of Socrates had nothing whatever to do with the wisdom which he discovered or acquired as a consequence of the Delphic utterance.
The pre-Delphic Socrates seems also to be the Socrates prior to the Socratic turn or return to the study of the human things.
Beginning with the politicians, Socrates examines those thought to know something. He examined one politician, whom he refrains from naming, found that he was not wise, and tried to show him, with the result that Socrates became hated. Still he pressed on, in what he strangely calls his service to the god or obedience to the divine command. He finds that the poets do not know what they are saying, but make what they make by inspiration. He also finds that the craftsmen know something- and this is a big clue- but that what knowledge they have is outweighed in value by there assumption that they know regarding more important things (22d). Genuine knowledge has something to do with the inspiration in the work of the poets, including the dramatists, and has something else in common with the knowledge of the trades, such as carpentry. But the politician had nothing like either (Aristotle, Metaphysics, 981 b).
Of his examination of the poets, considered again in the dialogue Ion, Socrates famously tells Athens:
…Almost everyone present, so to speak, would have spoken better than the poets did about the poetry that they themselves had made. So again, also concerning the poets, I soon recognized that they do not make what they make by wisdom, but by some sort of nature and while inspired, like the diviners and those who deliver oracles. For they too say many noble things, but they know nothing of what they speak. It was apparent to me that the poets are also affected in the same sort of way. At the same time, I perceived that they supposed, on account of their poetry that they were the wisest of human beings also in the other things, in which they were not.
It seems that all that would be needed to become even wiser than Socrates would be to know what the poets and craftsmen know without assuming that one knows the important things, or to know what one knows and what one does not know. But this work of Socrates, regarding the matter of the god most important, is the cause both of Socrates being given the name wise and of his becoming hated:
…For those present on each occasion suppose that I myself am wise in the things concerning which I refute someone else, whereas it is probable, men that really (onte) the god is wise, and that in this oracle he is saying that human wisdom is worth little or nothing. And he appears to say this of Socrates and to have made use of my name in order to make me a pattern (paradeigma), as if he would say, “That one of you, O humans, is wisest, who, like Socrates, has become cognizant (egnoken) that in truth he is worth little or nothing with respect to wisdom (sophian).
Plato, Apology, 23, a-b)
Wisdom is the possession of the god, and so Socrates comes to the aid of the god, as though the one thing best for his fellow human beings and fellow citizens were to to similarly repent the presumption of knowledge. For the revolution in religion, we say that doctrine goes with opinion, subject to humility, rather than with Spirit, manifesting the glory. Human error is at root the assumption that we are wise, and this is to appropriate something that belongs not to men but to “the God. If the city or a nation or empire were compelled to do this: assume that it has knowledge, it would not be surprising if the result were disastrous. And it may be that nothing could cohere more with the revelation out of Jerusalem, where wisdom too is the possession of God, a tree of life, if shared in a mystery. Athens and Jerusalem conflict where reason assumes it knows what it does not, or claims authority for doctrines that it does not possess. And for the revolution in psychology: We do not have the knowledge that would give us an authoritative knowledge of how to exorcise nor drug the soul, and hence, these things are used if at all as an extreme last resort- mild sedatives to stabilize a particular situation- and not as a first resort.
Socrates explains that the young then imitated him in demonstrating the ignorance of their fellow citizens, leading to the corruption charge. He neglects to question Anytus and Lycon, who accused him on behalf of the craftsmen, politicians and sophists, but questions Meletus, whom he says accused him on behalf of the poets. Playing on the name Meletus in Greek, Socrates simply answers, strangely, that Meletus never cared. We recall the word epi-mele- from the Euthyphro, where the good farmer cares first for the young plants, and this will be repeated in the Apology when Socrates speaks of the care of the soul. Socrates has already reported his conversation with Callias, who directed him to Evenus the Sophist, when Socrates too denied having knowledge of these things ( 20 c). Socrates gets Meletus to say that the city, the laws, the judges and every citizen does well in educating, but only Socrates corrupts. Socrates argues in answer that the matter of education is more like horse training, where many corrupt the education, but the horse trainer alone does well. Needless to say, the ad-hominem argument has little weight in law or logic, though some in rhetoric. How true it is becomes evident when Meletus confuses Socrates’ teaching with that of Anaxagoras (26 d). In order to present a defense, Socrates would have to open the topic of education, which it is not clear he yet confesses knowing anything about. The reason for his strange procedure may be that the topic would take a long dialogue, as in the allegory of the cave in Plato’s Republic, and involve an ascent, as in the Phaedrus or Symposium. But he gets Meletus to agree that it is by teaching the young not to believe in the gods in whom the city believes that Socrates corrupts.
Another strange argument is that no one voluntarily corrupts his associates, as they would then become worse. is it better to live among upright citizens, or villainous ones?…and “Do not the villainous do something bad to whoever is nearest to them, while the good do something good? This line is taken up again with Crito (49 a). It aims at the human occurrence where families and villages disintegrate when a chain of harm for harm is released, leading to disaster. One is reminded too of the justice among a band of thieves in Book One of the Republic, also called Thrasymachus. Socrates might think that the sophists do corrupt their associates from whom they take money, but the associates of Socrates are only friends and companions, not customers. The topic, though, that there is a sense in which no one does harm voluntarily is introduced here. Either he does not corrupt, or he does it involuntarily, in which case…”the law is not that you bring me in here for such involuntary wrongs, but that you take me aside in private to teach and admonish me. For it is clear that if I learn, I will at least stop doing what I am doing involuntarily.
Socrates then asks Meletus whether he means that Socrates does not believe in any gods, or is an atheist. Socrates was correct about this too, in explaining of the effect of the old accusers, “For their listeners hold that investigators of these things also do not believe in gods” 18 c).
…Then before these very gods, Meletus, about whom our speech now is, speak to me and to these men still more plainly. For I am not able to understand whether you are saying that I teach them to believe that there are gods of some sort- and so I myself do believe that there are gods and am not completely atheistic and do not do injustice in this way- but that I do not believe in those in whom the city believes, but in others…Do I not even believe that the sun and moon are gods, as other humans do?
And here Meletus answers, No, by Zeus, judges, since he declares that the sun is stone, and the moon is earth” (26d). Anaxagoras had figured that the sun was a flaming stone. The shock is that the sun is apparently not a god with a will and intention, not a living thing. Diogenes writes that Anaxagoras was…
…indicted by Cleon on a charge of impiety, because he declared the sun to be a mass of red hot metal; that his pupil defended him, and he was fined five talents and banished (Lives, II .12)…Hence Euripides, who was his pupil in the Phaethon calls the sun itself a “golden clod” (II . 10).
Parmenedes had discovered the spherical earth, and, as the Durants write:
…At Thebes, Philolaus the Pythagorean deposed the earth from the center of the universe, and reduced it to the status of one among many planets revolving around a “central fire.”
We are left to wonder what would have happened had Meletus answered correctly. Try this: Socrates introduces a new approach to the divine, one that begins and ends in a humility of human opinion that is at once the openness to what is truly higher than man and an exaltation of something divine in man. Socrates believes in something divine other than the gods of the city, and “corrupts” the young by this teaching. Not knowing, though, what education would be, the city could be a corrupt measure, and what Socrates is doing could be true education. The Athenian law would seem to be unjust if it does not allow for this possibility, and it would then ban its own end or goal. Though there are no damages, his only defense in a civil suit might be that he takes no money. Socrates is “guilty,” but because the city does not have knowledge of the true divine- a failure of theoretical wisdom. The law itself is unjust.
In order to appreciate what Socrates does here, in converting the charge into the underlying charge of atheism, it may be helpful for us to transport ourselves to the time prior to that of Roman or empirial Christianity, when Christianity had not everywhere introduced a questioning of the many gods, but this- the Olympic gods of the city- was the significant alternative for men like Meletus to the belief in no gods at all. Greece most likely had no contact with the Temple in Jerusalem until Alexander, and the reference to what “is” emerges independently in Athens and Jerusalem. Indeed, we ask those of the faiths of Abraham, with the gift of a tradition of one transcendent God, what we would hope to find men believing if they tried to live an upright life according to tradition. The choice between justice and injustice, virtue and vice, must present itself in some way. Ovid’s Alecthoe, choosing the things of Apollo over those of a worse god is a fine example (Metamorphoses, ). Mohammed brought the Arabs the belief in one God, the God of Abraham, rather than many, after Paul had been turned back apparently from preaching in those regions (Acts 16:6).
Socrates gives Meletus a second chance…”But before Zeus, is this how I seem to you? Do I believe there is no God?” And Meletus answers, “You certainly do not, by Zeus, not in any way at all” (26 e). Meletus is easily refuted by his own accusation that Socrates brings in strange daimonia. Socrates asks, “Is there anyone who believes there are human matters, but not human beings (anthropio), horse matters…horses…flute players, flute matters… Is there anyone who believes that there are daimonic matters, but does not believe in daimons? This is very nicely done, do you see? Meletus may be unable to conceive of there being gods other than those “of the city,” and if he could, his argument does not allow him to admit there are gods or is divinity other than that “of the city.” Socrates does this out of Meletus’ own opinion, without introducing strange new notions. Since Meletus can conceive of no divine other than gods, and no gods other than those “of the city,” the truth is that according to these parameters, it would be most accurate if Meletus were to think that Socrates believes in gods, and even the gods of the city- such as Athena and Apollo- though Socrates repeatedly speaks of “the God” and the “voice of the god” in the singular. The divine” is one possible translation or understanding of “the daimonia.” Another is also in Plutarch’s Ethics, related to the “genius,” sometimes something like a guardian angel of each (Plutarch, “The Daimon of Socrates”). But if there were divinity or divinities other than that of the city, one wonders why Meletus would think it safe to prosecute one for their being carried in.
Leo Strauss has here the best comment on what is occurring, and explains why the word “soul” does not occur in the Euthyphro. Strauss makes a famous distinction between orthodoxy and the practice of Euthyphro, that for Euthyphro piety is imitating rather than obeying the gods, in the stories of the poets such as Hesiod (197-198). Orthodoxy may be worshiping the ancestral gods according to custom, but “the gods are not pious, and “by imitating the gods, one ceases to be pious (p. 198).” (What follows may be the best piece of all commentary on the Apology): Strauss, commenting on the Euthyphro, notes that Socrates may not be altogether ignorant regarding divine things:
Towards the end of the conversation, he says that all good things which he has have been given by the gods. Earlier in the conversation he indicates that he loathes the current stories about the gods committing unjust actions or their having dissensions and fights with each other, and that he does not believe that these tales are true. He seems to believe he knows that the gods are both good and just and therefore both the givers of all good things, and only of good things, to man, and incapable of fighting with each other. But precisely this knowledge would make him impious: (p. 190)…
The statement to Euthyphro is “There is no good for us that they do not give” (Euthyphro, 15a), when Socrates is asking what benefit they receive from us. One is reminded of the Socratic correction of the Homeric account of the gods in the Republic (II-III), where the gods are to be described as being the cause of all good things, and not to be described as changing shape, taking human form, or causing anything except good (379 b-c). We ask, when things get better, where does that good come from?” thinking this a proof.
…what general opinion assigns to the gods actually belongs to the ideas. The ideas replace the gods. From here we can understand and judge Meletus’ charge (p. 200)…But Meletus is wrong in assuming that the different beings which Socrates introduces are gods or demonic things. In fact they are the ideas. if we want to speak of gods, we would have to say that the different gods Socrates introduces are the ideas…the ideas, being prior to any beings which imitate ideas, are prior to any gods. They are the first things, the oldest things…Socrates is the only one who recognizes as first things such beings as can in no sense be conceived of as having been made and as making other things (p. 200).
In the reading of Strauss, the Euthyphro does not tell us the truth about piety is, but conveys an “irritating half truth,” while also conveying the teaching that because we do not know the divine, it is unwise to prosecute Socrates for impiety (p. 192). Strauss writes:
Plato has indicated the half-truth character of the message conveyed through the Euthyphron by never using that word, the term “soul.” Through the emphasis on the ideas and the silence about the soul, Plato creates the appearance that there is no place for the gods. Plato would have probably justified this half truth by the consideration that the ideas are at any rate above the soul. p. 205)
Rather than follow Meletus we might think, is there not another possibility? But could it be that divine matters are the offspring not of gods but of the knowledge and the higher functions somehow above the human mind or “in” the human soul? Consider, too, The opening scene of the Iliad where Achilles is restrained by Athena, or the effects of eros. The many gods and the imagination of the divine do have something to do with the soul as in between the body and the ideas.
In the inquiry into the two kinds of Socratic ignorance, regarding the divine or natural things and regarding man or the human things, it is sometimes said that the knowledge of man is a part of natural philosophy, while the humans, accessible by the way of acquaintance to all, depend upon the divine or natural things. Our ignorance of the knowledge of all things then precludes authoritative knowledge even of the human things. Yet watch for what Socrates says he knows:
Socrates concludes saying that the indictment here does not seem to require much of a defense, but that much is sufficient. If he is convicted, it will be due to the slander and envy of the earlier accusers. (On envy: Euthyphro 3c; Xenophon, Apology, 26); Strauss, Xenophon’s Socrates, p. 135, on envy). He turns to a wholly new topic: is he not ashamed to have followed a pursuit from which he now runs the risk of dying? He calls up the example of Achilles and the heroes at Troy.
Socrates calls up the example of Achilles to demonstrate that he ought not be ashamed merely of of being in danger of being sentenced to death. He answers that what such a one would say is ignoble…
…if you suppose that a man who is of even a little benefit should take into account the danger of living or dying, but not rather consider this alone whenever he acts: whether his actions are just or unjust, and the deeds of a good man or a bad.
From this point we can consider the two principles of bodily self preservation and the virtue of the soul, to be indicated directly soon (29e-30b). He considers the fateful choice of Achilles, of a long life without glory or a short life with immortal fame as that of which we still speak. Bloom contrasts the wild fury needed for Achilles to re-enter the battle with the placid, non-tragic death of Socrates. The principle is stated by Socrates rather as follows:
Wherever someone stations himself, holding that it is best, or wherever he is stationed by a ruler, there he must stay and run the risk, as it seems to me, and not take into account death or anything else shameful. So I would have done terrible deeds, men of Athens, if, when the rulers whom you elected to rule me stationed in Potidea and Amphipolis and at Delium, I stayed then where they stationed me and ran the risk of dying like anyone else, but when the god stationed me, as I supposed and assumed, ordering me to live philosophizing and examining myself and others, I had then left my station because I feared death or any other matter whatever.
Socrates at Delium saved the life of Xenophon, when he had fallen from his horse (Diogenes Laerius, Lives, II. 23). Socrates was on foot. Soldiers like Xenophon appreciate that sort of thing. Courage would seem to be, as we say, a matter of priorities. Socrates presents his heroic facing down the threat of death from the Athenian assembly as a demonstration of his belief in the divine. Those who do not acknowledge anything above man are not able to overcome the fear of death, or, to make the sacrifice of the priority of bodily self-interest apparently involved. There follows the section that we identify as the center of the Apology, and Eva Brann identifies the central line as that at 29 b3-7:
Terrible that would be, and truly then someone might justly bring me into a law court, saying that I do not believe in gods, since I would be disobeying the divination, and fearing death, and supposing that I am wise when I am not. For to fear death, men, is in fact nothing other than to seem to be wise, but not to be so. For it is to seem to know what one does not know. No one knows whether death does not even happen to be the greatest of all goods for the human being; but people fear it as though they knew well that it is the greatest of all evils. And how is this not that reproachable ignorance of supposing that one knows what one does not know? But I, men, am, perhaps distinguished from the many human beings also here in this, and if I were to say that I am wiser than anyone in anything, it would be in this: that since I do not know sufficiently about the things in Hades, so also I suppose that I do not know. But I do know that it is bad and shameful to do injustice and to disobey one’s better, whether god or human being. So compared to the bad things which I know are bad, I will never fear or flee the things about which I do not know whether they even happen to be good.
The direct and bare logic of the statement does not make that much sense. Could not the same be said of those who do not fear death, that they too assume what they do not know- that virtue is worthwhile, and death a paltry thing, contrary to the strong assumption of all animal nature that bodily death is THE great evil? [Note 2] Are we justified in assuming, with Socrates. that animal self preservation is ignorant and presumes to know about the things in Hades, while the preservation of our truer selves, so to speak, is by virtue and Justice, so as to matter more than life itself, or, as we say, ” a matter of life and death,” as though that were the greatest thing? For every time we speak of “self interest,” we must clarify, “in the baser sense,” that of the partial interest of a faction in a regime, in contrast to the good of a whole city. The tyrant is not capable of acting in his true self interest. Hence Socrates beats Thrasymachus and every other such theory by the addition of the truth that we make mistakes, especially about our true self interest. If there can be an unjust law, there must be natural right, and it is based upon happiness, or the good of individual souls.
That is the center of Plato’s Apology, easily one of the ten best books ever written. One notes that our ignorance regarding the things of Hades, and hence the whole, does not preclude our acting somehow with human knowledge of our own things, despite our inability to give a full account of the grounding of our action in nature and the divine. As will become clear in what follows, Socrates shows that the truth about the after life is, perhaps contrary to the thrust if not the theory of St. Paul (1 Corinthians 15:12-18), irrelevant to almost any choice or action. It could even be questioned whether such might be attainable by something chosen not for its own sake, but for mercenary reasons. To love one’s neighbor is the fulfillment of the law whether the soul is immortal or not, and whether the happiness thus attained by choosing the good for its own sake last only a lifetime or is in turn, as is suggested, an image of the entry of the soul into immortal life. Our business is clear enough, regardless of our ignorance of how to think directly about immortal life.
If to fear death is to think one knows what one does not know, perhaps the conquest of the fear of death is the obverse of the knowledge of ignorance. It is our attachment to the earth or to life, the navel of which may well be romantic love, which makes us adhere to our own opinions politically or in sociability, and so prevents the conversation of the liberal arts becoming dialogue. That is, incidentally, the ethical virtue needed for intellectual virtue, as none of us are self-sufficient. “Love of ones own” is the phrase of Allan Bloom, and the distinction between ones own and what is good lies at the beginning of philosophy, said to begin in thought on death and to proceed through letting go the mortal attachment to the things of the body, as though in a purification. Philosophers are not unjust first of all, from one view, because, as such, they do not desire the things that can be competed for because they are scarce- such as the desire to be “first” that destroyed the Roman republic or the desire for empire that seems to have destroyed the Greek. Eros that would be trapped below, enflaming lower desires, is freed to the things above in contemplation of that of which, sharing, we have more. The philosopher- as the thinking part of a polity- brings to his nation this fundamental moderation, which, if followed, might have sustained either great civilization.
An example of how we do not know the things beyond death is that even assuming the immortality of the particular soul, we do not understand the difference between living and non-living eternal things, such as the truth shown in the Pythagorean theorem. If we are to be always, must this not also be so now? And yet we do not recall before we were? So we do not even know how to conceive what it is that the image indicates. And yet we say that what is visible or intelligible about the soul indicates something about the reality of things yet higher. The sacrifice of the attachment to one;s own is the same as the following Christ through death (Romans 6) that is the meaning of our baptism. The soul itself evinces the things of which it is an image, but this is inductive, ascending, and not “certainty.” The things of the intellect are reflected in the things noble.
A pattern of Platonic writing is the statement of a principle in the center and then a flourish of high things after the center, as in the Republic following the central statement of the “third wave,” of Book Five, the philosopher-kings. So here, following the principle about the fear of death, Socrates introduces the word Psyche, and a twofold division fundamental to the logos about man. If the Athenians were to offer to let him go if only he would cease philosophizing and investigating, he would tell them:
I, men of Athens, salute you and love (philo) you, but I will obey the god (To Theo) rather than you.
Here we have the reason for the First Amendment as stated by Madison in his statement on a religious tax, that what is a right toward other men is a duty to the Creator, or put directly: there is an obligation higher than the city, and that is the basis of what we call rights regarding religion. It is also the introduction of a hierarchy: Socrates will obey the god rather than the city. But one clue to the Apology seems to be that the law of the city is unjust, and so the true defense of Socrates would be to argue against the laws- which he will not do.
He will continue to say such things as:
Best of men, you are an Athenian, from the city that is greatest and best reputed for wisdom and strength: are you not ashamed that you care for having as much money as possible, and reputation, and honor, but that you neither care for nor give thought to prudence and truth and how your soul will be the best possible?
And if one protests that he does care, Socrates will examine him, and if he does not seem to me to possess virtue,” Socrates will reproach him, “saying that he regards the things worth the most as the least important, and the paltrier things as more important. Virtue is a matter of priorities and a hierarchy of ends that determines the ordering of the soul. Socrates goes around and does nothing but persuade both the young and old…
…not to care for bodies and money before, nor as vehemently as, how your soul will be the best possible. I say: “Not from money does virtue come, but from virtue comes and all of the other good things for human s both publicly and privately. If, then, I corrupt the young by saying these things, they may be harmful. ..But I would not do otherwise, not even if I were going to die many times.
At this there is a disturbance among the crowd of jurists, which Socrates again quells. (30 c). The saying is shockingly similar to the saying in the New Testament, seek first the kingdom, and all these will be yours as well (Luke 12:31; ), that is, rather than rejecting the body and money as evils, holding them paltry in light of the important things. The same principle is shown in the prayer of Solomon (1 Kings 3: 9-12):
Give thy servant therefore an understanding mind to govern thy people, that I may discern between good and evil; for who is able to govern this thy great people?
Because it is said that from virtue comes wealth: Socrates shows Meno that our stuff is not much good if we do not use it wisely, so that virtue is wisdom, and wealth depends upon wisdom.
The primacy of the soul and the things of the soul to the body and the things of the body- friendship to money, etc. is the root or first principle of Psychology as a following out of the natural articulation of the things of the soul, or as Jung has it, the Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche. The natural hierarchy in practice is interesting, as it means some things and not others. Aristotle too follows a twofold division of intellectual and ethical virtue in his Ethics. The logos of the psyche also follows a three part account, and by going back and forth between these, the principles of the soul can be discerned, if always more or less.
On this basis, the Socratic or Platonic account of the well ordered soul is indicated, so that we need not be simply mute when anti-psychiatry asks, “What then is the well ordered soul, if you know the disorder?” What are the functions, if you know can measure and cure “dysfunction” with a y? Strauss writes:
The various human things which are by nature noble or admirable are essentially the parts of human nobility, in its completion, or are related to it; they all point toward the well ordered soul, incomparably the most admirable human phenomenon (NRH, p. 128)
…The classic natural right doctrine, in its original form, if fully developed, is identical with the doctrine of the best regime. For the question as to what is by nature right or as to what is justice finds its complete answer only through the construction in speech of the best regime. The essentially political character of the classical natural right doctrine appears most clearly in Plato’s Republic… ((NRH, p. 144)
In our age of equality, offense is sometimes taken to the hierarchic thought in Socratic philosophy. But we say the hierarchy is established by our ends or our priorities, as these become character through action based upon the choices with which each are presented. The body too has ends, and in this aspect is a part of the soul.
The well ordered soul is also a content of the imagination, and necessary for any improvement of each soul, as it is by looking to this- however remotely- that each becomes better. It is this that we set in place of our current psychology of techniques of animal training and druggings.
Socrates explains that he did not counsel the city as he did persons in private because he is opposed by the daimon. Fearless of appearing to introduce new divinities, he explains:
…something divine and demonic comes to me, a voice- …This is something which began for me in childhood, a sort of voice comes, and whenever it comes, it always turns me away from whatever I am about to do, but never turns me forward.
This is what opposes my political activity, and its opposition seems to me altogether noble.For know well, men of Athens, if I had long ago attempted to be politically active, I would long ago have perished, and I would have benefited neither you nor myself. Now, do not be vexed with me when I speak the truth For there is no human being who will preserve his life if he genuinely opposes either you or any other multitude and prevents many unjust and unlawful things from happening in the city. Rather, if someone who really fights for the just is going to preserve himself even for a short time, it is necessary for him to lead a private rather than a public life.
Anyone who doubts the daimon of Socrates here regarding just men and women and political action might consider alternatives to saying “No” to an offer one “cannot refuse.” The liberty of every polis– the same root as “police,” depends upon crime fighting, and this can become extremely difficult. Socrates presents just a few examples of his fearlessness in disobeying unjust orders under both the Democracy and the Oligarchy. He decided he “…should run the risk with the law and the just rather than side with you because of fear of prison or death when you were counselling unjust things.” Because of this insistence upon the legal and the just, Socrates asks,
Do you suppose then, that I would have survived so many years if I had been publicly active, and had acted in a manner worthy of a good man, coming to the aid of the just things and, as one ought, regarding this as most important? Far from it, men of Athens; now would any other human.
But through all my life, if I ever was active in public life at all, it is apparent that I was the sort of man (and in private I was the same) who never conceded anything to anyone contrary to the just- neither to anyone else, nor to any of those who my slanderers say are my students.
Socrates denies teaching, and does not have a secret doctrine as he is presented in the Clouds, does not lecture, especially for money, even as we do, hoping to buy time for study from wage labor. What he has discovered about learning, as in explained to Meno in the myth of recollection, is the cause of this unique approach to what we call “teaching,” and the method has a corollary often practiced in all sorts of education and psychiatric “therapy:” By considering the contradictory opinions of the subject, obstacles might be cleared, and a solution arise as hypotheses do, from the nature of the one seeking to learn, and so in a way that more naturally coheres with them, with less risk of harm.
I have been ordered to practice this by the god, as I affirm, from divinations, and from dreams, and in any way that any divine allotment ever ordered a human being to practice anything at all.”
The dreams of Socrates would be a study in itself. Perhaps the most famous, after the dream foretelling the timing of his own death that opens the Crito (44a-b), would be his dream regarding Plato:
…Socrates in a dream saw a cygnet on his knees, which all at once put forth plumage, and flew away after uttering a loud, sweet note. And the next day, Plato was introduced as a pupil, and thereupon he recognized in him the swan of his dream.
(Diogenes, Lives, III. 5; Loeb, p. 281)
Interestingly, the twenty or thirty mina offered by Plato to redeem Socrates is similar the later price of Plato’s own redemption (Diogenes, Lives, III .20). Plato himself shows the same fearlessness, similar to that of John but not Peter in fearing to be known to stand with the one persecuted.
Socrates claims to hear a “voice.” Jung addresses the Vox Dei phenomenon, though it remains dangerous to admit any sort of voices. Some voices are also heard by the mad, and so it is said to “test the spirits, to see if they are from God.” That the voice in Plato’s Apology only tells Socrates what not to do is interesting, and the difference in account may be because Plato knew Socrates more intimately than did Xenophon. Most contemporary readers assume that Socrates is being ironic, or, as Strauss considers obvious, is describing his foresight in a way suited to his audience. People, and not only the mad, hear voices of various kinds, an “auditory hallucination” in the sense that it is not a sound, but an experience more like a waking dream. Plutarch indicates that we do not literally hear in dreams, even as we do literally seem to see, but rather, simply understand ourselves to have spoken or heard- though there should be exceptions, when this is the topic of the dream. The issue becomes difficult for the doubters if the voice transmits content that is true or beneficial, so that as with true dreams, we wonder how it could have known what we have never learned. Many examples of Socrates warning his comrades on the basis of the voice of the god have been collected. Sometimes we wonder if these are not instances of unconscious reasoning, from items suppressed and small details whose significance had not made themselves apparent. But that is only to account on one hand for how such a thing could be if the divine is not. since we know that it exists, and on the other, how the function itself by which we receive in this could ever be mistaken. Maimonides on prophecy includes speech, or the prophesies reported as spoken (Guide, II, 45; 32-33).
One sees from this, though, that Socrates in America today might be immediately seized and drugged, though he violates the rights of no one. If it were merely his prudence, it may have been safer to simply say so. The point is that our psychiatry does not even recognize the higher faculties. To Maslow, for example, it literally does not matter what one is doing or thinking about when the self actualized person is lost in his work. Nor does Maslow offer any suggestion as to what sort of work the best souls might be about. One could make all sorts of Jokes about this, were it appropriate, but the point is theoretical. Maslow has got hold of a corner, though, of Aristotle: Happiness is a working well, or a being-at-work. The point lays bare the upward edges of our vacuous theoretical foundation in modern psychology.
Xenophon mentions Alcibiades and Critias as students for whom Socrates was blamed, and West adds Charmides, the latter prominent members of the oligarchy killed when the democracy returned from exile. Xenophon, but not Plato, directly criticizes Alcibiades as “the most unrestrained and hubristic and violent of all those in the democracy” (West, p. 85 note Memorabilia, I,ii, .12). The Alcibiades incident is most interesting in light of the pan-Hellenism of Euripides and Socrates, and what was to occur regarding Alexander. Many friends and auditors of Socrates are indicated as present, and no one comes forward with an example of anyone- even a son- said to have been corrupted by Socrates. The truth is that those who enjoyed hearing Socrates associated with him: “…because they enjoy hearing men examined who suppose they are wise but are not. For it is not unpleasant.”
Socrates will not bring in his family to gain the sympathy of the assembly,…
For the judge is not seated to give away the just things as a gratification, but to judge them. For he has not sworn to gratify whoever seems favorable to him, but to give judgment according to the laws. Therefore we should not accustom you to swear falsely, nor should you become accustomed to it. For neither of us would be pious…if I should persuade and force you by begging, after you have sworn an oath, I would be teaching you not to hold that there are gods, and in making my defense speech, I would simply be accusing myself of not believing in gods. But that is far from being so. For I believe, men of Athens, as none of my accusers does.
Here he does state that he believes, and almost says that he believes in gods. It is sometimes thought that Socrates intended to be declared guilty, as to avoid the harder part of life, and it is noted that strangely his goal is not acquittal, but truth. He or the daimon, intends to make Athens choose. But if Socrates were merely intent upon incriminating himself, why would he not simply get to it? His true defense is that the law of the city- or at least the attempt here to use the law in a judicial murder, is unjust. Socrates will not speak against the law against piety. He does this out of care for the city, or because of his especially political justice. He is declared guilty, though by a margin smaller than he had expected. If Socrates is guilty, is the god not guilty? Would not this proceeding then be the city- the human city- convicting a god for going against its laws?Or for declining to be the god “of the city?” Again the First Amendment of the US Constitution settles the issue. Once stated, the negation of the principle of the First Amendment would seem to claim to the right to exclude the Holy Spirit, though no rights- which it is the purpose of Government to protect- are violated. And as Strauss says, Socrates would seem to be excused by the difficulty of the subject matter!
The sentence proposed by the prosecution is death. Socrates is expected to propose an alternative penalty for the choice of the assembly as judges. In asking what he deserves, Socrates restates what it is he has done:
…I went to each of you privately to perform the greatest benefaction, as I affirm, and I attempted to persuade each of you not to care for any of his own things until he cares for himself, how he will be the best and most prudent possible, nor to care for the things of the city until he cares for the city itself, and so to care for the other things in the same way…
Here he takes the opportunity to propose for philosophy free meals in the Prytaneum as an Olympic victor- such as now awaits every US poet and philosopher. “For he makes you seem to be happy, while I make you be so, and he is not in need of sustenance, while I am in need of it,” as Anaxagoras, starving, begged of Pericles a little oil for the lamp.
He seems to address the question here as well as on suicide and Apollo in the Phaedo directly (at 37b): “being convinced that I do not do injustice to anyone, I am far from doing injustice to myself, and from saying against myself that I myself am worthy of anything bad.” But then he explains that because the daimon has been silent, and has not opposed him throughout, it might mean that death is not something bad.
To the alternative of keeping silent or living in exile, Socrates again summarizes and even expands, providing a picture of the activity of human happiness or the best life in usual circumstances:
…For if I say that this is to disobey the god, and that because of this it is impossible to keep quiet, you will not be persuaded by me, on the ground that I am being ironic. And if I say that this even happens to be a very great good for a human, to make speeches every day about virtue and the other things about which you hear me conversing and examining both myself and others- and that the unexamined life is not worth living for a human, you will be persuaded by me even less when I say these things…
This paragraph is similar to that in Xenophon about opening and exploring the writings left the ancient great and wise (I,i .16). It shows the life of theory and friendship for its own sake that is the pinnacle of happiness and in one sense the aim of wise action. Amid this activity- the highest pleasure- is the principle: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” It recalls, in the Apology, without directly mentioning, the Delphic maxim: know thyself.
As Jowett collected, the Delphic inscription which appears in Aeschelus’ Prometheus Bound also appears in 6 Platonic dialogues, Charmides 164d, Protagoras 343b; Phaedrus 229e, Philebus 48 c; Laws 923 a; and three times in the Alcibiades, 124 a; 129 a and 132 c. In the Alcibiades, setting aside the difficulties of soul and body conjoined, it is clear that Socrates asks, “In what way might the self itself be discovered? “For in this way we might perhaps discover what we are ourselves” (129 b). It is with the soul itself that we are bid to become acquainted by the one who enjoins us to know ourselves (130 e).” The is similar in part to the sense in which Jung uses the term “Self,” meaning our true self. Socrates tells Alcibiades:
Therefore, dear Alcibiades, if the soul too is to know itself, should it look at the soul, and above all at that place in it in which the virtue of the soul-wisdom- comes to exist, and at any other thing to which this seems to be similar?…
Are we able to say what of the soul is more divine than that which is concerned with knowledge and thinking?…
This part, therefore, resembles the god, and someone who looks at this and comes to know all that is divine- god and sensible thinking- would thus come to know himself also…
Then just as mirrors are clearer than the reflection inn the eye, as well as purer and brighter, so the god happens to be purer and brighter than what is best in our soul?…
In looking to the god, therefore we shall treat him as the finest mirror, and in the human things, we shall look to the virtue of the soul. In this way, above all, we shall see and know ourselves.
(Alcibiades I, Carnes Lord translation, 133 b-c)
Self- knowledge appears as a principle in psychology in various ways, and means first the moderation of the negative Socratic education that allows one entry into the Academy, far more than geometry- though that too is helpful. We hold that its meaning includes penance- as one cannot but be appalled in dust and ash to see himself in what is called too the Adamic or original nature, where the ends of the body are primary. The way through death, or through the origin is the mystery, common, we think, to both baptism and the Elysian mysteries. Outside the cave, we think, are shadows and phantoms and other things in water, and this seems to us to be like the study of the soul. Jung even uses the word shadow, and the study of the anima or soul projected in love is a study of the phantom, as that of Helen they say was at Troy, and the study of all the beautiful appearances. Following or yet higher is the study of the nature of the man, the wise one that shows the fullness of the nature of man. Plato’s Republic replaces the study of the images of the gods in Homer with the study of regimes and political philosophy. We draw this soul like an egg, an upright oval with three parts, the appetites, the heart and reason. This is the law-formed soul, and as it develops- as the man is ascending- the reason develops, from logistike or calculation into nous, an unfolding that is like a blossoming into nature. Outside the cave, there are appearances of men and other things in water, and the beings themselves, following the pattern of a repetition of the divided line outside the cave. From here, the study of the structure and dynamics of the psyche and man is in turn the attainment of the image, the image of God that is man, and the recollection of this allows one to see metaphysics reflected- beginning by noting, for example, that love is an image of the relation between the messiah and man in the scriptures, and such things. The knowledge within can be addressed as archetypes, hypothesized as the source of the meaning in symbols and dreams, and the reason that lyric poetry can discover and transmit knowledge of the soul, though otherwise the radio cannot. What Jung writes regarding the activity of the integration of the archetypes is the recollection and tethering of knowledge, the attainment of a genuinely scientific psychology, in the sense of the function by nature of the faculty called epistemonikon Aristotle, Ethics, VI). The virtue of these faculties arises more and less, and is by nature, cultivated though by art neither shaped nor created. It does not occur without what is called Nous (and so we are called psychological as distinct from metaphysical gnostics, the first principle of our psychology being mind or intelligence in this sense, of the eye of the soul and lamp of the body (Matthew 7:22-23) We also hold that nous is the imago Dei, and has features that are visible to the mind in study, male and female together, etc. the mysteries called Bridal Chamber- for there is a a baptism, a transfiguration and of all a consummation). The right working of these higher faculties is the measure in psychology, and it is these that especially go wrong in what are called the disorders of the mind as distinct from those of the character, “psychosis” as distinct from “neurosis,” though, again, these words are attached by the moderns almost randomly. That at any rate is an effort to state principles of psychology out of Plato’s Apology.
One practical example, of what we intend to indicate regarding the right working of the theoretical faculties and psychosis: a common form is magalomania, again just a Greek word for great thinking- but persons commonly become deluded that they are Napoleon, some hereditary prince, Jesus and even God himself, etc. Jung attempts to discuss these things as possession by an archetype, and the wrong form is distinguished from the right form of inspiration, in the study by Socrates of the kinds of divine madness (Phaedrus). There is no more important study, incidentally, for genuine diagnostics, as those who have not themselves experienced the various degrees of wakefulness will not be able to judge in the particular. At any rate, the error involves the inability to distinguish between what Jung calls the self,” meaning “true self,” and that of which it is an image. Our contemporary vacuity is not helpful in this matter, teaching senseless people to say such things as that they are their own gods, or they “make themselves,” and such, by whim; taking things at most true in a small way and presenting them as though they were the great truth, due to our modern iconoclastic vacuity, exalting even a “philosopher” who was trapped in such an identification. There is a popular eastern teaching as well, that encourages such a random identification of the ego and the divine, because this might indeed be true in one sense, and requires a theological commentary [Note 3] How one would tell, for example, if one genuinely were Jesus, as Nicodemus asserts, need not be decided if humans simply do not interfere, but for the subject, this distinction between ego and self can be established and taught and cultivated and strengthened, in the same way that a friend simply telling one the truth can provide an escape from delusion. How it is that our common sense knows these things- and hence how we know the difference between madness and the highest activities of the human mind and and soul remains a bit of a mystery.
But self knowledge would also mean what we call the attainment of the image. This image, of God in man seen even in oneself, with the self-evidence of tautology, is the stone of the philosophers and the gateway to what we can see about metaphysics, if indirectly and without certainty.
The idea is again to fit together the farthest advance of the modern study of the soul with the study beginning to emerge in the Socratics. Freud himself, though, discovered what he called the “talking cure,” where neurotic and hysterical subjects seemed to be benefited by unburdening their souls. This practical discovery of common sense is at the root of psychoanalysis, and one sees, for example the cure of Sybil enacted by the doctor Wilson based less on Freudian theory than common sense, as she herself develops some of the theory of what is now called “dissociation.”
Another fundamental point is shown by Xenophon, in the most direct Socratic discussion of madness on record. Xenophon writes:
Madness, according to him, was the opposite of wisdom. Nevertheless, he did not identify Ignorance with madness; but not to know yourself, and to assume and think that you know what you do not, he put next to madness.”
– (Memorabilia III, ix. 6)
So too, again, the exit from imprisonment in a delusional context, whether regarding practical circumstances or theoretical matters- for we cannot set them aright, since we do not ourselves possess the knowledge- is to induce questioning and the recognition that one does not know and may be mistaken.
Yet ignorance is different from vice, and these different still from madness, just as these are distinguished in common speech. Lady MacBeth is possessed by vice, and driven mad by it, and there is criminal insanity. Richard III is similarly haunted by those he has murdered, and we will suggest the inescapable conclusion that the wholeness of man goes with virtue, and not vice, nor are these, then, two merely equal opposites. Happiness is impossible without justice because the whole or nature of man is good. The question of volition in these instances is quite complex, and it seems that there are different degrees of volition- as Socrates will famously cure revenge by explaining that no one would do vicious things or harm another if they Knew what they were doing were appraised of their genuine self interest. Similarly, the first effect of the contact between modern psychology and law or legal theory is to destroy the idea of criminal responsibility by noting causes effecting a person, then suggesting that therefore the person did not cause the action. So in a sense all vice is ignorance, or the opposite of knowledge and wisdom. These and other questions we will leave for a reading of the Phaedo and another Day.
Finally, of course, we address the unique Socratic knowledge of death. To those have acquitted him, he says that death is either one of two things: like we are no more, in which case it is like a dreamless sleep, which he calls pleasant. We take the occasion to note that dreams are rather quite pleasant, and this pleasure indicates a natural function- though we would have yet to address unpleasant dreams. One notes that the indications of a hell in the New Testament are quite scant, with nothing of course like Dante’s inferno or Tartarus, the place of Purgatory described at the conclusion of the Phaedo. Jesus would never frighten children with images of punishment for crimes they are as yet unable to imagine, as the face of their angels are yet before the Lord (Matt 24?), and one is reminded of the objection of Socrates to Homer inspiring terror of the afterworld, which is not inclined to make men courageous in facing death on the battlefield. But in the twentieth chapter of the Revelation, Death and Hades are thrown into the lake of fire. Each is judged according to what they have done, of those that are judged, as though the soul were all along immortal, and we were simply stuck with what we have become by what we have done, especially to oneanother. And it may be that from this side’s view, we are “only immortal while we are alive, ” though from that, life everlasting. We are not, it is said, it is not given to us to eat of the tree of life till we are safely in the paradise of the Lord.
[ If virtue is knowledge, and Socrates knows he does not know, does he not confess his vice, and worthiness of being put to death by the city? But seriously, vice is different from ignorance.]
Note 1: A sophist Polycrates had, after 393 B. C., published an “Accusation of Socrates,” and this one is rumored to have written the speech for Anytus at the trial. E.C. Marchant, preface to the Loeb edition of Xenophon’s Memorabilia, p. ix. The speech of Socrates assumes the accusation as restated by Socrates. Anytus threatens Socrates in the Meno (89e-95a), in a passage where, as West notes, Socrates appears to praise the Sophists and blame the politicians regarding education (West, p. 64).
Note 2: Rousseau notices how little animals fear death, having little of the imagination for it, though terror- as for rabbits at blood- seems to have a natural function. The truth may be that the animal body itself does not fear death, and as for Xenophon’s Socrates, calls it even either way in certain circumstances.
[Note 3: One way to say this is that we are sons of God through the only begotten Son (John 1:13-17). Our nous, which is distinct from the ego or “I,” is also distinct from both the Messiah and the Father, though we might alike be vessels of the Spirit, especially if we ask to serve God. We are sons through the Only begotten son, and not the reverse. There are many of us, and only one of the Christ. But sighting Isaiah, he says, “Is it not written, “I said you are gods, sons of the Most High.”
Otherwise, as in ancient Greece, the many gods might disagree about what is dear to them- having by nature different circumstances and interests.
. Brann, Eva. The Offense of Socrates: A Re-reading of Plato’s Apology. Annapolis: St. John’s College, .
Benardete, Seth. Sun, Line and Cave.
. Burnet, John. Plato: Euthyphro, Apology of Socrates, Crito. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979.
Durant, Will and Ariel. The Life of Greece. Volume 2 of the Story of Civilization.
. Strauss, Leo. “Plato’s Apology of Socrates and Crito.” in Studies in Platonic Political Philosophy. Ed by Thomas Pangle, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1983.
_________. On the Euthyphro. in Thomas L. Pangle ed. The Rebirth of Classical Political Rationalism: An Introduction to the thought of Leo Strauss.Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989.
__________. Xenophon’s Socrates.
__________.Xenophon’s Socratic Discourse. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1970.
. West, Thomas G. Four Texts on Socrates. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984.
Xenophon. Memorabilia. E.C. Marchant Loeb edition,. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1923.
Draft in progress….
Epilogue: Principles of psychology and psychiatry:
Can you tell us of the well ordered soul? Well, perhaps “disorder” is “unscientific” as well. Of the adaptive? and yet the “maladaptive?” The function of man and each kind of human? But then the dysfunction? The “normal” is well, is it? Our knowledge of the soul employs assumptions regarding the best condition of the soul without examining these assumptions in any way, just as humans commonly do, but here too, as though we had never had science at all.
Justice is rare. If justice is or is necessary to the health of the soul, the “normal” cannot be the standard. But what if Justice is the health of the soul? Can we eliminate the possibility that this is so? But justice has been banished from modern science, and cannot be studied, even in order to check the ethical effects of these drugs in the short and long term. Tyler Black tells us:
“Please learn from experts. You are resisting learning information from an expert here, and its hurting your line of thinking.”
We were discussing whether antidepressants might correlate with increased violence and the epidemic of public shootings in the US. The suggestion that we look and see was called “unscientific hypothesis.” I was presented with a graph purporting to show that in most nations, antidepressant use had gone up, and violence gone down recently. I had mentioned that I had predicted the rise in knife attacks in the UK following the marketing blitz of the Oxford study. Then a cohort said that suicides had gone up in the UK over 10% in the past year. This expert calls himself a “suicidologist,” MD.
“We’re experts in science”-
I don’t believe we actually got him to say that!
So in diagnosing and prescribing drugs to treat various disorders, does our psych not depend upon this fundamental lie to oneself, the supposition about the “brains” or neurons” being the proper terms of the scientia of man? Nor do we deny- as they think to be the only alternative- that there is something going on in the neurons when the psyche is alive.
Our Psychiatry does not realize that there is a little problem with the “scientific” foundation of our psychiatry. Man cannot know man that way, first setting blinders to the parameters of what will be considered knowable and cause.
We need to cultivate psychiatry and law, so that psychiatric malpractice has a measure and a check. At present there is no measure of psychiatry. It simply does what it likes without accountability. All malpractice can be blamed on the patient.
They have only “mental health” and illness”, with no standard, so that our psych is arbitrary and subject to profit, etc. We have “illness,” which is especially injustice, and the “normal,” but we also have virtue- the well ordered soul- of which we catch glimpses.
Hence, OUR anti-psychiatry does not doubt there is such a thing as mental illness as might Szasz and Foucault. We doubt whether there is “mental health,” but easily demonstrate that no one even claims to have scientific knowledge of the health of the soul- except maybe Maslow!
Socratic philosophy questions psychiatry- and quickly demonstrates that we do not have knowledge of “mental health” and “illness.” The standard of the “normal” was set by Freud. A philosophic laziness, if not an intention doctrinal obscurantism, lies behind the reluctance to examine this standard. It is an appeal to common sense, similar to the “community standards” norm of the Supreme court in detertmining pornography. Far from scientific, it is easily refuted: If justice is a part of the health of the soul And justice is rare The normal is not “mental health.”
Strauss, in Natural Right and History, writes: “However indifferent to moral distinctions the cosmic order may be thought to be, human nature, as distinguished from nature in general, may very well be the basis of such distinctions.” That there is no good or evil for atoms does not justify the inference that there is nothing by nature good or bad for any compounds of atoms.” p. 94). Nor, that for living, moving, thinking and choosing compounds, the choice between good and evil, justice or injustice, is the most decisive matter for the health of the soul by nature.
Rather, we say that words are the proper terms, common sense the place to begin, and that the soul contains within itself- somehow- the knowledge of man. We say too that it takes a lifetime, not an 8 year MD + 2 years of neurons and psychopharmacology, to understand the logy of the psyche.
The iatreia or healing that IS the goal of psychiatry is benefited decisively by theoretical knowledge of the nature and health of the soul and mind, or the psyche, despite it being knowledge that we do not possess.
The truth is that the part of “self knowledge” which concerns the study of the soul begins with what Jung calls the confrontation with the “shadow,” the repressed aspects of oneself in the personal unconscious, beneath the persona, in light of both the natural conscience and conventional morality, or what Socrates calls vulgar virtue. Hence, it is a penance and a moderation, and begins with the negative Socratic education. What is integrated is not the shadow per se, as this is always with us, but the function that enables us to recognize and deal with it. Jung seems to take up the quest from Freud at this point, as the study of Freud uncovered genuine effects of, and contents of, the personal unconscious. Socrates address these as the discussion of the regimes and corresponding souls in the Republic descends toward tyranny (Book VIII). Without this, the “psychiatrist,” as all other humans, might be so encumbered by his own shadow as to do as much harm as good. The collective aspects, and the knowledge of the soul that is within, is deeper, and concerns things higher. What Jung calls “Anima” and the work of its integration is the mediator to this. Sometimes, in Jung, the “archetypes” are functions that are universal, or, like love pertain to all men, and sometimes they are contents such as the “knowledges,” or the knowledge within- the knowledge of man that can be recollected, though not possessed. These “archetypes” are of course hypothesized as the source of the symbols, distinct from every manifestation, including the same model that pertains to big and little in the study of poetry early in the Republic. It is perhaps our innovation to say that the knowledge in the soul is the source also of the intelligibility of the symbols it produces that are of collective significance. Whether or not one thinks his terms sufficient, no thinker of the Twentieth Century other than Jung seems to approach the true study of psychology.
The passage from Plato’s Laws, concluding Book I (650 b), has the Athenian stranger say to Kleinias:
This then- the knowledge of the natures and the habits of souls- is one of the things that is of the greatest use for the art whose business it is to care for souls. And we assert (I think) that that art is politics. Or what?
We of course answer the “or what?” by saying that the knowledge of the natures and habits of souls is called “psychology,” and the art of caring for souls is called psychiatry. For Plato the study of the soul is a part of politics, which Aristotle identifies as the “comprehensive science of human affairs” Politics, I, ). Some interesting assumptions are involved in this difference, but we first note that there is a difference. As said above, the soul includes the mind and body, but not the body as treated in medicine, but rather as giving the lower or natural end to the soul. We of course say that there are also natural ends of the mind, and that these two, mind and body, are at least equal in giving man the ends we pursue by nature. But most especially, as is evident in The Republic, the soul is first visible through the study of the regimes, using these as a geometer uses the triangles and squares drawn, and as symbols occur in poetry and elsewhere.
There is in the Tenth book of Plato’s Laws an attempt to answer the atheism of the first philosophers and a definition of the soul as “first” among the beings. that which is self moving. (892a-897). Much is of course made of the argument of the first mover, both ontologically and genetically, but we have always thought it a bit strange that it is based, after all, on the self motion we share with animals, or the self motion of the animate body as distinct from the living plant body. One wonders if there is any “motion” unique to the specifically human soul. An interesting double analogical reflection reveals with assurance the height of the mystery: As geometry reveals an eternal intelligibility in bodies of every kind, so, we say, life too and living bodies have a intelligible source of life. Animals too would have a source of self motion, and ethical or rational beings a source of the person-hood or “consciousness,” as we call it, it the introspective “I” and the many things this proves to mean. Animals are not ethical and do not choose their “ways,” as do the creatures of the latter part of the sixth day. But as we have said, justice may be for us as the health of the body is to the animal, necessary to the true health of the human soul. What is in or through man, called the image of God and the source of the law- the very reason that murder is wrong- may well indicate the existence of the divine as surely as the geometry of bodies demonstrates the eternal ground- however we would conceive of how this IS- for it too obviously does not require space to exist, and yet is true of all space and objects in space. Genesis itself, though, clearly distinguished the kinds of being, leaving nothing at all out, while science does not even trouble over their inability to explain the difference between living and non-living matter. That we cannot conceive of the ways in which the ground of life, motion and intelligence might be, it is clear that these come to be because they are possible, just as what is true about geometry indicates that there is some third that is the reason that objects can come to be. That this to be called “alive” or “intelligent” is no more a paradoxical way of speaking than to call the ground that causes geometry to be possible itself geometrical. Similarly, and by the multiplication of the different dimensions, it is strange to imagine this ground of choosing living beings as being itself a particular living being, but nor would it make sense to much limit this ground of intelligence, since we cannot explain the cause even of life and self motion. Nor can we be sure there is not yet higher being possible than man, even as man is more than motion, and motion more than life, and life more than mere body. Music itself indicates some astonishing connection between the rationality in physics and animal life, even as lyric poetry shows a connection between music and the intelligible things about the human soul. It is trans-geometrical, and so the cause of geometry, and similarly the cause of life, self motion and the image of God in man.
This kind of cause becomes evident in the relation of the architects to the craftsman in a building project, as well as in the natural relations of the human family, where those foresighted govern for the benefit of all. The same occurs in the seven kinds of human polities, and the human soul is of course a panorama of facets- as we say in personality theory- involving its response and relation to all these filial and political circumstances, where the priorities that are by nature and pertain to each character appear in each circumstance. So there is too an intelligibility of human nature that indicates that a scientific psychology is possible, if it does proceed by words and cultivation, unfolding with the knowledge within. That such knowledge is within man itself indicates, to say the least, the wonder of its source.
The account of cause in Plato’s Phaedo is of course most pertinent to both the Apology and the philosophy of psychology. Socrates explains to Cebes and Simmias how as a young man he was “wondrously desirous of that wisdom they call inquiry into nature…to know the causes of each thing, why each thing comes to be and why it perishes and why it is…”
…and is the blood that by which we’re thoughtful? Or is it air or fire? Or is it none of these, and is it the brain that produces the senses of hearing and seeing and smelling, and would memory and opinion arise out of these, and in this a way out of memory and opinion brought to a state rest arises knowledge…
(Phaedo, 96 a-b)
This is the sort of cause assumed by pre-Socratic thought, and is of course familiar as that assumed at the root of our psychology, and to which we attribute the contemporary crisis. The assumption- held with all the dogma of belief and first principles- has been that only this sort of cause is to be considered, and hence physical means, such as drugs and electricity- are not only admissible but are the primary means to be used in attempting to remedy the already suffering souls. Socrates, though, found he was not apt at this sort of study, but became as blinded by the inquiry. He compares it to one who would explain the cause that he is sitting there in prison…”
…because my body is composed of bones and sinews…its through this cause that I’m sitting here with my legs bent…and not taking care to assign the true causes- that since the Athenians judged it better to condemn me, so I for my part have judged it better to sit here, and more just to stay put and endure whatever penalty they order, Since- By the Dog- these muscles and bones of mine would, I think long ago have been in Megara or Boeotia, swept off by an opinion of what is best, if I didn’t think it more just and more beautiful, rather than fleeing and playing the runaway, to endure whatever penalty the city should order. But to call such things causes is too absurd.
(Phaedo, 98 d-99a)
Since we have been attempting to outline the study of psychology, and indeed to demonstrate with insurmountable assurance that this study both exists as a science and is beyond the usual human capacity and beyond to what might be transmitted in an eight year study of medicine and two years of neuro-pharmacology. There is an argument we say is in Plato’s Republic that outlines something very similar to the study of the soul as it advanced from Freud into Jung, where Jung became entranced with the symbolism of alchemy: We hold that what was found by the psychology of the unconscious was for the most part known to Plato, if in different terms.
In Plato’s allegory of the cave, the prisoners had been chained to viewing shadows of artifacts projected on the wall by a fire, before which poets and legislators held models of man and other things. Outside the cave once the one who ascends adjusts to the superior light,…
…At first he’d most easily make out the shadows and after that the phantoms of the human beings and the other things in water, and later the things themselves. And from there he could turn to beholding the things in heaven and heaven itself, more easily at night- looking at the stars and the moon- than by day- looking at the sun and sunlight.”
Republic, 516 a-b)
We hold that these things, the shadows and phantoms, and the “things themselves” are how the human things- the symbols and legislated characters- appear upon ascent, as images in water, and that the image of God in man appears as the cause of the laws- in either Athens (Republic 501b) or Jerusalem (Genesis 9:6). The good itself is the pattern in the fullest description (540b). This- that the human things seen in a better light- are especially the study of this segment of the cave and allegorical line- becomes clear again when the matter is restated:
…turning around from the shadows to the phantoms and the light, the way up from the cave to the sun; and, once there, the persisting inability to look at the animals and the plants and the sun’s light, and looking instead at the divine appearances in water and at the shadows of the things that are, rather than as before at shadows of phantoms cast by a light that, when judged in comparison with the sun, also has the quality of a shadow of a phantom.- all this activity of the arts, which we went through, has the power to release and leads what is best in the soul up to the contemplation of what is best in the things that are…
Republic, 532 b-c
One common reading of the Allegory understands the turn from the gods to nature for the account of the causes of things as being synonymous with ascent from the cave, as from the darkness of myth into the light of natural science. Like Freud, these first tend to see man in terms the animal appetite with a thin veneer of civilization. We suggest that this view is rather comparable to release inside the cave without ascent, and that the golden thread is virtue, or the soul rather than the prosperity of the bodily nature. Seth Benardete, in his “Sun, Line and Cave,” famously notes that there is not even a place for the specifically human things, and hence the Socratic turn, in the literal divided line. We say there is an allegorical line, and the reading of the Republic itself in the ascending terms of image and object is possible in the constant reference back and forth between the text, the line and the cave.
The materialistic first principle of modern psychology cannot be remedied, or even considered, from within modern psychology. And so we have begun to do the philosophy of psychology, an outgrowth of the history of the science. We look for a new kind of student to enter the field of theoretical psychology, even just the sort, or especially one sort, that has been excluded. For psychology must boldly abandon certainty and exclusive use of the model of the physical sciences, and turn with Socrates to ask What is” of all the human things. A psychology and psychiatry of this sort might be both scientific in the sense of pertaining to all men, and yet would not so easily dispense with the works of the ancient wise on man collected over past two or three millennia. And we look to a psychiatry moderated by the knowledge of our common human ignorance regarding even the human things: one third of us, apparently, do not know the priority or value of justice. For such a psychiatry, drugs will indeed be a last rather than a first resort.
Homer, Iliad, I. 193-218 presents a good example of the psychic reality of the gods, and one must wonder how the experience of such things would be for men such as Achilles. The anger of Achilleus is checked by wisdom herself, when”within his shaggy breast the heart was divided two ways…”Homer writes:
Now as he weighed in mind and spirit these two courses, and was drawing from his scabbard the great sword, Athene descended from the sky. For Hera, the goddess of the white arms, sent her…
…Achilleus in amazement turned about, and straightway knew Pallas Athena
And the terrible eyes shining…
…I have come down to stay your anger, but will you obey me?…though indeed with words you may abuse him…
There are collective human psychic causes such as love and wisdom which come from higher than the individual and would make obvious the effective reality of divinities- or, at least, of the divine, so that the ancient Greeks would speak of something not remote but as obvious and imminent as what we speak of as emotions, assuming psychic causes. Socrates, in the Republic (431a-c, where intelligence is added to calculation) uses the conflict within the soul or “heart” to distinguish parts, such as, in Homer, the phrene or head from the spirit or “heart” in a second sense. One might follow out these words in Homer, but we do not expect to to see nous and gnosis as in the Socratic philosophers. Socrates is responsible for the distinction between tyranny and kingship, and he and Aristotle for 6 rather than 3 regimes, not distinguished in the tragedians or pre-Socratics. The study of city and soul in the Republic reveals the connection between psychology and politics, lost to our modern study, but new in Plato and the Socratic philosophers (Republic III, 402b-d).