Socrates compared Athenians to a dazed, sluggish horse that could possibly be awakened by the persistent biting of an (annoying!) fly. This idea of Socrates as a transformative “philosophical gadfly” inspired many who have read about Socrates’s life and death.
Your formal writing assignment this week is to write a 600-900 word essay that answers each of the following questions:
- Did Socrates’s philosophical lifestyle have the potential to “wake up” Athenians in a way that could have been useful to that society?
- Does the importance of being awoken in that way justify the extreme manner that Socrates chose to live and die?
- Do you agree that (to use a famous phrase from the eighteenth century Prussian philosopher Immanuel Kant), awakening an individual–or an entire society–from “dogmatic slumbers” is a constructive and useful role of raising probing philosophical questions? Is there a significant opportunity for philosophers or others to play this kind of constructive role in our own society?