Monday, October 08, 2007

A Socratic dialogue from the Gorgias

Plato put down most of his work as a form of dialogue, mostly between Socrates and some other protagonist. This is a key part of the Gorgias which I'm particularly fond of. As a friend of mine pointed out to me, it is the beginning point for those who wish to know the difference between an ethical and a moral person. It's also the starting point for those who wish to learn where different values come from, why East is different from West, what it means to have religion or not. Interesting stuff for those sensitive enough to understand. Here, Socrates would rather suffer injustice rather than pass it on:

Polus: Surely the one who's put to death unjustly is the one who's both to be pitied and miserable.

Socrates: Less so than the one putting him to death, Polus, and less than the one who's justly put to death.

Polus: How can that be, Socrates?

Socrates: It's because doing what's unjust is actually the worst thing there is.

Polus: Really? Is that the worst? Isn't suffering what's unjust still worse?

Socrates: No, not in the least.

Polus: So you'd rather want to suffer what's unjust than do it?

Socrates: For my part, I wouldn't want either, but if it had to be one or the other, I would choose suffering over doing what's unjust.

2 comments:

Daniel said...

But, be careful. This is one of Western philosophy's favourite tricks - to make you believe you can use its way of thinking to see beyond its boundaries. Once you start using dualisms like "ethical vs moral" - i.e. creating two mutually incompatible options and discussing the difference between them - it's very hard to stop. Perhaps it may blind you to how a religious person, a Chinese person (or indeed anyone not brought up in this particular tradition) thinks.

Wassim said...

Hmm interesting point, thanks Daniel and welcome! Hope to hear more from you.