This post was originally published at The Financial Philosopher, by Kent Thune.

“I do nothing but go about persuading you all, old and young alike, not to take thought for your persons or your properties, but and chiefly to care about the greatest improvement of the soul. I tell you that virtue is not given by money, but that from virtue comes money and every other good of man, public as well as private. This is my teaching, and if this is the doctrine which corrupts the youth, I am a mischievous person.” ~ Socrates

Every time I see news coverage of street protests in today’s Greece or of political leaders discussing Greek Austerity, I imagine, if Socrates were living today, if he would be there among the protestors and, if so, what he might say or do. Would he support the protestors? What might he say to the government leaders? Would he approve of Greek Austerity measures?

Luxury is Artificial Poverty

Socrates never recorded any of his thoughts or ideas on paper and all that is known about him comes from the writings of his contemporaries, such as Plato. However, it is clear from these writings that Socrates cared little about money and materiality and he certainly shared no affection with the ruling Aristocrats. Many accounts of Socrates describe him as something of a poor, unattractive hermit wandering the streets of Athens, teaching his philosophies to anyone who would listen. In a time when men labored for a living and spent much of their free time working for the affairs of the city aspiring to political power, Socrates did neither.

In today’s Greece, I believe Socrates would still find himself in the unique position of standing in a corner completely his own–neither with the protestors, nor with the government. While he might sympathize for the struggle of the Greek people against the governing leaders, he would remind the people that money is the corrupting force at the root of all of their troubles and that they would find contentment to let go of their material desires and to end their reliance on government to cure their ills.

Socrates to Greece: Die But Don’t Forget to Pay ‘Debt’

The featured quote at the beginning of this post comes from Plato’s account of the trial of Socrates, where Socrates was accused of “corrupting the youth of Athens” and was given the choice to either denounce his philosophies or die by drinking the poison hemlock. Socrates chose death.

His last words were reportedly spoken to Crito, where Socrates said, “We owe a rooster to Asclepius. Please, don’t forget to pay the debt.” Asclepius was the Greek god for curing illness. Therefore these words are interpreted to mean that death is a cure and a means to freedom.

I would never expect a political body to take the path of a wise philosopher, but Socrates would likely say today that Greece must metaphorically die–to split from the European Union–to be cured of its ills… And, yes, don’t forget to pay your debt to Asclepius…


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Category: Economy, Philosophy

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6 Responses to “Socrates’ Advice to Greece Today”

  1. Through the Looking Glass says:

    Hey Barry, What inning of “extend and pretend” are we in? It started with TARD (P) and went into Magical Mystery Tour on a Crazy Train . So where are the lofty ideals of the Mighty Market Morphin chicken plumping , finger on the scale market makers taking us next. Surely this Chariot could not turn into a pumpkin?? or Pump-kin? It is an incestuous market now isnt it?

  2. SOP says:

    Thank you very much for this post.

    Money is not the problem. Our appetites are the problem.

  3. Bokolis says:

    To channel Bernie Mac, my people, I don’t know whathtefuck is wrong with us; I don’t know what’s wrong with us.

    Unfortunately, I do know. The attitude in Greece is one of, roughly translated for context, there is no such thing as, I just can’t; there is only, just fuck off! (It sounds better in Greek)

    Actually, many can see the example of what happens when you overly depend on the government to do shit for you that you could do for yourself. If you’ve ever had to climb out of eyeball-level debt, you’d know that, by far, the most pragmatic way to do so is to earn your way out. In this case, they don’t have other options, so they must inspire themselves, redirect the negative energy so as to stop moping around and treat this debt like it’s finally given them something to do.

    If any people remain in Greece who understand that life is about you vs. you, not you vs. them, they would employ this guy’s plan.

    Don’t be scared; it’s almost all in English, and you get some metric porn at 3:05.

  4. reedsch says:

    Adam Smith was first and foremost a moral philosopher, he felt his best work was “The Theory of Moral Sentiments”and I believe that if you scratch any economist you will find a philosopher, I could make a fine argument that economics is applied morality (or lack thereof), as evidenced by the use of words such as VALUE and GOODS, and what we’re seeing is the collapse of an old moral order with the attendant sociopathies, the death of the Protestant Ethic as it were, and an interregnum to the emergence of a new moral order, one not based on a bearded old white guy sitting on the cloudtops hurling thunderbolts and casting you into the eternal flames.

    But “…let go of their material desires and to end their reliance on government to cure their ills” is an unreasonable expectation, given that we live in the material world. Even Jesus knew he had to feed people before they would listen to his spiel.

  5. dagmountain says:

    How much interest was charged on that rooster?

  6. @ SOP: I agree, money is not the root of evils but the desire for it is…

    @ Bokolis: I like your philosophy of “you vs. you.” Simple truth.

    @ reedsch: I agree that people will not “let go of their material desires” in a material world. You strike at the reason Plato never became a politician — he could never really achieve the greater good and would need to compromise his values. Only a “philosopher king” can rule over his Republic. However, philosopher is the antithesis of politician. Therefore, we’ll never see a philosopher enter politics…

    “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” ~ Plato