The Living Dead: Socrates

A conversation with Socrates, by the light of a full moon, on philosophy, the Internet, and video games.

By the light of a full moon, the Feisty Curmudgeon performs rituals that grant the power to raise the dead. Rather than use this power for evil, he summons forth humanity’s greatest champions to ask them about our world through their eyes.

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Socrates makes a perfect first champion.

FC: Socrates, welcome to the twenty-first century! It’s been nearly two and a half millenia since you last spoke to humanity. What do you think?

Socrates: Much has changed, but much has stayed the same. Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, weak minds discuss people. This has not changed.

FC: In Plato’s Phaedrus, you said that “this invention [of writing] will produce forgetfulness in the minds of those who learn to use it, because they will not practice their memory. Their trust in writing, produced by external characters which are no part of themselves, will discourage the use of their own memory within them. You have invented an elixir not of memory, but of reminding; and you offer your pupils the appearance of wisdom, not true wisdom, for they will read many things without instruction and will therefore seem to know many things, when they are for the most part ignorant and hard to get along with, since they are not wise, but only appear wise.”

Socrates: I recognize the irony of that statement’s persistence to this age. My fear of the written word at the time was that it had no power to respond in discourse, that the only way to learn from it was to question its bearer. As I told Phaedrus, “you might think [written words] spoke as if they had intelligence, but if you question them, wishing to know about their sayings, they always say only one and the same thing. And every word, when once it is written, is bandied about, alike among those who understand and those who have no interest in it, and it knows not to whom to speak or not to speak; when ill-treated or unjustly reviled it always needs its father to help it; for it has no power to protect or help itself.”

I see now that the persistence of the written word is powerful, and that discourse can be found by a chorus of voices in the written word over time.

FC: So the written word isn’t all bad?

Socrates: No, it is quite powerful. Newer forms of communication elevate it even further. The Internet is amazing – anyone can write and respond, and true discourse can be found. It is wonderful. Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.

FC: I’m not sure if you’re trolling.

Socrates: What is this trolling you speak of?

FC: Don’t worry about it. So you think the Internet is wondrous? What else have you discovered?

Socrates: Video games! There lies an example of the “written” word that can protect itself. Video games would be a magical tool in the hands of a teacher. In many games, the student must teach himself the lesson, and in so doing learns it more fully than if his teacher had imparted it to him. I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think.

FC: So you like video games, huh? That’s convenient since I’m interviewing you for a video game site. What games have you enjoyed then?

Socrates: Myst. Though it was lonely, I saw the power to teach that books can represent.

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I am humbled that we Greeks are included in the Civilization games.

Oh, and those Angry Birds are SO VERY ANGRY! It’s marvelously funny.

FC: Any parting words?

Socrates: The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing. San Dimas High School football rules!

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Feisty Curmudgeon
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