Sunday, May 07, 2006

An old tradition but not a good one

In Plato's Dialogues he records a conversation between Socrates, in prison awaiting execution, and his follower Crites, who urges him to accept a ransom and exile instead. Socrates replies with submission to a line of reasoning I found disturbingly contemporary:

"Tell us, What complaint have you to make against us which justifies you in attempting to destroy us and the state? In the first place did we not bring you into existence? Your father married your mother by our aid and begat you. Say whether you have any objection to urge against those of us who regulate marriage?" None, I should reply. "Or against those of us who after birth regulate the nurture and education of children, in which you also were trained? Were not the laws, which have the charge of education, right in commanding your father to train you in music and gymnastic?" Right, I should reply. "Well then, since you were brought into the world and nurtured and educated by us, can you deny in the first place that you are our child and slave, as your fathers were before you?"

There are specific Supreme Court decisions which refute parts of this logic, but we still hear it from some segments of our government.

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