The Instigator
Sitkoc
Pro (for)
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0 Points
The Contender
MichaelSmith4
Con (against)
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0 Points

Should Socrates have drank the hemlock?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/8/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,110 times Debate No: 31084
Debate Rounds (3)
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Sitkoc

Pro

Socrates took the correct course of action by drinking the hemlock. If he had not, he would have only confirmed his guilt, and made a hypocrite of himself, by turning his back on his own teachings. At the age of eighteen, Athenians were presented with the choice to leave the city, if they did not wish to follow the laws of the city. Socrates was well-advanced in his age, over seventy years old, the choice to depart the city had long since past, and thus, he made his bed now he must lie in it. If he had departed the city at any point during his trial, he would have implied the fact that he was not a true Athenian. Furthermore, Socrates did not truly break any laws, as he displayed in the court of law, he had not committed the charge that was laid upon him; naming that he was corrupting the youth of Athens, by teaching them unorthodox beliefs about the gods. By the force of his argument, Socrates even managed to have Meletus, his chief accuser, make contradictions regarding his own claims about Socrates' guilt. Though Socrates was accused of teaching unorthodox beliefs about the gods, Meletus admitted that he fully believed that Socrates was an atheist, despite his opponent's previous statements regarding Socrates' designation as the wisest man in the world, as revealed to him by The Oracle of Delphi. To counter Meletus' argument, Socrates replied: "Did ever man, Meletus, believe in the existence of human things, and not of human beings?... Can a man believe in spiritual and divine agencies, and not in spirits or demigods?" Meletus stated: "He cannot." The charge that held the most weight against him was thus revealed as a fraud, and all but confirming Socrates' innocence. Despite his later conviction, Socrates knew that the best way to fight what he perceived as tyranny, was by making himself a martyr, and making philosophy a respected doctrine. Without his death by his own hands, Socrates' lessons would have been forgotten, as well as the importance of philosophy.
MichaelSmith4

Con

Socrates wouldn't have confirmed his guilt by not drinking the hemlock. If he wouldn't have drank it, it only would have showed as his strong stance for what he believed in, and his actions being just. Standing by something you support doesn't make your actions wrong. He proved his innocence, just like you stated, so for him to continue on with his own death by choice really isn't necessary. Even if that were the case, Socrates could have stood by the verdict of the jury with a different proposal as his penalty, he didn't have to agree with death as the penalty. "I will not say of myself that I deserve any evil, or propose any penalty. Why should I? Because I am afraid of the penalty of death which Meletus proposes? When I do not know whether death is a good or an evil, why should I propose a penalty which would certainly be an evil? Shall I say imprisonment? And why should I live in prison, and be the slave of the magistrates of the year - of the Eleven? Or shall the penalty be a fine, and imprisonment until the fine is paid?" There were many other proposals that could have chosen that would keep his same honor of the system you claimed for him drinking the hemlock gave him.
Debate Round No. 1
Sitkoc

Pro

Yes, while there were many proposals for Socrates' punishment after his conviction, ultimately, the jury selected one, and that choice was death. From that point on, Socrates' fate was practically sealed, as he never truly contemplated flight. Following his conviction, Socrates was provided with numerous opportunities to escape his imprisonment. Would that not confirm his guilt, as he is running from the "just verdict?" Does my opponent not recall the choice every 18 yr. old Athenian was presented. If he ran away, then he would be perceived guilty not only for his alleged crimes, but also for cowardice, a label Socrates would never have affixed to his name. As it stands, Socrates was wrongly convicted, and wrongly executed. Because of the persecution he had received on behalf of the upper echelon of Athenian society, Socrates was destined to die for his persistent questioning of the status quo. Socrates, on the other hand, was not afraid of death, as my opponent noted in the first round of his argument. This being so, Socrates' death was not a punishment to himself, as he was in his seventies, and was to die soon enough anyhow. Furthermore, Socrates died for a cause, a belief, a way of life. Had he resigned from his fate, and run away, he would have avoided recognition in the annals of history, and died for nothing. Regardless, Socrates thought, "that the unexamined life is not worth living." The philosopher was one of the first men to provide a method as to how to examine one's own life. A man cannot be truly happy, until he resolves cognitive dissonance. As already stated numerous times, Socrates and his practices would have been forgotten long ago, had his life not ended so tragically, or so memorably. Though his students, such as Plato survived him, they would not have taken Socrates' teachings to heart if he had forsook everything he had taught them in the name of self-preservation. Socrates needed to die, in order for his beliefs to transcend generations.
MichaelSmith4

Con

Although the jury made the final choice, the question at hand is should he have drank it, therefore, regardless of what they picked we should be questioning his own decision. Socrates remained loyal and accepted the penalty handed to him, but who's to say the verdict is truly "just" to begin with? It was said by MLK that "A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law." Morally, killing of any kind is a very debatable topic in itself, with in today's society most being against it. As far as God goes, it's stated in the 10 commandments, commandment 6, "thou shall not kill". So can you actually call his verdict "just"? My opponent then goes to talk about the choice ever 18 year old Athenian is given, but have I ever once stated socrates should have escaped? Or simply that he was given other proposals? You say socrates' philosophy would have been forgotten years ago had he not died this way, but who's to make such bold claims like that? Would MLK not be remembers the same had he died naturally? Would JFK be the worlds greatest president had he not been murdered? None of these can be said true. What your saying is a mere opinion. Unless Socrates chose not to drink the hemlock, you have no way to prove that.
Debate Round No. 2
Sitkoc

Pro

My opponent fails to note that tragedy often embeds itself better in the human mind. He mentioned God, and the sixth commandment, so I suppose he has some knowledge of Jesus. Would Jesus have been remembered had he not "died for our sins?" This is not an unlike comparison, as both men lived before the time of digital recording or even the advent of the printing press, so how they really lived is unknown. Nonetheless, my opponent also remarked about the justifiable nature of Socrates' conviction; I must note that I never stated that his conviction was justified, but rather "justified," according to Athenian law. He was not loyal to Athens or to his conviction, but he was playing the part of a smart aleck, in a last jab at the people who tormented him. Why would he not make the must of his death, when it had been decided that he was to die, in the name of the cause? As an example, my opponent chose MLK, which is not an inapt correlation. MLK sought change, and was willing, yes, to die for that change. MLK asked every new recruit applying to his cause, if they were, and I paraphrase, "willing to take a punch, and to not punch back." Was Socrates doing otherwise? He confronted anyone and everyone, making them question the nature of their lives, and this drew reprisal. Most think that a death is the end of a cause, but this is an absolute fallacy. Socrates' death was as much an awakening and momentous event as Christ's death. They both accomplished the same end, which was to enlighten the lives of man, and both movements truly gained ground after each man's respective death. With Socrates, here was the first man to openly die for his philosophy. A cause gains power by the force of the members behind it. Sure, I admit, I can't truly know whether Socrates or not would have been remembered had he not drank the hemlock, but his death was certainly poignant, was it not? With his death, Socrates was no longer a man, but something much more powerful. The hemlock deified him.
MichaelSmith4

Con

You said it best, "tradegy often embeds itself better in the human mind". Often. But not all the time. Just as you can say Socrates may have been made by the hemlock, could one not say that many historical icons have made they're mark without tradegy? While tradegy is often remembered, great minds, thoughts and writings aren't defined by such. Would socrates' way of thinking really be any less all because of the way his life ended? The answer would be no. His philosophical thoughts and enlightened thinking lead him to his stature in the world of literature and history. In no way does he pay homage to the poison he consumed. When it comes to fictional stories such as Romeo and Juliet, Hansel and Grettle, and stories along those lines, tragedy plays a major role in the reason they are remembered. Would Romeo and Juliet have been remembered so vastly if they had not died for their love? Most likely not. However, human lives play a different role when it comes to history. The way one dies doesn't make or brake an individuals body of work. Their body of work speaks for it self, not only because it helped spark a generation of change and deep thought, but it laid down the blueprint for other great thinks after him. We are remembered by what we do, how we live, and how we contribute to society. Therefore, I strongly oppose the statements made by my opponent. I stand firm in my beliefs that he should not have drank the poison. Dead at 25 or 75, by natural death or hemlock, Socrates will always be one if the worlds greatest thinkers. If anything, Socrates could have been remembered for being one to go against anyone to show he stands by his beliefs. Not drinking the hemlock would have been his infamous trademark just as Rosa Parks had hers with not giving up her seat.
Debate Round No. 3
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