The Instigator
sahbilsmith
Pro (for)
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The Contender
MG00xx
Con (against)
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Should Socrates have drank the hemlock?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/21/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,252 times Debate No: 30475
Debate Rounds (3)
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sahbilsmith

Pro

Socrates, a legendary figure in the realm of western philosophy, had many traits that positioned him for greatness. Among these traits, which include his modesty (that may come off as arrogance) and intelligence (though he claims to know nothing) is his trueness to his own self. From the moment the Oracle of Delphi told him of great wisdom he posessed, Socrates made it his business to confirm this prophecy. He started his journey by going through the city of Athens questioning the knowledge of his presumed superiors, which almost immediately landed him into trouble. Despite the obvious danger of his practices, Socrates continued, not out of a wanting to disobey the law, but rather a need to obey his law. Thus, one may say it was wrong to drink the poison, but Socrates, as we all do, was simply using the opinion of the person he knew best - himself. Therefore, Socrates could not have been wrong for drinking the hemlock poison.
MG00xx

Con

I will start by saying that according to Saint Augustain "An unjust law is no law at all". In the case of Socrates I would argue that his punishment and trial were unjust therefore he did not have to drink the hemlock and he would not be neglecting any obligations.
Socrates also acted unreasonable and only thought about himself when he choose death over liberty.
Socrates should have not drank the hemlock.
Debate Round No. 1
sahbilsmith

Pro

In order to properly determine whether or not Socrates made the right choice, we have to figure out what he was trying to achieve in the situation as a whole. In ancient Greece, there was a pretty unequal system that dominated. There were slaves, which were forced to perform labor with no rights whatsoever, followed by citizens who were born in Greece and had little political power. At the top, were Aristocrats, root word "aristoi" meaning best people, which shows the mindset of the ruling class at the time. Democracy was introduced in 500 B.C. (30 years before Socrates is born) but the system still reflected a way of life that was unfair, especially since the only people able to vote were land owners. Based on this, it is safe to say that the government of Socrates' time was very hypocritical. During his trial, Socrates had an opportunity to expose this hypocracy by actually practicing what he preached by standing next to his belief that he was not corrupting the minds of those he spoke to, even if this meant death. Furthermore, the Socratic method is something Socrates only hoped people would consider, now it has become the dominant means of arguement. This was made possible by his willingness to drink the hemlock. Also, you claim that Socrates chose death over liberty, however it is through death that Socrates achieved liberty!
MG00xx

Con

In you argument you state that the "government of Socrates' time was very hypocritical". I could not agree with you more. This only shows how the decision to punish Socrates was wrong and unjust. In "Apology" Socrates clearly shows that the charges brought against him are lies and untrue. Although Socrates proved that his charges were false he was still found guilty. His punishment was death. You also say that his willingness to drink the hemlock give birth to the popularity of the Socratic method. I say that you are mistaken but not completely. It was how he lived his life that made people consider the Socratic method not his willingness to drink the hemlock. Imagine how much more influence he could have made on world if he lived instead of dying early. it is true that he achieved liberty through death but he achieved it a little too soon.
Debate Round No. 2
sahbilsmith

Pro

First, I would like to point out that Socrates DID NOT prove that the charges were false. If he did, he would not have been found guilty. If Socrates had lived, he would not have impacted the world at all because his world was one that had no tolerance for the ideas he promoted, especially if he wasn't willing to die for them. In fact, the only reason we have tolerance for his ideas is because he died for them. This brings me to my closing statement. When looking at some of the legends of human existence (Jesus, Martin Luther King Jr., Ghandi, Tupac Shakoor, Socrates) they all shared two key characteristics. First, they all percieved the world in a way that was revolutionary to everyone else of their time. This explains the amount of hatred each of these figures recieved during their lifetime. Second, all of these individuals died for their beliefs. With this being said, it must be true that in order to bring about something new in the world, as Socrates did, you have to die, whether it be at the hands of another person or by your own doing. Death must occur because this is the only way the idea can become "official", since someone (ie. the person whose idea it was) actually died in order to completely embody it. Socrates chose the best possible alternative to being a fraud - not only did he drink the hemlock, but he poured it into his mouth with his own hands.
MG00xx

Con

Socrates was found guilty-yes, but he was unjustly found guilty because the charges brought against him could not be proved to be true therefore as I said before Socrates did not have to follow through with his death sentence. In "Phaedo: Virtue and Socrates' View of death" Socrates states "for they have not found out either what is the nature of that death which a true philosopher deserves, or how he deserves or desires death". This shows that dying by the hands of the Athenians was an unjust way to die. Socrates was 70 years old at the time of his death; he only had a few more years left before he would have died naturally which is how a philosopher should die, if he had chosen to escape he could have inspired another legendary figure such as Plato. Also he should have escaped instead of drinking the hemlock because he had a responsibility to fulfill. Socrates says "necessity was laid upon him-and so I go on my way, obedient to the god, and make inquisition into the wisdom of anyone who appears to be wise; and if he is not wise, then in vindication of the oracle I show him that he is not wise". By drinking the hemlock he is escaping his duty placed upon him by the gods to question and cross examine those who claim to be wise. Socrates' unreasonable thinking led him to drink the hemlock which he did not have to because he did not break any laws nor was his punishment just.
Debate Round No. 3
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