Should Socrates have drunk the hemlock?
Debate Rounds (3)
The Enchiridion also states that "one must do what is right even if others judge that decision". "Others" are the ones who made the decision for him to kill himself in the first place. Killing himself is going on the assumption of the masses that the "right" thing to do is to drink the hemlock. Maybe his friends, the lesser group of people were right; he should not have drunk the hemlock. Socrates could have continued to preach his teachings as a philosopher and continued his life. Being right or wrong is a matter of opinion, Socrates could have run away and had the masses of people judge him instead of his friends.
According to The Enchiridion, by Epictetus, one must do what is right even if others judge that decision. Socrates ended up finding himself in that predicament after he was sentenced by the people of Athens to end his life by drinking the hemlock. His friends thought he was foolish to go ahead with his sentence when they could easily help him escape. They believed they were doing a good deed by offering to get him out of Athens when in reality that would not have been a wise decision on Socrates"s part. Socrates, being the philosophy enthusiast that he was, followed Epictetus"s belief about doing what is right and obeyed his sentence despite what his friends were saying to him.
Going back to my original argument Socrates should not have been concerned with what the people of Athens were thinking about him. His reputation is not within his control and he is listening to the masses of people when he could simply listen to a small group of people who are right. So therefore, when you say that not drinking the hemlock would have been a "terrible idea that could have put Socrates in even more trouble than he already was with the people of Athens", it does not matter. They are just one mass of people with one opinion that he cannot change. Also you say that Socrates "followed Epictetus"s belief about doing what is right and obeyed his sentence despite what his friends were saying to him", when in fact the Enchiridion, in which I am assuming you are referencing to, came after Socrates died. Epictetus actually mentions Socrates on multiple occasions in this writing.
Back to my argument, according to "The Philosopher's Mean", part of being a philosopher is blending in with the common man, "perverted forms of self-display are to be avoided". By choosing to kill himself, Socrates is creating a relatively big ordeal and a big trial and drawing negative attention to himself and philosophy in general. Also, it is plainly stated in the Philosopher's Mean that penance is not a part of philosophy at all. Penance is voluntary self-punishment because of having done something wrong. By drinking the hemlock, Socrates is one, voluntarily punishing himself, and two, admitting that he wronged the society of Athens. He is conveying a message that philosophy is a crime. He is completely abandoning his beliefs. Socrates had a duty as a philosopher to spread his teachings and pass the knowledge of philosophy on. Committing suicide would be a transgression of his duty which according to David Hume's "On Suicide" is a reason that committing suicide is not okay. Like I said before, he is leaving his responsibilities of a philosopher by drinking the hemlock.
During that entire conversation he defended death as something that every true philosopher appreciated. Clearly Socrates"s death sentence of ingesting the hemlock was the best thing that could have happened to a philosopher like him.
Socrates truly let his fellow philosophers down when he made the choice to drink the hemlock. His knowledge could have continued to help society, just in a separate town that he escaped to. Socrates says himself that he was superior to a number of people and finally came to the conclusion the oracle was correct; he was the wisest of them all. Yet, he ends his wise life short. Yes, Socrates was obeying the law when he took his own life, but Socrates pointed out in his argument with Thrasymachus on the meaning of right, the law and those in higher power can make mistakes and they may not always be right nor is there a clear meaning for the word.
One thing he was certain about was that he would've met death after drinking the hemlock, regardless of what "death" even means. His attitude towards death was positive compared to that of others in Athens so drinking the hemlock wasn't even something he feared. He knew death was inevitable and reaching it a little sooner wasn't going to affect him. He wouldn't have gone under any psychological stress over it so why not go through with something you have no problem with?
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