Socrates versus Death

Socratic Dialogue 2

© AES 2012

Socrates: You look glum Death. Let us begin a debate about the cause of your sadness!

Death: There is no debate about it Socrates. I am out of a job.

Socrates: Whatever do you mean, my dear Death?

Death: It’s the cuts I’m afraid. The Department for Bad News and General Demise will no longer receive government funding.

Socrates: By Zeus, what you describe seems a remarkable turn of events. What is their motivation?

Death: They think it is an unnecessary quango, especially since the government are pretty accomplished at spreading misery themselves. They are “streamlining” operations you see.

Socrates: I think this a very pleasing outcome.

Death: Come again?

Socrates: My dear Death, it is a simple matter to discover that you have not been wronged.

Death: But I have.

Socrates: Your zeal is invaluable, if correct. But if wrong, the greater the zeal, the greater the evil. Consider the government, if you will. Are they not representative of the people?

Death: Not always no.

Socrates: Well then, are they not comprised of people?

Death: Of course. But what has this got to do with-

Socrates: And are people good, or are they bad, on the whole?

Death: Er…pass. I don’t know. I just sort of rip out their soul, I don’t hang around and ask questions.

Socrates:  So if the government is just, its people must be just. And if it is unjust, its people must be unjust, for the people are the government, and the government the people.

Death: I don’t follow, you’re talking in circles.

Socrates: Let me put it another way. I am right, and you are wrong.

Death: Eh? How did you work that one out?

Socrates: The argument, I believe, regards whether the opinion of some should be held in higher esteem than the opinions of the many. Would, for instance, a gymnast perform according to the praise or blame of everyone in the crowd, or under the instruction of their trainer?

Death: They would obviously listen to their trainer.

Socrates: Would they eat and train according to the instruction of their trainer, or the instruction of the many?

Death: Well, I suppose that’s down to a nutritionist, not a trainer. Most gymnasts have nutritionists – but that’s not the point. How can you say that my unemployment is a good thing? That’s really mean.

Socrates: But, my good friend, if we are to consider the matter of just or unjust, ought we to follow the many in their opinion, or the few who have experience of both?

Death: I suppose you would have to follow the few.

Socrates: And if the few are practised in the unjust, does that mean they have the wisdom to do unjust things?

Death: Yes, it does Socrates.

Socrates: And consider, in addition to these points, whether it is right to reward an unjust action with another unjust action?

Death: Probably not, but who’s counting? Not me anymore…I used to be everywhere at once…those were the days…

Socrates: So, if the government, with its wisdom of unjust actions, benefits you with that wisdom, you must respect their authority on the matter, and not attempt to resist, for to do so would be an unjustified unjust action.

Death: But I have been wronged, Socrates. I am due a handsome pension that I have been accruing since the start of the universe – but the government won’t let me have it.

Socrates: That also sounds like a just unjust action from those who are justified in their injustice.

Death: What does that even mean? You’re talking nonsense, I’m going to go now.

Socrates: My dear Death, do not leave now for I am afraid there is no one else with whom I can approach the topic of injustice. It would be unjust to give up now.

Death: You’re such a jerk, Socrates.

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