The life of Socrates is well known in the philosophical community. It is generally believed that Socrates was wrongfully condemned to death for corrupting the youth of Athens, and that he died as a martyr to Truth and to independent thought. But 20th century British philosopher Anthony Ludovici asserts that this favorable opinion of Socrates is incorrect. In this video, we will explore Ludovici’s argument that Socrates was not only a corrupter of the Athenian youth, but also a corrupter of the subsequent 2400 years of Western thought.
According to Ludovici, the ancient Greeks before Socrates did not believe that a man was composed of a body and an independent soul. To the Greeks, man was an indivisible unit. “Man was a whole, his invisible and visible aspects were one. To estimate the worth of a human being solely from his invisible aspects was a practice not only unknown to them, but also one they would have regarded as ridiculous.”
In such a society, the good man was the man whose physical and mental qualities were good. Socrates, who was one of the ugliest men that ever lived, could never hope to be esteemed good under the standards of Ancient Athens. “He was so ugly that friends, in introducing him, felt obliged to apologise for him. In a beautiful city of good-looking people, who held beauty, and especially male beauty, in high esteem, he was naturally at a great disadvantage. Judged by the prevailing standards, he had to be placed at the bottom of the ladder.”
Socrates naturally resented his inferior position within society. Throughout his life, he worked very hard to nullify his repulsive ugliness; and in the end, he succeeded. “He accomplished this by destroying his countrymen’s belief in the oneness of man; and by dividing man into two (Dualism) and making his invisible attributes far more important than his visible.”
Socrates’ student, Plato, transmitted his teacher’s unwholesome doctrine to posterity, where it eventually assumed the form of the West’s foremost religion – Christianity. The Christian notions of the duality of man, the soul’s independence from the body, the superiority of the soul over the body, and the immortality of the soul are all Socratic notions. “Henceforward, man’s visible aspects, his body, came to be regarded as vile and despicable, and his invisible aspects the only valuable part of him. Wonderful for Socrates and his like! But for the rest of mankind – pollution.”
Predictably, this type of philosophy was appealing to the masses, which is why it has prevailed for over 2400 years. “There were too many in the world whom the Socratic teaching pleased and flattered and, in the end, it became the dominant doctrine of the West. For it made things so easy. No speechifying, no protestations of faith, no airs or graces, could alter the shape of your nose, or modify your height, or make your eyes beautiful, or make you in any way superior in body to the way you had been made. If you were inferior bodily, however, you could, along Socratic lines, always greatly enhance your prestige by posing as a person with a superior soul, and, by making certain professions of faith, adopting airs of piety and purity, and claiming highfalutin interests, pass as a very superior person. In short, Socrates gave the chance of a second innings on the moral side, if your initial innings on the bodily side had been a failure. No wonder Socrates ultimately prevailed.”
It is important to note that modern science has validated the pre-Socratic view of man as an indivisible unit, and has discredited the Socratic notion of Dualism. “The fact that Science has lately swung round to the pre-Socratic Greek view of man, as an indivisible unity, is the important point to remember; because most people today probably imagine that the Socratic hoax about man’s duality, supported as it is by religion, is also the orthodox scientific point of view.”
To conclude, Ludovici claims that posterity’s generally favorable opinion of Socrates is incorrect. Socrates was an ugly man who resented his inferior position in a society that valued both physical and mental beauty. Spurred on by his feelings of inferiority, he convinced others that man was composed of two parts – a body and a soul – and that the soul was superior and far more important than the body. “In plain English – Western philosophy owes its origin to the efforts of a shrewd and ugly outsider, with acute inferiority feelings, to save his self-esteem.”