Life Or Anti-Life: Nietzsche V Essay, Research Paper
Life or Anti-Life: Nietzsche vs Socrates
Nietzsche s charge that Socrates is anti-life appears to be driven merely by disgust and not proven by fact. I say this mainly because the majority of Nietzsche s accusations in The Problem of Socrates were either negative statements against Socrates physical appearance or inaccurate accounts that he possibly just misunderstood. Therefore, with Nietzsche s invalid charges we can not consider Socrates anti-life.
One of Nietzsche s first mistakes is in his opening paragraph of The Problem of Socrates . Nietzsche starts out by intentionally placing a label on the wisest sages by claiming that the wisest sages of all times have reached the same judgment about life: it s worthless. . . Always and everywhere we have heard the same sound coming from their mouths a sound full of doubt, full of melancholy, full of fatigue with life, full of hostility to life (p. 12). This is a false and inadequate statement about the wisest sages or at least the, wise sage, Socrates. In Plato s Apology Socrates was not full of melancholy instead he was filled up with justification. Socrates tried to think of his sentence in a more positive aspect by thinking that death wouldn t be so bad. Socrates thought of the many ways he could spend his time with other men who died also from unjust convictions. He was very pleased at the thought that he would be able to test and examine people even in death as he would in Athens. Socrates especially thought it would be of extraordinary happiness to examine Troy, Odysseus or any other men who were considered to be great. Here is a man who has based his whole life on examining people and their actions. For this reason alone the Athenians have considered him as being corruptive. Why would Socrates not be happy of going to a place where he could further his analysis on those who might be wiser and appreciative? Socrates in general, thought of death as an adventure to the unknown. To him death is somewhat of a change that just relocates your soul. Socrates did not fear those that would kill his body, for he knew they could not kill his will and desire. For these adventurous thoughts and his positive outlook on his sentence, can we actually consider Nietzsche s charges to be valid? I think not. Just because one tries to think the best of a bad situation, he or she should not be labeled as anti-life. Socrates told the people what they did not want to hear and questioned them about what they thought they knew. As a result many Athenians disliked him. Socrates was not full of doubt just because he questioned what one does or why one does it. Socrates spoke about what others did not want to here but knew to be true. People in general don t like to hear the truth unless it is in their favor. As a result, this made the people of Athens upset because they were not doing what they thought to be true. Socrates was not fatigued with life itself, but instead he was tired of the many lies that people told. He loved the physical flesh and blood of life, but he really did not appreciate the unjust people who tried to place words in his mouth. These same people have put him on trial. Socrates was also tired of people not standing for something. Socrates did not have hostility towards life instead he questioned the happenings in life. When people question what is happening those being questioned often become defensive and imply that the inquirer is being hostile and should be disliked. This is exactly what happened to Socrates.
In another passage Nietzsche once again accuses Socrates of being anti-life when he proclaims that Socrates wanted to die: not Athens, but he gave himself the poison cup, he forced Athens to give him the poison cup (p. 17). Nietzsche s statement is purely a justification for the wrong that was done to Socrates during his trail. What Nietzsche failed to realize was that it is not that Socrates wanted to die, it is that he was taking a stand. Socrates simply just wanted to be heard. Just because one is willing to face death for what he or she believes in does not mean that one craves death or one is anti-lfe. Socrates believes that whenever a man has taken a position that he believes to be best, or has been placed by his commander, there he must I think remain and face danger without thought of death or anything else, rather than disgrace (p. 33). Socrates believed in taking a stand for what he believed in even if it meant death. This is something that many have done since the beginning of time. In the bible when those who confessed before men that they believed in God, knew that they would be killed. Should we come to think that these men are anti-life or were they simply just standing up for their faith in God? Socrates here is implying that it is better to stand for something in life than to live life believing in nothing. With this statement Socrates is willing to die than cease his practice of philosophy. Socrates believes that this is the will of the gods for him to philosophize with such wisdom. If it were not, his divine sign would have not permitted him to do so.
In speaking of Socrates divine sign. It is funny how Socrates admits to having a divine sign or God. This statement would not come from the mouth of one who is an atheist and does not believe in life? God is life. He is the creator of all life and to be against life you must be against the gods or God. In Plato s Apology, the people of Athens accused Socrates of corrupting the young by telling them not to believe in the gods the city believes, but other new spiritual things. If Socrates is to believe in spirits or spiritual things one can say that he believes in gods. For spirits are either gods or the children of gods. With this in mind one cannot accuse Socrates as being anti-life.
When faced with death Socrates did not fear it, but that does not make him anti-life. Many people interpret not having fear of the unknown as an indication of knowledge and experience in the matter. Socrates differed from many men mainly because he did not claim to know anything about death or things in the underworld. No one truly knows whether death is a blessing or a curse, but men act as if it is evil. When Socrates spoke of death he didn t speak of it as being evil, and since there is no proof that death is good or bad Socrates did not fear or avoid the unknown.
In conclusion, should we ask if Socrates wanted life or death, or should we ask if he wanted life in spite of death? Life for Socrates was philosophy and in return philosophy added meaning to his life. Is it living to live life without meaning, or is it death? Socrates chose to live life as he desired. Nietzsche s accusation that Socrates is anti-life is untrue and inaccurate. Just because Socrates took a stand for what he believed in and was willing to face danger without a thought for death or anything else, does not make him anti-life.