The Philosopher and Society

There is no existing political arrangement which is not essentially in conflict — often mortal conflict — with the philosophic life. This means mankind has never found its way to a social structure that is inherently accommodating to the fulfillment of man’s nature. That monumental failure of the species is not as implausible as it first seems, given that the philosopher is by definition the apolitical man, a non-social animal, a soul emancipated from intellectual and moral dependence on the group.

The philosopher, as Socrates reminds us from his prison cell, is the man whose choices — in fundamental contrast to those of other men — are not primarily motivated by fear of death. Hence, the majority of men, who are so motivated, will find the philosopher at best an obnoxious misfit, at worst a dangerous threat to their sense of stability and collective certainty. He must therefore be silenced and punished — made an example of — for his refusal to live in compliance with the rules of their social dream. No one offends the moral righteousness of frightened men more than a man who is not afraid. No one offends the intellectual pride of men who believe they have chosen reasonably more than a man who sees why they really chose, and refuses to participate in their charade.

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