By Steven Clyde
*This piece is a subchapter for my upcoming book “My Government!”*
This ancient idea of the social contract dates back to Ancient Greece where it was first established as a philosophical idea, and from there it was set to take foot in any society that reminisced in the work of these ancient philosophers. It is no surprise that Athens between the 3rd to 6th centuries gave us many of the ideas that developed the framework of the Western world and where the modern state as we know it is derived. Pre-Socratic philosophers such as Thales of Miletus (624 BC-546BC), Pythagoras(570BC-495BC), Parmenides(510-540BC – Death Unknown), etc., paved the way for the prospects of reason and logic as fundamental ideas to adhere to over mystical figures as their guiding source of wisdom. We would consider these thinkers cosmologists in that they sought to find objective truths that tie the universe together.
Socrates (469 BC-399 BC), a remarkable figure and thinker born and raised in Athens, Greece, never wrote anything down, yet he was very much interested in the individual and justice. Unlike the pre-Socratics who again held closely to views of cosmology, Socrates was also a fan of the sophists and the types of questions they were asking as he was very outspoken about public affairs and what was happening within the polis. Though never holding a professional teaching position, he was open to be a teacher and speak to whomever was open to a dialogue, and through his teachings he gave birth to a new era of thought in history.
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A significant point he stressed was that the individual is to decide right and wrong for themselves, and that immoral and unjust acts can only come out of a state of ignorance. Though we know that to be untrue in that smart and evil people are commonplace, he nevertheless had faith in the individual and thought the mind mattered much more than stigmas; in fact he often refused to give his students answers as he wanted them to figure things out for themselves. Continue reading “Socrates: The Suicide That Led to The Social Contract”