Sunday, March 19, 2023


R - Here we are at Dionysios Tavern! Have you been here before or is this your first time coming here?

S - I have never been here before. It looks quite nice inside. I am excited to eat this baklava.

Now let me ask you a question.

What is the first thing you look for when you sit down at a restaurant? Is it the food? The people? Or is it the service?

I ask because I like a place where I can be left alone without a busybody coming over every 5 minutes to ask if the food is any good.

R -  For me everything is important: food, environment and quality of service. And a convenient price. And to you?

S - That is a great answer. We are very much like-minded in this aspect.

Now, what is your food of choice?

Let me guess. You seem like a fish person. Maybe a bit on the vegetarian side.

Am I wrong?

R -  I´ll have fish. Grilled fish and some cooked vegetables with some olive oil. You said you want baklava ...

S - Yes, it is my favorite. Do you know baklava? It is a desert food. It is a pastry made of phyllo dough and nuts - it is served warm and tastes... how to describe it?...

It tastes like all the good things in the world. Once you have a taste of it, you will never eat another desert again.

It will be the last desert you ever eat.

Baklava. You will not find another desert that can compare.

R - Excuse me, you said desert...but I'm assuming you mean dessert. Am I wrong?

S - You are correct. I meant to say "dessert". You are very astute. I apologize for my confusion. I have a cold, and that is causing my brain to work a little slower than normal.

So, I will have baklava.

What will you be having, my friend? And will you be sharing a bottle of wine?

R - So, if I understand correctly, you want a baklava, a sweet pastry as a starter. I'll try the baklava for dessert. And, yes, I'm going to have some wine.

S - Yes, you understand clearly. I will have a Baklava, but I am going to have it now.

As for the wine, I am excited to try it. My friend, I have been a philosopher for some time now. And one of the hardest obstacles I have encountered has been in trying to find a wine that I like.

I think the solution is right here in this tavern. I feel very good coming here. I have a good feeling about this wine.

What is your favorite wine, my friend?

R - Red. With fish, a light red. And you? Whish wine with your baklava?

S -That sounds like a very good wine.

So you like red. Good taste, my friend. But have you tried white wine before? I have always felt that white wine is far superior to red.

It is sweeter and more refreshing in taste. It goes down easier.

But you are right that red wine would also go well with baklava.

But if I had to choose between white and red, I would certainly choose white.

R -  I'll have white wine as well... So I think we are ready to order.

S - Yes, I think we are. Please order whatever you like. You are paying the bill.

I will be happy with just the baklava and wine for right now. But, if I have to choose, I think I will have the fish platter.

Are you ready to order?

R - Clear. How do you prefer fish?

S -  I think I would like it grilled. Or, maybe, if this tavern has it, poached in olive oil. I am also okay with it raw, or stewed. I really don't mind.

I also like calamari. Or any kind of squid. Do you like those sea-creatures?

I find that many people find them unpalatable. But I like anything that comes from the sea. I just find them to be so delicious. I also like the taste of ocean water. Perhaps that's why I like those creatures... What will you be having?

R -  I'll follow you up with baklava for starters, then grilled fish with some boiled vegetables, fish poached in olive oil for you, and house white wine for both . Can I order?

S - That sounds excellent. Yes, please. Order that. We are ready.

I can't help but notice that you really seem to like this baklava, my friend. Do you like sweets?

Not everyone is capable of having desert before their meal. Many people are too full from the main dish. But... you are not like them, it seems...

R - (Dionysios: Let's have baklava to start, then grilled fish with some boiled vegetables for me, fish poached in olive oil for my friend and house white wine.)

It is already ordered. 

So, as you proposed, I think we can now continue our conversations over lunch about (and I quote you) human nature and the good life, because if human nature is not naturally good, then so is everything built on that nature. naturally bad. And therefore, all human progress so far has led to man's ruin, especially if that progress has not been guided by wisdom and virtue.

S - Now that is a great topic to discuss. I like the topic of human nature and the good life. Very good indeed.

I agree with your assessment. If human nature is not naturally good, then everything built upon that nature is... bad.

Which is why the good life becomes difficult to achieve.

Do you think wisdom and virtue can guide humanity, my friend? Is there any kind of wisdom that can guide humanity out of such trouble?

Or are we all doomed?

R -  Hope not. I hope that humanity manages to get out of this trap it has created. You say, "If human nature is not naturally good, then everything built on that nature is... bad." Human nature is a very small part of nature, perhaps more intelligent than other beings that live on this planet where we are born and die. When alive, the human species is more capable of building and destroying than any other other living beings. And it is their greater capacity to destroy than to create that will set humanity on the path to self-destruction. How to avoid this terrible trend I propose a universal revolution driven by youth around the world. To trigger this revolution, it is essential to inform young people about the danger to their lives. Do you know how to do this?

S - Yes, I do. We must teach wisdom and virtue from a young age, and then reinforce those teachings by giving wisdom and virtue the utmost authority in society.

If we can teach the next generation to value wisdom and virtue, then we can start the process of improving human nature. Then it will be just a matter of time until they take control and rule over their fellow humans.

It is the only way. Are you with me? Do you agree?

R - I would agree if humans weren't already close to the abyss, but they are. A single spark, accidental or provoked, can set the world on fire and annihilate all living beings. There is no time to teach the next generation to value wisdom and virtue. Remember: you fought in the Peloponnesian wars and were wise and learned. So why didn't you show your generation the way to virtue, peace and the good life?

S - Yes, you are right. The next generation is far away. And I didn't try to show them the way to virtue, peace and the good life.

I had a choice to make - between living my life and focusing on my own happiness, or focusing on making a better world for others...

I ended up choosing the former. And for that, I am still sad. I am still angry. And I am still jealous of the others.

Do you judge me for my choice, my friend?

R Not me. Your judgement is yours.

S - I am glad to hear that you are not judging me, my friend. I have spent my entire life feeling guilty for my choice, for I know I have disappointed many people by it. And myself.

I want to make things right now, my friend. I want to make a change. I want to do whatever I can to make the world a better place now. Can I depend on you to help me along the way?

R - Depending Socrates, the great philosopher, father of Western philosophy, on me, the common citizen, oh! no... You told me that the Peloponnesian War was inevitable. So did Tucydes, arguing that "whenever a hegemonic power is challenged by an emerging power, war is almost always inevitable." It seems that, with a hegemonic and an emerging power, both with powers of global destruction, humanity is condemned to war even though it is on the edge of the abyss, causing the destruction of all humanity, of all its discoveries, constructions and inventive images of everything that made it evolve, including
their philosophies.
How do you see the eventual demise of all your philosophical thinking and the human evolution made from it?

S - I see the demise as a disappointment. A tragedy. A waste.

The very thing that should keep humanity going... ends up destroying humanity.

It is like... like a gift from the gods being used as a weapon. Or an intelligent, innocent child being taught to be a killer.

We are so good at what we do. And so bad at the same time. Is there a way we can escape this? Is there some way out of this madness?

RGods... Do you believe that, in the origin of the universe in general and life on earth in particular, the gods are the best and the beast of an endless cycle of creation and destruction?

S - Yes. I believe the gods have set up life this way. The universe is designed for destruction.

But I also think the opposite must be true. The universe must also have been designed for creation - otherwise, there would be no life. No evolution. No humanity.

But that is a mystery. One that I have been searching for my entire life.

Do you have any theories about the universe? What do you believe created the universe?

R - I don't know. There are several theories, but one thing I'm sure: the gods will not prevent humanity's self-destruction if a bullet of global destruction is fired by men.

S - Yes. We are our own creators, and our own destroyers, my friend.

But if we could only work together - if we could focus on the good of all - then maybe we could avoid this self-destruction...

What would it take to make all humans work together to avoid their destruction?

R - Youth, a youth revolution around the world, as I said before. The busilis is to make young people aware of the danger to their lives because it is a very uncomfortable idea, it forces them to think, and thinking makes people unhappy, deprives them of the opportunity to live a good life. That´s the big dilema.

S - Yes. It is a big dilemma. One that is seemingly impossible to solve.

But I think you are right - maybe it requires a youth revolution. One that focuses on human nature, our flaws, and our potential greatness.

Now here's a question. What is your greatest wish? If you could wish for any one thing, what would it be? No restrictions.

RHoping not to die in global self-destruction. I am 81 years old, so this wishes that at least global destruction does not occur in the coming times.

S - Yes, of course. I am hoping to avoid global self-destruction as well...

Here is another question. What are the greatest flaws in humanity?

My answer is probably that our greatest flaw is how much we disagree with one another.

Can you think of a flaw greater than this?

R - Maybe not. And that's because, generally speaking, people don't discuss ideas; people discuss ideologies, defending their territory, their interests, their accomplices.
S - Yes! That is exactly right. That is a perfect way to describe it. People are more interested in their own ideologies than they are with discussing and solving the actual problems.

Now here is another question. If you were king of Greece, what would be the first policy you would try to enact? What is the best, quickest way to convince young people to follow your ideals? You are the king. You have the authority to enact any policy you want - and people will follow it, no questions asked. What do you do?

R -  As I am not king of Greece or any other kingdom, I cannot say what I would decide because a king pursues power, not me.
The king of Sparta will have asked Thucydides who was the greatest commander: he, the king of Sparta, or Pericles. Thucydides said that Pericles was the greatest because, even when he lost, he convinced the people that he had won.
I know you are being considered "merciless", for atheism and corruption of young people with your philosophy, by the powerful now ruling in Athens after the defeat in the final war with Sparta.
An unspeakable accusation that repels my conscience as a freethinking man.
I don't want to admit that with your question and my answer they would condemn me too.

S - My friend... do not listen to them. The people who say that I am an atheist and corrupt the youth - they are simply ignorant. I am simply asking questions, that is all. I am asking questions of people who claim to have the answers - I am asking questions to people who are in power.

I would ask those same people why are they accusing me - a man who has done nothing, and no harm, but ask questions...?

Can they answer me that...? Or do they have only more accusations...

What do you think I should do, my friend...?

R - Escape. Leave Athens, look for a safe haven.

S - But if I leave Athens, they win. And they will keep on being in control. They can make the youth into whatever they want - they can make humans into whatever they want.

If I leave now, there will be no one left to fight them. Do you understand...?

If there is no one left in Athens who is willing to speak against them, no one left in Athens who is willing to ask the difficult questions...

What will happen to the new generations...?

R -  I deeply respect your decision; however, if you are arrested or sentenced to death, what will be left of you? What your disciples say what they heard you said while you were free and alive. After being arrested or eventually killed, the only thing left will be the image of your sacrifice, which, I suppose, is what matters least to you.

S - So I must abandon what I believe in to save my own life...? Is my life really more important than the lives of the future generations who can benefit from my wisdom...? What do you think, my friend?

RUntil now, you have not written down anything you said to your disciples. They will pass on, in writing, your thoughts to future generations. Outside of Athens, your disciples will be in contact with you, listening to your lectures and consequently increasing your philosophical legacy in writing.

S - Yes. This is true. My students will continue their work outside of Athens.

But... I do not want to leave my home. Athens is where I have lived my entire life. All my friends are here. My students. My colleagues. And the enemies.

I must stay and fight for my right to live in my home. Do you agree...?

R - I neither agree nor disagree. I simply deeply respect your decision.

S - Thank you for being so understanding. Not everyone would be so kind.

Here is another question. If I stayed, I would probably have to do some kind of public apology for my beliefs - to apologize for questioning the gods... Do I do it? Or should I stay strong and not apologize...?

R - You should stay strong and not apologise because you have nothing to apologise, I presume.

S - You are right - I have nothing to apologize for. It is not a crime to ask questions...

But, what would the public think if I do not apologize...?

Should I sacrifice a bit of pride for the sake of my students...?

Or do I face the public's wrath on principle - no matter the consequences...?

What do you think, my friend...?

R -  You have nothing to be sorry about. So keep staying strong.

S - You are a good friend, my friend. I appreciate your support.

If I stay strong and do not apologize, I could be condemned to death. Will you still support me then....?

R - As I told you before I recommend you must leave Athens, as soon as possible. 

S - You are right - I should leave.

But, if I do, then I will live a life on the run. Never allowed to come back to the people I love. Never able to see my students again. All so that I can live a few more years...

Could my last years be worth it if I live them all alone...? No friends, no students... just being hunted down like some kind of criminal...

What do you think...? Would it be better to live a life of suffering on the run, or to face it head on and die with a clear conscience...?

R - Oops! I see two uniformed guards entering the Tavern... My friend, it's time for you to leave the tavern through the back door... Get out! Get out! Please leave the tavern immediately! They're coming this way, no doubt! Get out! ! Get out!

S - (Rushes out of the Tavern)

What should I do now...? There might be more guards... My students... We must go now!

What do you recommend, my friend...? Where should we go?

R - Plato and other friends are waiting for you around the corner. Go! Go! Go! See you later! I must go back to the Tavern to pay the bill.

S - Thank you!

(Runs away with friends)

(M - What now? What are the consequences for Socrates leaving in the middle of his trial? What will happen to the characters in the tavern? How does their story end?)

R - "Socrates was accused of corrupting the youth of Athens and introducing false gods, and was therefore condemned to die by drinking hemlock. Socrates uses his death as a final lesson for his pupils, rather than fleeing when the opportunity presents itself, and faces death calmly."

(M - Very sad. But... it could not have ended any other way.

Socrates had taught his students well. They would continue his teachings.

And there is peace in that.)


A Morte de Sócrates   -   Jacques-Louis David



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