Over 2300 years ago, Aristotle spoke about music and its ability to communicate the emotional states of humans:
Music directly imitates the passions or states of the soul…when one listens to music that imitates a certain passion, he becomes imbued withthe same passion; and if over a long time he habitually listens to music that rouses ignoble passions, his whole character will be shaped to an ignoble form.i
Aristotle recognized that music communicates emotion, and that immoral music can shape our character for the worse. Plato also observed the effect that music had on society in his day and made this thought-provoking statement:
Any musical innovation is full of danger to the whole state, and ought to be prohibited. When modes of music change, the fundamental laws of the state always change with them.ii
“We think the way we do because Socrates thought the way he did,” writes Bettany Hughesat the start of The Hemlock Cup, her brand new biography of ancient Greece’s greatest philosopher.
Two-and-a-half millennia of history might separate us from the age when Socrates roamed the streets of ancient Athens, formulating and articulating his philosophies to the people. But many of his words and ideas ring just as true in the 21st century as they did back then. (For a run-down of ten great Socrates quotes to reflect upon, check out Owen’s blog here).
From his beliefs on philosophical ethics to the justness of war, the folly of materialism, the necessity of true free speech and the importance of standing up for what you believe in, we count down 10 reasons why Socrates’ philosophies are still relevant today.
1. They’ve Never Been Rendered Obsolete
For starters, it’s crucial to note that, unlike many other intellectual disciplines of the ancient Greek period such as, say, ancient Greek astronomy, Socrates’ philosophies remain just as pertinent as the day they were conceived (or at least the day they were recorded by his student Plato).
As one 20th century philosopher, A. N. Whitehead, famously wrote: “The safest general characterisation of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.” He wasn’t being entirely serious there, but the inference is clear: Socrates and his disciples’ theories are a crucial foundation of modern Western philosophical thought – all others since have basically been constructed upon them.