The Problem Of Social Evolution Essay

The Problem Of Social Evolution Essay

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Socrates, who lived from 470 to 399 B.C., is separated from us by nearly two and one half millennia. This means that he had not in common with our progressive age the automobile, the airplane, the television, the computer, the telephone (whether cellular or regular), video games, virtual reality, etc. Can we, then, “relate” to him? Is he in any way relevant to our lives and our problems? Can we possibly learn from him and benefit from his teaching?
On the face of it, the answer is in the negative. The gap is too wide. Moreover, had his teaching been relevant, it would well have been absorbed during the many centuries which have elapsed since his times and incorporated in the civilization into which we were born and which we continue.
Yet, on second thought, such a categorical statement may be all too hasty, and requires re-examination. Maybe the fault is in us, as in the process of cultural evolution we march all too energetically forward, and in our zeal for progress forget and neglect the foundations of our civilization, the great men of ages past who seem not to age, but loom large, impervious to the passage of time. Their teachings or artistic contributions stand out, irrespective of the vicissitudes of history and despite the advancement of science and technology.
To be sure, lip service is paid to them and their names may even be engraved on the facade of a university building. But few delve into their works, and their writings collect dust in the dark recesses of libraries, as we are eager to discover the new answers to old problems and the recent recipes for salvation. This, perhaps, is most characteristic of America, a civilization oriented towards the future, but also older civilizations are affected by this trend.
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...blic opinion may be considered a democratic manifestation, as the jurors respond to or represent the wider society, but this need not coincide with objective justice–as it did not in the trial of Socrates. Still, modern democracy would not condemn a Socrates to death, however unpopular he might have been.
Yet it must be remembered that, if the Athenian democracy stands accused of a judicial murder, this must not be seen as a justification of, say, the Spartan regime, which was authoritarian and in some respects totalitarian. For in Sparta Socrates would not have been likely to pursue his avocation till the age of seventy. Indeed, he would be unlikely to be what he was in a society which hardly produced prominent men of reflection, writers and artists. If in Athens the mills of injustice ground slowly, in Sparta they had no opportunity to encounter men of free spirit.

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