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socrates was a hacker


I enjoy philosophy immensely, and yesterday my parents gave me as a present a book called The Great Philosophers edited by Ray Monk and Frederic Raphael, which is excellent (I have to say I picked it :-)). It has essays on the most influentials philosophers in history: Socrates, Plato, Descartes, Spinoza, Hume, Russell, Heidegger, and so on, even Turing. Each essay balances their philosophy with their life as well... The first one (appropriately enough) is on Socrates. Had he lived today he would definitely have been a hacker, (I mean hacker, btw, in the original sense of the word --not a cracker, or a phreaker, etc) as the following excerpt shows:

His friends told stories about how strange he was. After dinner one night [...] a young man who had been on military service with Socrates recounted how Socrates had
started wrestling with a problem or other about sunrise one morning, and stood there lost in thought, and when the answer wouldn't come he still stood there thinking and refused to give it up. Time went on, and by about midday the troops... began telling each other how Socrates had been standing there thinking ever since daybreak. And at last, toward nightfall, some of the Ionians brought out their bedding after supper... partly to see whether he was going to stay there all night. Well, there he stood till morning, and then at sunrise he said his prayers to the sun and went away.
Another friend described how, on the way to the dinner party at which the above story is told, Socrates fell 'into a fit of abstraction and began to lag behind'. Socrates then lurked in a neighbour's porch to continue thinking. 'It's quite a habit of his, you know: off he goes and there he stands, no matter where it is.' His other regular habits did not include washing; even his best friends admitted that it was unusual to see him freshlyl bathed and with his shoes on. He was shabby and unkempt, never had any money or cared where his next meal was coming from. [During his trial] he admitted to the court that 'I have never lived an ordinary quiet life. I did not care for the things that most people care about -- making money, having a comfortable home, high military or civil rank, and all the other activities... which go on in our city.' But Socrates did not think that any of these trappings of a conventionally successful life were bad in themselves. Neither was he an ascetic in the ordinary sense of the term. He never preached abstinence (he could, said his friends, drink any of them under the table, though he was never seen to be drunk), nor did he urge others to live as simply as he did. A hard and preoccupied man, he was just too busy to pay much attention to such things as clothing, food or money.
Sound familiar? :-)) Categories: art.media
Posted by diego on June 17 2003 at 3:04 PM

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