Here is a conversation piece from the Economist year-end issue. Pros will no doubt find enough to nit-pick over, but I’m more interested in its ‘sociological’ take on Socrates and the Athens-America parallel. The attributed resemblance between Socrates and Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert is a bit rich, but if you want to think about Socrates as a contemporary talk-show host, you could do a lot worse (Charlie Rose? Not if Socratic irony counts.). And what of ‘Socrates as American Taliban’? Here, I think, once we wade in, we will find the waters deep indeed. What a contemporary Socrates would criticize about American political culture might seem obvious enough, but what about our aesthetic culture? Philosophic? And just what would such a Socrates be for? (Islamism, in any recognizably Qutbian form seems unlikely for a number of reasons.) With what kind of ostensibly un-democratic ideas could a present-day Socrates seduce with? And to a socially influential audience?
(The author discusses Socrates’ putative ‘atheism’ here.)