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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Story time: The philosopher and his friends

Anselm Feuerbach, The Symposium

A group of friends assembled around a table. They were of diverse origins and areas of specialization. There was, to name but a few: a psychologist, a writer, a teacher, a musician, a biologist, a historian, a physicist, a film director, a mathematician, an artist... and, of course, a philosopher.

They had gathered to try and answer two of the most fundamental questions of all:

Is the human being intrinsically good or bad?


Is life worth living?

Each of them, relying on their widely acknowledged erudition, would evoke data, texts and observations from their specific field to shed some unique light on those two questions.

They would all take turns talking throughout the night.

It was agreed that by morning, before the sun rose completely, they would have to reach a consensus.

The philosopher, who had gathered all those friends together, announced:

"If we are to be honest in this process, we will have to pursue it to the end."

He went on to produce two bottles: one bottle of nectar, and one bottle of poison hemlock.

"If we agree that life is worth living, he said, in the morning we will savour this nectar* together, my friends. If, on the other hand, we agree that life's absurdity makes it unworthy of living, then we will, following the example of Socrates, have to drink the hemlock*."

Jacques-Lous David, The Death of Socrates

And with no time for tergiversation, they began.

To be continued...

* Songs a courtesy of the Musician, who was trying to demonstrate how difficult it would be to reach a consensus.

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