Socrates on Virtue
[The scene opens with Thuddipius, the clueless wanderer, arriving at the
door of Eristotle, the Chaosopher.
There is talking within as Thuddipius knocks.]
ERISTOTLE: Who is it?
THUDDIPIUS: It's Thuddipius, Eristotle.
E: [In a painfully bad French accent] Who eez theez Eristotle?
There eez no wonn here by zat name. I theenk he move to Guatamala and change
heez name to ``Zoltan Grbyznik.''
T: You did not move to any foreign land, Eristotle.
E: Not yet, perhaps. I hear Guatamala has temperate summers,
T: May I come in?
E: Yes, of course, my prize pupil.
T: [Entering] I heard the most wonderful thing from Socrates
E: He has announced that he's giving up philosophy and moving to Sparta
to become a javelin catcher?
T: [Confused] No...
E: Too bad. I think he'd make a rather better javelin catcher than he
does a philosopher.
T: Do you want to hear what he said?
E: Sure. I haven't made my sacrifice to Eris today, so I could use a
T: He was asked what virtue was, and he responded wonderfully.
E: This should be a hoot. What did he say of virtue?
T: He said that it was a kind of right opinion.
E: An opinion arrived at by reasoning, I suppose.
T: No, actually. He said that if one could arrive at virtue by
reasoning, then you could be taught how to reason properly. If this were so,
then there would be teachers of virtue. Since there are no teachers of
virtue, he concluded that virtue cannot be taught.
E: So, if the world is full of color-blind men, then it is in
principle impossible to teach me how to mix paint. I see that his usual
muddy thinking hasn't sedimented out yet. Where
do these right opinions come from then? Random whim of the gods?
T: How did you know?
E: He said that?
T: Yes. How did you know?
E: Oh, the usual way. I come up with the most ridiculous answer I can
find, and may Zeus take my life if that isn't right on the mark nine times of
T: In what way is it ridiculous?
E: Most ways that I can think of, actually. For openers, Socrates once
said that Ignorance is Vice.
T: I recall that.
E: He proved this rather handily by saying that men always do what is
best, and therefore the only way a man falls into vice is through not knowing
what is right. Do you recall that, also?
E: So men can avoid vice by acquiring knowledge, since knowledge is the
opposite of ignorance.
T: That is what Socrates claims.
E: So he proved that virtue is knowledge and then went on to show that
virtue is not knowledge because it cannot be taught.
T: That appears to be so.
E: There seems to be a problem with this, wouldn't you say?
T: Yes, I would.
E: Have you heard that the Oracle at Delphi has decreed that Socrates is
the wisest man in the world?
T: I have heard that many times.
E: Makes you
worry about the state of the world, doesn't it?
T: Why do you dislike Socrates so much?
E: I envy his talent for absurdity, Thuddipius.