The Socratic Hoax

by Anthony M. Ludovici

...amid much that was still healthy in Greek culture, there had developed a tendency to exalt the soul at the expense of the body. This position was assumed with great force by Xenophanes in the late sixth century B.C., but he never succeeded in getting the dangerous doctrine across...

In a culture which, in spite of much unhealthy speculation about the two-fold aspects of man, in spite of universal homosexuality, feminism and general disintegration, was still healthy enough to value man as a whole, and unable to separate beautiful looks from a beautiful character — he who was kalos was necessarily agathos hence the expression kalos k’agathos, beautiful, therefore good — there appeared a man who, besides being endowed with little of the current health, besides being steeped in the most morbid elements of Greek life and thought (he had been the male prostitute of Archelaus, wherein he did not differ much from his contemporaries), possessed two qualifications which eminently fitted him to popularize the four positions described above.

He was of low origin, and he was the most repulsive man of his Age. This man was Socrates.

In a beautiful city of beauty-worshippers, he, therefore, found himself at a terrible disadvantage. Judged by the healthiest values of his Age, he was bound to stand at the very bottom of the scale.

Unfortunately for mankind, he had a very shrewd mind. He would have made a first-class journalist, an ideal writer of best-sellers. And he determined to get himself across, i.e. to create values by which he himself and his type could be regarded as desirable.

How could he do this? — Only by transvaluing existing values, by assuring the Greeks that there was no essential connexion between a man’s visible and invisible aspects.

And this he proceeded to do. It was the old hoax of the fox that had lost its tail. But he got away with it. True, he succeeded only with a dolt like Xenophon, and a middle-class Liberal like Plato; but he did succeed. And although the best of his contemporaries condemned him to death for it, his two apprentices most unfortunately survived him, and constituted the channel through which we became contaminated by this monster’s unscrupulous bluff to save his self-esteem.

He admitted at his trial that he had spent his whole life teaching men to prize the soul above the body.  True, in Plato’s SYMPOSIUM he first speaks of beauty more or less in the orthodox Greek style, and refers to it as “accordant with the divine”, whilst ugliness “is discordant with whatever is divine.” But this is a mere concession to his listeners; for, in a later passage, he produces his own pet doctrine and argues persuasively that the beauty of the body is but a slight affair, and that man’s highest achievement is to set a higher value on the beauty of the soul.  His bosom friend, Alcibiades, at the same banquet, declared that Socrates despised a man’s beauty more than anything,  and to this same friend Socrates declared that the only true lover is he who loves the soul; to love a person’s soul is to love him for his own sake, and not for his bodily beauty which is not himself.

The logical consequence of this attitude was, of course, to make Socrates no longer despicable. But it had other consequences, which Socrates himself did not fail to see. It made bodily defects respectable. It made disease almost a distinction. And, indeed, Socrates said as much. He declared to Glaucon: “If there be any merely bodily defect in another, we will be patient of it and will love the same.”

These notes were later taken up by Christianity and sustained in all octaves, until the whole of Europe rang with them. And it is more or less true to say that Christianity is merely Platonism for the mob.

Thenceforth man’s visible aspect, his body, became vile and despicable, and his invisible aspect the only exalted and valuable part of him. Henceforward, a pure soul was to justify even foul breath, and a sound biological attitude towards men became no longer possible.

A cripple, a hunchback, a person with any deformity or stigma of degeneracy, became as desirable as a normal man, because it could be argued on Socratic lines that his blemish, his stigma was not “himself” (whatever that meant!) and that his real self was hidden, and redeemed everything. In vain did the saner people of all civilizations protest, as even science is protesting now, that to divide up man in this way, and to lay all the stress on his soul, was a gross misinterpretation of the truth. Too many outcasts and toads saw their advantage m this Socratic hoax to relinquish it.

"The body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. . . . If through the spirit ye do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. . . . They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts."

Thus cried Paul, the Socratic body-hater, and thus did contempt of the body become a household value in Europe. Everybody began to believe the lie that “beauty is only skin deep”; it has artificially-conditioned a number of unwholesome reflexes in modern man, and the young of to-day who go forth to choose a mate should beware of these reflexes.

Although the only sane course is to value man biologically and æsthetically as well as morally, through Socrates a wholly biological and æsthetic standard was converted into a wholly moral method of valuing him.

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