A Piratical Defense of Socrates

BAP brings up Socrates to defend Alcibiades. “[Alcibiades] rejected the advances of the Pelasgian pedo-pervert Socrates, a story that Plato then inverted and twisted like the lying cunt and Phoenician-asskisser that he was.”

The other place Alcibiades is discussed is in BAP #53 “The pirate and the fortress—” where he is called a super-pirate. BAP asks “do you understand what piracy is?”

Socrates was a greater pirate than Alcibiades and it is on this ground (piracy) that I try to explain him.

What is pirate?

Let there be two ways: the pirate and the slave. In 53 you will see that even the free commonwealths of the Greeks are understood in the light of the pirate.

How does the slave protect himself? He obeys, in deed and thought. He cannot hope to take his life into his own hands, or his protection into his own hands. He relies on the master for protection from outsiders and indeed from the master himself. He must make the master grateful. Gratitude is the way of slaves. South Koreans’ “Sunshine Policy” is a policy of harmlessness to defer attack and kindness to ingratiate the dangerous. If they are attacked at least they did not deserve to be attacked. That is what they will claim.

How does the pirate protect himself? BAP has recourse to discussion of animal who takes his own life in his jaws—i.e., animal trusts in his own power. This is lovely. There are also slave animals after all. The slave animal does not depend on gratitude the way madman-human does, but on straightforward harmlessness. The harmless animal protects itself by not provoking the fear of other animals. If the prey could bind the carnivore with gratitude, it would. But the predator animal doesn’t care. The animal becomes master animal when it ceases to rely on the “goodwill” of other animals—it ceases to concern itself with relying on the products of plants and the shoulder-rubbing life of herbivores; it eats fellow animals instead.

What about Socrates? Was he a slave who relied on harmlessness and gratitude? or pirate? There is a reason he is fakeattacked by Nietzsche and BAP—it is the same reason Machiavelli attacks Xenophon. People don’t read Plato well, just like Scipio failed to read Xenophon well. Socrates often appears to rely on gratitude—but he does so as a pirate because he never relies on gratitude in thought. He never hides the danger and his self-reliance from himself, and when attacked he does not whimper and say “I did not deserve this.”

What I mean: I think Socrates relies on his friends for political power and money. I do not think this is always the case, mind you. But from Xenophon’s oeconomicus and Plato’s Crito I get this impression, and could say more than an impression if we wanted to talk more about those texts. But people misread. Socrates was not like the wife of Ischomachus in the oecenomicus. He was closer in spirit to those men supported by the patronage of aristocrats in post-Machiavelli Europe. Or martial arts teachers from old movies.

There is a difference between relying on the gratitude of others by being a thoroughgoing slave to them, and relying on the gratitude of others by attracting the good (Xen and Plato) and manipulating the approximate good (Crito). And Socrates attracts the good in a manly way. He goes directly at Big Men of the day, and beats them up in the sight of the promising (Plato’s Protagoras). He attracts the good and approximate good in other ways too, for sure, but the point is that he is a pirate in this sense: he relies on his own skills to acquire for himself the best human beings as allies.

The slave not only fears what will happen if he is too open (all reasonable men do—that’s what pseudonyms indicate), but he permits this fear to become the foundation of his own self-estimation and views of right and wrong. Socrates never did that.

I can probably condense this argument some other time. Maybe some fresh objections will help that process.

As for Socrates’ ugliness. I agree you cannot trust ugly people. Healthy youth knows this instinctively, and they “bully” because they know they are hated and have to assert themselves if their type is going to prevail over the others who hate them. To this end, healthy youngsters will even enlist the less-good kids in attacking the “freaks and geeks.” What the Lords of Lies call bullying today is actually self-defense. Though not merely self-defense, that is not their only motivation. Beautiful youth is a perpetual and careless assault on ugliness because it stands as a reproach and draws to itself the good things and love of others, thereby leaving the ugly bereft and filled to the brim with cortisol.

Even still, I do admit Socrates did not live by “instinct,” and suspect his ugliness has something to do with this. But not in a lame way. I have recourse to BAP’s discussion of Rousseau in some BAPcast: Rousseau threw out his children into the state facilities. I would not trust someone’s opinions who did this, but only because I would probably find those events at the core of their moral opinions. But BAP distinguishes between Rousseau and other people. Unlike that “normal” person who junked his children, Rousseau probably was not bothered by his actions and therefore would not believe in epicycled-opinions whose purpose was to justify this event in his life rather than explain the phenomena.

Socrates’ ugliness might have accomplished this for him: he wasn’t attacked from the outside the way Alcibiades was. “Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members.” Socrates was free from society on account of his pleb background; it doesn’t mean he was motivated by ressentiment the way some normal uglyface is.

Rather than a resenter of beauty, Socrates’ “non-instinctual” life makes him all the more piratical, or makes him the true pirate. I have distinguished between the pirate and the slave but now I have to distinguish between the normal, instinctual pirate (of which Alcibiades may be counted), and Socrates, Plato, and Xenophon. Above the super-pirate, Nietzsche describes the tyrant-pirates in “the problem of Socrates” Twilight of The Idols.

That section is broken up into two parts. In the first part, Nietzsche attacks the decadence of Socrates (TI 1-7). In the second he discusses the Greek fascination with Socrates (TI 8-12). I think the basic teaching is: Greek society was in decline and Socrates was a symptom of that decline (1-7), and Socrates fascinated these declining men because he offered a cure for them—a cure which eventually became Christian anti-instinct (8-12).

But a few hunches posed as assertions, along with a piece of evidence, will have to suffice in the place ponderous interpretation. At least for now.

Nietzsche describe Socrates as a tyrant. However, Nietzsche robs the tyrant of all piratical content by attaching him to the Christian tyranny over the instincts—to a no-saying tyranny over life. That is garbage and Nietzsche knows it. None of the Greeks who accused Socrates of attacking democracy and teaching tyrants accused him of attacking young brains with Theological Virtue.

We know Nietzsche thought better of Socrates, because he calls Socrates a buffoon (TI 4). The buffoon comes with the satyr after a long decadence and training in a different school (BGE 223). The buffoon represents a love of life that Europe might have aspired to emulate.

When Nietzsche talks about a return to instinct, he does so in the context of men choosing and creating new ideals. Alcibiades has his ideal firmly in place and went after it. He was not a pirate in the Nietzschean sense, but an excellent Greek.

Socrates is not a political tyrant, but he is a spiritual tyrant and not in the Christian mold of tyrannizing the body for the sake of eternal riches in an ethereal life. He is a spiritual tyrant because he has renounced all ways and declines to rely on any “virtue” other than his own “prudence,” that is, his own judgment of the phenomena of good and bad things.

This sort of tyranny comes through very clear in chapter 15 of Machiavelli’s Prince. Machiavelli makes a great long list of virtues and vices, but you cannot really tell which is which. Sometimes he lists the “virtue” first, sometimes second. But more importantly, after he finishes the list he writes:

“And I know everyone will confess that it would be a very praiseworthy thing to find in a prince all of the abovementioned qualities that are held to be good. But because he cannot have them, nor wholly observe them, since human conditions do not permit it, it is necessary for him to be so prudent as to know how to avoid the infamy of those vices that would take his state from him and to be on guard against those that do not … if one considers everything well, one will find something appears to be virtue, which if pursued would be one’s ruin, and something else appears to be vice, which if pursued results in one’s security and well-being.” That is as clear a statement of anti-instinct as a you will find.

The non-pirate/non-tyrant will have in his mind good and bad actions and try to do the good and avoid the bad. Because of the variability of things and the weakness of reason, some lawgiver (maybe society-as-lawgiver) will have attached great weight to the specific actions needed for the preservation of this or that commonwealth. (The lawgiver must make instinct wherever it is constantly assailed and difficult for the many to see.)

They tyrant-pirate will have in his mind his own good and fit his actions to bring that about. He lacks instinct, wherein a man knows what actions to do and what actions to avoid. In that sense he is a decadent. But human life is variable in this way and it isn’t decadence to recognize this and take your life into your hands.

If I had more time I would write less.

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