Some “Shit” Schultz Says
“If you live like Jesus,” my father said, “you should expect to be crucified.” Indeed. What my father sensed was that Jesus’s crucifixion was no aberration. It was the result of how he chose to live. Similarly, it may be said that Socrates’s trial, conviction, and death were not aberrations either. They were the result of how Socrates chose to live, i.e., philosophically.
While we think of philosophy as an academic discipline or as an intellectual phenomenon, it isn’t. Rather, it is a way of being in the world; it is a way of life. And it is distinct from other ways of being in the world, e.g., being political or living what might be called “the political life.” Not only that but being philosophic brings the philosopher into conflict with those who are being political, as the trial, conviction, and death of Socrates illustrated. That Socrates accepted his fate indicates that he understood this.
Aristotle argued that moral virtue was also a way of being in the world. For example, being courageous, being just are ways of being in the world. That is, for Aristotle, what we call morality was not following certain rules or prescriptions like “honesty is the best policy.” Aristotle’s take on moral virtue was not rule oriented; rather, it was a way of life, a way of being in the world, a way of being in the world that was the result of habits developed as human beings mature or age.
Similarly, Aristotle thought of politics in the same way. He spoke of “the political life” as a way of being in the world. It was a way of being characterized, most often, by thumotic passions rather than erotic passions, which has significant consequences for the kind of life the political life is. Leo Strauss claimed that Plato in The Republic had abstracted from eros, thereby presenting through Socrates a thumotic picture of the best regime. One can wonder, of course, what the political life would look like were the erotic to be included. Perhaps this is what Aristotle was doing in his Politics, analyzing the political life as it would appear were the erotic passions taken into account.
In Aristotle’s political science, he analyzed political communities in terms of “regimes,” which are ways of being in the world. That is, Aristotle argued that democracies and oligarchies, as well as democrats and oligarchs, have different ways of being in the world. Or, one might say, that being reveals itself differently in democracies and oligarchies, just as being reveals itself differently in the political life and in the philosophic life. If being reveals itself more fully in the philosophic life, than it becomes a question of how to construct a political life that is open to philosophy, open to the fullest possible revelation of being. And what makes the best regime the best is that it is the regime that is most open to philosophy, and therefore it is the regime that should be prayed for. But, of course, the conflict between the political life and the philosophic life is enduring because the philosophic life will always be subversive and, as a result, always be endangered. As noted above, Socrates’s fate was not an aberration, just as Jesus’s fate was not an aberration.