The Unsustainability of the Method of Dialogue: Hatred for Bias Removal and the Need for “Weak Anarchism”

Decentralized Socrates (Part 9)

Peace, as strong as the Chinese at the hippodrome… will she also be able to swallow saber blades?, from ‘News of the day,’ published in Le Charivari, August 1, 1867, Honoré Daumier.

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Socrates’ method of dialogue is a “one-person political institution” that tries to achieve freedom and equality by relentlessly disarming the biases of others.

The author has suspicions about the sustainability of this “ institution.” It requires too much of the “strong individual.” It demands extreme self-control, a self-control that is willing to commit suicide to achieve its intentions.

Suppose the method works. What feelings would the distraught interlocutor have for Socrates? Gratitude? Admiration? That may be the case. But there will also be a lot of hatred for being humiliated. Also, suppose the removed bias is a value that is important to the community (God, money, the state.. etc.). Vested interests who want to protect it will feel more than hatred.

Socrates was shunned by the community of his era and falsely condemned to death. He could have escaped it; however, he dared to be put to death. He knew his suicidal act, and the effect it would have on others will work as a “one-person political institution.” The death of Socrates became an event that would be talked about for the rest of human history.

However, the generation that grew up watching Socrates, such as Plato, did not inherit Socrates’ methodology. Seeing that his “one-person political institution” could not coexist with democracy, Plato attempted to establish another institution that preserved the spirit of Socrates (i.e., the Philosopher King (Part 6)).

In “The Origin of Philosophy,” Karatani criticized the “philosopher-king” as a parody of the intention behind Socrates’ methods of dialogue ( Part 7). The author, however, considers that the method of dialogue itself, intended as a “one-person political system,” is unsustainable and bankrupt if it demands even suicide for belief. There is no necessity for the alternative system to be Plato’s philosopher-king. Still, the method of dialogue as it is described is not a very good political system.

Even if it was a parody of the method of dialogue, Plato's philosopher-king is far from the kind of ideology in which all ideals should be used as a means to pursue one’s happiness (or power). However, a disciple of Socrates, who saw his death, may flip to this kind of attitude. Unlike Socrates’ intention, his death may have no significance. If this is the case, then there is a way to become a mere realist and become a person who lives in a manner far from being as like Socrates as possible.

If there are many such people, the effect of Socrates’ method of dialogue will be essentially the opposite of what he intended. A society full of people who try to avoid being “ a person like Socrates” as much as possible is a society where no one releases their biases against each other. This response is a betrayal of one’s teacher in a different direction than Plato’s philosopher-king who tried to institutionalize “ a person like Socrates.” However, in reality, there are probably more people like this than not.

As a result, in both cases of institutionalizing “a people like Socrates” (philosopher-king) and creating peoples who try to stay away from “a people like Socrates” to the maximum extent possible (realists), Socrates’ method of dialogue produces a different result than intended. Therefore, the “too strong individual = a person like Socrates” demanded by the method of dialogue is hardly a sustainable “one-person political system.

The morality of the method of dialogue denies putting the pursuit of one’s own happiness first. Distortions can occur in that type of morality, however. Such a moral, which says that what we think is right should take precedence over our happiness, forces us to adhere to it or causes others to stick to it. This tendency leads to a dogmatism that is far from the sublime morality that was initially aimed at. The righteousness eventually resembles the totalitarianism that glorifies the sacrifice of life for a noble cause, which this morality would have denied.

What is needed, the author believes, is a mechanism to support people to continue to stray between universal good and personal happiness without being forced to, and a weak ethic blended with it. The author once called such ethics supported by decentralized organizations “weak anarchism.”

Suppose a philosophy that demands too strong a “ person like Socrates” is unsustainable, yielding unintentional parodies and inverted realists. In that case, we need some mechanism allowing the weak “persons like Socrates” to cooperate in a decentralized manner (without a solid centralized responsible entity). Hence, whereas the classical “strong” anarchism of subjects pursuing “freedom for freedom’s sake,” the thought inseparable from the design of the mechanism supporting vulnerable persons ought to be called “weak anarchism.”

Because it is weak, it requires the proposal of a mechanism. Because they are not realists, they will not abandon the ancient ideals of freedom and equality instead of building the architecture to manage the battle royale of populists. They are weak anarchists.

The details of this thought will be left for another time, and next time let the author address the other issue of the method of dialogue.

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