Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Myth of Judgment

Fr. James Schall has an interesting post on the eschatological myth with which the Gorgias ends. I'm not sure I fully follow the line of argument in the essay, but I read the myth rather differently -- that is to say, the afterlife is not the point at all. When Socrates sums up, he says that Gorgias, Polus, and Callicles have failed to prove that you shouldn't live the sort of life that the myth says you should. Thus I don't think the justice or injustice of the world is Socrates's primary concern; it comes up, but is not discussed extensively. Rather, what Socrates is doing is showing that Callicles's trump card -- the claim (entirely true as far as it goes) that Socrates's philosophizing will result in his being brought before a jury and condemned to death -- is just a story, and other stories can be told. And what matters is that Callicles and the others have been unable to refute Socrates's contentions that those who do wrong are always worse off for doing it, that nothing bad really happens to the just person, and that being good is always better than seeming good; these are all contentions woven into the story. What the gods do in the story is bring the question back to truth: Zeus sets up a situation in which no soul can hide behind rhetoric, in which every soul stands naked and unadorned for its judgment. Souls scarred with injustice are seen as scarred; souls beautiful with justice are seen as beautiful. The myth is not chiefly about eschatology, what will happen after you die, although that is the framework of the story; the myth is about reality, how things are now, even if we ourselves, not being gods, cannot always see them.

But, as I said, it's an interesting little post.

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