It is my pleasure to be able to introduce Nalin Ranasinghe’s Socrates in the Underworld: On Plato’s Gorgias to you as one of the most able, eloquent, noble, profound, and loving books ever written on Socrates. Ranasinghe restores for us the example of a moral hero who inaugurated a moral revolution in opposition to his country’s post-imperial cynicism and nihilism. What Socrates discovered about the human soul remains true for us in our similarly cynical and nihilistic age. Here’s the truth: “Self-knowledge is both the cure and the punishment for evil.” We are the beings who can’t help but know the truth about ourselves and be open to the truth about all things. The truth is real; we lack the power to command or negate it. The truth has authority over us; we can’t live well unless we see that it is the power that allows us to perform genuinely free and deliberate acts. The truth is attractive; it both draws us out of ourselves and is a sort of magnet that puts our souls in order. And the truth is genuinely moral or beautiful.
Each of us and the cosmos itself “is so structured that true happiness can only result from virtue.” Both intellectual and moral virtue are required to be genuinely open to the whole truth, and so the view that one sort of virtue is possible without the other is mistaken. [Read more...]