Socrates the Elitist?
Reflecting on “Crito” after I read it recently, I began to feel that there was a strong connection between one of Socrates’ messages in the text and a topic that has been prominent in modern politics lately. Elitism has, of late, been used as a tool of mudslinging and slandering by various political parties with the purpose of casting an opponent in an exceedingly negative light- one who is elitist is thought to be out of touch with the every-day troubles that plague the “common man.” An elitist is thought of today as someone who cares little for the masses and believes that the upper echelon of society is in some way superior to all others. In light of this, I question whether a parallel can be drawn between the viewpoints of Socrates in “Crito” and modern elitist beliefs.
As Crito ponders the ramifications of reputation and public opinion, Socrates responds “My good Crito, why should we care so much for what the majority think? The most reasonable people, to whom one should pay more attention, will believe that things were done as they were done (44d).” This illustrates that Socrates cared little for the thoughts of the lesser thinkers of Athenian society; he only believed it was necessary to pay attention to the more educated members of the city. Inevitably, this break from democratic proceedings further exemplifies the tension between the beliefs of Socrates and that of his statesmen. Further, Socrates later states “…do you not think it a sound statement that one must not value all the opinions of men, but some and not others, nor the opinions of all men, but those of some and not others (47a).”
Today, the label of “elitist” is certainly something that politicians try to distance themselves from; the word carries a connotation that is almost undeniably negative in the modern political arena. In light of this, I would like to present the question- Is Socrates an elitist? If so, would you consider that to be a positive, negative, or neutral trait?