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Socrates and Anne Hutchinson

September 24, 2010
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Who says history doesn’t repeat itself? As I study American history this semester, I stumbled upon a story that possessed similar characteristics to the Trial and Death of Socrates. Anne Hutchinson went against the Church of England and even more so, against the Church in her Massachusetts Bay colony. She expressed that she had heard the voice of God, and suggested radical views such as free grace, that steered away from the Church. This is very similar to Socrates in that although she had reciprocity to her colonial home, Anne Hutchinson wanted to preach her beliefs and stand by her beliefs (as Socrates stood by his anti-belief in the Athenian Gods).

Also, Anne Hutchinson spoke to young women and taught them the values and ways of their faith. She believed she had a duty to do this as an elderly woman. The courts charged her of in a way “corrupting” those women, just as Socrates had been charged for corrupting the youth of the Athenian society.

Most importantly, both Socrates and Anne Hutchinson stood by their causes and were therefore seen, in my opinion, as martyrs for their causes. Although Anne only faced potential banishment, she stood by her beliefs as she risked losing everything she knew. Socrates stood by his beliefs facing death. Both were martyrs for their causes and should be remembered as important influences of history.

Is standing up for what you believe in, though different from the majority, what makes life (or death/banishment) worth living?  If one goes against his or her ways, does that make life not worth living? Perhaps, because this would explain why Socrates and Hutchinson both found that life would only be meaningful if they stood by their own views.  Socrates would rather die than give in to a theory or belief that does not correspond with his own. Hutchinson chose to be banished because she refused to stand down to her opinions.  These traits of strength, courage and boldness make life worth living.

One Comment
  1. wagnerkaty permalink
    September 27, 2010 12:42 PM

    I’ve also just recently read Anne Hutchinson for another class, and although I hadn’t made the connection until you pointed it out, I can see what you’re getting at. Clearly, Hutchinson’s circumstances were quite different than Socrates’, but there are quite a few links within their final days.
    One important similarity between the two, as you’ve pointed out, is that both figures were standing up for what they believed in. Hutchinson’s conviction that free grace, not works, was the way to salvation mirrors Socrates’ obsession to live truthfully at all costs. Both Hutchinson and Socrates stood by their beliefs to the detriment of their families and alienation from their homes.
    However, Hutchinson was not at all acting alone or even under her own original ideas. Instead, her beliefs all came directly from her teachers, one of whom was excommunicated from the colony before her trial. Socrates, despite his claims to the contrary, was the teacher – he lead the movement for truth and it was for that he was killed.
    The key difference I see is the level of these individuals’ dedication to truth. Socrates, as you’ve stated, was so determined in his pursuit of truth that he refused to back down, even to his end. At his trial he did not humble himself, but rather explained – rather eloquently – to his accusers why he believed he was right. Anne Hutchinson, at her own trial before her peers, acted similarly in her spirited defense of free grace and refusal to back down. However, it was at her final trial after banishment that she departed sharply from Socrates’ path. Hutchinson blatantly lied to her fellow colonists about her beliefs, a lie that many of them identified immediately as a result of their confidences with her. It was this final moment of shame that Socrates would never have condoned, and it is in this that the two figures see their sharpest opposition.

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