Saturday, 25 August 2012

Thermippos — The Complete Dialogue

The scene is the agora, outside the office of the magistrate. Socrates is on his way to answer charges of impiety. There he meets Thermippos holding forth confidently amidst a gathering of young men. Naturally, since death is on his mind, Socrates seizes the opportunity to discuss the subject with a man who seems certain of everything.

Socrates. You agree, Thermippos, that all men are mortal.
Thermippos. I do.
Socrates. And you agree furthermore that I am a man.
Thermippos. I have no reason to doubt it, Socrates.
Socrates. Surely then you agree that I am mortal.
Thermippos. I didn’t say that. You did. Don’t put words in my mouth.
Socrates. I beg your pardon, Thermippos, but I have simply drawn what follows.
Thermippos. Strawman.
Socrates. But no true reasoner could fail —
Thermippos. Ah, the no-true-Macedonian fallacy.
Socrates. But, Thermippos, given the logical form . . .
Thermippos. Define “logical form”.
Socrates. . . . you must either accept the conclusion or reject at least one of the premises.
Thermippos. False dichotomy.
Socrates. I see, Thermippos. You’re an idiot.
Thermippos. And that’s an ad hominem.

Socrates ad-hominems Thermippos with a brick. The charges of impiety are dropped.


Anonymous said...

good to see you're back!

Mercurius Aulicus said...

A welcome return.

vimothy said...


Ilíon said...

Now that was invigorating!

Bruce Charlton said...

Excellent. I was trying to express this in Thought Prison by my comments on public debate and the way that sound bites rule out three-step logic (if this, and this, then that).

Three-step logic in modern discussions causes glazed eyes, comments about 'hair-splitting' and a general sense of 'yeah, well, anyway).

Women in public life, in particular, seem to hate it - regard it as either evidence of Asperger's syndrome or 'patronizing'.

On the other hand, it may simply be consistent with the (approx) 1SD decline in average intelligence over the past century - people smart enough to consider both a and b to infer c are now statistical outliers.

Deogolwulf said...

Hello, all!


"Mere word-games" and "Occam's Razor" are two of my favourite Thermipposan defences, but none is so impenetrable as the shrug or the general attitude of "yeah, well, anyway" --- a nuclear-bunker dug deep under a mountain-side of granite indifference.

Ilíon said...

"On the other hand, it may simply be consistent with the (approx) 1SD decline in average intelligence over the past century - people smart enough to consider both a and b to infer c are now statistical outliers."

I don't think it's a matter of intelligence, nor decline thereof. I think it's that 'modern education' is designed to train its captive audience to scorn and hate critical thought.

Ilíon said...

As the same time, not only does Thermippos not know (or care!) what 'ad hominem' means, but he probably can't be bothered to actually spell the term out, opting instead for 'ad hom'.

Rich said...

So glad you're back. Thought I was going to have to learn german to ever read you again.

Felix said...

A young man of my acquaintance is studying "critical thinking" at college.

I have exhorted him to apply his new learning to himself, as well as to others. And to be critical of the subject itself.

dearieme said...

A warm welcome back.

I like the idea of Socrates framing the debate with a brick. I suppose he took the brick from his premises?

Deogolwulf said...

I may not be back for long!

As for the brick: last argument of philosophers.

Ilíon said...

"I suppose he took the brick from his premises?"

That's how you can tell it was a solid argument.

David Duff said...

If you absolutely have to leave us for a second time please don't make it quite so long - I could hardly hold my breath this time!

dearieme said...

"As for the brick: last argument of philosophers": and there was me thinking that that role was played by a poker.

Deogolwulf said...

. . . when a poker is not at hand.