YMMV / Socrates

  • Acceptable Targets: Socrates's face. Apparently there were masks made mocking his poor looks, and jokes at his face's expense appear in both Plato's Symposium and Aristophanes's Clouds.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Opinions have differed about the exact value of Socrates' contribution to philosophy. Although a large body of opinion holds that he was a great originator, this isn't a terribly persuasive argument to many philosophers, partly because Socrates' contribution is only recorded at secondhand, through Plato, and arguments from tradition are not considered by contemporary philosophers to be very convincing.
    • Friedrich Nietzsche considered Socrates to be not a high point of Athenian culture but the first sign of its decay; he regarded Socrates' technique of picking holes in other people's arguments to be a sign of loss of cultural confidence, and given that Socrates reserved most of his scorn for what are in other contexts regarded as the flowers of Athenian culture (namely, Athenian poetry and drama and also Athens' practice of democracy), Nietzsche had a point.
    • In the 20th century, the political journalist I.F. Stone regarded Plato's Socrates as a snobbish, elitist, disingenuous obfuscator who used elementary verbal quibbling to make his own opponents' positions appear to be less coherent than they really were. For example, Plato's Socrates argues that nobody can do their job properly if they can't explain what it is that they're doing, but since most people's explanations of things are illogical and incoherent, anyone who can't give a coherent logical definition of exactly what they do for a living can't really be said to be doing their job properly, and therefore, the only people who do anything properly are philosophers, because giving coherent logical definitions of things is their job. Plato's Socrates also strongly implies and on occasion attempts to demonstrate that every other would-be philosopher in Athens apart from himself was a mere sophist who was incapable of giving a coherent logical definition of anything, the implication being that everybody in Athens except for Socrates is a total doof who doesn't know what he's doing; this argument, if Socrates really made it, goes some way towards explaining the extent to which Socrates was disliked (although his death sentence only barely passed, so he can't have been quite as unpopular as Plato makes him out to have been.)