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Visual Novel / Socrates Jones: Pro Philosopher

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Socrates Jones (and many others)

Socrates Jones: Pro Philosopher is a Visual Novel by Connor Fallon and Valeria Reznitskaya; as the title alone should indicate, it draws heavy, heavy inspiration from the Ace Attorney series. It's actually an Edutainment Game designed to teach the player about debating and philosophy, but hides it well.

The titular Socrates Jones is an accountant who lives in New York City with his daughter, Ariadne. Every Jones except for Socrates himself is a huge philosophy buff, whereas he himself just doesn't get what the fuss is all about. A car accident and a cosmic misfile, however, land him and Ari in the Intelligible Realm, the philosophers' afterlife, and his only ticket out is to answer the ancient question of what constitutes the perfect definition of morality. To come up with an answer, Socrates has to debate with a handful of famous philosophers.

Due to the death of Flash, the game was re-released on Steam in 2023. Its Steam page can be found here.

This series provides examples of:

Tropes shared with the Ace Attorney series

  • Armor-Piercing Question: The gameplay revolves around discovering the one that will unravel each opponent's theory. Arguably more appropriate here than in the inspiration series, because this is primarily a game about philosophy and debate.
  • Big Word Shout: NONSENSE!
  • Rainbow Speak: With Socrates's thoughts and with narrative observations (e.g. "New idea added to the Idea Slate").
  • Screen Shake: To emphasize shouting and particularly climactic points, and a bit of miscellany besides.
  • Speech-Centric Work: Most of the game is spent by the titular protagonist having debates with other philosophers.
  • Theme Music Power-Up: Including a hilarious subversion in the middle of the last chapter.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Averted more often than not, but played straight in a few cases (Hobbes in particular).

Other tropes

  • Absence of Evidence: Billy's «proof» that his repellent is effective is that there are no deer around. Until one pops up on Soc and Ari's commute.
  • Amicable Exes: Averted. Socrates and Ari's mother seem to have divorced in not so good terms, as Socrates points out in his rant over being late for Ari's school, that her mother doesn't talk to him anymore.
  • Badass Boast: Hobbes knows how to wax intimidating.
    Hobbes: You should know, Mr. Jones, that my mother gave birth to twins. Myself, and FEAR! By the end of the day, you will be thoroughly acquainted with both of us.
  • Belief Makes You Stupid: Euthyphro, who argues for a poly-theist source of morality, is second only to Billy in how easy he is to out-debate.
  • Berserk Button: Kant doesn't like facial hair. Imagine his shock when he realizes over half of the people around him have beards. And even Mill has sideburns.
  • Big "NO!":
    • Euthyphro breaks down screaming when Socrates proved his philosophy to be flawed.
    • Kant breaks down in the same way Hobbes did while screaming "NEEEEEIIIIINNNN!!" But if he's to be believed, he already knew and even listed in his agenda to have his philosophy questioned.
  • Big "WHAT?!": Socrates's reaction when the Arbiter reveals himself as the original Great Thinker Socrates.
  • Black Sheep: Socrates mentions that every member of the Jones family is a buff in philosophy, or at the very least interested in it, but he's the odd one out for choosing a career in mathematics.
  • Brick Joke: In the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue, Socrates can be seen buying Billy's entire stock of deer repellent.
  • Buffy Speak: Socrates first's counter-argument with Euthyphro lacks the proper lexicon, as he has never learned about the uses and definitions of concepts such as fallacy and qualification. Luckily for him, his statement is not measured by "style points". Later on, Ari is shown to be teaching Socrates proper terms, after which Socrates stops using buffy speak.
  • The Cavalry: Right in the middle of the last chapter, just as Socrates is about to admit defeat against the Arbiter, all the philosophers he defeated storm in to back him up.
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • Socrates is an accountant; his skills lie in mathematics, not philosophy. In the final chapter, he uses a mathematical concept — namely, the nature of infinity — to counter an argument.
    • Averted with "Your face is ugly!" You get it at the very beginning and it persists in the idea slate throughout the whole game, but it's never useful apart from getting some funny dialogue and suiciding.
  • Chess with Death: Or rather, philosophizing with Death.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Immanuel Kant seems to have everything on his schedule, including the events of his debate with Socrates.
  • Darkest Hour: The final chapter begins on a very bleak note, as Socrates accidentally throws away his one chance at returning to life.
  • Death by Irony: Socrates and Ari get into a car accident when a deer jumps in front of them, even though they just finished proving to a deer repellent salesman that they don't need his product since there are no deer in New York.
  • Debate and Switch: Socrates doesn't actually answer the question and find a perfect definition of morality, and he can't even prove his counterproposal (that such a thing is unfindable). By the final argument, both sides are arguing Chewbacca Defenses that have nothing to do with the original challenge.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: As philosophers seek to search for the most veritable answers, all of Socrates' past opponents (even the likes of Hobbes and Euthyphro) came to respect him and even thank him for pointing out the flaws of their statements and giving them much to think about.
  • Divine Misfile: Socrates Jones winds up in the Intelligible Realm simply for having the same name as a famous philosopher.
  • Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: Using the "Your face is ugly!" argument against the Arbiter is not recommended.
  • Exact Words: Socrates is only able to fight back against The Arbiter after he pointed out that he never said that morality didn't exist as The Arbiter believed, just that it was impossible to define.
  • Expressive Mask: The Arbiter's skull mask.
  • Fangirl: Ariadne, for John Stuart Mill. She really digs the For Happiness aspects of his Act Utilitalianism.
  • Foreign Cuss Word: Lampshaded
    Socrates: You can swear in German all you want -- but I have a point.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When a bunch of philosophers start to proclaim to know the answer to the nature of morality, someone among them says that morality is purely conceptual and cannot be defined. That is exactly Socrates' conclusion at the end, and he got at it on his own.
    • The final opponent you face is far less difficult than the others to debate, pausing to insult you, complain and essentially throw a temper tantrum. Not surprising, since he is Socrates, who although a wise philosopher was terrible when it came to essentially legal arguments and relied on Reducto ad Absurdium due to existing before the invention of formal logic. His poor performance in court over a minor accusation was actually why he was sentenced to death.
  • The Genie Knows Jack Nicholson: The Arbiter aka the original Socrates pacately replies to an argument about Batman.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Potentially; Ari wagered her own life to allow Socrates an opportunity at the Arbiter's Wager.
  • Hobbes Was Right: Discussed and deconstructed in the third chapter, wherein Soc debates the matter with Hobbes himself.
  • Insufferable Genius: Parodied by Immanuel Kant, who acts like this in the beginning because some hammy grandstanding is on his schedule.
  • Insult Backfire: Telling opponents "Your face is ugly" not only lowers the Arbiter's opinion of you: half of the time, your opponents will be completely unaffected by it.
    Kant: Being called ugly with little or no justification: check!
  • I Think You Broke Him: Hobbes makes this observation at the Laughing Mad moment below:
    "Oh wonderful, you broke the sovereign. Now we'll have to get a new one."
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Hobbes is a dick, but he joins the other philosophers in helping Socrates in the end.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Some questions don't make logical sense to ask (asking for clarification or backing on a point Socrates himself made, for instance), and your opponents will point out the absurdity if you try.
  • Laughing Mad: The Arbiter's breakdown.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Socrates is named after the famous thinker who claimed not to know anything in order to test other peoples' theories and beliefs to see if they stood solid. Unlike his namesake, however, Socrates Jones really doesn't know two things about philosophy and honestly questions things not out of rhetoric but to see if they're right.
    • Ariadne is named after mythological Ariadne, the one who gave to Theseus a ball of yarn to guide himself in the Minotaur's labyrinth. Just as her namesake, Ari assisted her dad by teaching him the basics on debate.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Philosophy, of course.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: As Socrates is giving his goodbyes to the philosophers he faced before, he says that all of them were great to meet... except maybe Euthyphro. And yes, Socrates did include Hobbes.
  • Nice Guy:
    • John Stuart Mill, unlike most of the philosophers you face, is humble, friendly, and not easily offended, and in fact, defends Socrates when Ari is fangirlishly angry with Socrates for challenging him.
    • Immanuel Kant is also a pretty decent guy, who only acted as an insufferable genius at the beginning in order to appeal at his schedule and actually takes his defeat rather well.
    • Protagoras as well. Thanks to mistaking Soc for his old friend, Protagoras is polite and friendly with him.
  • Papa Wolf: Once he learns that Ari's life is at much risk as his own, Socrates demands the Arbiter to bring forth his best philosopher to get things over quickly.
  • Perfection Is Impossible: Socrates' answer, and his ultimate argument against the Arbiter, is that a perfect definition on the nature of morality is impossible to pinpoint, but that shouldn't stop us from trying to get at it, as it makes us better thinkers and better people.
  • Perfect Solution Fallacy: Digging Arbiter's final claim will eventually cause him to make this fallacy.
  • Press X to Die/Schmuck Bait: Saying "Your face is ugly!" is guaranteed to heavily damage your Life Meter... but it's always there, and so tempting. You'll at least get some funny dialogue for your trouble if you succumb to temptation.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Socrates (Blue) and his daughter Ari (Red). The former is calm and collected whenever possible, and serves as the voice of reason on more than one occasion; the latter is easily excitable and doesn't hesitate to take risks.
  • Sequel Hook: The Arbiter saying that Socrates will be seen again in the Intelligible Realm "in a few dozen years" points towards a second part. Who knows, maybe Soc will then debate over the meaning of life or some other theme.
    • The Updated Re Release has a much more blatant example: In The Stinger Socrates and Ari are having a conversation, she walks off screen only to find herself face to face with the arbiter remarking he didn't expect to find her here again so soon and then ending with to be continued.. in Pro Philospher 2.
  • Shout-Out:
    • An optional question when debating with Mill can lead to him outlining a scenario where society doesn't follow the rule of "innocent until proven guilty". After a description that sounds oddly like the premise of the Ace Attorney series, Socrates muses that it "might make an interesting game".
    • When Ari asks Socrates if he knows who John Stuart Mill is, he says "A comedian?"
  • Smug Snake: Socrates gets into the smug wagon pretty fast, as Ari points out, despite knowing nothing about philosophy and just the basics of debating.
  • Snake Oil Salesman: Billy. He sells deer repellent using the classic "I don't see any deer around, so my product must work" fallacy. Dissecting his sales pitch serves as the game's Justified Tutorial.
  • Straw Nihilist: Conversed when The Arbiter mentions that Nietzsche volunteered to debate with Socrates. He mentions that he's quite famous and is quoted a lot by "angsty teenagers".
  • Tempting Fate:
    • Socrates dismisses learning about philosophy because he finds no use in pondering over the nature of right and wrong. Guess what will his life depend on.
    • Socrates says to Billy that they're in New York City and it's highly unlikely for there to be a deer there. Guess what his car runs into?
    • When beginning to argue with Kant:
      Socrates: This doesn't seem too bad.
    • In the final chapter:
      The Arbiter: Do you really intend to question his judgment?
  • Title Drop: After beating The Arbiter, or better say, the one formerly known as Great Thinker Socrates, Socrates Jones asks if winning the wager means he's now a Pro Philosopher.
  • Twitchy Eye: Euthyphro's shocked animation comes with a twitchy eye.
  • The Unfought: Socrates is about to meet Friedrich Nietzsche when he accidentally starts the final argument against the Arbiter.
  • The Unreveal: Great Thinker Socrates created an idea on morality that allowed him to win the wager. We never are told what it was.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: During the credits. Curiously, despite all the other similarities, the style of it is radically different from the way the Ace Attorney games handle it; whereas that series offers short speeches from the various N.P.C.s, this game offers white-on-black images with no dialogue and no sprites.
    • Socrates and Ari wake up in the hospital, and as promised by the Arbiter, in a lot of pain.
    • Euthyphro is seen boring other philosophers with his preaching over the gods.
    • Kant tries a fake beard just to see how he looks with one. Going by his expression, he's not sure of it.
    • Ari is in school talking about what a jerk Hobbes was.
    • Socrates is seen buying all of Billy's deer repellent.
  • Younger Than They Look: Ari looks old enough to be a college student, but she's actually in high school.