ATCA marks Five Years -- Origin of Socratic Dialogue
London, UK - 8 October 2006, 11:17 GMT - Thank
you for all your support over the last five years to ATCA, the philanthropic
initiative dedicated to understanding and addressing complex global challenges
through Socratic Dialogue and Executive Action to build a Wisdom based
Economy. Although five years have gone, our senior membership is firmly
pegged to the five thousand mark. Our mission is to influence the influencers
across the globe who in turn help to build a better world, whilst we remain
flexible and humble. Our distinguished members are from over 100 countries
and it is our honour and privilege that they choose to be associated with
this humble organisation with no esteem, position or value.
ATCA: The Asymmetric Threats Contingency Alliance
is a philanthropic expert initiative founded in 2001 to understand and
to address complex global challenges. ATCA conducts collective Socratic
dialogue on global opportunities and threats arising from climate chaos,
radical poverty, organised crime, extremism, informatics, nanotechnology,
robotics, genetics, artificial intelligence and financial systems. Present
membership of ATCA is by invitation only and has over 5,000 distinguished
members: including several from the House of Lords, House of Commons,
EU Parliament, US Congress & Senate, G10's Senior Government officials
and over 1,500 CEOs from financial institutions, scientific corporates
and voluntary organisations as well as over 750 Professors from academic
centres of excellence worldwide.
Dear ATCA Colleagues; dear IntentBloggers
[Please note that the views presented by individual contributors
are not necessarily representative of the views of ATCA, which is neutral.
ATCA conducts collective Socratic dialogue on global opportunities and
ATCA marks Five Years -- Thanks to You and Socrates
Thank you for all your support over the last five years to ATCA, the
philanthropic initiative dedicated to understanding and addressing complex
global challenges through Socratic Dialogue and Executive Action to
build a Wisdom based Economy. Although five years have gone, our senior
membership is firmly pegged to the five thousand mark. Our mission is
to influence the influencers across the globe who in turn help to build
a better world, whilst we remain flexible and humble. Our distinguished
members are from over 100 countries and it is our honour and privilege
that they choose to be associated with this humble organisation with
no esteem, position or value.
In particular, we wish to thank all our contributors and also the senior
executives and entrepreneurs, high government officials, director-generals,
professors and philanthropists who have made historical decisions for
the better in regard to implementing policy, process and approach, through
the collective wisdom accumulated at ATCA via intense Socratic Dialogue.
We are truly humbled by the enormous impact that ATCA has had through
diverse discussion and joint action.
Please continue to support us by recommending luminaries to this Wisdom
Forum dedicated to building a "Wisdom based Economy" based
on Liberty, Equality and Friendship between diverse peoples from all
parts of the world. We do however insist on getting a recommendation
from an existing ATCA member, in conjunction with a seconder who is
also an ATCA member, unless the circumstances are truly exceptional.
Origin of Socratic Dialogue in Ancient Greece
What we remember most at ATCA about Socrates (469 BC - 399 BC) is his
quote "I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance!"
from Diogenes Laertius's "Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers."
In the tradition of The Great Spiritual Masters and Philosophers, Socrates,
is regarded as one of the finest. Some regard Socrates as the greatest
ever philosopher in history. His death reveals how difficult it is to
fight "vested interests" which no philosopher has ever been
able to fight effectively on a single handed basis. We feel that we
can achieve the Socratic mission by engaging a much wider influential
global community which is within the so called "vested interest"
side of the global economic equation. We are lucky to be living in an
age of transparency with the information revolution and mass communication
which can be a highly effective tool to reach out to the wisdom-seeking
peoples across nations.
ATCA is marking its five years of existence, by reminding ourselves
what Socratic Dialogue really means through the thought provoking story
of Socrates in His final days. The version below is compiled from various
sources including Plato's narrative. The accusations, the trial, the
three apology speeches and final condemnation to death in 399 BC are
worth noting, especially in the 21st Century as we need to appreciate
the method of Socratic Dialogue once again.
Let us hope and pray, we don't go the same way!
Socrates -- Accusations, Trial, Apology and Condemnation to Death (399
A friend, in consulting the Oracle at Delphi, asked was any man wiser
than Socrates? The Oracle replied that there were not! Upon being told
of this answer Socrates maintained that this implied that he, alone,
had this claim to wisdom -- that he fully recognised his own ignorance!
From that time he sought out people who had a reputation for wisdom
and, in every case, was able to reveal that their reputations were not
justified. Socrates regarded this behaviour as a service to Divinity
and decided that he should continue to make efforts to improve people
by persuading and reminding them of their own ignorance.
What we now call the "Socratic method" of philosophical inquiry
involved questioning people on the positions they asserted and working
them through further questions into seemingly inevitable contradictions,
thus proving to them that their original assertion had fatal inconsistencies.
Socrates refers to this "Socratic method" as elenchus. The
Socratic method gave rise to dialectic, the idea that truth needs to
be approached by modifying one's position through questionings and exposures
to contrary ideas.
Contrary to popular understanding, Socrates did not seek to involve
himself in the political life of Athens in ancient Greece as he felt
that there would inevitably be compromises of principle that he was
not prepared to make. As a prominent citizen he was called upon to fulfil
minor political roles where his sense of principle had caused him to
place himself in some personal danger by holding out alone against the
unconstitutional condemnation of certain generals. He later refused
to participate in the arrest of an innocent man that had been ordered
by a corrupt body of "Thirty Tyrants" who ruled Athens in
the wake of her defeat by Sparta. This refusal might have cost Socrates
his life but for the overthrow of the Thirty Tyrants and a restoration
This restored democracy was however markedly traditionalist and reactionary
in its religious views -- this led it to see Socrates, as a teacher
of novel ideas of morality and justice, with some disfavour. Socrates
had also alienated many powerful men by acting as a relentlessly questioning
Gadfly causing them to face their personal ignorance or own to shortfalls
In 399 BC Socrates was accused of "impiety" and of "neglect
of the Gods whom the city worships and the practise of religious novelties"
and of the "corruption of the young".
The trial, last days, and death of Socrates are successively narrated
in several works by Plato. These works are The Apology (ie Defence Speech),
Euthyphro, Crito and Phaedo.
The Apology consists of three speeches made by Socrates at his trial
before a jury of five hundred or so Athenians who had gathered to hear
him answer the charges. He had not prepared any defence but, being sure
in his own mind that he was innocent, was hoping that his words of truth
would secure an acquittal. He at this time was more than seventy years
of age and he asked the jury to make allowances if he spoke in the sort
of language he might use in discussions in the market-place as he was
unfamiliar with law courts and the stylised language used in formal
Apology -- The First Speech
Socrates told the jury that he thought that he had two sets of accusers,
old and new, and that the old accusers he feared more so and wished
to present a defence against them first of all.
Socrates saw these old accusers as being influenced by prejudiced opinions
that he had indulged in natural philosophy physical speculations or
took money as a teacher.
Those who indulged in physical speculations were routinely assumed to
recognise no Divine Plan. In earlier days a play by Aristophanes had
featured a character named Socrates who seemed to be such a person but
Socrates called on those assembled at his trial to produce evidence
that he, the real Socrates, had ever taught along those lines.
In response to the idea that he took money as a teacher Socrates insisted
that the life he led had brought him utter poverty rather than monetary
reward. He lived that life in response to what the Pythian prophetess
at Delphi had told his friend Chaerephon:- that no one was wiser than
Socrates suggested that he had made many abiding enemies by personally
approaching people who had reputations for wisdom only to reveal through
questionings that their wisdom was specious. Others had been alienated
by young persons who had witnessed Socrates' methods of questioning
similarly revealing yet other people's pretensions to wisdom to be baseless.
Socrates made the case that his questions had tended to vindicate the
utterance of the Oracle at Delphi by showing that he, Socrates, did
indeed have a particular claim to Wisdom in that he at least fully recognised
his own ignorance.
Socrates then addressed his new accusers in the form of Meletus the
prosecutor. These new accusers accused Socrates of Impiety, of neglecting
the Gods approved by the state, and, of introducing new divinities.
Meletus, who was obliged to answer Socrates' questions delivered before
the jury eventually committed himself to a straight assertion that Socrates
was a complete atheist. Socrates then showed the fatal contradiction
in Meletus accusation -- how does someone whom the prosecution holds
to be a complete atheist come to be accused of introducing new divinities
or religious novelties.
Having exposed the contradictions in the "new accusations"
Socrates again mentioned that he feared his old accusers -- those who
had their pretensions exposed in the past -- more so than the new.
As the trial continued Socrates insisted that he had lived his life
the way he had in response to "Divine Intervention" calling
him to fulfil a philosophic mission. Even were he faced with death as
an alternative, (death might for all he could know or deduce be a great
release into good), Socrates insisted that he would not give any undertaking
to cease from moral teachings designed to encourage people to pay great
attention to the "improvement of the soul". Socrates went
so far as to suggest that if the Athenians sentenced him to death that
it would be a sin against God. God had made him into a sort of Gadfly
that was intended to stir the Athenian state into moral improvement.
Socrates response to this call from God was to live a life of an unpaid
teacher and he was in a state of utter poverty through neglect of private
Socrates maintained that he has long lived with an inner "oracle
or sign" that occasionally forbade him from following certain actions
and reminded the jury of the real danger that he put himself at the
time of the unconstitutional trial of the generals and again when he
refused to obey the Thirty Tyrants over the arrest of an innocent man.
Socrates' great concern was not to avoid danger that might arise by
alienating the powerful but rather to avoid committing any unrighteous
or unholy act.
Socrates then spoke of his followers stating that they enjoyed hearing
his cross-questioning of those with pretensions to wisdom and that Meletus
was making no effort to call any of them as witnesses for the prosecution.
As to his family Socrates said that whilst it is far from unknown for
accused persons to bring their tearful families to the attention of
the court as an argument for leniency he, Socrates, could only regard
such behaviours as being discreditable. Socrates hopes that his arguments
alone will convince the court of his innocence and will not resort to
In the event the five hundred or so strong jury before which Socrates
was standing trial found him guilty by a narrow majority of sixty. Meletus
moved that the sentence should be death, in reply Socrates had the right
to propose a sentence that the court might select as an alternative.
Apology -- The Second Speech; The last days of Socrates
Although now an officially guilty man Socrates, true to his own estimation
of his past actions, suggested that he has actually done great good
to the state and that he deserved reward rather than punishment!
The trial jury was asked to entertain the idea that he, Socrates, should
be maintained at public expense, such as was awarded to famous Olympian
charioteers, so that he would have leisure to impart beneficial instruction.
Socrates then backtracked a little from this suggestion, reminded the
court that no one actually knew if death was a disaster or a release,
and said that he was reluctant to suggest a real penalty in preference
to death which might be a blessing. He had no money to pay any fine,
he did not feel he deserved imprisonment, exile would bring great uncertainties
for a man who even in a foreign city was bound to continue to instruct
towards the "improvement of the soul".
Socrates openly suggested that he could himself pay a small fine of
one Mina but that his friends were prepared to pay, on his behalf, a
fine of thirty Minae.
In the event the trial jury thought that Socrates proposed alternative
- the fine of thirty Minae - was significantly too lenient and voted
for the sentence of death rather than the fine being imposed and voted
that way by an increased majority.
Apology -- The Third Speech
Socrates asked those who had voted in favour of his being guilty to
bear in mind that, even though he did not consider himself to be wise,
the rivals of Athens would say that the Athenians had ordered the death
of a wise man who lived among them. He also reminded those who had condemned
him that although he was not to be around much longer as a Gadfly other,
younger, and possibly less considerate, people might well fulfil the
same role in the future.
To those who had voted in favour of his being declared innocent Socrates
gave assurances that he was not afraid of death, his sure guide - the
inner Oracle or sign, - had not made its presence felt in ways that
would have led him to believe he was on a wrong path.
Whether death led to a state of utter unconsciousness or else to a transmigration
of the soul Socrates foresaw something that would be not completely
To go into an eternity of a single, quiet, night or else to have the
opportunity as a transmigrated soul to converse with, and to question,
the heroes in Hades.
Amongst his closing remarks Socrates asked his friends there present
to visit punishments and troubles on his three sons if they seemed to
care more about riches than about virtue, or if they seemed to be pretentious.
Socrates' closing words in this third speech of Plato's Apology were,
"The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways - I to die,
and you to live. Which is better God only knows."
In most circumstances Socrates would have been obliged to submit to
execution by drinking the deadly poison Hemlock within twenty four hours
of his sentence. It happened however that executions were traditionally
suspended whilst a certain sacred ship made an annual voyage to the
Island of Delos. This ship was presently on the seas and this allowed
a certain stay of execution.
Plato continues his narrative of the last days of Socrates by presenting
him in the days immediately following the trial in his "The Euthyphro".
We look forward to your further thoughts, observations and views. Thank
For and on behalf of DK Matai, Chairman, Asymmetric Threats Contingency
ATCA: The Asymmetric Threats Contingency Alliance
is a philanthropic expert initiative founded in 2001 to understand and to
address complex global challenges. ATCA conducts collective Socratic dialogue
on global opportunities and threats arising from climate chaos, radical poverty,
organised crime, extremism, informatics, nanotechnology, robotics, genetics,
artificial intelligence and financial systems. Present membership of ATCA
is by invitation only and has over 5,000 distinguished members: including
several from the House of Lords, House of Commons, EU Parliament, US Congress
& Senate, G10's Senior Government officials and over 1,500 CEOs from financial
institutions, scientific corporates and voluntary organisations as well as
over 750 Professors from academic centres of excellence worldwide.
Intelligence Unit | mi2g | tel +44 (0) 20 7712 1782 fax +44 (0) 20
7712 1501 | internet www.mi2g.net
mi2g: Winner of the Queen's Award for Enterprise in the category of