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Bettany Hughes interview: on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

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« on: August 02, 2015, 07:01:41 pm »

Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Hughes has presented TV series including ITV's 'Britain's Secret Treasures' and BBC2's 'Divine Women', and is the author of bestselling books
Adam Jacques Author Biography

Sunday 02 August 2015


People tend to have a knee-jerk response to the word 'philosophy' You imagine it's abstract and inaccessible. But the famous thing about someone like Socrates was, as Cicero said, that he brought philosophy down from the sky and on to the street. He lived a real life: he drank, had sex, had two wives and was not a hero or a saint. One idea he had that I like was that when we do wrong to someone, it's not that we damage that person, but ourselves, inflicting harm on our most precious possession our soul.

Socrates would not have allowed the modern Greek state to get into this mess He had this great line: "Never pursue wealth at the expense of wisdom." Now, he doesn't say you have to be a saint or hermit he says enjoy life, but find a middle path between self-denial and selfish excess. But at some point from the Greek politicians' side and the lenders' end the way finances were structured to get that balance was wrong.

Forgiveness gives you a chance to be fulfilled rather than be eaten up with anger For a BBC1 show I did on the history of forgiveness, I interviewed the widow of the pilot of the first plane that went into the Twin Towers. She'd done an extraordinary thing by choosing to forgive the hijackers. It was very brave and she took a lot of criticism from people saying she was being anti-American. But she said, "I had to forgive as it was the only thing that gives me power over them: until then I was consumed with anger, sorrow, resentment and rage."

Evil can start in a deceptively banal way Rumour, gossip, slander single drops of poison can pollute an entire system. The journey to Auschwitz and the gas chambers began with a foul word, a stone in the street, a story deliberately mistold.


I'm a know-it-all I wrote my first book when I was five: it dealt with my theory on the death of Tutankhamun, which I wrote after an exhibition I'd seen on him. It was six pages long and I came to the certain conclusion that it was malaria or, as I called it, "Sum germy mosquitoes." Sadly it's yet to be published. I believe now that I'm always right: it's how I wear down my teenage daughters into submission over things such as doing the cleaning, and how they should pursue their love lives.

Keep an eye on your umbrella Misfortune is an unfortunate truth of life and it's the subject of our favourite family rhyme, by an anonymous author [credited to the late Victorian judge Baron Bowen]: "The rain it raineth on the just, and also on the unjust fella; but chiefly on the just, because the unjust hath the just's umbrella."
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I don't know how to use the TV remote It's a terrible admission for someone who makes TV programmes. My youngest daughter is the only one who can work it, and as I get home quite late, I actually wake her up in the middle of the night so she can come down and put on my recording of News at 10, which is like my comfort blanket.

I don't generally cook, but I do bake particularly my mum's chocolate cake. It has a cheeky ingredient: vinegar. I was always popular with my kids when they were younger when it came to their birthday parties, as they knew I would make this huge, three-tier cake for special occasions: it's not a proper cake unless it has three tiers!

Bettany Hughes, 48, is a historian, author and broadcaster specialising in classical history. She has presented TV series including ITV's 'Britain's Secret Treasures' and BBC2's 'Divine Women', and is the author of bestselling books including 'The Hemlock Cup: Socrates, Athens and the Search for the Good Life'. Her three-part philosophy series 'Genius of the Ancient World' begins this week on BBC4, starting with Buddha

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Superhero Member
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« Reply #1 on: August 02, 2015, 07:09:40 pm »

Actually the Greek financial problem is relatively simple to solve. As the Olympic games originated in Greece the world should merely build a prmanentOlympic fixture within Greece and make it the permanent home of the games/ Each country participating would be required to provide .0001 percent of their GDP anually to be eligible to compete
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« Reply #2 on: August 02, 2015, 07:11:49 pm »

Socrates would never have joined the EU in the fist place- And the Greeks could have gone on living their manyana way of life. happy and contented.
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Plato's Ghost
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« Reply #3 on: August 02, 2015, 07:17:03 pm »

I yield to none in my admiration for Socrates... and Bettany, of course, the thinking man's tea-time sustinence. HOWEVER, Socrates did not have to deal with Brussels, and that is the nub of the problem. The solution is easy — in theory — get your hands of the money of Greek shipping billionaires... However, that money is salted away in Luxembourg out of reach of the Greek government, thanks to tax concession put in place by or with the assistance of Jean-Claude Juncker — the very same Juncker, in fact, who now berates the Greek government for not raising enough cash to solve their problems.
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« Reply #4 on: August 02, 2015, 07:18:45 pm »

This is rather feeble. Forgiveness is a luxury, as revealed entirely in Ms Hughes' rather safe example. While her example has the luxury of a western middle class safety net and the fawning media attention showered on her for making a public announcement of her generous act of forgiveness, the victims of the atrocities unleashed by her government in her name post-9/11 have had no such luxury. They continue to grieve, suffer and die namelessly in Iraq and Afghanistan in their countless thousands. 'Forgiveness' is thus a fairly meaningless concept for them.

This is the problem. Ms Hughes is a celebrity, not a real historian wrestling with the difficult issues (and suffering for them) that her philosophers from antiquity did.

Diogenes of Sinope had the best rebuke for the rich and comfortable he observed playing idly with ideas like expendable commodities, surrounded by their slaves: 'In a rich man's house, there's nowhere to spit, except in his face'.
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A Flock of Seagulls
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« Reply #5 on: August 02, 2015, 07:22:46 pm »

Either this article was mis-titled by an editor, or else Bettany Hughes thought soon after the start of the interview, why talk of Socrates, when I am waaay more interesting....
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« Reply #6 on: August 02, 2015, 07:24:39 pm »

Dear Perikles. How would Socrates solve the Greek
He had a wicked sense of humour so, he might have
said: "No idea; it's all Greek to me".
Socrates got people like you and me to solve
a problem by asking us a series of questions.
The answers his subjects/students gave led each of them
to the answer.
Now known as the "Socratic method".
This is the opposite of the modern politicians
whose method leads you by suggestion,
to give the answer the politician wants to hear.
Clegg. "Leaving the EU would cost Britain
700,000 jobs. Does this worry you?"
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I reject your reality, and substitute my own! Mostly because yours is boring as hell.
Hero Member
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« Reply #7 on: August 02, 2015, 07:25:00 pm »

Regrettably Philosophy is no match for unscrupulous Greed On Steroid Bankers!
"Evil can start in a deceptively banal way." That's no word of a lie....look at the EU!
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I reject your reality, and substitute my own! Mostly because yours is boring as hell.
Hero Member
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« Reply #8 on: August 02, 2015, 07:25:51 pm »

In ancient Greece, Socrates was the most appreciated intellectual of his time. One day, he met an acquaintance on the street, who told him, all excited.
‘master, you’ll never believe what I’ve just heard about one of your students!’
‘One moment’ says himself, ‘ before you tell me anything, I’ll have to make you pass the triple filter test. Before you tell me anything about this boy, think. The first filter is truth. Are you completely certain that what you are about to tell me is completely true?’
‘well, no, I’ve just heard it &…
‘ah ha. You see! OK, the 2nd filter is charity. Is what you are about to tell me a good thing about this boy?’
‘no, says the friend, quite the contrary!’.
‘so’, says Socrates, ‘you want to tell me something bad & maybe untrue! Lets go to the third filter. Is what you are going to tell me useful to me or good news?’
the friend shakes his head & agrees that no & wanders off down the street, which is why Socrates never found out that the young Plato was banging his wife.
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I reject your reality, and substitute my own! Mostly because yours is boring as hell.
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