Clouds Socrates Unjust Speech
Aristophanes’ play, “clouds”, there is a battle between the “old” and “new” way of going out about life. This can be seen through the “just” and “unjust” speech, whose argumentative outcomes dictate the way in which society should go about educating its citizens. The “unjust speech”, which is a heavy logical and manipulative approach to thinking about life (“new”), seems to subvert the “just speech”, which appears to rely on moral and mythical justification (“old”).
Pericles, a prominent and influential Politian in Athens, has argued that democracy is the best form of government because it fairly produces the most educated and excellent citizens, through freedom to act as they please, which will eventually shape there soul into a great person (Warner 145). Thus, if citizens are allowed to wonder freely and be tolerated with respect by fellow citizens as Pericles describes, and if Socrates (a Greek philosopher) and the “thinkry” spread their “unjust speech” rhetoric, Pericles’s platform for greatness will not make the Athenians the most excellent and educated citizens.
Clouds Socrates Unjust Speech Essay Example
In fact it is going to make them into worse people, people who are going to fundamentally question the value of their institution. Ultimately, Aristophanes suggests that democracy cannot work in unison with “unjust speech”, which undermines Pericles argument that “unjust speech” should be tolerated under democracy, because “unjust speech” uses its persuasive power to disassembles the collective wisdom democracy has built and allows the few who understand its power to create an unequal society (West).
Aristophanes argues if a democracy is faced with a society of unequal powers then it could transform the democratic system Pericles drew up, where all powers were to be divided equally among citizens, into an oligarchy or tyranny, with the citizens using unjust speech to gain majority power and dictate policy (West). Whenever policies are designed by a few in power they tend not to reflect or benefit those in the larger majority without power.
If policies don’t benefit and represent as many people as possible then they are ineffective policies. This educates the citizens of Athens to become one of the elites because policy and power will favor them more then others. Aristophanes doesn’t believe that is the best or fairest form of education. Therefore, unjust speech can’t operate in union with democracy because it turns an egalitarian society into unequal powers and causes ineffective policies to be implemented.
Aristophanes is concerned with what kind of government it is and how it’s designed. Pericles address that concern when stating, “Our constitution is called a democracy because power is in the hands not of a minority but of the whole people” and “everyone is equal before the law; when it is a question of putting one person before another in positions of public responsibility, what counts is not membership of a particular class, but the actual ability which the man possesses”(Warner 145).
Aristophanes undermines this by arguing if what counts is the ability which the man possesses, then unjust speech allows that membership to form through mans ability to manipulate and win arguments, which gives unjust speakers more power then other citizens and they are now unequally advantage against the law and have the power in their hands instead of the majority (West).
Pericles also states, “In public affairs we keep to the law”(Warner 145), Aristophanes argues that citizens capable of unjust speech have the power, the people in power have a stronger voice, the stronger voice makes policies, and thus citizens engaged in unjust speech make the laws (West). The people who make the laws usually do so in a way beneficial to them “in public affairs”(West). Unjust speech has the power to diminish the collective wisdom the Athenians have built up by pointing out small contradictions and using manipulative reasoning that just speech can’t defend through logic.
Just speech can only be defended through the centuries it has successfully survived and through the strong bond each citizen shares with each other (West). Therefore, Aristophanes argues through “clouds” that unjust speech has the ability to break down collective wisdoms, win arguments, create unequal powers, and ultimately dismantle democracy (West). For example, unjust speech states, “I quite deny that Justice even exists”(West 902) to which just speech replies “It does with the gods” (West 904), then unjust speech ask the question “then why didn’t Zeus perish when he bound his father?
To which just speech replies “give me a basin: to vomit in”(West 907), basically stating if just does exist within the gods then it makes no sense because the gods are not just themselves. In this case unjust found a logical approach to dismiss the presences of just speech. This small contradiction discredits just speech as a whole, aids to the confusion of just speech, and gives power to unjust speech. This result causes just speech to through its cloak to the audience and storm out.
Another instance seen where unjust uses its power to discredit just speech is when Strepsiades ask Socrates, “And who is it that compels them to be borne along? Isn’t it Zeus? ”(West 378), to which Socrates replies “Not in the least. Its ethereal Vortex”(West 380). In this instance, Strepsiades is convinced through logic and science that Zeus doesn’t make it rain by “pissing through his sieve”(West 373). Eventually this leads Strepsiades to become more ambiguous about his institutions collective wisdom, and once again it aids to more confusion for just and power for unjust speech.
In the case of Strepsiades, it leads to utter perplexity, which later causes him to burn down the “thinkry”. Furthermore, these two examples are analogous with the contemporary Gay Rights movement we see today. Gays not being able to get married stems from religious values (just speech), which say people are only supposed to be with opposite sex. Many Americans have built this into our collective wisdom, especially in the South. However, homosexuals challenge these religious ideologies with logic (unjust speech), which tries to persuade a religious conservative that just because god stated something doesn’t make it true or reasonable.
The homosexual community, who may have a point, is challenging and manipulating the conservative wisdom through unjust speech, and if homosexuals win than more power represents their group then before. The result is another tradition (religious conservatives) is weakened, a new identity (Gays married) is formed/strengthen, and the collective wisdom of all citizens under that democracy is now diminished and more segregated. The three examples show how unjust speech has the ability to break down collective wisdom, win arguments, create unequal powers, and ultimately dismantle the democracy Pericles drew up and cause chaos and/or violence.
Strepsiades ends up burning down a building and Socrates’ students gain more power, the just speech violently throws its cloak to the audience and storms off leaving unjust speech with more powers, and religious conservatives have heavily protested, some with violence, against homosexuals (the outcome hasn’t been determined so power hasn’t shifted yet). This proves Aristophanes argument that unjust speech undermines democracy by getting citizens to question their government’s collective wisdoms, which has the ability to shift power (West).
If enough questions are raised then new paths will be forged and the core bond that once held the state together is now weaken. Aristophanes argues that knowing how the “Vortex” works or how some other trivial scientific knowledge operates is not what makes a society great, but rather keeping the core identity and wisdom together is how one maintains greatness and keeps democracy alive (West). However, the damage of unjust speech in a democratic society doesn’t stop there. Unjust speech also has the ability to open the window for morally unsound decisions, which have the potential to construct terrible policies.
As explained by Aristophanes, unjust speech has the ability to break down collective wisdoms, win arguments, and create unequal powers. The last part is what concerns Aristophanes because unequal powers open the door for political and moral corruption. Whenever policies are designed by a few in power they tend not to reflect or benefit those in the larger population without power. If policies don’t benefit and represent as many people as possible then they are bad policies. For example, when Pheidippides engages in a physical altercation with his father Strepsiades, he employs unjust speech to make his actions appear moral.
This is seen when Pheidippides states, “did you beat me when I was a boy? ”(West 1408), to which Strepsiades replies “Yes, I did; I was well-intentioned”(West 1409), then Pheidippides use the unjust speech by stating “isn’t it also just for me likewise to be well-intentioned toward you and beat you, since in fact to be well-intentioned is to beat? (West 1410-1412), Pheidippides adds on, “Old men are children twice”(West 1417), and lastly “I’ll beat mother too, just as I did you”(West 1443).
Pheidippides logically makes sense by basically saying that if Strepsiades, his father, beat him when he was younger in order to discipline and shape his character, wouldn’t it only make sense for Pheidippides to beat his father who is old and undisciplined. Furthermore, Pheidippides argues through unjust speech that when he is done beating his father that he will go on to beat his mother. Morally, Strepsiades and us intuitively understand that beating our father is wrong, and if not our father then beating our mothers is definitely wrong, but it is hard debating it through just speech.
It is best explained through the collective wisdom that our institution has handed down over the centuries, which has successfully stood the test of time and deserves to be respected. This is a specific case of unjust speech challenging a societies collective wisdom, then manipulating, winning, and using the argument to gain power, which opens the door for a morally unsound policy that a majority can’t defend against. Another instances where unjust speech was used to manipulate and open the door for a morally unsound policy was Strepsiades convincing the creditors he owes nothing.
Strepsiades uses unjust speech to fluster the first creditor by ridiculing him because of his belief in the gods, “Zeus is laughable to those who know”(West 1241) and for believing in the “old” reasoning behind the way in which society operates (West 1225-55). Again Strepsiades uses unjust speech with the second creditor by manipulating his new knowledge, “do you believe that Zeus always rains fresh water on each occasion, or does the sun draw the same water back up from below…Then is it just for you not to get your money back if you know nothing of matters aloft?
This undermines Athenian values, which clearly have moral rationale but lack transparent logic. The creditors have no real answer for Strepsiades other then it is wrong to not pay back debts for the reasons it is wrong to beat your mother up. Unjust speech has the power to confuse people by breaking down collective wisdom, win arguments, and create unequal powers, which opens the door for a few to create a terrible policy that affects many. The two examples clearly show how unjust speech has the power to undermine just speech.
Aristophanes argues, that unjust speech can’t live in unison with democracy because the few who know how to deploy it can gain unfair power and create terrible policies that only reflect the few elite without justly representing the majority who have less power (West). It is evident that Aristophanes prefers to operate with the “old” system. He clearly sympathizes with the reasoning and moral implications of just speech, and argues that democratic societies need it to be successful. Conversely, unjust speech according to Aristophanes is a systemic threat to anything ruled under democracy.
It has the ability to undermine equality and produce ineffective policies. This runs contradictory to Pericles’s argument about democratic characteristics, mainly freedom to have meaningful impact and mans abilities is what counts, which make citizens great and educated people (Warner 145). If unjust speech is abused in democracy, unequal powers are inevitable. However, I think Aristophanes would recognize Pericles’s point, and acknowledge there are issues with the traditional system. A traditional government left unexamined might lose touch with the principles upon which it was established.