Socratic Dialogue

Plato & Aristotle

Plato & Aristotle

The three great ancient Greek philosophers were Socrates, his disciple Plato, and Plato’s disciple Aristotle. Three centuries before Christ, they had already explored through reason profound truths about human nature. Socrates used the peripatetic method of teaching through dialogue while strolling round the Athenian gardens. If Socrates was one of us, his dialogue with a Kenyan supporter of gay rights would go like this.

 

Socrates (S): Greetings, why are you agitated?
Pro-gay Kenyan (PGK): The gay community are a minority, and their rights should be protected. Religious groups are opposing this due to prejudice.

S: So you favour these ‘gay rights’?
PGK: Of course! The Constitution protects the rights of all Kenyans, including minorities.

S: Do you also support rights of murderers, rapists and robbers?
PGK: Of course I don’t, but there is no comparison between murderers and gays.

S: Well, most Kenyans are not violent criminals. But there are Kenyan murderers, rapists and robbers. So they are a minority and enjoy minority rights under Kenya’s Constitution!
PGK: They do enjoy human rights, not as rapists or murderers, but as human beings. It would be absurd to talk of murderer or robber rights. You can talk of human rights to life and dignity, but not ‘criminal rights’.

S: So if homosexual behaviour is criminal in Kenya, then there are no gay rights per se?
PGK: You are twisting my argument. Violent criminals cause physical harm. What gay people do harms no one.

S: Do tax evaders harm society by failing to pay taxes?
PGK: You can be really pedantic, Socrates. Obviously tax evaders do not cause physical harm. But they harm others indirectly by joyriding on public goods.

S: So you do accept that actions that harm society indirectly can also be criminal?
PGK: I am an experienced lawyer. Of course I’m aware that criminal behaviour can cause direct or indirect harm. But in moral issues each person is free to decide, under the right to privacy, how to order their lives.

S: So you are in favour of those who choose to kill themselves being left free to do so, or even assisted through euthanasia?
PGK: I don’t want to go that far now, but yes, it’s their choice.

S: And what if they are children, or mentally impaired?
PGK: Finally you are catching up with modern philosophy. J.J. Rousseau made it clear that children lack the maturity to make autonomous choices on such matters. But adults can.

S: Do you then support legalising bestiality and incest, as alternative sexual lifestyles, for adults?
PGK: No, that is repugnant, and your question is irrelevant. Let’s focus on the issue of gays.

S: Okay, doesn’t homosexual behaviour harm the individual and the family?
PGK: This is what annoys me most about these holier-than-thou religious bigots. Who tells them that their moral views of family welfare have to be adopted by everyone in a secular society?

S: But PGK, don’t all criminal codes compel everyone to obey common moral standards on life, property and human dignity?
PGK: Maybe, but there is no empirical evidence that what two people do in private harms society. And J.S. Mill explained that ‘liberty’ means people should be left free even to harm themselves.

S: Really, even drug users? Anyway, doesn’t sexual behaviour of essence involves communication (before, during and after), and thus a public element? Opponents of gay behaviour claim clear evidence of its harm to the individual and common good.
PGK: I’m fed up with this discussion. Your views are shaped by religious prejudice.

S: Tsk, Tsk! I lived long before Christianity and Islam, and was not Jewish. My dialogue is from philosophy. But I fear you may be the one suffering anti-religious prejudice.

Charles Kanjama.
(The author is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya)

Adopted from www.lifematters.co.ke with the kind permission of the author

 

2 Comments
  1. Good argument. As G.K. Chesterton mentioned , true democracy should not only incorporate the opinions of the current population but also of all those who walked on this earth before us.

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