Socrates is considered to be the father of Western philosophy. However, according to Nietzsche in Twilight of the Idols, he was a poor and ugly loser.
“By birth, Socrates belonged to the lowest class: Socrates was plebeian.”
A plebian was a commoner, one of the masses. For modern audiences, this is not a crime. However, in previous eras, it denoted a person of inferior worth—the lower class of humanity.
Nietzsche then piles on, stating that Socrates was ugly:
“We are told, and can see in sculptures of him, how ugly he was…Ugliness is often enough the expression of a development that has been crossed, thwarted in some way. Or it appears as declining development. The anthropological criminologists tell us that the typical criminal is ugly.”
I have never looked at Socrates from that standpoint. But now that Nietzsche brings it up, I guess that Socrates did not look like Adonis; he could have lost a few pounds, for sure.
For Nietzsche however, the proof that Socrates was a loser is this—his obsession with argumentation.
“Before Socrates, argumentative conversation was repudiated in good society: it was considered bad manners, compromising….Honest things, like honest men, do not have to explain themselves so openly.”
One chooses logical argument only when one has no other means…It is a kind of self-defense for those who no longer have other weapons.
In short, Socrates lacked self-esteem due to his poverty and ugliness; his solution was to go around arguing with people so that he could distort this painful reality. His “Socratic questioning” then was not a search for truth; instead, it was just jealousy—envy masking itself as intelligence. It was bitterness against the “cool kids.” In ghetto terminology, Socrates was a player hater.
Now I don’t know if all that’s true, but Nietzsche raises a good question:
Were the great minds of antiquity driven by dubious motives?
We have a tendency to romanticize the great people of the past. What we forget is that many of them were filled by basic human urges: the desire for sex, acceptance, revenge, etc. Humans are all playing on a similar field. Maybe our heroes may not be as noble as we think, and they may require further investigation.
What I like about Nietzsche’s analysis is how simple and logical it was. When I was in college, I struggled to make sense of Nietzsche. His work is now opening up to me, though. I look forward to reading more of him…