What should we do as philosophers when we encounter violence? Should we address the issue or should we avoid it in order to avoid a trivial exchange of opinions? Should we intervene or should we rather try to stay neutral, since presumably wise people should keep their hands clean of stain? Should we limit ourselves to reflecting on the effects of violence on our emotions, feelings and inner thoughts?

Lima is surrounded by high hills that turn green during the winter time. At the top of these hills a mysterious fog hides the city and so it is a beautiful place to escape and be in silence with oneself.

During the times of violence in Lima, some decades ago, it was absolutely dangerous to climb these hills since one would have  to pass the “red belt” around Lima to get there. The warring parties would not understand us had we explained that we came to enjoy the beauty of nature.

Does it make sense to be isolated from what is happening around us? What would be the right thing to do? Some people around us demand justice. What is justice? Is it possible to know what justice is?

In “The Republic” Plato deals with the issue of justice and how to find out what justice is.

The dialogue starts with a series of characters who ask Socrates not to return to the city, but to stay outside with them to watch the celebrations of the Thracian Goddess Bendis and visit Polemarchus and Cephalus to discuss the issue of Justice. It is known that Polemarchus 1 and Cephalus (from Sicily), Thrasymachus and the Thracians and some of the other participants in the dialogue were foreigners and forbidden to enter the city of Athens. The Athenian recognition of the Thracian Goddess (Rep. 354a) is relevant, because the discussion takes place during the Peloponnesian war. Athens had oppressed and enslaved Thracians for decades2 and usually looked down on them. Now Athens needed them for their expedition to (attack) Sicily, so it decided to ask Thrace for an alliance. (Just as in modern times a superpower may ask its “allies” to help it invade some third country).Thucydides, the great historian contemporary to Socrates tells us about it this way:

“This same summer arrived at Athens thirteen hundred targeteers, Thracian swordsmen, who were to have sailed to Sicily with Demosthenes. Since they had come too late, the Athenians determined to send them back to Thrace, whence they had come; to keep them for the Decelean war appearing too expensive, as the pay of each man was a drachma a day.
Accordingly, not wishing to incur expense in their present want of money, they sent back at once the Thracians who came too late for Demosthenes, under the conduct of Diitrephes, who was instructed, as they were to pass through the Euripus, to make use of them if possible in the voyage alongshore to injure the enemy.”

(= because they could not pay the Thracian army that came to help Athens to invade Sicily, they suggested to them that they should feel free to plunder some colonies of Athens on their way back to Thracia, as a payment for their effort. This way Athens could teach a lesson to these colonies, which were not being completely loyal to Athens)

This deal of the Thracians with Athens led to the massacre of Mycalessus:

“The Thracians bursting into Mycalessus sacked the houses and temples, and butchered the inhabitants, sparing neither youth nor age, but killing all they fell in with, one after the other, children and women, and even beasts of burden, and whatever other living creatures they saw; the Thracian race, like the bloodiest of the barbarians, being even more so when it has nothing to fear. Everywhere confusion reigned and death in all its shapes; and in particular they attacked a boys' school, the largest that there was in the place, into which the children had just gone, and massacred them all. In short, the disaster falling upon the whole town was unsurpassed in magnitude, and unapproached by any in suddenness and in horror.“3

Now, for this massacre the Thracian were criticized as being savages, and not deserving to get back their arms.

In this context the strategist Thracymacus, from Chalcedonia (a city in today’s Turkey east of Thrace under the commercial dominance of Athens) came to Athens on a diplomatic mission to defend the cause of Chalcedonia and Thrace. He is the main participant in the discussion about Justice with Socrates.

The main discussion starts with Socrates asking Cephalus and Polemarchus what is justice. They answer:

Repayment of a debt is justice.“ (Meaning for example: Give back to the colonies what you took away from them – We plundered and enslaved the Thracians for so many decades – now we have to give them back their honor, freedom and right to train their army to defend themselves.)

Socrates answers:

This “certainly does not mean, as we were now saying that I ought to return a deposit of arms or of anything else to one who asks for it when he is not in his right senses; and yet a deposit cannot be denied to be a debt.” (Meaning for example: It is right that we owe these people and that we took away their honor, their capacity of educating themselves military and in all other senses by enslaving them, but now that they are wild -maybe because of us- does it make any sense to give them back their military power? They might just use for revenge to murder people belonging to the group that enslaved them in the past - They will probably not benefit of this themselves anymore because they have forgotten how to make a wise use of this. As has been shown by the massacre of Mycalessus).

This opens the discussion about justice in the Republic. Several hypotheses are analyzed and discussed passionately between the foreigners and Socrates. Through the maieutic exercise it is established what justice definitely is not.

The discussion ends with Socrates saying:

The result of the whole discussion has been that I know nothing at all. For I know not what justice is, and therefore I am not likely to know whether it is or is not a virtue, nor can I say whether the just man is happy or unhappy.

Socrates seems to really mean that he does not know anything. He could establish what  is not justice, but does this mean that he (or anybody) can know what is the right thing to do?

What is justice, what is fair, what is the right thing to do? And if we do not know what is the right thing to do, does it make sense to conclude that not doing anything is the right thing to do?

Many philosophical practices avoid reflecting through arguments, presumably because philosophy should not be merely an exchange of opinions. What could be a meaningful way for philosophical practice to deal with the issue of social violence? Or should PP deal with this issue only from a phenomenological perspective?



b2ap3 small ParaisoVerde70¿Qué debieramos hacer en tanto filósofos cuando nos enfrentamos a la violencia? ¿Deberíamos intervenir o, más bien, deberíamos permanecer neutrales invocando a la neutralidad que se espera de la gente sabia, evitando embararnos en algún asunto sin solución? Deberíamos limitarnos a reflexionar en los efectos de la violencia en nuestras emociones, nuestros sentimientos y nuestros pensamientos propios?

Lima está rodeada de unos cerros altos que se llenan de un verde maravilloso durante el invierno. Arriba de estas montañas se forma una misteriosa neblina que oculta la ciudad, convirtiendo este hermoso lugar en un espacio ideal para escapar del stress urbano y para estar en silencio con uno mismo.

Durante la época de violencia interna algunas décadas atrás, en Lima era muy peligroso subir a estos cerros, pues había que pasar el “cinturón rojo” que rodeaba Lima para llegar allí. Las partes implicadas no hubieran aceptado nuestra explicación de que solo subimos allí para apreciar la belleza de la naturaleza.

¿Tiene sentido aislarse de lo que pasa alrededor de nosotros?¿Qué sería lo justo que deberíamos hacer? Algunas personas alrededor de nosotros demandan justicia. ¿Pero qué es justicia?¿Es siquiera posible determiner qué es lo justo?

En la “República” Platón trata el tema de la justicia y el problema de cómo determinar qué es la justicia. El diálogo empieza con una serie de personajes que le piden a Sócrates no volver a la ciudad sino que se quede afuera con ellos para presenciar las celebraciones en homenaje a la diosa tracia Bendis y a visitar a Céfalo y a su hijo Polemarco para discutir el tema de la justicia.

Se sabe que Céfalo y su hijo Polemarco [1] (de Sicilia), Trasímaco y los tracios y algunos de los otros participantes del diálogo eran extranjeros que estaban prohibidos de entrar a Atenas. El reconocimiento de la diosa tracia (Rep. 354a), es importante porque la discusión tienen lugar durante la guerra del Peloponeso. Atenas había estado subjugando y esclavizando a los tracios por décadas [2] y solían despreciarlos y marginalizarlos. Ahora de repente Atenas necesitaba refuerzos para su campaña contra Sicilia y acuden a Tracia para que los apoye en esta guerra (como suele ocurrir hoy en día cuando una superpotencia le pide a sus “aliados” que los apoyen a invadir algún tercer país). Para ello establecen una alianza y la consolidan dejando que los tracios celebren a la diosa Bendis en una fiesta caballos de combate a las afueras de Atenas.

Tucídides cuenta 3 que los atenienses pidieron refuerzos a sus colonias para atacar Sicilia. Había fracasado la Paz de 7 años entre Sicilia y Atenas que había sido incentivada y firmada por Nicias, el padre de Nicerato, al que también se hace mención explícita a inicios de este diálogo. A pesar de que Nicias se opone a atacar a los sicilianos, se le nombra como jefe de la expedición junto con Alcibíades, quien había instigado públicamente a que se llevara a cabo el ataque a Sicilia. Pero Alcibíades abandona la misión a mitad de camino al entrarse de que sus enemigos políticos en Atenas están llevando a cabo un juicio político contra él por blasfemia a los dioses. Entonces, Nicias queda sólo al mando de la expedición contra Sicilia y pide refuerzos a Atenas. Alcibíades se une a Esparta para atacar a Atenas y Atenas se encuentra tan debilitada que pide apoyo a sus colonias para enviar hombres a luchar contra Sicilia que se había aliado a Esparta.

Entre los grupos que vienen a ofrecer apoyo a Atenas están los tracios. Enviaron 1300 soldados armados con sables. Pero llegan tarde a Atenas para partir en los barcos de guerra contra Sicilia. Cómo Atenas no está en condiciones de mantenerlos económicamente hasta que salga la siguiente expedición a Sicilia, les piden que regresen desde donde vinieron. Eligen al general ateniense Ditrephes, para que los conduzca de vuelta a Tracia, pero con la salvedad de que durante su viaje de regreso ataquen a algunos pueblos enemigos.

Es en este contexto que se produce la masacre de Micaleso, relatada por Tucídides[4]:

“Cuando los tracios estuvieron dentro de la ciudad, empezaron a saquear las casas y los templos y mataron a toda la población, hombres y mujeres de cualquier edad y, además, a las bestias de carga y cualquier otro animal que encontraban. Los tracios en efecto, son muy sanguinarios, tanto o más que el resto de los bárbaros y cuando se encuentran seguros cometen toda clase de desmanes. En esta ocasión, entre otros grandes crímenes y toda clase de crueldades, penetraron en una escuela de niños, la mayor de la población, y aprovechando que los niños acababan de entrar, los mataron a todos. Esta catástrofe fue tan grande e inesperada como nunca se había sufrido en la ciudad anteriormente. Enterados los tebanos, salieron inmediatamente tras ellos …..”

“Micaleso sufrió un desastre mayor del que pudo ocurrir a cualquier ciudad en todo el tiempo que duró la guerra.”[5]

Por esta masacre los tracios fueron criticados de ser unos salvajes queno merecían que se les devolviera el poder de tener ejército nuevamente = que se le devulevan las armas.

Es en este contexto que el estratega Tracímaco de Calcedonia (una ciudad a orillas del mar negro en lo que hoy es Turquía al este de Tracia- región que se encontraba bajo el dominio comercial de Atenas) llega a Atenas en una misión diplomática para defender la causa de Calcedonia y Tracia frente a Atenas. Él es el participante principal en la discusión sobre la Justicia con Sócrates.

La discusión principal comienza con Sócrates preguntándole a Céfalo y a Polemarco ¿Qué es la justicia? Y ellos contestan:

La justicia es devolver lo que se debe. (fuera de contexto una respuesta rara, pero en el contexto concreto podría significar: Devolverle a las colonias lo que se le ha quitado – Hemos saqueado y esclavizado a los tracios por décadas – ahora debemos devolverle su honor su libertad y el derecho de entrenar un ejército y defenderse ante enemigos externos)

Sócrates contesta:

"La justicia ¿declararemos, como tú, que en todos los casos consiste en decir la verdad y en devolver lo que se recibe? ¿O bien estas son cosas que algunas veces son justas y otras veces injustas? Me refiero a casos como éste: si alguien recibiera armas de un amigo que está en su sano juicio, pero si éste enloqueciera y las reclamara, cualquiera estaría de acuerdo en que no se las debe devolver, y que aquel que las devolviese no sería justo, (…) a pesar de que no se puede negar que se trata de una deuda. (Y esto significaría: Es verdad que le debemos a esta gente todo lo que le usurpamos, sus riquezas, su honor, su capacidad de educarse militarmente y en todos los sentidos al esclavizarlos. Pero ahora que son salvaes – tal vez por nuestra culpa- ¿tiene sentido devolverle su poderío militar? Es probable que solo lo usen para vengarse contra quienes los oprimieron en el pasado y que en todo caso no se beneficien ellos mismo de este conocimiento porque han olvidado como hacer un uso sabio de éste. La prueba de ello sería la masacre de Micaleso.)

Así se abre la discusión sobre la justicia en la República. Se analizan y discuten apasionadamente varias hipótesis entre los extranjeros y Sócrates, y a través de la mayéutica se establece lo que definitivamente no es justo.

La discusión termina con Sócrates diciendo:

“El resultado de diálogo es que ahora no se nada. En efecto puesto que no sé qué es lo justo, mucho menos he de saber si es excelencia o no, ni si quien lo posee es feliz o infeliz.”

Esta conclusión no parece ser un frase de falsa modestia de Sócrates. Sócrates más bien realmente considera que no sabe nada acerca de qué sería lo justo. Es posible establecer lo que no es justo, pero ¿es acaso posible que él (u otra persona) puedan establecer qué sería lo justo hacer en este contexto o en cualquier contexto concreto?

¿Qué es justicia, qué es lo justo que se debería hacer en determinada situación? ¿Y si no sabemos qué es lo justo hacer, tiene sentido concluir que lo mejor es no hacer nada en absoluto?

Muchas prácticas filosóficas evitan reflexionar usando argumentos, arguyendo que la filosofía no debería terminar siendo un mero intercambio de opiniones.¿Cuál podría ser la manera en que la práctica filosófica trate el tema de la violencia social?¿O acaso la práctica filosófica está condenada a tratar este tema solo desde una perspectiva fenomenológica?

1 Polemarchus, was an emigrant from Syracuse (today Italy). The father of Polemarchus was invited to emigrate to the Pyreaus outside Athens by Pericles I himself, But even though the family achieved great recognition and wealth manufacturing shields, in 404 during the government of the 30 tyrants Polemarchus was detained in a xenophobic attitude and executed without trial and his plant confiscated. (Source: Lisias, Against Eratóstenes)

2 BÄBLER, Balbina, “Fremde Frauen in Athen. Thrakische Ammen und athenische Kinder” – 2. Sklaven in Athens, In RIEMER, Ulrike y Peter Riemer, Xenophobie, Philoxenie: vom Umgang mit Fremden in der Antike, Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2005, p.66

3 Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War, Book VII

[4] TUCÍDIDES, Historia de la Guerra del Peloponeso., Libro VII pp. 168 -169

5 TUCÍDIDES, idem.


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