What might it look like if Socrates returned to a modern city that is plagued by prejudice, privilege and populism? Might he judge that the crisis in the city is fundamentally a crisis of education? Might he judge that, at the heart of this crisis and therefore at the heart of the city, education seems to be at war with itself? And given this, might he offer the city a renewed vision of justice by reconceptualising the meaning and significance of thinking and education? Might he be able to exert a gravitational force that could draw key cultural elements of the city — property, wealth, money, family, gendered and racialized identities, production, distribution, and consumption — into its educational orbit?
If he did return, might he also experience the current vulnerability of modern democracy to authoritarian leaders and their sponsors? Would he see that, influenced by sophisticated propaganda, people’s frustration with democracy is being channelled into visceral anger on the one hand, and into disillusioned scepticism and cynicism on the other? Would he conclude that belief in truth and education seems to be collapsing in exhaustion and fatigue, caught in the headlights of seemingly irresolvable and petrifying rational paradoxes that block all paths to social justice?
If he began his teaching again, would he be trolled on social media, perhaps eventually arrested and, as before, put on trial? And, if he were to be put on trial again, might one also conclude that education itself is also on trial in the city?
The dialogue that follows our introductory notes, gives one version of the kind of conversation that Socrates might get drawn into on his return to the city.