Skrullicism (3): Socrates

By: Greg Rowland
July 13, 2011


Greece had a really, really good 4th century BC. Ancient Athens gorged itself on a buffet of brilliance, paper plates sagging under the weight of super-sized portions of Western Culture’s founding thinkers. Sadly, it didn’t last long and the year 314 BC saw the Golden Age of Antiquity reduced to four half-eaten canapés and a somnambulant Great-Uncle gently farting in the corner. It is therefore with fear and profound regret that we must now reveal that Socrates, the founding father of Western Philosophy, was a Skrull.

Third in an occasional series.

Skrulls are green shape-shifting aliens hell-bent on galactic dominance. They look like this:

And Socrates looked like this:

Note the vertical chin-grooves. That’s the Number One give-away in the Skrull Spotter’s Guide.

But why did the Skrull Empire plant an Earth-agent intended to be the prime influence on the entirety of Western thought? The answer is clear: it was a good idea to plant an Earth-agent intended to be the prime influence on the entirety of Western thought. But let’s explore this strategy further. It’s obvious that Socrates was sent to Earth in order to prevent humans from creating Super-Rays and “Space” Ships that might eventually threaten the galactic supremacy of the Skrull Empire. But how did he do this?

Socrates never wrote anything down; Skrulls have notoriously bad penmanship. The Republic, a book, was written by Plato — which sounds like Play-Doh, a substance directly analogous to the shape-shifting malleability of the Skrull. I expect that they had a good laugh about that one at The Academy. They were fully aware that Play-Doh would not be seen on Earth until the 20th century, by which time it would, of course, be far too late.

Furthermore, Skrull-Socrates cleverly combined the role of Philosophy’s Founding Father with that of Civilization’s Most Annoying Person Ever. His philosophical ‘method’ was always the same. Socrates would prowl the agora and pounce on some poor tradesman and mumble something coyly, like ‘I really don’t understand much about, y’know, ‘stuff’ so maybe we could kind of try to find a common basis by asking of ourselves what ought to be the chief aim of the legislator in making laws and in the organization of a State — what is the greatest good, and what is the greatest evil, and then consider whether our previous description has the stamp of the good or of the evil?” And the baker knows that his rolls will go stale but politely plays along while Socrates asks him a series of fixed question, carefully designed to make the baker look increasingly stupid and Socrates increasingly smart.

In fact this ‘method’ became such a popular way to demoralize tradesmen that several copycat versions soon emerged. They were uniformly terrible. Zenobetrius’ ‘method’ consisted of ringing a large bell and saying “Wrong!” when anyone else spoke. Still, it was Clomenstrita’s total reliance on the rhetorical formulation “I know you are, but what am I?” that received the worst ever score on Athens’ Got Method.

It is therefore unsurprising that Socrates soon branded his premium dialogic interrogation ‘The Socratic Method’ — a smart move that increased sales of his signature ‘Reductio’ Hat ‘n’ Toga range by an average of 27% year-on-year.

But this success was short-lived. Socrates was found guilty of committing various acts of Grievous Sarcasm and was forced to drink hemlock, without making any ironic or smart-arsed comments, until he was completely dead. Some lesser charges, related to selling poor quality hats to susceptible Delphic Oracles, were posthumously dropped. Most Athenians felt that he got off lightly.

He left us with an impressive legacy. The Skrull-Socrates made radical innovations within diverse fields such as sarcasm, false modesty, eyebrow raising, ego-deflation, smirking, mind-games, wry chin-stroking, schmutter-shill-shenanighans, ‘catty’ interrogation, sardonic sniggering, general annoyance, advanced irritation, legalese, late-night teenage pot-head conversation and agonizingly drawn-out iterations of the Candid Camera vox-pop ‘Gotcha!’ moment.

Thus the Socratic influence severely curtailed human thought and activity for over two thousand years. Our civilization has elevated chin stroking to extraordinary levels of dialectical complexity, but we have yet to develop proper Super-Rays or “Space” Ships. The Socratic-Skrull Sentience Stultification Strategy has delivered beyond all expectations.



What do you think?

  1. That famous Skrull-Hunter, Friedrich Nietzsche, has a lot to say about Socrates that chimes with your takedown, Greg. He was ambivalent in the strictest sense of that term about Socrates, whose brilliance he couldn’t help but admire; however, he felt that Socratic irony killed off the life-giving Dionysian element in culture.

    Dionysus is pessimistic — he faces the (Heraclitean) truth that life is unintelligible, unjustified; Nietzsche approves of this. However, Nietzsche understands that it’s very difficult to navigate through everyday life if you are always aware of the void beneath your feet. Which is where Apollo comes in; Apollo is not optimistic, but aesthetic — he helps us cope with the Dionysian truth without denying it. This is why Nietzsche admired “pre-Socratic” Greek philosophy and tragedy, because it boldly confronts the void, suffering, impermanence, and so forth… while affirming life anyway.

    Socrates, for Nietzsche, is foolishly optimistic and positivistic; Socratic irony makes existence seem intelligible, justified, when in fact it is neither. Socrates (the archetype of “the theoretical man”) is responsible for the rise of the logos, the devaluation of art, and the demise of tragedy — all of which leads, by the modern era, to the rationalization of life, and to a culture dominated by (instrumental) rationality. If Nietzsche sounds like the Frankfurt School here, let’s note that they were Skrull Hunters, too. Like Nietzsche, Adorno and Horkheimer claimed that positivism is just another religion.

    Where Nietzsche comes right out and accuses Socrates of being a Skrull is in “Birth of Tragedy,” where he writes that, whenever the truth is uncovered, “the [Apollo/Dionysus-balancing] artist will always cling with rapt gaze to what still remains covering even after such uncovering; but the [Socratic] theoretical man enjoys and finds satisfaction in the discarded covering and finds the highest object of his pleasure in the process of an ever-happy uncovering that succeeds through his own efforts.” In other words, to those with ears to hear, he’s saying: Skrulls love shape-shifting.

  2. “Socrates never wrote anything down; Skrulls have notoriously bad penmanship.” Ergo, this post is genius.

    “The Republic, a book, was written by Plato — which sounds like Play-Doh,” again, Socrates “Beauty is a short-lived skrull tyranny.” comes to mind.

    heh heh

  3. Thank-you Annie. You’re very kind and so I hereby take back everything I said about Assistant Editor’s Month, even though that experiment in ironic distance from the Marvel Universe pretty much ruined my 1981. Or 1982. And, it must be said, large portions of my life thereafter. But that’s not entirely your fault.

    We also need to distinguish between some exotic forms of Resistance Irony and the entirely reactionary discourse of Absolutist Sarcasm. Someone else can do that. Don’t look at me.

    Anyway, dear friends, remember that Play-Doh becomes brittle, dry and permanently trapped in solidity if it spends more than an hour removed from its bespoke, hermetically sealed, Cave-Cocoon. So Play-Doh might counter Josh’s suggestion — we shouldn’t fear the void, or entropy. Quite the opposite — we can achieve eternal plasticity as long as we remain hidden, sealed away in the Void-Cocoon, enjoying a theoretically perfect agency that presents only one problem: the potential for infinite shapeshiftery is entirely negated by the limited spatial dimensions of the Play-Doh pot and the fact that no-one can see you, or interact with you in any way. A stark choice: to participate in the word ensures an eternal prison of brittle solidity. Complete isolation and total spatial stricture maintains a capacity for eternal plasticity and agency, but this capacity disappears the moment that the lid is opened, as your plasticity becomes absorbed into the stultifying open space of Brittle Externality.

    I have more to say, but its getting late, and no-one is going to be remotely interested, apart from the manufacturers of Play-Doh, who will undoubtedly monitor the web for references to their product and may find this discussion some kind of a diversion from their primary anxiety (which is an entirely legitimate concern about the endless peer-to-peer exchange of recipes for homemade Play-Doh.) And that’s not remotely funny if your livelihood depends on the commercial success of Play-Doh. But I will save my rant against the obscene pestilence of Smug Bourgeois Domestic Ingenuity Syndrome for another time.

  4. Thanks Annalee — I appreciate your support in spreading THE MOST IMPORTANT REVELATION OF ALL TIME. (Of course this kind of comment would be consistent with current Skrull Hegemonic Absorption techniques. But I’m not accusing you of being a Skrull. Possibly a human FIfth Columnist. But not an actual Skrull. Probably.) Let’s leave at that for the moment, shall we?

  5. Greg, it is only because you are spreading THE MOST IMPORTANT REVELATION OF ALL TIME in the main post that you are able to relegate to a mere comment the resolution to one of the most enduring and vexing problems in social theory — the structuralism/agency/praxis issue! Giddens, Foucault, Bourdieu, have all tried with moderate success to adequately limn a theory of individual agency within webs of structural forces. But (what will surely be called) the Rowland Play-doh Exemplum eclipses them all! But how will it be cited in academic papers for years to come? Disciples want to know.

  6. Thanks Tor. No biggie. I tend to find a resolution to an enduring and vexing problem in social theory pretty much every day. It’s usually by accident. I have a rare form of Fixated Hegelian Dyspraxia that can make me blurt out a resolution to an enduring and vexing problem in social theory without meaning to. It can be rather embarrassing at times. It often happens in KFC Restaurants. I think Col Sanders may be a trigger. Last week I was at the counter, ordering a 12 piece bargain bucket and a few sides (not coleslaw, obviously).but inadvertently devised a means of resolving Weber’s Antipositivism and Hume’s Empiricism via a neo-Hegelian dialectic that was framed by a Lego instruction leaflet.
    I won’t try and explain it now, because it’s very hard to understand.
    I have around 200 of these solutions, should anybody wish to publish them. Each resolution to an enduring and vexing problem in philosophy or theory is funneled through the meaning vortex of a contemporary, or fondly remembered children’s toy. That’s the key bit. It’s not been done before. And I could happily move some dialectics around if Hasbro paid for some product placemat in a piece on that resolves Kant’s Categorical Imperative and Ontological Arguments for the Existence of God. ‘My Littlest Petshop’ has long been regarded as Hasbro’s best offering in terms of re-figuring the great thinkers of the Enlightenment in the context of wishing things were real (that’s basically ontology isn’t it.)

    I believe that you are only too aware of how my Play_doh thinking can be effectively attributed to me. I wall answer if you really can’t figure it out.

  7. I figured out the secret of your towering genius. On the way to drop the kids off at camp in Cambridge yesterday, I passed a building along the Charles River with a sign out front — “Rowland Institute at Harvard”. It’s no wonder you can unravel enduring and vexing problems with such facility with your own preternatural abilities PLUS a team of research fellows at your beck and call. Skrulls of the world beware.

  8. So, my dear Tor, you were driving along the “Road” and just happened to see “The Rowland Institute at Harvard.” OF course there’s nothing strange about that. Nothing that should concern you at all.

    One could say the same of the children who attend the Institution. They are a very sweet bunch of kids. They’re into all the latest crazes, like observing a superfluid quantum interference in multiple-turn reciprocal geometry and messing around with the weak, non-covalent interactions between and within biological molecules (e.g. base-pairing in nucleic acids, receptor-ligand bonding, protein folding, etc.), and the coupling of these interactions to mechanical force. That’s kids for you. They say the funniest things!

    One of my colleagues calls the Rowland Institute as “The Stupid School for Stupid Babies.” I agree that this comment lacks a certain comedic subtlety, but it’s not a bad try for someone who is a Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing. MODOK really want to expand his repertoire, and has a bit of a chip on his shoulder about being a giant head who has been designed only for killing. Of course, it doesn’t really help that Modok is not in possession of any shoulders, and therefore has nowhere to place a chip.

    I was disappointed that you weren’t aware of the standard academic protocols that attribute authorship with regard to new Play-Doh related philosophical discoveries.
    On one of the key pages, a hole replace each of the letter O’s’ When this turned it quickly becomes apparent that it is actually a piece of heavily weighted plastic, around two inches thick, disguised to look like a book page. It is in fact largely hollow, and contains pink Play-Doh. Turning the page flips a gyroscope which redistributes the weight, causing the Play-Doh to slither upwards through the ‘O’ Holes, strategically placed to indicate the author’s name — thus creating the effect generally referred to as The Pink Play-Doh Slugs of Authorial Attribution.

  9. Ok — I’ve finished laughing now. Oooooh ! all of a sudden this Rowland institute pops up. The real action is 200 stories down, beneath the cutespy pop bubble experiments the children perform. My pal MODOK calls it ‘the stupid school for stupid babies’. Considering that’s he’s a machine only designed for killing it does show something of his soft centre . I’m glad because earlier prototyes, such as Machine designed Only for Bon Mots and Equivical Epigrams was atomised within 10 seconds , despite strong interest from the CIA.

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