Who are you - Galileo or Socrates?

Both were brilliant men so far ahead of everyone else they were told to shut up or die. One chose life, one chose death. Don’t turn this into an argument over the details and differences in their situations. Instead, focus on the similiarities. Who made the “right” choice?

Unfortunately, the details are very relevant. By choosing death, Socrates was making a point. Actually, he (supposedly) actively sought a death sentence during his trial while pretending not doing so.

On the other hand, the death of Galileo would have served no purpose.

Unfortunatly, it’s impossible to judge each man without looking at their circumstances. Galileo was stumping for an already discredited system when the Curch theatened him. He then went on to do his best work, establishing a kinematic system Newton would build upon. Socrates was killed for failing to suuport the dicatotorship. But he was old, and had little left to live for.

ETA: It’s an interesting general pont. I’ll have to think about it more.

Another relevant detail is that Socrates’ death was by hemlock, a relatively painless end, and surrounded by friends and family, while Galileo’s involved torture by some folks who knew what they were doing. (Ever seen a strappado? Damn.)

Also, Galileo got a fairly nice compensation package as well. He was deeply in debt and hounded by creditors, but when he agreed that the world didn’t move after all he was basically kept in a comfortable house arrest and his creditors were paid or else told what to go do with themselves; a bit like Pentangeli’s deal on the military base in GODFATHER 2.

So, there-again, the details are unfortunately too interwoven.

Now, if the option were recantation of what I know to be true OR a peaceful death, and I felt I’d lived my life, I might well choose the peaceful death.

Hopefully I’ll never have to make that choice, of course, and I’ll still do the captors the courtesy of at least listening to what kind dental insurance and or travel discounts they offer as part of their alternative plan.


Why don’t you flip over the tortoise?

My view of the question is strongly colored by the impression of Socrates that I.F. Stone presented in The Trial of Socrates. Basically, he made the case that Socrates was the very prototype of the left-wing crank, who chose martyrdom/ suicide-by-execution to vindicate his views.

Suggestion for OP: take out either Socrates or Galileo, one or the other, since the circumstances were so different, and ask “You’re Galileo/Socrates- the rack/hemlock, or the truth?”

Anyone else always think of Steve Martin when the Death of Socrates is mentioned? (“Socrates, what is the meaning of life? Socrates, is there a God? Not one time did anyone ever ask ‘Socrates, did you know hemlock is poisonous?’”)

No, I keep thinking of Socrates’ last words: “I drank what? :eek:”

Galileo also had a daughter who loved him deeply and took a great interest in his work, and who would have been utterly wrecked to see her father executed as a heretic. It’s speculation, of course, but he may have been thinking at least partly of her when he chose to live.

Socrates, by contrast, had a small and irritably toothy lizard clinging to the back of his scrotum as his sole confidante and life companion.