Socratic Questioning, Stoicism and a Return to Virtue Ethics
Why did an angry mob storm the U.S. Capitol Building on 6th January? Perhaps simply because it seemed to them like the right thing to do. In their own imagination, they were acting quite righteously, and felt completely justified in doing things that looked to the rest of the world like madness, and a form of insurrection.
On hearing the initial news that the building had been breached, the crowd protesting outside cheered loudly. One woman turned to a reporter and said excitedly: “We should all go in, get them, and teach them a lesson.” Indeed, hot tempers can turn many people into budding educationalists. Take moral confusion, stir in self-righteous anger, and what you end up with, though, is a recipe for all sorts of violence.
A few hours earlier, the crowd had been marching along Pennsylvania Avenue, past the statue of Benjamin Franklin that stands outside what’s currently the Trump International Hotel. Ben Franklin’s reflective, philosophical attitude toward his own values stands in contrast to the brash confidence of the angry mob. They believed an outburst of violence would teach their political enemies a lesson. He believed the republic would flourish only if the freedoms secured by The Constitution could be lived with wisdom and virtue. Franklin therefore took the matter of improving his own character extremely seriously.