When the Athenian jury found Socrates guilty of heresy and corrupting the minds of their city’s youth, they followed their judicial custom by allowing both the prosecutors and the defendant to propose a penalty after which the jury would vote between them. Those who brought the charges before the court were eager to be rid of Socrates forever, and therefore proposed that the city sentence him to death. Socrates, who thought the charges against him to be bogus, saw himself not as a corruptor but as benefactor, committed to fulfilling what he took to be his divinely-commanded duty to implore his fellow Athenians to care more for their characters than for their material gain; to be more concerned with what provides real happiness than with what promises momentary pleasure. And so as “penalty” for pursuing his noble service to the city, Socrates proposed that Athens “maintain” him by providing for his meals and other needs just as it was their tradition to do for their Olympic champions. If they did this, Socrates reasoned, he could devote even more time to teaching his fellow citizens that virtue and wisdom are the riches that make life worth living. Three days later, by order of the Athenian court, Socrates drank a cup of poison and died.
We at the Gotham Philosophical Society trust that our fellow New Yorkers possess a greater understanding of their own best interest as well as a keener sense of what is truly valuable than those poor Athenians whose folly history has never forgotten. This is why we ask you to help us maintain our mission to use the critical rigor and analytical imagination of philosophical thought to transform the civil, political, and educational institutions of New York City.
Whether it is from conducting probing conversations that allow New Yorkers to see the profound philosophical possibilities that lie behind workaday assumptions; writing stimulating thought pieces that present them with new ways to see their city and their roles within it; or creating innovative educational opportunities that approach the city’s youth as maturing human beings rather than as future members of the labor market, our philosophers get hungry. They also need their MetroCards refilled periodically if they hope to meet their fellow New Yorkers where they are. With your generous support, we can devote even more of our resources to this vital work and together we can make our city rich in the things that matter most.
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