In this essay, I will argue that there is no just answer or reasoning as to what makes someone a so-called “good citizen”. In both the Encyclopedia and in the Apology, the characteristics of being a good citizen is brought into light by two philosophers with basically the same philosophical views. I am here to say that neither is correct, nor particularly wrong in the sense.
In order for one citizen to be good, there ought to be a citizen who is proclaimed as “bad”.
What defines a human being as a characteristic in regard to society as a whole is based solely upon opinion. What was the society like as a whole during this time? And how does one decide that their opinion on one person is exactly how they should be defined? When you take into consideration the vast variety of personalities and beliefs that one location can have, the definition of “good” and “bad” becomes foggy. It is not 100% clear as to whether one’s opinion is correct, and one is wrong.
The judgment is solely based off of preference and opinion. What makes it morally right to judge another person and label them into a category? What decides that a person is good or bad? Is it just one action? If so, then everyone in the world will be labeled as a “bad citizen” because no one is perfect. But if everyone is bad, does that make them good? Diderot and Socrates, overall, have extremely identical views in their philosophies.
However, neither is 100% correct.
The disagreement between Diderot and Socrates is only apparent in the way such that both take in to regard the need for knowledge to be widespread. In his article entry, ‘Encyclopedia,’ Denis Diderot calls people good citizens, but bad people. He brings to point that the world, and society as a whole, is in constant turmoil. We, as human beings, feel the need to always be competing with one another. For example, in today’s more recent societal/political ego problems, we witnessed things such as the Nuclear Arms Race and the Space Race between the United States of America and the Soviet Union. Instead of sharing ideas and technologies, these aspects of the Cold War brought forth negativity in the way that both were seeking to be viewed as superior to the other. Diderot suggests that keeping your knowledge and innovations to yourself and your own country makes you a good citizen because you are helping your homeland prosper. However, striving to be superior implies your wish for others’ failures. Holding back your wisdom purposely to keep your “competition” in the dark, is what makes you a bad person because it is not the just thing to do. Overall, Diderot’s view on philosophy as a whole is that perfectionism is a doctrine. In order to achieve perfectionism, each generation must share knowledge with one another; that will be what makes humans more “free” in future generations.
Socrates is also concerned with the well-being of society as a whole and articulates this in the Apology. He presents himself to the oracle as one who contributes to the health of the city altogether because of the philosophies he preaches. In the Apology, Socrates is accused of being a Sophist. One of the arguments against him is that he “teaches others”. Yes, he does teach the youth, but Socrates (and Diderot as well) believe the widespread of knowledge is important to share with those of future generations. Socrates openly informs others about the Socratic Method; however, he never accepted money from people for his “lessons”. The fact that Socrates is well-known for being such a wise man, he is solely blessing those who wish to hear what he has to say with knowledge that will only better them in the future. He does this for free, and out of the kindness within his own heart because he truly believes in the things that he does. Overall, Socrates believed in the advancing of humanity as a whole through the need to share knowledge with one another. He claims to be a “good citizen” of Athens in the same regards to how Diderot calls one a “bad citizen” for not sharing knowledge with others in order to be the superior entity. In this way, the conceptions of philosophy articulated by both of these men are the exact same; however, it is impossible for one to claim that they are completely correct.
These two men think the way they do because of the way society was at the time. They were ahead of their time and truly fascinated with innovations, and the improvement of people as a whole. During their time, everyone basically believed in the same ideas because that is what they were told to do. It was a societal norm for citizens to not question anything, but there would always be a select few who did. Thankfully, Socrates and Diderot did not mold to fit in with society and hold back the wonders inside their mind. These two brought to light the importance of philosophy and the need for widespread knowledge.