Imaginary Interviews

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  2. Imaginary Interviews by William Dean Howells
  3. Shirley’s Shorts (5) — Imaginary Interview Conversations
  4. Shirley’s Shorts (5) — Imaginary Interview Conversations

A little stony-faced and pale Socrates comes nevertheless to the Pressenza interview with his reputation as one of the most important founders of Western philosophy intact. We live in times that impose strong contradictions on people, so that sometimes it is very difficult to think, feel and act in the same direction. What is your view on this incoherence that many have come to accept as just the way things are? A kind of normalisation of contradiction? It would be better for me… that multitudes of men should disagree with me rather than that I, being one, should be out of harmony with myself.

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Do you think the direction in life people choose can have any influence on their possibilities of transcendence? He who has lived as a true philosopher has reason to be of good cheer when he is about to die, and that after death he may hope to receive the greatest good in the other world. As we see the big lies that are being told to people by politicians and those who describe this violent and dehumanising system as the only possible, what can you say about the consequences of such actions, not just to the people who are being lied to, but to those who concoct this make-believe scenario?

False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil. To not speak well is not only sinful by itself, but lets evil intrude into the soul. When you heard that the Oracle of Delphi told one of your friends that you are the wisest man in Athens, you responded by interviewing those considered wise in order to prove the Oracle wrong. You found then they believed they had knowledge but had very little.

You admitted then you may be the wisest because you alone were prepared to admit your own ignorance. How is for you wisdom related to ethics? I myself know nothing, except just a little, enough to extract an argument from another man who is wise and to receive it fairly. I know but little of the world below, I do not suppose that I know: You have been accused of impiety and corrupting the young with your philosophical enquiry. This is a charge frequently brought against those who question injustice and violence and realise a new generation is ready to chose a more humanising direction.

Is it worth taking the risk of being at the receiving end of such accusations? Either I do not corrupt them, or I corrupt them unintentionally, so that on either view of the case you lie. If my offense is unintentional, the law has no cognizance of unintentional offenses; you ought to have taken me privately, and warned and admonished me; for if I had been better advised, I should have left off doing what I only did unintentionally — no doubt I should; whereas you hated to converse with me or teach me, but you indicted me in this court, which is the place not of instruction, but of punishment.

And are you not ashamed, Socrates, of a course of life which is likely to bring you to an untimely end?

Imaginary Interviews by William Dean Howells

To him I may fairly answer: There you are mistaken: There he ought to remain in the hour of danger; he should not think of death or of anything, but of disgrace. I do nothing but go about persuading you all, old and young alike, not to take thought for your persons or your properties, but and chiefly to care about the greatest improvement of the soul. I tell you that virtue is not given by money, but that from virtue comes money and every other good of man, public as well as private.

This is my teaching, and if this is the doctrine which corrupts the youth, I am a mischievous person. It has landed you into so much trouble, is it worth it? Yes, Socrates, but cannot you hold your tongue, and then you may go into a foreign city, and no one will interfere with you?

Shirley’s Shorts (5) — Imaginary Interview Conversations

Now I have great difficulty in making you understand my answer to this. I was always very obedient to them — after all, my father was the head of the household. But then Hamlet came to see me, and he seemed just, like, completely stricken. He was all pale and disheveled and kept saying weird things.


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He made me feel like Hamlet would hardly even notice if I stopped talking to him, and now he was clearly having issues. When my dad sent me to talk to Hamlet, I thought maybe I could cheer him up, that we could work things out. She sighs, and irritation sparks in her eyes. But then Hamlet was sooo rude.

Like, he was such a poisonous hunch-backed toad. I guess I have a lot of anger about this still. But Hamlet said some really cruel things. He basically called me a her voice drops to a whisper whore. That Shakespeare guy is super inappropriate sometimes. And, another time, Laertes made this whole speech about virtue and kept going on and on about flowers — it was actually kind of disgusting.

Shirley’s Shorts (5) — Imaginary Interview Conversations

I never did anything wrong, really, and I always just wanted to please everyone… She trails off, and seems agitated. Anyway, Hamlet kept saying awful, crude things to me, even during a play. I mean, how well can you really know someone? Ophelia straightens in the chair, twisting her fingers together so hard that her knuckles look white.

And then he murdered my father! Not worth killing over. Hamlet ran him through with a sword without even checking behind the curtain to see who it was! What a horrible, stupid man. It was very upsetting to me. I felt quite mad with grief. Like, I was so crazy that I wandered around singing these crude songs and handing out flowers. I thought about jumping into the river. She looks very sad.

My brother died too, but first he and Hamlet forgave each other. Did you know that, after I died, he went on and on about how much he loved me? I was dead , and he still made it about him! You know, I think my biggest regret is that I had no agency at all. Like Juliet — she died too, but at least she tried to take charge of her future. She made plans, even if they went wrong.

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Shakespeare could have done better, you know? Over the weekend, I was waiting in line at a local store, when I looked across the room and spotted a familiar face. A warm little flip of excitement went through me. I know her , I thought excitedly. Anyway, it was a long line, so I had plenty of time to think about Medusa. My old friend Medusa, I guess.

But, on the bright side, it has spawned a new occasional recurring topic for my blog: Athena and I do have a very complicated history. You might say our disagreements are legendary! But Poseidon is a spoiled god, you know? Look at what happened to poor Daphne. I was too young and beautiful. I look completely different now, obviously. I had soft golden hair and nice clear skin.

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My eyes were green. I was a bit vain about them, even back then.


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The snake-hair was quite difficult to get used to. I imagine the fact that your gaze turned people to stone must have been the worst of the new changes.