Xenophon, Memorabilia I 2.62, tr. Amy Bonnette:
In my [Xenophon’s] opinion, Socrates – since this was the sort he was – deserved honor from the city rather than death. One would find this out by examining the matter also according to the laws. For, according to the laws, the penalty is death if someone is visibly stealing or taking clothes or purse-snatching or breaking into a home or selling free people into slavery or robbing temples. But he above all human beings refrained from these things.
I don’t know how to fit a comment on this passage into the dissertation just yet, so I want to comment here and figure it out later. I’ve been telling friends the last couple of days that Gotham, the world Batman is set in, is the question of what good wealth is. Nearly everyone in Gotham just wants money for money’s sake. What sets Bruce Wayne apart is that, having wealth, he wants the city to be a better place; the super villains are set apart in that they reject money as debased for the most part – one wonders if that’s why they’re considered “insane,” that they value other things. Notably absent from the Watchmen movie was the question of wealth, the question of “what’s worth having.”
Can any philosophic discussion occur with the question of value absent? If what is valued is presupposed, is that philosophic? Moralistic? None of the above?
In any case – “stealing” moves away from the visible to the covered (“stealing clothes,” “purse-snatching”). Again, we recall “uncovering” is alethea, the Greek word for truth. The purse conceals its contents completely, but more than likely contains wealth. Then there is “breaking into a home,” “selling free people into slavery,” and “robbing temples,” all of which presuppose violence against another’s property, citizenship itself, and finally the gods. All of these things are punishable by death.
We can see why Xenophon has organized this list the way he has: reasoning is implicit in the first half of the list; the seemingly less consequential crimes are statements of value, and perhaps what is most valuable is invisible, but reached for from the visible.
The more consequential crimes, the latter half of the list, are more public problems. “Breaking into a home” – violence against private property – is used by Montesquieu as an “alarm system” for our nonclassical order; even dumb people can tell something’s wrong with the government when it is taking away land and money left and right. But if the first half of the list ended with the question of wealth and the intellect, the second half – after a brief flirtation with the theme of freedom – ends with the question of wealth and piety. There is a lack of parallelism here: do freedom and visibility really coincide as themes? Something is strange about how this list moves, or ties together. As it primarily concerns wealth and freedom, two ideas which can contradict sharply, then given that one devotes oneself to one’s true wealth, one wonders if this tension can be escaped.