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Introduction to Philosophy, Spring 2003; J. Wattles

First question set: launching a dialogue between Plato and Frantz Fanon


Consider Socrates' argument in the Crito (as here reconstructed).

0.  All our decisions must be governed by truth, not popular opinion.

We will seek what is right, not for the satisfaction of the body, but for the welfare of the soul.

1.  We are committed to living well, beautifully, justly.

2.  We must never do wrong (injustice).

3.  We must never do wrong even in return for wrong.

4.  To do harm to another, even in response to harm done to us, is wrong.

5.  To escape from prison tears the city’s fabric of law and thus harms the city.

6.  If we as adults choose to continue living in the city that has brought us some benefits, whose benefits we continue to enjoy, and whose laws we do not attempt to change, then there is an unspoken agreement or social contract that we must not betray.

7.  To escape from prison is to break such an agreement.

8.  To escape from prison is wrong.


Do you agree?  If not, where is the first place in the argument where you see a problem in S’s argument.  Explain your disagreement.  Write your answers in the space available--a few sentences per question.


If you have other disagreements or reasons to support Socrates’ reasoning, explain them here.


How might Fanon criticize Plato?

Frantz Fanon writes during the Algerian war of liberation against the French (late 1950s-early 1960s).  Think of the American colonies’ war of independence.  Think of the breakup of the Soviet empire, 1989-1991. 

On the basis of the Crito can you predict to any extent what Plato might say about a revolution?

            Of the four types of African philosophy mentioned thus far, which type does Fanon represent?


Describe the two “species” of men and women that Fanon distinguishes? 


How does the native discover his humanity, and what results from that discovery? 


What do you find in the selection from Fanon that supports revolutionary violence?

In The Wretched of the Earth, a few pages beyond the selection in our text, Fanon writes,


The problem of truth ought also to be considered.  In every age, among the people, truth is the property of the national cause.  No absolute verity, no discourse on the purity of the soulcan shake this position.  The native replies to the living lie of the colonial situation by an equal falsehood.  His dealings with his fellow-nationals are open; they are strained and incomprehensible with regard to the settlers.  Truth is that which hurries on the break-up of the colonialist regime; it is that which promotes the emergence of the nation; it is all that protects the natives,and ruins the foreigners.  In this colonialist context there is no truthful behavior: and the good is quite simply that which is evil for “them.”


How might Plato comment on this passage?