Socrates: Have we Asked the Right Question?

The UK voters were asked a simple question that, in my view, required a complicated answer. The reaction and political chaos after the referendum result underlines the fact that the wrong question was posed.
 
 
Let me take an example from the Greek philosopher Socrates. He was renowned for his wisdom but according to him, he knew absolutely nothing.
 
                        “The only thing I know, is that I know nothing.”
He spent his whole life trying to find out what he didn’t know through questioning. This is related to us in the famous dialogues written by Plato (Socrates himself didn’t write anything).
 
 
For Socrates, the most important tool for acquiring knowledge was the question.
 Consider the 2 questions below on” what is piety?” as discussed in Plato’s Euthyphro dialogue. You must give a straight answer YES or NO, like in the referendum:
 
Question 1: is an action pious because it is approved by the Gods?
Question 2: is an action approved by the Gods because it is pious?
 
 
Think about it. These 2 questions appear similar but in fact differ considerably. In the first, the piety of the action is entirely dependent upon its approval by the Gods. If the Gods are drunk they won’t react in the same way to piety as when they are sober (cynical, but you know what I mean.). In the second question, the action is intrinsically pious and therefore cannot be but approved by the Gods. The 2 questions get different answers.
 
 
What has this to do with the referendum? Well, it is my belief that the question posed on the voting ballot (“Do you want the UK to remain a member of the EU or do you want the UK to leave the EU”) is fundamentally flawed.
 
 
I couldn’t vote because I have lived outside the UK for more than 15 years. If I could have voted, of course I would have voted YES, but this would have been a real ethical problem for me because:
 
YES – I want to remain in the EU
NO – I don’t want to remain in the EU as it now is
 
 
How would someone like me vote? And I suspect that I wasn’t alone in this.



There should have been 2 questions: the first about the EU, the second about the EU as it now is.


By placing “as it now is” at the end of the second referendum question, the UK would have effectively given the EU a warning that change is necessary for the UK to stay in. Much more constructive. Or am I dreaming…
 

 

Next question?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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