Who is a Man of Conscience
A man of conscience is one who discovers his purpose or mission in life. He is always in touch with his feelings and reality. Such an individual exercises dominion over his emotions. His life is a reflection of the quest of his chosen path and strives to honor the commitments he puts to pursue his chosen path of life, no matter the cost.
Both Socrates and Maximus were men of conscience who respected their life principles despite the consequences.
Socrates and the Apology
In the dialogue, Apology, Socrates’ unwavering devotion to the truth is quite lucid (Leibowitz 8-9). He made it a personal responsibility to lecture the citizens across the city of Athens about the need to examine their lives. This isbecause of his pious belief that an unexamined life is not worth living. The dialogue is a speech given in defense of charges brought against him by the state.
The charges that carried a capital punishment were those of corrupting the people and undermining state religion. Socrates lobbies for the need of the citizens to develop the habit of interrogating themselves and their beliefs. His goal was to ensure individuals attain genuine knowledge through self-interrogation.
According to him, individuals must be free thinkers and not those who believe in anything without raising a question, thus, he was wiser for the same reason (Reeve 33). That is why he made it a personal duty to interrogate the apparent ‘wise’ men to expose their ignorance and erroneous wisdom. As a result, he receives lots of admiration among the youth but intense abhorrence from the government and individuals he ashamed.
Socrates would not stop at anything since even after his conviction for the ‘crimes’ for which he was charged; he refused to give up his pursuit of the quest for truth in all spheres of life. He declined to be exiled from his country or be committed to silence (Kemerling). Instead, he insisted that for a meaningful human life to be attained, public discourses on significant matters bordering life and virtues are not only necessary but also mandatory.
Most people remember Socrates for his famous his famous quote, ‘’the unexamined life is not worth living’’ (Kemerling). He was ready to give up his life but not his philosophical quest. Furthermore, not even his death sentence moved him an inch away from his philosophical inquiries.
Socrates remained steadfast and fully committed to his chosen path, and not even the threat of to his life deterred him. He did not regret having decided to stay faithful to his beliefs.
Maximus and Gladiator
Maximus character traits, as portrayed in the film Gladiator, have a close resemblance to those of Socrates. Just like Socrates, Maximus had his share of struggles with moral self-beliefs. The cosmological foundations as well as Stoicism’s ethical ideals informed the struggles with his conscience.
Cosmologically, the Stoics believed that all their actions in life also affected them in death. Accordingly, they believed in another life after passing. Some of the statements made by Maximus clearly demonstrate this.
For example, he says, “What we do in life goes an eternity.” Also, the Stoics preferred to leave behind a positive legacy after death. That explains why Marcus asks Maximus to take over as emperor of Rome after he is dead since he wanted people to remember him for good reasons now that he was dying. The Stoics also believed in reincarnation. This explains why Maximus swears to revenge in life or death the humiliation he receives when he meets Commodious face to face.
It was a common belief among the Stoics that they should not display emotions even when faced with defeat. They do not express emotions when beaten in the fight for freedom. Additionally, true Stoics were known to be devotional, courageous, wise, and just.
There is a clear illustration of these principles when Commodious kills his father. He reminds Maximus that they both espoused Stoic’s beliefs. Real Stoics also believed in acceptance of one’s fate. When Maximus and Commodious fight to the death, the former says that death smiles at them, and all they can do is smile back. This indicates that he had accepted his imminent fate, which was death.
Maximus remains true to his conscience and the ideas of the Stoics to the end of the film. He fights to death marking his ‘Maximus’ role in the movie. He accepts his fate by agreeing to die when he realizes that there is no way out.
Concisely, both Socrates and Maximus were men of conscience. No amount of intimidations or frustrating situations could derail them from their life principles.
However, Socrates postulates appeal more to my taste. He was a freethinkerwho believed in what he knew was best for the society. Instead of letting the society define him, he tried to change it. Despite the amount of pressure and threatening circumstances, he stood by his philosophical principles. On the other hand, Maximus merely live up to the ideals of his Roman society.