This Shit Ain't Easy
Grandmaster Flash, who perfected the craft of cuttin' n' scratchin' and who united DJ-ing with MC-ing to take hip hop to a higher level, drops this gem on us: “hip hop is the only genre of music that allows us to talk about almost anything … It's highly controversial, but that's the way the game is.”1 The same thing can be said about philosophy. It allows us to reflect on and argue about almost anything, and it too is highly controversial. As a matter of fact, philosophy was so controversial in ancient Athens that its most influential philosopher, Socrates, caught a case for “corrupting the youth” with it and was sent to death row for droppin' science on the streets. Socrates's intricate arguments, not unlike the much sweated lyrical technique of Rakim, frustrated his interlocutors, often tying them up in knots before they were able to reach a higher state of enlightenment. And since the haterz couldn't understand him and the young headz couldn't get enough of him, the government smoked the greatest philosopher of his time. Yeah, that's the way the game is!
Philosophy is an ancient discipline devoted to the pursuit of wisdom. But how should we pursue it? Well, like Notorious B.I.G., Supernatural, and Mos Def, Socrates let his knowledge flow straight from his dome in mental battles with lesser minds. He engineered the pursuit of wisdom by asking people about the grounds of their beliefs and then dropped a strategic series of probing questions on them to test the validity of their answers. This Socratic elenchus, or cross-examination freestyle as it came to be known, suggests that true wisdom about God, love, virtue, truth, justice, or whatever, is best pursued by modifying one's beliefs in response to interrogation and counterexamples. Fans of hip hop will peep the fact that Socrates's steelo
1 Alan Light, ed, The Vibe History of Hip Hop (New York: Vibe Ventures, 1999),