TEACHER: A few are martyrs and geniuses.
SOCRATES: What about those who go with the crowd. Are they all fools?
TEACHER: Certainly not.
SOCRATES: Are they all wise men?
TEACHER: Obviously not.
SOCRATES: Then to go with the crowd or against it is in itself no sign of wisdom or folly?
TEACHER: But we started out to see whether a man should respect or defy the crowd.
SOCRATES: And we have concluded that the majority is entitled to no particular respect. And that it is entitled to no particular disrespect. And that wise men may go with it. And that wise men may defy it. And that fools go with it. And that fools defy it. Is your question not answered?
TEACHER: How is it answered?
SOCRATES: Why, by saying that the rebellion of a wise man is wise and that the rebellion of a fool is foolish.
TEACHER: I am not sure whether this is a paradox or a truism.
SOCRATES: It is neither. Whether a man shall conform or rebel is largely an accident of his temperament and his circumstances. But whether in his rebellion or conformity a man is wise or foolish, whether he knows what he is doing and why, and where he is going and how fast, and what the consequences are, what are the risks and the costs, what lies behind and ahead and in between-- those are the questions on which everything depends.
TEACHER: Is there then no rule of conduct in these matters?
SOCRATES: Your Washington was willing to shed blood in order to defy the constituted authorities. Your Lincoln was willing to shed blood to uphold the constituted authorities. They have both been justified. There can be no rule of conduct. That which brave men do with wisdom lesser men make rules to justify.
NEVER before in history has mankind been so much of two minds, so divided into two camps, as it is today. Religions have traditionally been allied with ideas of the supernatural, and often have been based upon explicit beliefs about it. Today there are many who hold that nothing worthy of being called religious is possible apart from the supernatural. Those who hold this belief differ in many respects. They range from those who accept the dogmas and sacraments of the Greek and Roman Catholic church as the only sure means of access to the supernatural to the theist or mild deist. Between them are the many Protestant denominations who think the Scriptures, aided by a pure conscience, are adequate avenues to supernatural truth and power. But they agree in one point: the necessity for a Supernatural Being and for an immortality that is beyond the power of nature.
The opposed group consists of those who think the advance of culture and science has completely discredited the
From John Dewey, A Common Faith ( New Haven, Yale University Press, 1934), pp. 1-28. Reprinted by permission of Yale University Press.