Socrates: Niccolò, you scared me, I almost stepped on you. What are you doing in these leaves?
Niccolò: I sunbath and I felt asleep. I didn’t hear you, you’re lucky I didn’t bite. You know I hate being disturbed.
Socrates: yes, you are known for that but tell me, before the Fall, didn’t you like to walk around and chat with all the creatures. Why did you lose your temper with Eve instead of doing everything you could to keep the peace?
Niccolò: I also lost my legs and my ability to speak all languages! She was so witless, pure, virgin, innocent, constantly wanting to play with me, it wasn’t fun. I wanted to teach her more about nature.
Socrates: she wanted to play with you? What was Adam saying?
Niccolò: he didn’t mind. He was as foolish as she was, always walking around naked and smug. They must have been bored to death these two, but there was nothing to do in the garden. It was hell. I guess that’s why she used to come and bother me.
Socrates: why you?
Niccolò: I was cheerful, erudite, attractive. I knew how to charm with my words. She told me that I was giving her original ideas and that I presented a conception of the world very different from that which God proposed.
Socrates: didn’t you have anything else to offer than an apple?
Niccolò: it was freedom, knowledge, sexuality. At the time, I thought it would be interesting for them. They would become autonomous and responsible. I told her that if she persuaded Adam to eat it with her, they would move to another world and would not be bored again.
Socrates: you were right on this point, but all the other creatures who had asked for nothing suffered from it. Don’t you think it would have been better to encourage them to follow the laws of paradise -you could have enforced these laws yourself if needed as you had a position of authority, and take care of their bodies through exercises? It would have kept them obedient and busy and it would have insured peace for all.
Niccolò: I should have kept them in their ignorance, that’s true. I realized too late that the one who knows should offer activities without consequences to distract those who do not know, and punish them if they try to go their own way. This avoids troubles. I would thus have remained the greatest and most cunning in the garden.
Socrates: dear Niccolò, don’t make me say what I didn’t say. Our rulers must be wise, modest, temperate and just. They must organize society according to levels where everyone finds their place and contributes to the common good. Their place can be in the army, the industry or, for the brightest of them, the government, but it should remain their choice. So it is not a question of deceiving citizens, only of meeting their needs and avoiding dissent.
Niccolò: dear Socrates, we agree on two points even if our methods would differ: maintaining peace in communities allows everyone to prosper, and a police is needed to make sure everyone obey. But as far as I am concerned, I think a leader cannot be moral because he will not be obeyed, feared or respected. It is for this reason that God lost control of His creation. He relied too much on the kindness of humans.
Socrates: and on the respect that the serpent owed Him for having created him! You should not have wanted to take His place and change what He had organized.
Niccolò: I thought I was doing the right thing by telling the truth and I was rightly punished. Now I have to drag myself to ground level and no one likes me. It’s not funny.
Socrates: do you regret?
Niccolò: yes. I am left alone but I feel lonly.
Want to think a a little more? See The Prince where Machiavelli explains why a prince cannot be moral.
Want to help improve these dialogues? Write your comments and questions below.
Want to know more about the tastes of Socrates and Niccolò? Their favorite books are in the domain library.