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Socrates, Van Gogh and the challenge of the New

People with new ideas often seem to get a rough time. Read on to find out about two of the greatest creative minds in history, one a Philosopher and one an Artist, neither or whom had the happiest life or death.

Photo by paper_doll

The Sad Story of Socrates…

Nowadays, Socrates is regarded by many as one of history’s great thinkers. He’s the kind of guy people mention along with Einstein and Gandhi when asked ‘Which famous people would you like to meet?’ (Actually, maybe that’s just me!) – Unfortunately, the Philosopher wasn’t so popular in his own lifetime.

Socrates lived in Athens in Ancient Greece from circa. 469 – 399 BC. We don’t know too much about his life, Socrates didn’t write any books so all the ‘facts’ about him have been pieced together from extracts from others, especially his followers Plato and Xenophon. Socrates sought to teach others by discussing ideas with them. His technique, which has become known as the Socratic Method, involved pretending to be ignorant and asking people questions – In this way, Socrates demonstrated the illogic and flaws in others’ arguments. So basically, Socrates spent his days making other people look stupid – Not a good way to become popular (unless maybe you’re Simon Cowell!).

Photo by crayfish

Plato described Socrates as the ‘Gadfly’ of Athenian society. This is because, like a Gadfly which stings, Socrates stung people into action and irritation with his philosophical approach. He made the people he talked to look foolish by demonstrating the mistakes in their arguments – And it didn’t help that many of these people were very powerful within the State. Socrates also made anti-Athenian remarks and openly praised Athens’ arch rival, Sparta – Considering he was a Philosopher, doesn’t sound like very clever thinking does it! People grew more and more annoyed by Socrates and they began to make accusations against him. Socrates was put on trial for corrupting the minds of the youth and not believing in the Gods of the State. Inevitably, he was found guilty because the people who judged his fate were also those he had irritated so much. He was sentenced to death by drinking Hemlock. And all because of his different ideas!

Photo by jabuka

Van Gogh’s life wasn’t picture perfect either…

Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings sell for millions today – More precisely, his ‘Portrait of Dr. Gachet’ sold for 82.5 million dollars in 1990! But unfortunately, Vincent’s artworks were not as popular in his own time – His expressionistic paintings were completely different to the bright Impressionistic artworks which were in fashion – It’s said that he only sold one painting in his whole life (although this claim has been disputed).

Born in 1853 in the Netherlands, Van Gogh died in 1890, aged only 37. And in those 37 years, Van Gogh had some pretty bad experiences. As well as not being very successful as an artist, Vincent suffered from bouts of depression and spent time in a mental asylum. In one of these periods of severe frustration and anger, Van Gogh cut off part of his own ear lobe – He then wrapped it in paper and gave it to a prostitute. Then, one day Van Gogh was so unhappy that he committed suicide by going out into a field and shooting himself in the chest. Such a terrible waste of talent – If only he’d known of the fame to come.

“La tristesse durera toujours” (the sadness will last forever) – Van Gogh’s alleged last words

Photo by kdstevens

So doing things differently AND being popular in your own time isn’t easy – Can you think of any other people who were unfairly persecuted for their ideas, theories, philosophies or art? Post them in the comments section below!

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written by tomas_bates

1 comment

  1. fergiesilva

    fergiesilva

    actually, Van Gogh sent his ear to Paul Gauguin ... ewww

    over 3 years ago · report as spam

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This is the original article written in: English. It is also available in: Deutsch, Italiano & Spanish.