Imagine that John Kerry is transported back in time to the age of Socrates. By chance they meet and we overhear their conversation which might go like this:
KERRIUS: Hail, Socrates! what brings you to the steps of this national monument?
SOCRATES: I have come to pay homage to the great leaders and heroes of our past. They are the ones that have allowed us to live in freedom and have given us the tools for ever increasing prosperity. And what, dear Kerrius, brings you to these steps?
KERRIUS: I have come to present my case to the populus. I find the nation in a deep quagmire with the war in Persia. Furthermore, we have lost the moral high ground and respect of other nations.
SOCRATES: And who do you find is responsible for this state of affairs. It must be someone strange to us and intent on doing us harm.
KERRIUS: You will think me mad when I tell you. Our very own Commander in Chief - Bushicles is the culprit.
SOCRATES: By the powers, Kerrius, how little does the common herd know of the nature of right and truth. A man must be an extraordinary man, and have made great strides in wisdom, before he could have seen his way to bring such an accusation.
KERRIUS: Indeed, Socrates, he must.
SOCRATES: I am surprised that you would bring such charges against the very person who has sworn to defend us. If the cause of our predicament were our enemies I would understand.
KERRIUS: I am amused, Socrates, at your making a distinction between one who is one of us and one who is our enemy, for surely the pollution is the same in either case.
SOCRATES: Good heavens, Kerrius, and is your knowledge of things moral and immoral so very exact, that, supposing the circumstances to be as you state them, you are not afraid lest you too may be doing an immoral thing in bringing such an accusation against our Commander in Chief?
KERRIUS: The best of Kerrius, and that which distinguishes him, Socrates, from other men, is his exact knowledge of all such matters. What should I be good for without it?
SOCRATES: Rare friend, I think that I cannot do better than to become your disciple. I adjure you to tell me the nature of morality and immorality, which you say you know so well.
KERRIUS: Morality is doing as I am doing, that is to say, prosecuting our Commander in Chief who is guilty of immorality - whether he be your father, mother, or Commander in Chief - that makes no difference. As proof of the morality of my action we need only look at the position taken by other liberals.
SOCRATES: Remember, dear friend, that I did not ask you to give me two or three examples of morality, but to explain the general idea which makes all moral things to be moral.
KERRIUS: I remember.
SOCRATES: Tell me what is the nature of this idea, and then I shall have a standard to which I may look, and by which I may measure actions, whether yours or those of anyone else. Then I shall be able to say that such and such an action is moral, such another immoral.
KERRIUS: I will tell you, if you like.
SOCRATES: I should very much like.
KERRIUS: Morality, then, is that which is loved by the liberals, and immorality is that which is not loved by them.
SOCRATES: Very good, Kerrius; you have now given me the sort of answer which I wanted. But whether what you say is true or not I cannot as yet tell, although I make no doubt that you will prove the truth of your words.
KERRIUS: Of course.
SOCRATES: Tell me, Kerrius, do the liberals have enmities and disagreements amongst themselves?
KERRIUS: Yes, I believe they do.
SOCRATES: And what kind of differences create enmity. Suppose for example that you and I, my good friend, differ about a number; do differences of this sort make enemies and set us at variance with one another? Do we not at once go to arithmatic, and put an end to them by a sum?
SOCRATES: Or suppose we differ about magnitudes, do we not quickly end the differences by measuring?
KERRIUS: Very true.
SOCRATES: And we end a controversy about heavy and light by resorting to a weighing machine?
KERRIUS: To be sure.
SOCRATES: But what differences are there which cannot be thus decided, and which therefore make us angry and set us with enmity with one another? I dare say the answer does not occur to you at the moment, and therefore I will suggest that these enmities arise when the matters of difference are the just and unjust, good and evil, moral and immoral. Are not these the points about which men differ?
KERRIUS: Yes, Socrates, the nature of the differences about which we quarrel is such as you describe.
SOCRATES: Does not every man love that which he deems noble and just and good, and hate the opposite of them?
KERRIUS: Very true.
SOCRATES: But, as you say, liberals regard the same things, some as just and others as unjust, about these they dispute and so there arise disputes and quarrels among them.
KERRIUS: Very true.
SOCRATES: Then the same things are hated by liberals and also loved by the liberals. And upon this view the same things, Kerrius, will be moral and also immoral.
KERRIUS: So I should suppose.
SOCRATES: Then, my friend, I remark with surprise that you have not answered the question which I asked. For I certainly did not ask you to tell me what action is both moral and immoral, but now it would seem that on a given moral question, what is agreeable to Daschleum may not be agreeable to Kennedius. What is agreeable to Deanus may not be agreeable to Nadercles.
KERRIUS: This, indeed, is troubling.
SOCRATES: Another point which I should first want to understand is whether morality is loved by the liberals because it is moral, or moral because it is loved by the liberals.
KERRIUS: It is loved because it is moral, not moral because it is loved.
SOCRATES: But you appear to me, Kerrius, when I ask you what is the essence of morality, to offer an attribute only, and not the essence - the attribute of being loved by the liberals. You still refuse to explain to me the nature of morality, and therefore, if you please, I will ask you not to hide your treasure, but to tell me once more what morality really is.
KERRIUS: Another time, Socrates; for I am in a hurry and must go now to present my case to the populus.
SOCRATES: Alas! my companion, and will you leave me in despair? I fear that I was not a good pupil and your wisdom will be more readily apparent to the populus who are keen on such things.