Socrates and the Philosopher's Stone: An Enquiry into Wizarding Understanding
Athens, c. 420 BC
Professor Quirrell emerged out of nothingness into the middle of the forum. He strode up to the man surrounded by a great crowd under the roof of a Stoa. At that point, Professor Quirrell realized that he spoke a little Latin, and less Greek. Fortunately, Tom Riddle was fluent in Greek, as with many other things. The crowd gave the strange-looking, oddly pale man with the unusual head-covering angry glares as he pushed his way to the front. He faced the crowd, away from the speaker, a bearded, portly man wearing a grubby tunic. As the crowd began to heckle him, unintelligible to the professor but easily understood by Tom Riddle, he began to unwind his turban. Soon Socrates, for he was the speaker, was assailed by an unpleasant visage, a snake-nosed man with red eyes. "Ssssssocratessssss," the ugly face hissed, " you are a great philosssssssopher. Do you know the sssssssssecret to making a Philossssssssopher'sssssss Sssssssstone?"
"Ah," replied Socrates. "You have come to exactly the right person. I am the wisest man in Athens."
"Sssssssso you can help me?" Lord Voldemort replied.
"I can help you more than any other man in Athens," Socrates replied boldly, secure in his status as the wisest man in Athens.
"Ssssssso tell me, Sssssssssssocratessssssss, how do I make a Philossssssopher'ssssss Sssstone?"
"Well," said Socrates, "all I can tell you is that the only thing I know is that I know nothing."
Some moments later
"Crucio" … "Ssssssso, Plato, tell me, how do I make a Philosssssssopher'sssssss Stone?"
"Well, first, you have to answer the question, what is a stone?"
"It's a rock, a pebble, a boulder, a piece of gravel!"
"Well, those are all good synonyms for stone, but what is a stone?"
"You fool, it's like quartz, or granite, or marble, or limestone, or ssssssssandsssssstone…"
"Well, those are all examples of a stone, but what is the form of a stone? What makes a stone a stone?"
"Avada Kedavra. Well, Quirrell, this wassssss a busssssst. Nineteen Million, One Hundred and Eighty Four Thousand, Four Hundred turns should do it."
Quirrell pulled out a time-turner and started counting.
Edinburgh, c. 1770 AD. A pub.
Professor Quirrell splashed through the mud and through the door into the relative warmth of the pub. He spotted his man immediately, fat, balding, and utterly drunk. He sat down next to David Hume at the bar and was instantly confused by the bartender asking him a question in some foreign language. Quirrell had thought they spoke English in Scotland, but apparently not. Fortunately, Tom Riddle had an excellent head for accents, even completely unintelligible ones, as with many other things. The head on the back of the head took over.
"Ssssssssso, David Hume. I hear you're a philossssssssopher."
"Aye, nae tha' anybody wan's te read me work," the down-on-his-luck librarian/philosopher/lecherous drunkard replied.
"Well, anyway," Lord Voldemort pressed, working harder to filter out the obnoxious Scottish accent the man had, "you wouldn't know how to make a Philosopher's Stone, would you?"
"I can't say as I do," the philosopher replied. "I've done it before, but I have no way of knowing if it would work if I did it again."
"What on earth do you mean?"
"Well, just because it's always worked in the past is no reason to believe it will happen again in the future. Like imagine if you knew someone who walked past your house at six in the morning every day, would you expect them to keep walking past your house at six in the morning for the rest of time?"
"Well no, of course not, but the Philossssopher's Sssstone issssss ssssssuppossssed to be Ssssscience."
"Pah! Science! Look, if I drop this tankard of ale, will it hit the ground?"
"Of coursssssse. Gravity will pull it down."
The fat man dropped the ale, then deceptively quickly swiped his other hand across to grab the handle. "See, no such thing as necessary connexion. Just good old fashioned coincidence."
"Avada Kedavra. Seven Hundred and Nine Thousand, Five Hundred and Sixty turns should do it, Quirrell."
Somewhere in Denmark, c 1851 AD. On the trail of a beautiful woman.
"Ssssssssso," came the voice from behind the man who was gazing longingly from behind a potted plant at the woman in the green cloak, "Thisssssss issss what passssssesssss for a philossssssopher around here? Tell me, do you know how to make a Philossssssopher'ssss Ssstone?"
The man did not even turn, merely spoke quietly. "Despair. Anguish. Woe. What meaning is there in this world? Merely the pursuit of women, and of beauty in all things, this is all that can bring meaning, but still to fleeting. A leap, a leap is what's required, a leap of faith."
"Peassssant, Lord Voldemort isss ssspeaking to you."
"Yes, yes Philosopher's Stone, got it." At this point, Professor Quirrell was just watching the girl in the green cloak. He didn't speak a word of Danish. Fortunately, Tom Riddle was fluent in Danish, as with many other things. "Um, what exactly does a Philosopher's Stone do? I mean, I've got two Philosopher's Stones here, and I'm about to go show them to that girl. Should give me meaning and distract me from the anguish of existence for a week or so."
"It conveyssss immortality through the Elixir of Life."
"What would you want immortality for you crazy idiot? Anyway, duty calls, I mean, booty calls, gotta go show this bird my Philosopher's Stones."
"Avada Kedavra. Fifteen Million, Eight Hundred and Fifty Five Thousand, Six Hundred turns should do it, Quirrell."
Rome, c. 41 AD
"Ssseneca. You're a ssstoic philosssopher, correct?" Again, it all sounded like gibberish to Professor Quirrell. He spoke a little Latin and less Greek, and he didn't speak any Greek at all. The only Latin he knew was from the Cambridge Latin Course, Book One, and nobody was saying Metella, or Mother. Fortunately, Tom Riddle was fluent in Latin, as with many other things.
"Indeed," replied the distinguished old man, drawing his toga closer around himself at the sight of this two-headed abomination that he was at least ninety percent sure was not Janus, the two-faced god.
"Ssso, do you know how to create a Philosssopher'sss Ssstone?"
"I'll torture you."
"I've been expecting it."
"What? What's wrong with you that you expect to be tortured by Lord Voldemort as you go about your daily business?"
So not Janus then. Some "Lord Voldemort." Weird. "You said it yourself buddy, I'm a Stoic philosopher. It's what we do. We go around expecting the worst possible things, so when they do happen, it doesn't affect us."
"Well, was not expecting that. Ouch. Anyway, was there anything else I could do for you?"
"Huh, painful. But not as painful as when I imagined my wife and kids being tortured to death, and then everyone I knew, and then my dog, and then the whole city of Rome, and then a volcano erupting and burying a coastal village or two. Anyway, look, the Emperor's calling I've got to go, but have fun with the whole Philosopher's Stone thing, I'm the only one who can make one. See ya."
"Avada Kedavra. Well, Quirrell, I guess we're just going to have to go get that one that Dumbledore's got. Seventeen Million, Eighty Two Thousand Turns should do it."