Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Socratic Wisdom

You know Chaerephon. . . . He went to Delphi at one time and ventured to ask the oracle . . . if any man was wiser than I, and the Pythian replied that no one was wiser. . . . Consider that I tell you this because I would inform you about the origin of the slander. When I heard this reply I asked myself: "Whatever does the god mean? What is his riddle? I am very conscious that I am not wise at all; what then does he mean by saying that I am the wisest? For surely he does not lie; it is no legitimate for him to do so." For a long time I was at a loss as to his meaning; then I very reluctantly turned to some such investigation as this; I went to one of those reputed to be wise, thinking that there, if anywhere, I could refute the oracle and say to it: "This man is wiser than I, but you said I was." Then, when I examined this man -- there is no need for me to tell you his name, he was one of our public men -- my experience was something like this: I thought that he appeared wise to many people and especially to himself, but he was not. I then tried to show him that he thought himself wise, but that he was not. As a result he came to dislike me, and so did many of the bystanders. So I withdrew and thought to myself: "I am wiser than this man; it is likely that neither of us knows anything worthwhile, but he thinks he knows something when he does not, whereas when I do not know, neither do I think I know; so I am likely to be wiser than he to this small extent, that I do not think I know what I do not know." After this I approached another man, one of those thought to be wiser than he, and I thought the same thing, and so I came to be disliked both by him and by many others.

- Socrates, from The Apology (21a-21e)

1 comment:

Joshua Keel said...

Awesome. I'm going to have to take you up on your offer to introduce me to some Plato really soon. Right now I've got my hands full with books, though.