Philosophy - Admission of Ignorance

1556 Words Apr 25th, 2011 7 Pages
“The Admission of Ignorance as the Starting Point of Philosophy”

Philosophy 101
July 1, 2010

Plato’s story of the “Apology” professes to be a record of the actual speech that Socrates delivered in his own defense during his trial and conviction before a jury of 501 men in Athens. Socrates was charged with corrupting the youth of Athens and introducing strange gods to the city.

Socrates addresses the men of Athens as follows: “Do not create a disturbance, gentleman, even if you think I am boasting, for the story I shall tell does not originate with me, but I will refer you to a trustworthy source. I shall call upon the god of Delphi as witness to the existence and nature of my wisdom, if it be such. You know Chaerephon; he was
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In questioning the politicians, he found that though they thought they were very wise, when he pressed them on what they were supposed to know, they were unable to give an adequate account of it. They did not in fact know much of anything at all. When Socrates questioned the poets, though they wrote great works of genius, seemed incapable of explaining them, and Socrates concluded that their genius came not from wisdom but from some sort of instinct or inspiration, not knowledge, which was in no way connected to their intellect. Furthermore, these poets seemed to think they could speak intelligently about all sorts of matters, but in actuality they were quite ignorant. He found that they “thought themselves very wise men in other respects, which they were not.” (Plato27) In the craftsmen, Socrates found men who truly did have great wisdom in their craft or practiced skill/trade, but invariably, they seemed to think that their expertise in one field allowed them to speak authoritatively in many other fields, about which they knew nothing. “This error of theirs overshadowed the wisdom they had.” (Plato 27) At this point, Socrates began to understand the meaning of the oracle’s riddle. All of these men claimed to know something that they did not know. Socrates did not claim to know anything. Socrates decided that he would rather be as he is; knowing that he knows nothing, than to be inflated by a false sense of his own great wisdom. Thus, he concludes,
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