Plato’s Socrates Essay
In order for the concept of wisdom to carry any viable weight in the affairs of the world, it is necessary for said concept to acknowledge the link between wisdom as an abstract idea and wisdom as a guiding principle for pragmatic action. Although other thinkers within the list of writers and philosophers we have studies do promote the idea of wisdom as a pragmatically applied “force;” Henry David Thoreau’s interpretation of wisdom and its applications in human life and in human society seems to me the most reasonable interpretation among those we have studied so far.
Thoreau’s basic idea of wisdom is relative easy to understand adn emerges, not from abstract philosophical discourse, but from the vantage point of ‘everday” life: “Does Wisdom work in a tread-mill? or does she teach how to succeed by her example? Is there any such thing as wisdom not applied to life? ” (Thoreau 118) By asking these questions in connection to the idea of wisdom, Thoreau makes it obvious that he regards wisdom as a method of defining nd helping to instruct human behavior and not merely human thought.
Interestingly enough, while Thoreau’s definition of wisdom is steeped in the practical and the pragmatic, he admonishes his readers and listeners not to confuse materialism and wisdom, that is, not to mistake the pragmatic of “earning a living” with the pragmatics of wisdom: ” It is pertinent to ask if Plato got his living in a better way or more successfully than his contemporaries,–or did he[… ] find it easier to live, because his aunt remembered him in her will?
The ways in which most men get their living, that is, live, are mere makeshifts, and a shirking of the real business of life,–chiefly because they do not know, but partly because they do not mean, any better,” (Thoreau 118). The application of Thoreau’s pragmatic vision of wisdom may elude some observers; however, Thoreau, himself, illustrates the application of his idea of wisdom by turning his sights to the ‘gold rush” fever which enveloped his contemporaries: “Did God direct us so to get our living, digging where we never planted,–and He would, perchance, reward us with lumps of gold?
“(Thoreau 119) where, obviously, Thoreau’s “hang up” with gold-rushers is not their pursuit of earning a living, per se, but with the folly of their believing that gold can, in and of itself, replace the need for wisdom: “I did not know that mankind was suffering for want of gold. I have seen a little of it. I know that it is very malleable, but not so malleable as wit. A grain of gold will gild a great surface, but not so much as a grain of wisdom,”; where Thoreua’s ironic contrast of gold and wisdom leaves little doubt, in the end, as to which he views as more crucial to humanity.
(Thoreau 119) 2. Whose view of wisdom (Socrates, Thoreau, Huxley, Pieper, or Frankl) seems to be the least reasonable? Why? Although Plato’s Socratic writings on the nature and meaning of justice achieve and inner-harmony and function in logical consistency with the rest of his ideas regarding ethics, aesthetics, and civics, Socrates’ view of wisdom, as defined by Plato, strikes me as the least rational of the theories and ideas we have studied.
Far be it for me or anyone else to accuse Plato of leaving “holes” in his theory of wisdom; that is not the issue so much as the “circclar” nature of Plato’s reasoning which leads me to feel that the concepts of wisdom which are described by Socrates offer very little in the way of practical application in life and seem more like abstract ideas meant to stimulate those who enjoy pondering theory, rather than to assist those who are truly seeking applicable means for wisdom in daily life.
Primarily, it is Socrates insistence that wisdom exists beyond the human appreciation of it, which seems to cripple the overall argument on the nature of what comprises wisdom: “Socrates considers there to be two general sorts of knowledge, one which makes its possessor wise and one which does not. Socrates, and others too, can confidently and quite correctly claim to have a number of instances of the latter sort; but no human being can rightly claim to have the former sort, since no human being has ever attained the wisdom Socrates himself disclaims having when he professes ignorance,” (Brickhouse, and Smith 31).
true enough, Socrates’ humility in professing himself to be without wisdom has puzzled observers adn scholars for quite some time; however, the admission that wisdom exists, apart from human understanding, nd must be pursued even to the point of admitting that it cannot be attained, leaves the entire issue of wisdom up in the air form a pragmatic point of view. Socrates may believe that “human wisdom is of little or no value” (23a6-7).
What would be of great value, if only he had it–namely, real wisdom–Socrates and all others lack. The greatest wisdom for human beings, as we have just seen, is the recognition that we are “in truth worth nothing in respect to wisdom” (Brickhouse, and Smith 33) and this type of vision is, of course, another variation on a religious or metaphysical concept: that of “Divine Wisdom. ” For Socrates, wisdom is an abstract “power” deemed tor reside within the Divine consciousness but only sparingly in human consciousness.
I would say that nay definition of wisdom which fails to forward a concrete, pragmatic application as pertains to human society and individual behavior is worthwhile only from a purely intellectual point of view.
Brickhouse, Thomas C. , and Nicholas D. Smith. Plato’s Socrates. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. Harding, Walter, ed. Thoreau: A Century of Criticism. Dallas, TX: Southern Methodist University Press, 1954. Thoreau, Henry David. The Major Essays of Henry David Thoreau. Ed. Richard Dillman. Albany, NY: Whitston Publishing, 2001.
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 15 May 2017