The conception of knowledge and wisdom is quite a complicated subject to thoroughly understand. Human wisdom can be described as the acknowledgment that an individual does not know everything, nor is this individual capable of knowing everything. Nevertheless, it is this knowledge of not knowing everything that gives one the true wisdom and proper knowledge in life. Socrates continuously claimed that he did not know anything; this resonates with the essence of what Socrates is all about: he is conscious and aware of his own ignorance and therefore has knowledge.
It was made evident throughout the Apology that actual knowledge can be solely reached when the extent of one’s own ignorance is realized, which is why Socrates has knowledge. For Socrates, knowledge should be the most valued thing in life, however, he believed that it is better for people to search for knowledge and be cognizant of their own ignorance rather than claim knowledge they do not have. Socrates stated in Plato’s Apology, “I neither know nor think that I know.
” Socrates makes this statement clearly explicit throughout the Apology, in which the Oracle of Delphi had stated that Socrates was the wisest of all men. Upon finding out this information, Socrates proceeds questioning various people considered wise, only to find that they do not actually know what they think they know. He eventually determined that the wisdom of men was not true wisdom at all nor was it authentic knowledge. In contrast to these people who do not know anything and the only thing that they know, Socrates says “the result of my mission was just this: I found that the men most in repute were all but the most foolish; and that others less esteemed were really wiser and better.
” Those, like Socrates, who recognize that they do not know anything, are wisest and have necessary and crucial knowledge. This does not occur because they possess some supposed wisdom, but because they know that they do not and they are therefore aware of their own ignorance. The interpretation of the oracle seems to give him no reason for additional inquiry. Socrates already knows that his wisdom is not worth much and this is the knowledge that makes him as wise as he can be.
Socrates was wiser than others since he was conscious of his own ignorance, due to the fact that he viewed knowledge as a personal and flawed intellectual model. Throughout the Apology “Socrates is the voice of emptiness, wonder, and doubt that made the philosophical search possible.” The lifestyle of questioning the unknown and being aware of his own ignorance additionally demonstrates the knowledge that Socrates has. As Socrates stated in the Apology, “for he knows nothing, and thinks that he knows; I neither know nor think that I know. In this latter particular, then, I seem to have slightly the advantage of him… I was conscious that I knew nothing at all.” Socrates found that although many people had skills and specific areas of expertise, they all tended to simply assume they were wise and knowledgeable about certain subjects when they obviously were not. This eventually caused Socrates to conclude that the oracle was right in a limited sense about him being the wisest of all men.
Socrates’s consciousness of his very own ignorance and lack of knowledge shows him that the unexamined life is indeed no longer worth living. Since he has concluded that he does not know everything, he realizes he must ask questions and further examine his life rather than simply assume he knows things. An unexamined life is a life that does not question, and Socrates refused to live a life without questions. He desired to show people the ignorance that essentially foreshadows their mind by asking these questions that essentially proves an individual’s ignorance. Socrates believed the path towards self-knowledge was to acquire the knowledge of what is good and what is evil. Socrates is aware of his ignorance and states, “… I do not suppose that I know: but I do know that injustice and disobedience to a better, whether God or man, is evil and dishonorable, and I will never fear or avoid a possible good rather than a certain evil.” Socrates does not fear death because he wants to experience everything there is to see in the world and hopes to attain and acquire information that can help him understand existence and life itself. He would rather die than live a life of dishonor where he is forced to lie about his beliefs and perspectives on life and certain subjects like those that pertain to knowledge and wisdom. Socrates believed in living the examined life, therefore he would rather die than live a life without questioning where people simply assume they know everything there was to know about the world.
In the Apology, Socrates also claims the significance of virtue, wisdom, and knowledge since he makes it evident that they all relate to each other. Socrates believes that in life one cannot be virtuous accidentally. Even though an individual may commit a worthy act that does not necessarily make that person honorable. “I tell you that virtue is not given by money, but that from virtue comes money and every other good of man, public as well as private,” Socrates says that a reflection of virtue is solely possible once a person grasps his/her own ignorance about the nature of virtue. Therefore, once again it is shown that Socrates has knowledge since he is clearly aware of his own ignorance. It is this understanding of one’s own lack of knowledge that leads a person to human wisdom. Therefore, without the knowledge of being aware of your own ignorance, one cannot have virtue which is an essential aspect to achieve wisdom and happiness in life. Socrates has this said knowledge because he is aware that he does not know everything nor will he ever know everything. However, he does realize that knowledge is identified with virtue and wisdom, and one cannot exist without the other.
Furthermore, the Socratic Philosophy itself answers the question regarding whether or not Socrates has the knowledge, considering the actual fact that his Socratic method is nothing but an endeavor for others’ self-examination. The Socratic method can only be possible due to the existence of the person. It is a method of questioning within which Socrates would have an opponent state a thesis and would then interpret their argument with questioning and critical thinking. Socrates’ usage of the Socratic method for the aim of promoting others into self-contemplation lead him to question people who claimed to possess the knowledge and ultimately expose them as ignorant individuals. As Socrates declared, “Then I knew that not by wisdom do poets write poetry, but by a sort of genius and inspiration; they are like diviners or soothsayers who also say many fine things, but do not understand the meaning of them.” Questioning the beliefs of the wise men led to his charge of impiety, and also the admiration he gained by the youth of Athens that contributed to his charge of corrupting the youth.
Part of Socrates’ defense within the trial was that through his actions he was merely attempting to make it clear to the individuals of Athens that they are ultimately ignorant individuals and do not possess any real knowledge. Nevertheless, Socrates was found guilty and sentenced to death. Socrates had the choice to escape death however he refused because it would have been the opposite of his ethical principles. “For the fear of death is indeed the pretense of wisdom, and not real wisdom, being a pretense of knowing the unknown.” Socrates believes that a real philosopher should be willing to die in order to discover what is actually out there by venturing off into the unknown. He claimed it is only after death that philosophers are able to shed all of the desires and fears from their body which provides them the ability to accumulate the knowledge that they have been seeking in their lives. It is solely after death, that Socrates will notice true knowledge instead of the fake and ignorant knowledge others claim to possess.
Socrates uses the Socratic method to obtain virtue, which is often the main goal of philosophy in his mind. Ethics, virtue, justice, and morality all stem from what Socrates calls the examined life, within which philosophy is employed to achieve knowledge that act as the basis for these values. Because Socrates is conscious of his own ignorance, he is wise in contrast to the others and has knowledge because he knows that he doesn’t know anything.