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The Origin of Socrates' Unpopularity (General)

by dulan drift, Friday, February 19, 2021, 08:01 (10 days ago) @ dulan drift

“To explain the origin of my unpopularity”, Socrates (according to Plato), recounted a story in which the Oracle had said that Socrates was the “wisest of men”.

Socrates couldn’t believe it:

I know very well that I am not wise
even in the smallest degree.

On the other hand:

It cannot be (the Oracle) is speaking falsely
for (the Oracle) is a god and cannot lie.

Socrates was “for a long time at a loss” to understand the meaning.

“(V)ery reluctantly”, Socrates sought “to point out to the Oracle its mistake.” He determined the best way to do this was by questioning the experts of his time.
The theory was:

You said that I was the wisest of men
but this man is wiser than I am.

Therefore: I am not the wisest of men.

First off, he chose a politician, who was “reputed to be wise” and “examined him” by asking a series of questions.

(B)ut this was the result:
When I conversed with him I came to see that,
though a great many persons, and most of all he himself,
thought that he was wise, yet he was not wise.

Socrates troubles began, however, when:

I tried to prove to him that he was not wise
though he fancied that he was.
By so doing I made him, and
many of the bystanders, my enemies.

Later Socrates reflected on this encounter:

Neither of us probably knows anything that is really good,
but he thinks that he has knowledge, when he has not,
while I, having no knowledge, do not think that I have.

Socrates was forced to deduce:

I seem, at any rate, to be a little wiser than he is on this point:
I do not think that I know what I do not know.

Undeterred, Socrates embarked upon a journey of “Herculean labors” whereby he sought out more experts - “I went on to one man after another” - but each examination produced “exactly the same result”, including the unfortunate consequence that:

I was making enemies every day
which caused me much unhappiness and anxiety.

So what was Socrates' inescapable conclusion from questioning all these elites?

I must tell you the truth; verily, by the dog of Egypt:
I found that the men, whose reputation for wisdom stood highest
were nearly the most lacking in it
while others, who were looked down on as common people
were much better fitted to learn.


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