As I was waiting in line at Javas Cafe down Gibbs street, I wondered what it would be like if I had a chat with Socrates.
First of all, I know I would be interrogated greatly by Socrates about everything. Something that struck out to me though, was Socrates’s explanation that he was not the wisest man.
“What ever is the god saying,
and what riddle is he posing? For I am conscious that I am not at all
wise, either much or little. So what ever is he saying when he
claims that I am wisest? Surely he is not saying something false, at
least; for that is not sanctioned for him.” (The Apology, 21b)
Like the majority of the Athenians, this was taken by surprise that Socrates’s, the man who can easily bash and interrogate and argue with any kind of subject of life disagrees with the oracle of Delphi statement that he is not the wisest man, and being Socrates, he goes and interrogates men who were highly esteemed of wisdom-first the politicians, then poets then craftsmen, and concludes that none of them have knowledge but rather that their “wisdom” is not in fact wisdom but came from some sort of inspiration. Socrates agrees that possibly he is the wisest because he knows he is not the wisest. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qob4Rg6sJZk This video gives a good summary of Socrates’s point of view.
This part of the Apology caught my attention because Socrates is basically a ancient greek celebrity. Although he didn’t have the most appropriate attitude most of the time, and back then his wisdom basically put him to death, we still study about Socrates and his life and his knowledge. But why do we study about someone who isn’t really a hero or the typical “great” man that everyone looks up to?
Even though Socrates was hated so much it’s hard to deny that he wasn’t clever. He most definitely was. So if I were to ask Socrates. “why are we studying about your wisdom in school?” What would he say?
I can imagine him take a sip of his black coffee, and mention that he knows he is not the wisest man, and that he doesn’t even know why we are learning about him. But that every idea mentioned about society and politics are in fact true, even after 2,500 years. Our society today just proves Socrates ideas, and we are the examples of Socrates’s ideas of society, politics, knowledge, virtue etc. Although not everything is in fact as planned by some of his ideas, Socrates would say it’s because there are those who have corrupted society by not learning and practicing philosophy, as he takes another sip of his bitter coffee. No sugar, no cream. “It’s simple”, he would say, “as long as you stop playing cello and continue learning about philosophy, you can live your life with the highest value of life.” That, is where I dismiss myself containing my annoyance and walk out. He takes another sip of his coffee in peace.