For a very long time, Plato has been revered as a thinker who laid the foundation of philosophy. His writings have been a source of inspiration for philosophers for a very long time. His questions and wonder over the search of enlightenment and intelligent have been very helpful for those who have ever wished to understand the concept of intelligence. He embarked on a quest for intelligence in order to understand how it can lead to a fulfilling life. Many of his writings have been questioned by thinkers as well.
Among these writings, is “ The Apology” in which Socrates is told by his friend Chaerephon that no one was wiser than him. He informs Socrates that this information was, in fact, relayed to him by the Oracle of Delphi. She is omniscient and knows all which is why one cannot question this claim. This information is relayed to Socrates by Chaerephon, who asked the omniscient oracle to find out someone who was even wiser than Socrates. The priestess told him that there was not.
Plato writes that he is puzzled because he is not aware of any great knowledge that he withholds, however he also realizes that the omniscient Oracle cannot lie. Hence, he embarks on a journey to test his own intelligence and the intelligence of others. After experts such as politicians and thinkers, Socrates realizes what the Oracle meant.
When Socrates speaks to the politicians, he found out that the politician was not really as wise as he seemed; the core basis of this being the fact that he thought of himself as very wise. Next Socrates went to the philosophers and poets who wrote beautifully about matters of great concern. Upon speaking to them, he realized that these men although knew how to phrase beautifully, could not explain what they had written because they did not fully understand their subject matter.
Socrates defense in favor of his own intelligence is very simple; knowing that you know is not enough. Socrates using these examples explains that even though men who are revered as having great wisdom might seem wise, they might not necessarily be. He further explains that intelligence is a never ending quest and the minute you feel like you have arrived at the destination, the search cannot progress. Similarly, any man who starts believing that he has found the answers to the mysteries of the world and is the wisest of all is making the most unintelligent mistake.
Socrates very artfully justifies that there are a lot of things he does not really know about the universe and might not be able to explain. Yet, it is better to not know than to pretend that one knows and is the master of the subject. Socrates also says that while there are those that who are easily fooled by claims, there are those who need to find answers. These are the ones who are truly wise. Socrates justifies the Oracle’s claim by saying that the fact that he accepts his lack of wisdom or of great knowledge is what renders him wise in front of the Gods. His ability to understand that there are greater truths in the world to be discovered is what makes him wiser than those who believe that they know everything.
Vlastos, Gregory. ‘Socrates’ Disavowal Of Knowledge’. The Philosophical Quarterly (1985): 1–31. Print.