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Philosophy - Admission of Ignorance

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“The Admission of Ignorance as the Starting Point of Philosophy”

Philosophy 101
July 1, 2010

Plato’s story of the “Apology” professes to be a record of the actual speech that Socrates delivered in his own defense during his trial and conviction before a jury of 501 men in Athens. Socrates was charged with corrupting the youth of Athens and introducing strange gods to the city.

Socrates addresses the men of Athens as follows: “Do not create a disturbance, gentleman, even if you think I am boasting, for the story I shall tell does not originate with me, but I will refer you to a trustworthy source. I shall call upon the god of Delphi as witness to the existence and nature of my wisdom, if it be such. You know Chaerephon; he was my friend from youth, and a friend of most you, as he shared your exile and your return. You surely know the kind of man he was, how impulsive in any course of action. He went to Delphi at one time and ventured to ask the oracle – as I say, gentlemen, do not create a disturbance – he asked if any man was wiser than I, and the Pythian replied that no one was wiser. Chaerephon is dead, but his brother, will testify to you about this.” (Plato 25-26)

Socrates recounts to the men of Athens how he took this news with great puzzlement. “What can the god mean? And what is the interpretation of this riddle? What can the oracle mean when he says that I am the wisest of men?” Socrates knew the oracle could not lie, and yet he thought that he had no particular wisdom or specialized knowledge at all

So Socrates set out on a quest with two goals in mind: 1) To disprove the oracle by finding at least one person in Athens wiser than he. 2) To figure out the riddle of the oracle, since its meaning was probably hidden.
In order to test the oracle, or to prove it wrong, Socrates sought out and questioned Athenian men who were...

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