“All he knew was that he knew nothing – and it troubled him” (70). Socrates’ once proclaimed that he himself had very little knowledge. The statement is ironic and yet it became the foundation for Socrates’ and, in fact, the philosopher’s pursuit for wisdom. In truth, Socrates did know something, and that is he knew very little. For him, it was not how a person knows; that’s merely knowledge. Instead, wisdom is the realization of how much one still doesn’t know; it’s the realization of the range of one’s own ignorance. Socrates’ interpretation of wisdom is one of the fundamental first steps on the path to philosophical understanding; uncertainty was what made him inquire and contemplate to achieve a fuller understanding of the truth.
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Human knowledge has rapidly advanced during past centuries and yet there are still questions left unanswered. Over time, a great multitude of people have assumed that they have found meaning and wisdom, but in reality they have simply accepted norms and knowledge handed down to them by society itself. Human wisdom has been dangerously close to stagnation and it would be a tragedy if one would cease to ponder the questions of life due to the perceive notion that the questions of life have been answered. Yes, science has presented the theorems to explain the processes of life and the inanimate, on the other hand theology has illuminated the path with countless parables, and nevertheless they cannot be accepted as the one truth, one must still question beyond the explanations, beyond the parables – the true nature of Socratic wisdom lies in the never-ending quest for truth.
Socrates himself was troubled that “he knew so little” (69), and that became the drive to know and understand more not to surrender or blindly submit to other ideas. Socrates questioned many people thought to be wise, and time after time, he discovered the fallacies in their logic, thus exposing their true lack of understanding. Socrates determined that the only reason he was wiser than anyone else was because, unlike all the other “wise” people he questioned, he didn’t lay claim to knowledge he didn’t actually possess. He recognized his ignorance while the rest did not; therefore, he assumed the path to wisdom by attaining the process to achieve it not necessarily having all the answers in the world. In retrospect humanity has lost the drive to accept its true lack of knowledge and has failed to rise above the uncertainties and pursue the truth.
For centuries science and theology have fulfilled the basic needs of the human curiosity and yet man himself has turned a blind eye to inquire beyond the explanations of theorems, beyond the ancient scrolls of holy books and most importantly beyond one’s own curiosity. The sense of satisfaction has been one of man’s flaws; mankind has become comfortable in its place in knowledge and has slowed his desire for the truth. Like Socrates shouldn’t mankind be troubled for knowing so little and at the same time overlook the pursuit for true wisdom?
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The beginning of wisdom and true knowledge is to admit ignorance. Humanity’s stubborn way of obsessing with knowledge that they thought they fully grasp, has led them into thinking they have mastered every field, when in fact, the most knowledge that someone had acquired was usually only in one thing, not many things, or not any true knowledge about one’s place in the world, and of the true meaning of life.
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