Socrates Was No Fool

“In another passage (Apol. 21a), Plato says that Chaerophon asked the Pythia if anyone was wiser than Socrates and that she answered that no one was. In this, as well, Xenophon says something different (Apol.14): “When Chaerophon once asked about me at Delphi, Apollo answered that no one of the present men was more just or wise.”

How is it sensible or persuasive that Socrates, who agreed that he knew nothing, was declared the wisest of all men by the god who knows everything? If this is wisdom, knowing nothing, then knowing everything is foolishness. What need was there for Chaerophon to ask the god about Socrates? It is because itwas right to Believe Socrates when he said about himself that he was not wise. “For the man who would ask such things of a god is a fool”.

Is this the face of a fool?
Is this the face of a fool?

κἀν ἄλλοις δ’ ὁ Πλάτων φησὶ (apol. p. 21 a) Χαιρεφῶντα ἐρωτῆσαι τὴν Πυθίαν εἴ τις εἴη Σωκράτους σοφώτερος· καὶ τὴν ἀνελεῖν μηδένα. κἀν τούτοις δὲ μὴ συμφωνῶν Ξενοφῶν φησι (apol. 14)· ‘Χαιρεφῶντος γάρ ποτε ἐπερωτήσαντος ἐν Δελφοῖς ὑπὲρ ἐμοῦ, ἀνεῖλεν ὁ ᾿Απόλλων <πολλῶν> παρόντων μηδένα εἶναι ἀνθρώπων ἐμοῦ μήτε δικαιότερον μήτε σωφρονέστερον.’ πῶς οὖν εὔλογον ἢ πιθανὸν Σωκράτη τὸν ὁμολογοῦντα μηδὲν ἐπίστασθαι σοφώτατον ἁπάντων ὑπὸ τοῦ πάντα ἐπισταμένου θεοῦ ἀναρρηθῆναι; εἰ γὰρ τοῦτό ἐστι σοφία, τὸ μηδὲν εἰδέναι, τὸ πάντα εἰδέναι φαυλότης ἂν εἴη. τίς δ’ ἦν χρεία τῷ Χαιρεφῶντι παρενοχλεῖν τὸν θεὸν περὶ Σωκράτους πυνθανόμενον; αὐτὸς γὰρ ἦν ἀξιόπιστος ὑπὲρ αὑτοῦ λέγων ὡς οὔκ ἐστι σοφός. ‘βλὰξ γάρ τις ἦν τοιαῦτ’ ἐρωτῶν τὸν θεόν,’


Plato Apology 21d 6-7


“I think that I am wiser by this very small bit: I don’t pretend to know what I don’t know.”

ἔοικα γοῦν τούτου γε σμικρῷ τινι αὐτῷ τούτῳ σοφώτερος εἶναι, ὅτι ἃ μὴ οἶδα οὐδὲ οἴομαι εἰδέναι.


The full text.

Socrates 1.5-7: This Philosopher is Ready to Die.

“Do you really find it shocking if it seems better to the god that I die now? Don’t you know that before today I would never agree that any man has lived better than I have? This is the greatest pleasure, to know that my entire life has been lived righteously and justly. For this reason I have regarded myself well and I have found that those who know me feel the same way. Now, if this age were to proceed, I know that I would have to pay the price of old age: that my vision would be worse, my hearing weaker and I would be poor at learning and, worse, more forgetful of the things I have learned. If I sense myself becoming worse and I fault myself for it, how would I be able to live well? Perhaps, as an act of kindness, the god is granting that I end my life not just at the right age, but also in the easiest manner.”

῏Η θαυμαστὸν νομίζεις εἰ καὶ τῷ θεῷ δοκεῖ ἐμὲ βέλτιον εἶναι ἤδη τελευτᾶν; οὐκ οἶσθα ὅτι μέχρι μὲν τοῦδε οὐδενὶ ἀνθρώπων ὑφείμην βέλτιον ἐμοῦ βεβιωκέναι; ὅπερ γὰρ ἥδιστόν ἐστιν, ᾔδειν ὁσίως μοι καὶ δικαίως ἅπαντα τὸν βίον βεβιωμένον• ὥστε ἰσχυρῶς ἀγάμενος ἐμαυτὸν ταὐτὰ ηὕρισκον καὶ τοὺς ἐμοὶ συγγιγνομένους γιγνώσκοντας περὶ ἐμοῦ. νῦν δὲ εἰ ἔτι προβήσεται ἡ ἡλικία, οἶδ’ ὅτι ἀνάγκη ἔσται τὰ τοῦ γήρως ἐπιτελεῖσθαι καὶ ὁρᾶν τε χεῖρον καὶ ἀκούειν ἧττον καὶ δυσμαθέστερον εἶναι καὶ ὧν ἔμαθον ἐπιλησμονέστερον. ἂν δὲ αἰσθάνωμαι χείρων γιγνόμενος καὶ καταμέμφωμαι ἐμαυτόν, πῶς ἄν, εἰπεῖν, ἐγὼ ἔτι ἂν ἡδέως βιοτεύοιμι; ἴσως δέ τοι, φάναι αὐτόν, καὶ ὁ θεὸς δι’ εὐμένειαν προξενεῖ μοι οὐ μόνον τὸ ἐν καιρῷ τῆς ἡλικίας καταλῦσαι τὸν βίον, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὸ ᾗ ῥᾷστα.

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