WTF Do I Know about other Things?

Some people love talking up Socrates but forget this most important lesson that knowledge in one specialized field does not qualify us as experts in others.

Plato, Apology 23e

“But, Athenians, the mistake has seemed to me identical for the poets and the good craftspeople: because they excel in one craft, each of them thinks they are incredibly wise about everything else that’s important as well. This categorical error obscures their actual wisdom.

This is why I asked myself for the oracle whether I should just accept myself as I am, since I am not wise in their kind of wisdom nor ignorant in their kind of ignorance and I don’t have both qualities like they do. So, I answered myself and the oracle: it is better for me to be as I am.”

ἀλλ’, ὦ ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, | ταὐτόν μοι ἔδοξαν ἔχειν ἁμάρτημα ὅπερ καὶ οἱ ποιηταὶ καὶ οἱ ἀγαθοὶ δημιουργοί—διὰ τὸ τὴν τέχνην καλῶς ἐξεργάζεσθαι ἕκαστος ἠξίου καὶ τἆλλα τὰ μέγιστα σοφώτατος εἶναι—καὶ αὐτῶν αὕτη ἡ πλημμέλεια ἐκείνην τὴν σοφίαν ἀποκρύπτειν· ὥστε με ἐμαυτὸν ἀνερωτᾶν ὑπὲρ τοῦ χρησμοῦ πότερα δεξαίμην ἂν οὕτως ὥσπερ ἔχω ἔχειν, μήτε τι σοφὸς ὢν τὴν ἐκείνων σοφίαν μήτε ἀμαθὴς τὴν ἀμαθίαν, ἢ ἀμφότερα ἃ ἐκεῖνοι ἔχουσιν ἔχειν. | ἀπεκρινάμην οὖν ἐμαυτῷ καὶ τῷ χρησμῷ ὅτι μοι λυσιτελοῖ ὥσπερ ἔχω ἔχειν.

Nicolas-André Monsiau, The Debate of Socrates and Aspasia, 1800

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