Apology Essay Example
Chaerephon, one of the closest friends of Socrates, appeared in the holy city of Delphi to the oracle of Apollo and boldly asked God the question: is there anyone wiser than Socrates? Pythian answered that there was no one wiser than him. Socrates, learning about this, was perplexed. Perhaps this was the only episode when he found himself in a logical impasse. Socrates’ thoughts were that he did not recognize himself as wise – it was not clear what God meant, and God was not supposed to lie – he spoke the truth. The meaning of his reflections consisted of two paradoxical things. First, he doubted the superiority of his wisdom over other people’s wisdom. Second, he wanted to but could not doubt the truth of God’s words.
To resolve the paradox, he began his research with a philosophical survey of citizens and foreigners. He wanted to know the wisest sage. He wanted to refute the oracle’s prophecy with the statement: behold, a man wiser than Socrates has been found. Socrates talked with statesmen, poets, artists, and artisans. However, any of them, having achieved knowledge and success in a particular area, became stronger in the opinion that he was now wise in all things. Whereas no one knew about the essence of things in the world: neither Socrates nor other people.
And yet, Socrates owned the only knowledge that was inaccessible to other people. He realized that he did not know anything, and other people did not know and did not want to know that they only seemed to be wise. Socrates saw the limitations of his knowledge, showing cognitive modesty. And other people, because of the hurt pride, kindled hatred towards him for revelations.
The vocation of Socrates, revealed to him, as it is said in the Apology, by the Delphic oracle, i.e., ultimately by the God Apollo himself, thus, consists in making others aware of their not-knowledge, their not-wisdom. In fulfilling this mission, Socrates would act as a person who knows nothing and ingenuously questions others. This is the famous Socratic irony – feigned ignorance. Wishing to find out if there is anyone wiser than himself, Socrates asked the interlocutor to explain to him any question, any concept every time with a sincere look.
When Socrates claimed that he knew only one thing, namely that he knew nothing, this meant that he was abandoning the traditional notion of knowledge. His philosophical method was not to communicate some knowledge, which would be reduced to answers to students’ questions but quite the opposite, to ask students because he had nothing to tell them, nothing to teach in terms of the theoretical content of knowledge. The Socratic irony was about pretending to want to know something from an interlocutor to lead him to think that he knew nothing in the area in which he claimed to be knowledgeable.
Socrates stunned and stung other people with his skeptical and ironic perception of human wisdom. People thought that Socrates was well versed in what he accused others of. However, Socrates understood: God was the most knowledgeable. God did not mean Socrates but only used his name as an example. God, in his prophecy, wanted to say: one of the people was wiser, who, like Socrates, realized that human wisdom was cheap or worth nothing at all. Thus, Socrates resolved what seemed to be a dead-end dilemma.
Thus, it is essential to question not so much the apparent knowledge as ourselves and the values that our life is subordinated to. After a conversation with Socrates, the completely bewildered interlocutor no longer knows why he acts this way and not otherwise. He sees contradictions in his reasoning and his internal contradictions. He doubts himself and, following Socrates, concludes that he knows nothing. At the same time, he looks at himself from the outside and seems to bifurcate, with some part of his being identified with Socrates in mutual agreement, which he requires from the interlocutor at every stage of reasoning. Therefore, self-consciousness awakens in him; he questions himself.