Was Socrates Wise About God? Essay, Research Paper
October 18, 2000
Socrates?s Wisdom of God
In this paper I will attempt to define, for the reader, the true meaning of wisdom and all of its parts. I will try to explain knowledge and the knower versus the known. I will also, attempt to explain exactly how a person comes to be considered wise, as Socrates was. So, in truth, explain the Socratic method. Hopefully, by the time the reader has finished this paper, he/she will have a good grasp on my own opinion of Socrates and also, have a grasp on the definition of wisdom and how it applies to Socrates. I will accomplish theses tasks by using the works of Plato, the Apology, the Crito and the Phaedo, in hopes to prove my point.
What is wisdom? The literal meaning, or etymology of the word is rooted in the Indo-European words such as weid, woid, wid meaning, ?to see?. The etymology of wisdom also can be seen in the verb ?wit? from German, which means, ?to know? (Mohr, 3). So, the etymology is too see and to know. This is the definition I will expand on. Wisdom is a type of seeing. Seeing means that the seer and the object being seen are united. This union of the seer or knower and the known or seen is Knowledge. Knowledge can be in relation to virtually anything where there is a union of the knower and the known. One can be the knower of Biology and he knows about life. He has knowledge about life. One can know psychology and have knowledge about the human psyche. But my question is, are the Biologist and the Psychologist really wise?? Or do they only have one type of knowledge on one select subject? Take this analogy for example. A person may have a complete understanding of how to ride a bicycle. They know all of the laws and the mechanics and the physics of the entire concept of riding a bike. But they have never tried to ride it; to experience it (class notes). Do they have wisdom of how to ride a bicycle?
I believe wisdom is knowledge, most definitely. But, it is not that simple. I believe that in order for one to be considered wise, one must have more than one type of knowledge, such as the person who knows how riding a bike works. That is what is called theoretical knowledge. There are two types of knowledge. Theoretical knowledge is the knowledge of how the fundamental laws of a situation (such as riding a bicycle) work. There is also a second type of knowledge. That is practical knowledge. Practical knowledge by definition is, a knowledge of how to do something or life experience (for example, being able to physically ride a bicycle). So, again I ask, what is wisdom? Well, one part of my own definition is that wisdom is knowledge of the practical as well as the theoretical. It is life experience as well as being able to understand and appreciate the laws and mechanics or fundamentals of a situation.
Another aspect I believe is essential to wisdom is the ability to constantly question one?s surroundings. I believe that it is absolutely essential for one to first doubt, then question, then communicate ones thought. In this method, it is the main objective to constantly search for the truth in every situation.
The last aspect that I believe is necessary to embody wisdom is a little more difficult to explain. It has to do with the statements above, as in the constant quest for truth. To legitimately be on a quest for truth one must do the following: First, question themselves. By doing this, they will have the ability to know themselves. In order for one to know him/herself, one must have knowledge of God?s existence and ever-presence. By knowing one?s self and by knowing God, one will have a conscience, which will be the element of good judgment, decion making and purity of motives.
Now, the initial question that has been argued for ages, was Socrates wise?? As I had stated previously, to be wise is to know one?s self, to know god through questioning, thus questioning the truth. In the Apology, Socrates does just that. His friend Cherephon went to the Oracle at Delphi to find out if there was a man wiser than Socrates. The sacred oracle?s answer to this was that no man was wiser than Socrates. To this statement, Socrates was in disbelief. He said that he did not understand how this was possible, claiming that he was not wise because he knew nothing except that he knew nothing (Apology, 22e-23b). He went out to prove that the men most consider wise were truly wiser than himself. He questions three types of presumably wise men: a poet, a craftsman and a politician. To each of these men, he found they had knowledge of their specific area, flowery writing, building things, and persuasive speech (Apology, 22a-c). But he found no worldly truths with in them. Therefore, they had only one type of knowledge, either practical or theoretical, yet not both. Therefore, he concluded that they are not wise. So he proved the oracle correct.
If Socrates was wise, he must have known God. If the oracle was true, he was wise. Than all of his knowledge and wisdom was from God. Therefore, he believed that he is inspired by God. Because he knew god and knew himself, the combination of the two were his conscience. His conscience told him not to take part in political affairs of the state. He believed that god does not want him to. He was on a mission from God. Therefore, he was being obedient to the God. (Apology, 31c-32e).
Also, Socrates said he did not get paid for any of his philosophies. It was for the good of the soul only. He did not do it for money of to achieve greater social status (Mohr, p.11). He believed that stopping his mission from God, meaning not to practice philosophy, would be real proof that he was an aetheist, because he would be going against god?s plan for him.
Also, Socrates?s actions show that he was completely wise about god in his view of his own pending death. Socrates had the opportunity to appeal to the emotions of the jury by bringing in his wife and children. He chose not to do this. He believed that it was not in Gods plan for him to live. Therefore he did not try to cheat death. If he fears death than he pretends to know what he does not know in assuming death is evil. If he fears death he disobeys God, stops his quest for the truth and stops loving, for God is love. He also faced death will no fear. Because if he does not fear death than he would be able to obey God, continue quest and continue to philosophize (class notes). He also does not pretend to know what death is like because he said, ?it is known to no one, except God (Apology, 42a).?
In the Crito, Socrates?s close friend tried to convince him to save himself and escape from jail. Socrates said that he will not escape from prison, even if he is held there as an innocent person. He said, ?Neither to do wrong or return a wrong is ever, not even to injure in return for injury received (Mohr, pg. 13).? Therefore, he refused to save himself. Even though Crito appealed to Socrates?s emotions, by saying he needs to be there for his sons, also that Crito himself will lose a very dear friend. But, this argument is to no avail. Socrates believed that he was put here on the earth for a reason, a mission from God. He believed that he must complete his mission. And by fearing death, and escaping from prison, he would not be fulfilling his mission.
In the Phaedo, Socrates attempted to explain to his friends why he was not afraid of death. He said that to fear death is pretending to know what you do not know. In doing this he showed his avid belief and wisdom of God?s plan for him. His friends reminded him of Cebes argument. Socrates responded to Cebes argument that it is wrong to take one?s own life because we are possessions of the god by saying that it would be entirely evil for him to resent death if he was not sure that God wanted him to die, so that he could go to a place where wiser, better men are in a wiser better place (Phaedo, 63a-c). And he said he believed that he was not dying in vain or that he was just committing suicide. He was dying so that he could continue philosophizing. He was dying for communication, love, knowing god and knowing himself and others. He called philosophy the practice of death. And that is exactly what it is.
So, in conclusion, Socrates is wise about God. His actions proved that is so. He would not differ from God?s plan from him in trying to save his own life. He knew that he was God?s gift and it was not in God?s plan for him to continue to live in this world. He would have eternal life in God. There he would be able to be in complete union with God, therefore, he was called to complete wisdom. For being wise is knowing God, knowing one?s self, knowing LOVE and others. It was his turn to know love forever with God. He communicated his questions and thinking, therefore practicing Philosophy. He was truly wise.