I Do Not Think That I Know What I Do Not Know Essay example

Submitted By bubbg009
Words: 1270
Pages: 6

Larry Griggs
“I do not think that I know what I do not know,” (Apology 15, d) Socrates’ reply to the oracle of Delphi when told that the wisest man was indeed himself. Have we as readers once again succumbed to Plato’s irony; accepting Socrates’ point and later having our own ignorance shown to us? The statement is indeed an ironically one since Socrates was one of the wisest men of ancient philosophy. The statement also insinuates some kind of knowledge because saying that he doesn’t know anything, how does he know that he does not know? In the Euthyphro, Socrates states, “I shall not willingly give up before I learn this,” (Euthyphro 21, d) this identifies Socrates drive to become knowledgeable. In all of irony, therefore, there is an element of boastfulness, which is part of the reason irony has always been met with such suspicion. (Nehemas, “The Art of Living”) How as readers are we supposed to receive Socrates’ statement as: genuine or ironical? In this paper I will argue that we as readers should accept this statement as Socrates once again being ironic and is using the tool of irony for different approaches to get others to become knowledgeable. The statement, “I do not think that I know what I do not know,” is ironic in its own way because it shows that a person cannot know anything with total certainty, but can feel self-assured about things that he does know. When reading this statement Socrates does not seem to be boasting, but there is a sense of superiority which is related to boastfulness. In this moment Socrates is establishing superiority, but at the same time concealing it. By implying that he is cleverer by showing that he is keeping something back from the juror, Socrates has put himself above the jury. The ironic person claims to be less than he is and particularly less wise; (Kluth, “Socratic Irony) in order for the ironist to engage in someone arrogant, they make them believe they are the superior. Socrates is reminiscent of someone from the allegory of the cave. In the allegory of the cave, the soul ascends and it begins to understand the forms and the nature of everything and eventually the very idea of good that gives light to everything else. This is what makes Socrates superior to his interlockers. While trying to prove the Oracle wrong he realized that the Oracle might be right after all. He was the wisest man in Athens because he was prepared to admit his own ignorance rather than pretend to know something he did not. With his new profound wisdom, Socrates was coming back to the cave to help others to teach others what he has learned, but it is met with dogmatic views. Alas, this is what subsequently gets Socrates put on trial because superiority is intertwined with boasting, which has been met with suspicion. The statement, “I do not think that I know what I do not know,” in a sense seems like an ironic tool of concealment. Socrates may be feigning ignorance in order to teach the jury the knowledge that he has obtained. By using the irony tool of concealment, Socrates is concealing himself and his real desires behind his words. (Nehemas, “The Art of Living”) Concealment introduces complexity even in the simplest cases of irony. It is also connected to the sense of superiority that is irony’s companion. In hiding his meaning, Socrates simply succeeds in concealing himself more deeply than he could have done by saying the contrary of what he meant. (Nehemas, “The art of living”) To further explain I will show an example. In Plato’s Republic when regarding the means of trying to find the definition of what virtue was, during the discussion with Polemarchus, Socrates begins as the student and then switches roles as the teacher. Through the elenchus, Socrates was able to refute Polemarchus definitions, but at the same time correct them. If Socrates can assume the role of the teacher than he must have a superior knowledge or insight that Polemarchus does not have. True knowledge can only be gained…