Thursday, November 10, 2016

socrates' ignorance


D. R. Khashaba

Socrates regularly affirmed that he knew nothing. This was not mock modesty, nor was it irony though he did practice irony when he pretended that he expected to be enlightened by his interlocutors. Socrates’ declaration of ignorance issued from a profound insight.

When Socrates said that he knew nothing he intimated that all our vaunted knowledge – scientific and practical – is in itself worthless. The only worthwhile ‘knowledge’ is the understanding of oneself; that alone is wisdom and that is the whole of philosophy. But the secret depths of our inner reality are, in the strictest sense of the word, infinite and inexhaustible. Hence the philosophical quest for knowing oneself is an endless lifelong probing into our inner reality. The insights we glimpse in probing our inner reality are all the light we have and those insights are strictly ineffable and can only be intimated in parable, allegory, and myth.

In the so-called elenctic discourses of Socrates, we find that the most highly valued virtues are worthless or even harmful if not enlightened by ‘knowledge’ (epistêmê) and when we try to find what knowledge is that, we discover that it is no particular knowledge but is the virtue we were investigating. Our quest goes in circles because all the good, all the wisdom we have, begins and ends in a wholesome soul, and in all our investigation and all our philosophizing we were doing nothing but trying to explore that unfathomable soul.

This I call the Principle of Philosophical Ignorance. All genuine philosophy begins and ends in probing our inner unfathomable, inexhaustible, and ineffable reality. All other knowledge – however sophisticated, however astute – Plato relegated to the realm of doxa (opinin). Philosophizing alone – the endless probing into our inner reality –he honoured with the name nous, phronêsis.

COROLLARY I: Philosophy and science are two totally distinct spheres that have nothing whatever to do with each other. This is a theme I will revert to in another blog.

COROLLARY II: Philosophy is not a science and is not cumulative knowledge. All genuine philosophers give creative expression to their personal insight into their inner reality and since the expression is mythical, no two genuine philosophers contradict each other.

D. R. Khashaba

November 10, 2016

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