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CHAPTER VI

THE PHILOSOPHICAL METHOD OF SOCRATES.

CHAP.
VI.

The peculiarity of the method pursued by Socrates consists, generally speaking, in deducing conceptions from the common opinions of men. Beyond the formation of conceptions, however, and the intellectual exercise of individuals his method did not go; nor is there any systematic treatment of the conceptions gained. The theory of a knowledge of conceptions appearing here as a claim, the consciousness of its necessity must be presupposed as existing, and an insight into the essence of things be sought. At the same time, thought does not advance further than this seeking. It has not the power to develope to a system of absolute knowledge, nor has it a method sufficiently matured to form a system. For the same reason, the process of induction is not reduced within clearly defined rules. All that Socrates has clearly expressed is the general postulate, that every thing must be reduced to its conception. Further details as to the mode and manner of this reduction and its strict logical forms, were not yet worked out by him into a science, but were applied by him practically by dint of individual skill. The only thing about him at all resembling a logical

VI.

rule, the maxim that the process of critical enquiry CHAP. must always confine itself to what is universally admitted, sounds far too indefinite to invalidate our assertion. This process involves three particular steps. The A. The

Socratic first is the Socratic knowledge of self. Holding as he knowledge did that only the knowledge of conceptions constitutes of self, re

sulting in true knowledge, Socrates was fain to look at all sup- a knowposed knowledge, asking whether it agreed with his ledge of not

knowing. idea of knowledge, or not. Nothing appeared to him more perverse, nothing more obstructive to true knowledge from the very outset, than the belief that you know what you do not know. Nothing is so necessary as self-examination, to show what we really know and what we only think we know. Nothing, too, is more indispensable for practical relations

| Mem. iv. 6, 15: Ómóte de speaking in Plato, Apol. 21, B., αυτός τι τώ λόγω διεξίοι, διά των says that according to the μάλιστα ομολογουμένων επορεύετο, oracle he had interrogated all νομίζων ταύτην την ασφάλειαν είναι with whom he was brought λόγου. .

into contact, to discover whe2 Xen. Mem. iii. 9, 6: mariav ther they had any kind of knowγε μην εναντίον μεν έφη είναι σο- ledge; and that in all cases he φία, ου μέντοι γε την ανεπιστημο- had found along with some kind σύνην μανίαν ενόμιζεν. το δε of knowledge an ignorance, αγνοείν εαυτόν και & μή οίδε which he would not take in exδοξάζειν τε και οίεσθαι γιγνώσκειν, change for any kind of knowεγγυτάτω μανίας ελογίζετο είναι. ledge-an opinion that they Generally speaking, those are knew what they did not know, called mad who are mistaken On the other hand, he considered about what is commonly known, it to be his vocation, piloo opoûvnot those who are mistaken τα ζην και εξετάζοντα εμαυτόν και about things of which most men τους άλλους (28, E.); and he are ignorant. Also Plato, Apol. says elsewhere (38, A.) that 29, B. : και τούτο πώς ουκ αμαθία there could be no higher good, εστίν αύτη η επονείδιστος, ή του than to converse every day as οίεσθαι ειδέναι & ουκ οίδεν; he did: ο δε ανεξέταστος βίος ου

3 In this sense Socrates, βιωτος ανθρώπω.

CHAP.

VI.

And a

than to become acquainted with the state of our inner self, with the extent of our knowledge and capacities, with our defects and requirements. One result of this self-examination being the discovery that the actual knowledge of the philosopher does not correspond with his idea of knowledge, there follows further that consciousness of knowing nothing, which Socrates declared to be his only knowledge. For any other knowledge he denied possessing, and therefore refused to be the teacher of his friends, only wishing,

1 Xenophon, Mem. iv. 2, 24, ημών ουδέτερος ουδέν καλόν κάγαenquiring into the Delphic θον ειδέναι, αλλ' ούτος μέν οίεται γνώθι σεαυτόν, says that self- τι είδέναι ουκ ειδώς, εγώ δε ώσπερ knowledge is attended with oύν ουκ οίδα, ουδέ οίομαι.-23, B. : the greatest advantages, want ούτος υμών, ώ άνθρωποι, σοφώτατός of it with the greatest disad. έστιν, όστις, ώσπερ Σωκράτης, vantages : οι μεν γάρ ειδότες έγνωκεν, ότι ουδενός αξιός έστι τη εαυτούς τά τε επιτήδεια εαυτοίς αληθεία προς σοφίαν. ίσασι και διαγιγνώσκουσιν & τε little before : το δε κινδυνεύει, ω δύνανται και & μή και & μεν άνδρες Αθηναίοι, τω όντι ο θεός επίστανται πράττοντες (self- σοφός είναι, και εν τω χρησμώ examination always refers in τούτο τούτο λέγειν, ότι η ανθρωthe first place to knowledge, πίνη σοφία ολίγου τινός αξία because with knowledge right εστί και ουδενός.-Symp. 216, action is given) πορίζονται τα D.: αγνοεί πάντα και ουδέν οίδεν, ών δέονται και εν πράττουσιν. ώς το σχήμα αυτού.-Theaetet. See also Plato, Phaedrus, 229, 150, C. ; άγονός είμι σοφίας, και Ε. ; he had not time to give όπερ ήδη πολλοί μοι ωνείδισαν, ως to the explanation of myths of τους μεν άλλους έρωτώ, αυτός δε which others were so fond, not ουδέν αποκρίνομαι περί ουδενός διά being even able to know him. το μηδέν έχειν σοφών, αληθές όνειself according to the Delphic δίζουσι το δε αίτιον τούτου τότε oracle; Symp. 216, A.; when μαιεύεσθαι με ο θεός αναγκάζει, Alcibiades complains : αναγ- γεννάν δε απεκώλυσεν. Comp. κάζει γάρ με ομολογείν, ότι πολ. Rep. i. 337, Ε. ; Men. 98, Β. λου ενδεής ών αυτος έτι εμαυ- That this trait in Plato has του μεν αμελώ, τα δ' 'Αθηναίων been taken from the Socrates πράττω.

of history, may be gathered 2 Plato, Apol. 21, Β.: εγώ from the Platonic dialogues, in γαρ δή ούτε μέγα ούτε σμικρών which his teacher is by no σύνοιδα εμαυτώ σοφός ών.-21, means represented as so ignoD.: τούτου μεν του ανθρώπου εγώ rant. σοφώτερός είμι κινδυνεύει μεν γάρ 3 See above, p. 67.

CHAP
VI.

in common with them, to learn and enquire. This confession of his ignorance was certainly far froin being a sceptical denial of knowledge,” with which the whole philosophic career of Socrates would be irreconcilable. On the contrary, it contains a simple avowal as to his own personal state, and collaterally as to the state of those whose knowledge he had had the opportunity of testing. Nor again must it be regarded as mere irony or exaggerated modesty." 4 Socrates really knew nothing, or to express it otherwise, he had no developed theory, and no positive dogmatic principles. The demand for a knowledge of conceptions having once dawned upon him in all its fulness, he missed the marks of true knowledge in all that hitherto passed for wisdom and knowledge. Being, however, also the first to make this demand, he had as yet attained no definite content for knowledge. The idea of knowledge was to him an unfathomable problem, in the face of which he could not but be conscious of his ignorance. And in so far a certain affinity between his view and the sophistic

1 κοινή βουλεύεσθαι, κοινή σκέ- the limited character of humal: πτεσθαι, κοινή ζητεϊν, συζητείν, knowledge being asserted in &c. Xen., Mem. iv. 5, 12; 6, comparison with the divine. 1; Plato, Theæt. 151, E.; Prot. + As Grote remarks (Plato, i. 330, B.; Gorg. 505. E.; Crat. 270, 323), referring to Arist. 384, B.; Meno, 89 E.

Soph. El. 34, 183,

7: επεί 2 As the New Academicians και διά τούτο Σωκράτης ήρώτα, would have it, Cic. Acad. 1. 12, άλλ' ουκ απεκρίνετο· ώμολόγει γάρ 44 ; ii. 23, 74.

ουκ είδέναι. Conf. Plato, Rep. 3 The already quoted lan. 337. guage of the Apology, 23, A., • Compare Hegel, Gesch. d. does not contradict this; the Phil. ii. 54; IIermann, Plato, possibility of knowledge not 326. being there denied, but only

CHAP. scepticism may be observed. In as far as it denied
VI.

the possibility of all knowledge, Socrates opposed this
scepticism, whilst agreeing with it in as far as it re-
ferred to previous philosophy. Natural philosophers,
he believed, transcended in their enquiries the limits
of human knowledge. A clear proof of this fact is
that they are at variance with one another respecting
the most important questions. Some hold being to
be
one,

others make of it a boundless variety; some teach that everything, others that nothing, is subject to motion; some that all things, others that nothing comes into being or perishes. Just as the Sophists destroyed the conflicting statements of the natural philosophers by means of each other, so Socrates infers from the contest of systems, that no one of them is in possession of the truth. Their great difference consists herein, the Sophists making Notknowing into a principle, and considering the highest wisdom to consist in doubting everything; Socrates adhering to his demand for knowledge, clinging to the belief in its possibility, consequently regarding igno

rance as the greatest evil. B. The Such being the importance of the Socratic Notsearch for knowing, it involves in itself a demand for enlightenSifting of inent; the knowledge of ignorance leads to a search his fellowmen. Eros

1 Xen. Mem. i. 1, 13, says and irony.

ποις ευρείν: έπει και τους μέγιtliat Socrates did not busy στον φρονούντας επί τω περί τούhimself with questions of των λέγειν ου ταυτά δοξάζειν natural science, but on the αλλήλοις, αλλά τους μαινομένοις contrary he held those who ομοίως διακείσθαι προς αλλήλους did to be foolish ; Daúuase ' then follows what is quoted in ει μη φανερόν αυτοίς έστιν, ότι the text. ταύτα ου δυνατόν έστιν ανθρώ

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