Socrates and Plato - Track 704

Now then further we see what he says, what is his argument, you are meddling in that …. He inquires into things below the earth and sky. Now what does it mean? He inquires into earth and sky which means that something that is not legitimate he is inquiring into and rouses people to inquire into things which they should not inquire into. Inquire means questioning, to question what is beyond the sky, what is below the earth which you cannot normally see and which only religion answers, only religion has answered already, so you have no right to question again according to the accusers and if you inquire into this question, you’re you are inquiring into the gods, questioning the gods. So as Tobean rightly said it has implication that you are breaking the religion and breaking the religion is criminal. Alright then farther… and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger. Now this is another, it is criminal because you know that argument is weak and yet you show how it can meet, how it can defeat a stronger argument. That means you have a falsehood on your side, it’s a weaker argument, your argument is stronger so truth is on your side and yet you succeed in showing that this is better than the other one, you’re spoiling the minds of people. You’re showing that the falsehood can win against the truth and then you tell the other people that you also follow the same example. Not only you but you ask others also. Now this is the argument. So we repeat now – Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling in that he inquires into the sky and into what is below the earth and he shows the weaker argument can defeat the stronger argument and then he asks the other people to follow his example. Now this is the argument now see now how Socrates is answering this argument. You have now read his argument quite well; you only want the gist of that argument. We shall try to bring out the basic argument.

Now he points this out that this is an argument which is very difficult to refute. You can argue against anybody, anyone of us can be taken to a court of law and you can argue about that person and say: He is doing criminal meddling and he shows that which is false to be true and he asks other people to follow. Now how would you argue, supposing you are in the box, you have never done this kind of thing at all, you know it very well but somebody comes and accuses; how would you refute this argument? You think of it then you will see the value of Socratic argument. You would normally say: let somebody who has been mistakenly brought here, isn’t it? You would say if this accusation is valid somebody should come here before the court and should say that well here is what I have done, here I have misled somebody and I am asking other people to follow it. You would do that isn’t it, and then the court would be obliged to ask the prosecutor, kindly bring some such witnesses. Now supposing there are many people who have been hurt by you and they want to see that you are punished and they all join together and many people come to the court and tell you: yes, it is true. Then what do you do? You know that they are all wrong. Now the position of Socrates was of that kind. There were many people who were prepared to say to the court: it is true. Now what is the way in which you can argue?

Now if you read Socratic argument, you’ll find first of all Socrates says: I admit that this argument is very difficult for me to refute, he says very clearly and he says the reason is twofold. First of all I don’t even know those people who have made this accusation; I don’t even know these people because this kind of argument has been made to many people when they were young children. Their fathers used to tell their children: Look, there is Socrates who’s called a very wise man but he is capable of showing what is not true to be true and he inquires into the sun and the moon, inquires into the sky and what is below the earth, don’t go near him because he will spoil you. So from childhood this story has been told to many children and children normally take for granted what is told to them by their parents is true. So this story is now going on in the whole place. Now if these children who have now become quite big men, if they are all brought together into the court as witnesses they will say: yes, we have heard it, it is true. Now their parents, who are their parents Socrates doesn’t even know which parents have poisoned their children in this way. So he says my task is very difficult, I don’t even know my accusers. I don’t know those people who have poisoned their children’s minds from their childhood, who have now become big men by now, they will confirm the accusation because they have been told from their childhood. So they believe it to be true, they will say my parents have said something must have happened to them, so they are saying something that is true. So he says my task is very difficult. So Socrates says, his argument is – you kindly consult the many people who are here, at least they have come into my personal contact, ask them: Have I ever spoken of this, have I ever misled them? If you have any report in your mind kindly tell your neighbours who are sitting here, kindly tell them, no, no this is not true. This is only argument he can make there is no other argument. He said just see, ask anybody here who has come in my contact and ask them whether this is true or not, this is one set of argument in this.

There is now a second set of argument, what is that second set? He himself proposes to inquire into the following. He says: if you are, there are many people who will now tell me Socrates if you are so innocent and that this accusation is completely baseless then how has this complaint come about at all? Kindly explain, if something is completely wrong then I should explain why it has come about? So the second set of argument of Socrates is the answer to this question. He himself raises this question and then he himself answers this question. He says my friends you will ask me that if I am so innocent, how is it that so many people have made this argument, this accusation against you? What have you done in your life that these accusations are running about, something must be there behind it? So he explains why this accusation has come about. Now can anybody tell me how he explains? Right, if you read now once again, he starts answering the question he says: The origin of this accusation is God himself. It so happened that a friend of his went to Delphi and in the temple a priestess was asked the question? Is there anybody wiser than Socrates? This was the question and the priestess said: no. meaning thereby that Socrates is the wisest. This is the beginning of the whole trouble. The priestess or the oracle in Delphi said that Socrates is the wisest man in the whole world. So he said when I heard this I was taken aback. He said I believed that God cannot be wrong, what God says is right but I do not agree with it because I know that I am not the wisest, there are so many wise people around how can I be wisest, I know of my own limitations, I know how wrong I am. So I thought that this is the one time when God is wrong, I did not believe it but not to believe in God’s word is a very irresponsible thing, I wanted to believe but I could not believe. So what did I do? I had to carry out investigation; I had to find out what is the truth behind God’s words? It was my duty to find out because I could not rest aside. I could not say what oracle has said is right because I really did not believe in it and yet not to believe in God would be a crime. I believe in God, I would like to respect God’s words; so I had no alternative but to make inquiry, to find out whether it is really true? Now you tell me what is wrong in this? Then he says in my investigation I met three kinds of people whom I thought were very wise people. Now what are the three categories of people that he met, you remember? He first met politicians, second he met poets and third he met craftsmen. So he says: when I met the politicians and people believed that he was very wise and he himself believed that he was still wiser, such a man I met first. People thought that he was wise and he himself thought he was wiser such a man I met, I selected one man who surely would be wiser than me in any case because people believed that he was wise and he himself believed he was wiser. So I met him and after investigating, after questioning him I found that he did not know at all. My conclusion was that he did not know, nor did I know, not that I knew and he did not know. The only difference was that he did not know but believed that he knew, on my part I did not know and I knew that I do not know; it’s the only difference between the two so in the scale who is better? I found that I was better because where I did not know; I knew that I did not know whereas that man did not know and he knew so in the state of the truth I was certainly better. So I came to the conclusion that this man who is supposed to be wise, who believes himself to be wiser is certainly not wise but in comparison to him at least I was wiser. This was my conclusion. Then I went to another politician and the same result, he claimed that he knew whereas he did not know. Then I told him frankly you claim to know but you don’t know. Now very few people would like to take the truth, if somebody is told: you don’t know and you claim that you know so they became my enemies. Then I went to poets because poets are supposed to be inspired, very learned almost like gods that is what all poets claim to be, they write with inspiration. So I went to them and I said: here is your poem, can you explain to me this poem but they could not explain what they had written themselves. So I came to the conclusion that they are like those people who are inspired so well that they don’t know what they write. So I concluded I was certainly better than they. Then I went to craftsman. What did the craftsman do? and here of course I found them very wise because they knew about their craft very well they were not like poets, who wrote and yet they could not explain these people were better at least they could explain their art, their craft but when I began to ask other questions they did not know the answers but yet they pretended they knew the answers and they thought they had the answers. So while they were good in their own profession they held views about other things about which they had no knowledge, so that was their fault. So I told them what was their fault but came to the conclusion that what God wants to say is only this: that wisdom only belongs to God.