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What Is Socratic Ignorance?

The Importance of Socratic Ignorance

The best way to change dogmatically held beliefs is to start with a skeptical attitude and ask questions, assuming you know nothing.

However, it is questionable how feasible it is to keep an attitude of Socratic ignorance on all matters. Even Socrates says, for instance, that he is sure that no real harm can befall a good man. He is equally confident that "the unexamined life is not worth living."

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What Is Socratic Ignorance?

What Is Socratic Ignorance?

https://www.thoughtco.com/socratic-ignorance-2670664

thoughtco.com

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Key Ideas

Socratic ignorance

Socratic ignorance refers to a person's acknowledgment of their ignorance: "I know only one thing – that I know nothing."

It is also referred to as "Socratic wisdom."

Socratic ignorance in Plato's Dialogues

Greek philosopher Socrates (469-399 BCE) is associated with humility regarding what one knows. In Plato's dialogues, Socrates is shown to challenge someone who thinks they know something, but when questioned thoroughly about it, turns out not to understand at all. By contrast, Socrates admits from the start that he does not know the answer.

In the Meno (a Socratic dialogue by Plato), Socrates is asked by Meno if virtue can be taught. Socrates responds that he doesn't know what virtue is. In a later part of the dialogue, Socrates shows that an essential step to learning anything is to clear one's mind of false ideas, even if you seem ignorant.

The Importance of Socratic Ignorance

The best way to change dogmatically held beliefs is to start with a skeptical attitude and ask questions, assuming you know nothing.

However, it is questionable how feasible it is to keep an attitude of Socratic ignorance on all matters. Even Socrates says, for instance, that he is sure that no real harm can befall a good man. He is equally confident that "the unexamined life is not worth living."

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