Saturday, December 26, 2020

Love of wisdom

For many people, discussion is a battle to be won rather than a route to knowledge. We see this especially in political debates. But it is also common in non political conversations. I, myself, am not a lover of victory but a lover of wisdom. This is a point I made to my old friend Gorgias many years ago. I am happy to be refuted if I say something untrue just as I would happily refute someone else who has said something untrue. You see, my friends, I think it is a greater good to be refuted, for it releases one from the harm of carrying false beliefs. 

- Socrates

Take Care

Most people take great care when walking. After all, stepping on a nail can injure the foot. And stepping in mud can leave the foot unclean. 

This makes sense to me and yet I am often surprised to see how little care people take with their minds. Is it not true that our minds require the utmost care to avoid damage? When we step into certain thoughts we risk injury to our most precious of possessions — our character. Racial biases, xenophobia, and unreasoned superstitious beliefs are scattered everywhere throughout the world and we must take care to avoid them, lest they turn us into the very thing we may once have despised. 

Insofar as it makes sense to watch where we step to avoid damaging our feet, it seems to make equal sense to exercise caution with our minds. Let’s put reason first and let it keep our minds safe. In doing so we maintain the worthiness of our character. 

- Socrates

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Know thyself

Of the many things spoken about me, two quotes appear time and time again. The first, 'the unexamined life is not worth living', was part of my defense during my infamous trial. The second, 'know thyself', was important to me, but did not originate in my mind. Rather, it was an inscription near the entrance of the Temple of Delphi. Regardless of its origin, I offered it as advice to many of my friends.

If you wish to progress in your moral or intellectual life, you must know who you are. This knowledge provides a starting point for learning. Some people pretend to be something they are not, and in doing so they fail to recognize areas in which they may develop. Is it not true that if I think I am morally perfect, I am unlikely to seek improvement? Or, if I think I have great knowledge, I might not be open to new ideas? Or, if I think I am supremely talented, I may stop practicing my craft? Knowing who I am keeps me grounded and helps me become a better person.

So, if you truly wish to be the best person you can be, start by figuring out who you are. Look inward. Examine your life. Know thyself.

-- Socrates