Socrates was a prophet


That is the answer to our initial question. S. had got people to say: "I know that I know nothing." Their knowledge turns out to be pseudo-knowledge. S. ’dialogue partners act as knowing and are convicted of being ignorant. S. wants to wake up his interlocutor, "so that he is looking for real knowledge and that is, is ready to give an account" (Hans-Georg Gadamer). What does it mean to be accountable for what you know? “Who knows, he not only has a perhaps correct view of something, but he also knows how to justify what he knows, in conversation with himself or with others. So knowing is being-knowing ”(Hans-Georg Gadamer). In dialogue Theaetetus S. says that he is said to be a strange person because he confuses the others. This is the state that Kant addresses in the sentence quoted at the beginning. S. calls the unreflective use of terms not knowing. To recognize this ignorance for oneself, that is where S. wants to lead people. At the same time, he wants to get them to reflect more deeply on the everyday and self-evident.

There is, however, a second type of knowledge that needs to be scrutinized alongside the theoretical; It is the practical knowledge. This practical knowledge is usually much less present to us than the theoretical, because value judgments run along in communication and are not specifically addressed. This unthatized validity of values ​​becomes evident when, for example, Amnesty International demands that the mistreatment or torture of people be stopped. Everyone agrees to this request. Nobody asks whether it is right to be against torture. Because that could be perceived as a provocation and communication would be severely disturbed. In the Socratic conversation, on the other hand, every moral value should be put to the test. It should be possible to determine and check the values ​​on which the daily small and weighty decisions are based. "Regressive abstraction" was what Leonard Nelson called this Socratic method in 1922, which is somewhere between induction and deduction. With this method, values ​​that lie within us and remain hidden in everyday activities should be made aware. “The regressive method of abstraction, which is used to demonstrate philosophical principles,” says Nelson, “does not generate new knowledge, either of facts or of laws. Only through reflection does it bring to mind what was the original possession of our reason and which became obscurely audible in every individual judgment. "Nelson describes this path as the decline from the particular to the general or as the decline from the individual moral judgments to their general principles that would rest in the darkness of every individual moral judgment.

We base our moral judgments in individual cases on moral principles, without being able to make ourselves aware of them with every decision. We make an infinite number of decisions in everyday life without us being aware of the principles that are the basis of our decisions at the moment in which we make the decision. S. also uses the same method for theoretical knowledge. In dialogue Menon S. gives a slave boy the task of doubling the area of ​​a square. But after some help from S. he says resignedly: "But with Zeus, S., I don't know how to do it." S. replies with the memorable answer: "Yes, you know. You just don't know that you know. ”S. persists and continues to work with“ persistent questioning energy ”(Hans-Georg Gadamer) until he finds the result that one has to construct a square over the diagonal of the underlying square, to get a square that is twice the area of ​​the underlying one. The boy finds all the answers by skilfully asking S. The latter is convinced that all knowledge is already within us. He says to the Menon: "Now see that I always only ask and never teach." The knowledge that lies in every human being must "be excited by questions and thus made into knowledge."

While the sophists - as S. in dialogue Gorgias demonstrated - striving to enforce their own opinion by skillfully speaking and persuading, S. came across both the clarification of the facts and the dialogue Menon on the formation of a moral attitude in theoretical dialogue. People should become able to communicate with others and correct their own opinion. The principle of the dialogue was the recognition of equivalence and the taking seriously of all interlocutors. In the Socratic dialogues of antiquity, which Leonard Nelson followed in 1922, practical and theoretical intentions came to be congruent.

How does S. lead people to insights into their supposed knowledge? He asks ironically. When someone - as in dialogue Laughs - says what bravery is, then S. introduces a life situation in which it is different. His question is always: "Can't it be completely different?" Or: "Don't we have to expand or change the definition of the essence now?" With these questions he tries to get closer to the truth, but at the same time makes it clear that he himself is truth also cannot formulate appropriately. That is the Socratic irony. It can be said that an ironic statement in the Socratic sense is the necessarily inadequate formulation of the truth, with the simultaneous indication of its inappropriateness. Why must the formulation of truth necessarily be inadequate? S. knew that he could not adequately represent the essence of a thing, especially not the essence of everything that is. In his view, this is due to the inadequacy of the human mind as opposed to the divine mind. In the last sentence of his defense speech, after he had been sentenced to death in a trial which, according to Hans-Georg Gadamer, was directed against the “scientist” and “intellectual” S., he made this inadequacy clear: “But it is time, to go from here to die for me and to live for you; who of us gets the better, no one knows but God alone. "

S. has often been reproached for wanting to steer people only in a certain direction so that they accept his view. Anyone who thinks this has not understood the meaning of metaphysical search. S. really did not have any definitive answers - as the last sentence of his defense speech shows us. He was convinced that only a questioning search helps thinking: Only God knows the pure truth. - In the opinion of his judges, S. endangered the existence of Greek practical and theoretical knowledge through his critical questions. Instead of instructing the youth in this knowledge, he taught them to question this knowledge critically and to think independently. A major charge was therefore also the seduction of the youth; another the introduction of new deities, by which reason was meant.