green valley flowers mountains

Socrates – I know that I know nothing

What does this paradoxical statement of Socrates mean? He was a wise man, yet he says that he knows nothing. Socrates, after discussing with someone stated (in Plato’s Apology), that both of them knew nothing great, but the other person believed that he knew something, while Socrates knew that both of them knew nothing. So Socrates was wiser than the other person. This can be surmised by a quote of British Pastor and Author, Charles Spurgeon –

“The doorstep to the temple of wisdom is a knowledge of our own ignorance.”

Beautiful green valley, flowers and mountains with Socrates quote - I know that I know nothing

“I know that I know nothing.”

A Zen story beautifully relates to this. A professor went to a Zen master to study Zen. The master brought some tea. He poured it in a cup and continued even after the cup was full. Seeing this, the professor remarked that the cup was full, it cannot accept more tea. The master replied that like cup, professor was full of his own inferences and beliefs. He needs to empty his cup to understand Zen.

Photo by Joel Holland

4 thoughts on “Socrates – I know that I know nothing

  1. It was Like bouncer to me 🙂
    Something like to have free and open ended thoughts I guess.
    Hopefully ,soon I will get the meaning.

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    1. Charles Spurgeon puts it rather simply, if we want to be knowledgeable, we must first accept that we need to know, which will happen if we know that we are ignorant.

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      1. @Shiva ,You mean to say-“stay curious” ? Since if one is always curious then he definitely has the thirst of knowledge i.e he knows that he needs to know and also he will not be ignorant.

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