Socrates is perhaps the first moral philosopher in the history of Europe. In his system of ideas, knowledge and wisdom are elements related to good, while ignorance is evil (a belief which was also adopted by his disciple, Plato.
In this article we will see what the epistemological theory of Socrates consisted of and how it was related to morality. But let’s start by briefly reviewing the life of this Greek philosopher to better understand why he thought so.
Who was Socrates?
Socrates was born in the city-state of Athens in the year 469 a. VS. We know that he took part in the Peloponnesian War against other Greek cities, including Sparta, and that he returned to Athenian politics. He thus had the opportunity to get used to debating and developing complex ideas through dialogue, which would later serve to develop his philosophical research.
Years later, when his father died, he inherited a sum of money that allowed him to live without having to work for a salary. This is what allowed Socrates to become a philosopher.
Soon Socrates began to gain visibility as a public figure on the streets of Athens. This thinker challenged people to stand up for their most fundamental beliefs in great detailAnd from the questions that the other had to answer, he showed that these ideas were not as well founded as they seemed at the beginning. This allowed him to gain followers, students participating in his conversations.
The influence Socrates was gaining made the authorities suspicious of him and ultimately accused him of bribing the youngster, for whom he was sentenced to death. Socrates he ended up committing suicide by drinking hemlock in the year 399 a. vs.
Socrates’ epistemological theory
These are the main aspects of Socrates’ epistemological theory. This was not only one of the first attempts to create a philosophical system of epistemology in the West, but also it served as a starting point for thinkers as important as Plato.
1. The need to know what is good
The main purpose of human existence, which gives meaning to life, is live following the path of good. By definition, good is a vector that tells us which actions are desirable and which are not.
2. Good is an absolute concept
Good and evil are concepts that exist independently of us. Think about it or not, whether we exist or not, good and evil are there, And they say something about who we are even though we are not aware of it.
3. A philosophical inquiry is necessary
As a consequence of the above, one must investigate through philosophy to go beyond the mere idea that good exists and find out exactly what its form is. How to act correctly, you must know the reality, Socrates establishes an equivalence between good and wisdom.
4. The rejection of preconceived ideas
To get to the idea of good, we have to question everything we think we know to see if it’s really based on real ideas. For this, Socrates he used a principle of knowledge called Maieutics.
What is maieutics according to Socrates?
Socrates believed that although many of our beliefs are wrong, by questioning them we can get closer to the truth.
Maieutics is a form of dialogue in which each statement is reproduced by a question which obliges the issuer to further develop his ideas. That way, you can check if it doesn’t have any vulnerable flanks or if it’s really just a hunch, an easily falsified belief.
As Socrates defended the value of Maieutics, he showed no enthusiasm neither for long speeches nor for the possibility of writing books, But preferred the dialogue developed in real time as a tool for creating knowledge. This idea was taken up by other intellectuals later, although his disciple Plato, although sharing many ideas with him, did not follow his master in this regard (and was in fact responsible for leaving the ideas by written from Socrates, since the latter did not).
What does “I know I don’t know anything” mean?
For Socrates, this declaration of intent was a way of expressing the importance of basing knowledge on questioning everything that seems obvious. Ideas for questions it may seem like a simple way to undermine theories, but it can also be seen as the opposite: a way to strengthen them and actually make them correspond to reality through constructive criticism.