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Socrates Defense in the Apology

A friend of Socrates' went to Delphi and asked the Pythian prophetess if there were any person wiser than Socrates. The prophetess declares that there "was no man wiser" (69).

Socrates brings the Oracle up in order not to flaunt his wisdom but to refute the charges against him, to show, in fact that a correct interpretation of the Oracle will reveal that Socrates is special not for what he knows but because he seems to be alone in knowing that he knows nothing. His initial interpretation is that the Oracle must be right, that there is no wiser man than Socrates, and this interpretation left Socrates baffled, because his own view was that he was not wise at all, and certainly no wiser than others.

Going out to search for a wiser man, to prove the Oracle wrong, Socrates found---as he had found throughout his life---that there were many pretenders to wisdom but no truly wise man: "I found that the men most in repute were all but the most foolish; and that others less esteemed were really wiser and better" (71).

Socrates concludes that "God only is wise," and that the Oracle, speaking for God, meant that "the wisdom of men is worth little or nothing." The Oracle means that "He . . . is the wisest, who, like Socrates, knows that his wisdom is in truth worth nothing" (72).

Socrates defends himself, his life's work, and the role of his dialogue-based philosophical inquiries in a number of ways, but his most simple, clear, succinct and effe


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