Is there a path to wisdom?
How can I know what I do not know? How can I trace that boundary between knowledge and ignorance?
In the dialogue “Apology” Plato writes about Socrates while in the dungeon just before drinking the hemlock that the citizens of Athens condemned him to be executed.
In the dungeon shortly before drinking from the hemlock cup Socrates spoke to his followers. He spoke about the accusations against him at the trial. He said that the sworn indictment against him was “Socrates is guilty of needless curiosity and meddling interference, inquiring into things beneath Earth and in the Sky…”
Socrates further adds that he is accused of teaching the people of Athens, to which Socrates vehemently denies that he is a teacher. He points out that in matters of wisdom he has only a small piece of that territory; the wisdom that he does have is the wisdom not to think he knows what he does not know. Socrates conjectures that he has the wisdom to recognize the boundary of his present knowledge and to search for that knowledge that he does not have. “So it seems at any rate I am wiser in this one small respect: I do not think I know what I do not.”
For Socrates a necessary component of wisdom is to comprehend what one is ignorant of.
Am I wise? Do I know what I am ignorant of? I certainly know that I am ignorant of astronomy and music. There are many things about which it is obvious to me that I am ignorant of. Are there things about which I am not even aware of my ignorance? Are there matters about which I think I am knowledgeable of but which I am, in fact, ignorant of?
When I ask myself these questions I become conscious of a great number of things about which I am ignorant. Does this mean I am like Socrates in this matter? I do not think so. Socrates is speaking about two types of ignorance about which most people are unconscious of.
I think that Socrates is speaking of our ‘burden of illusion’. People are unconscious of the superficiality of much that they think they know and they are unconscious of a vast domain of knowledge that is hidden from the non critical thinker.
The uncritical mind has no means for discovering these illusions. CT (Critical Thinking) is the keystone for discovering these illusions. The Catch-22 here is how can one develop a critical mind when they are deluded into thinking they have a critical mind?
When our educational system has not taught our citizens how to think critically how can our citizens ever pull themselves out of this deep hole of illusion?
“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble; it’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so”—Mark Twain