Socrates is one of the most common and celebrated names in philosophy circles, and his material is often covered in any philosophy 101 course. What made his ideas so special?
The height of Socratic wisdom is something many may argue was not wisdom at all – devoid of philosophical value. Despite all of Socrates’ reason and original thinking, his contention that the only certainty he could obtain is that he could not be certain of anything challenged the value of his philosophy. How is this useful thinking? Some may contest that the idea finds no application in our world today. They may suggest that this apparent lack of knowledge is no wisdom at all.
The Greek roots of the word “philosophy” summarize it in its entirety. The Greek translation is “love of wisdom.” This leads us to explore the wisdom itself. Wisdom might be summarized as the optimization of knowledge itself. If Socrates was so wise, so aware, then why resort to such humility?
Life should be a very humbling journey. Just as wisdom, it is not a destination. Socrates dedicated his life to the vigorous pursuit of obtaining a deeper realization in relation to the world around him and his self. He developed many ideas and synthesized bytes of information into industrious tunes of understanding. Yet, he remained humble in his findings. Certainty, or, truth, is the holy grail of the philosopher. I would compare absolute certainty to knowing the mind and form of what we commonly refer to as “god.”
This humbling conclusion is the very reason people continue to seek answers, knowledge, and truth today. Everything is not known, and this fact compromises everything that can be known. Philosophers that arrived on the scene after Socrates demise have been expanding on Socratic wisdom by drawing up schematics for human understanding. Immanuel Kant, pioneered metaphysics by attempting to define what he termed “noumenal” reality. Though Kant’s hopes were misguided, they still caused him to drive out new and fascinating conceptual identities that continue to broaden the contemplation of the modern thinker.
“Noumena” defines phenomena in the sense that it is the root of perception as it exists, and is extended from, within the individual. Kant went so far as to argue that noumena creates phenomena. In this sense, the observer (or, subject) would be the measure of all things. You may ask yourself at this point – if reality is purely subjective, would it be important to think about it? I would argue, yes in all cases. I would also argue that Socrates and Kant make a powerful duo when they are both considered right. Subjectively, we are the measure of all things, but wisdom lights the path upon realizing the limits of our measure.