Socrates is Kind of a D*ck
This post comes as a reflection of reading the first book of Plato’s Republic.
First of all, I will say that I have thoroughly enjoyed it. Plato’s writing is very clear, very understandable, and approachable. It is very interesting to observe how Socrates thinks and argues.
In the first book, Socrates talks to Cephalus and Thrasymachus about the nature of justice. In that short “book” you can clearly see the Socratic Method in action. You will notice that he never makes statements, rather he asks questions. In fact, Thrasymachus shouts at Socrates in the middle of the discussion as Socrates proves Cephalus’s definition to be wrong:
I say that if you want really to know what justice is, you should not only ask but answer, and you should not seek honor to yourself from the refutation of an opponent, but have your own answer; for there is many a one who can ask and cannot answer.
So, why do I say that Socrates is kind of a dick? Well, here is why.
At the end of Book I, or rather at the end of the conversation Socrates says:
the result of the whole discussion has been that I know nothing at all. For I know not what justice is, and therefore I am not likely to know whether it is or is not a virtue, nor can I say whether the just man is happy or unhappy.
And he says something along these lines all the time. He always claims that he knows nothing. There is nothing wrong with that, in fact having this mindset is good for people. However, I consider this a lie. When you read Book I of the Republic you will see that the questions that Socrates is asking are not random smart questions. He asks very direct, well-thought-out questions that lead his “opponent” to the point that Socrates has in mind. And boy, you better believe that he has a point, an opinion in mind. He just never shares it directly.
It isn’t very easy to do, to “trick” the opposing side with such questions, you need to have a good intellect, and more importantly, you need to be well versed in the topic at hand, otherwise, it is impossible to come up with such questions during the conversation.
In fact, Thrasymachus accuses Socrates of this:
Socrates: And you suppose that I ask these questions with any design of injuring you in the argument? Thrasymachus: Nay, he replied, ‘suppose’ is not the word —I know it, but you will be found out, and by sheer force of argument you will never prevail.
In this point I agree, at this point, it seems that Socrates is just trying to prove the opponent wrong and succeeds most of the time. I feel like this is a d*ck move.