In the last year of high school, I “met” Socrates, and loved the way he used the midwife term to describe his method of guiding Athens’ youth to clarify the problem of meaning, of definition, of “first lessons” to “the exact”, to “logical investigations”. Years and years later, I still "love" him for saying this:
“My art of midwifery is in general like theirs [real midwives]; the only difference is that my patients are men, not women, and my concern is not with the body but with the soul that is in travail of birth. And the highest point of my art is the power to prove by every test whether the offspring of a young man's thought is a false phantom or instinct with life and truth. I am so far like the midwife that I cannot myself give birth to wisdom, and the common reproach is true, that, though I question others, I can myself bring nothing to light because there is no wisdom in me. The reason is this. Heaven (Jowett: "the god") constrains me to serve as a midwife, but has debarred me from giving birth. So of myself I have no sort of wisdom, nor has any discovery ever been born to me as the child of my soul. Those who frequent my company at first appear, some of them, quite unintelligent, but, as we go further with our discussions, all who are favored by heaven make progress at a rate that seems surprising to others as well as to themselves, although it is clear that they have never learned anything from me. The many admirable truths they bring to birth have been discovered by themselves from within. But the delivery is heaven's work and mine.”
One great soul, one “giant” of a man, and we may lift our hats and whisper to ourselves, “ the conscience and integrity of Athens", when learning of how he refused to escape death and took the hemlock. Philosophy had engaged with life, and become life there. Not only to realize truths.
Now, reading again the below quote from him, as very much close to what Plato said in Apology :
" I know that I know nothing (absolutely/with “extreme” certainty/correctness- CH added words in parentheses) "
It appears convincingly to me that with the problems he thought about, there were things to him, at least, (very ) hard to comprehend/understand thoroughly, completely, or things which “proved” that approaches to their solutions did not work well, or simply : could not be known. I believe, precisely for that reason that he uttered that famous statement.
What a ”soul”, a genuine, phenomenal truth seeker !
Socrates regularly used two metaphors to describe what he considered his life-work to be. One metaphor was that of the gadfly, the horsefly that stings the intellectually and morally sluggish citizens of Athens with his questioning. "For Athens is a great and noble steed that is tardy in its motions…
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