Textual Keys to Understand Socrates' Profession of Ignorance in the Apology (21a-23c)

Trinidad Silva


In the present paper I analyze some relevant textual keys of Plato's Apology (21a-23c) to show the many strands underlying Socrates' claims of ignorance. I advocate a position that seeks to reevaluate the use of epistemic lexica by considering other evidence, such as cultural and dramatic context, the use of hypothetical clauses, the comparative and the rhetoric of the pair real/apparent. From this approach, I hope to show that there are good reasons to interpret Socrates' claims of ignorance in the light of amiable irony, whereby the use of language and other literary devices create layers of meaning to express the full sense of Socratic wisdom for the audience without resorting to the charge of contradiction or insincerity. Against a position that reduces Socrates' message to the use of epistemic lexica to interpret it either by synonymy, equivocity or low/high cognitive grading, I propose to read Socrates' claims of ignorance, always in comparison to others' claim of wisdom, as a sort of cultural appropriation and revaluation of the traditional title σοφία/σοφός


Socrates, wisdom, Apology, ignorance, Plato

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.25180/lj.v21i2.199


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