About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Socrates' seven "commandments"

Again from Gross' "Socrates' Way," here is what one might call his (Socrates') seven "commandments," though most surely the Greek philosopher would never have used that term. Compare them to the (in)famous decalogue from the Old Testament to get a flavor of the difference between real wisdom and divinely-inspired fluff. I have added quotes from Socrates, taken from the book, referring to the appropriate Platonic dialogue.

1 - Know Thyself. "The unexamined life is not worth living." (from "Apology")

2 - Ask great questions. "My way toward the truth is to ask the right questions." (from "Protagoras")

3 - Think for yourself. "Do not be convinced by me. Be convinced by the truth." (from Symposium")

4 - Challenge convention. "When one is freed and gets on his feet and turns his head and walks toward the light -- all he has seen till now was false and a trick, but now he sees more truly." (from "Republic")

5 - Grow with your friends. "When a group of friends have enjoyed fine conversation together, you will find that suddenly something extraordinary happens. As they are speaking, it's as if a spark ignites, passing from one speaker to another, and as it travels, it gathers strength, building into a warm and illuminating flame of mutual understanding which none of them could have achieved alone." (from "Critias")

6 - Speak the truth. "It has been my fixed principle to speak the truth." (from "Apology")

7 - Strengthen your soul. "We should strive to gain more intelligence, arrive at more knowledge of truth, and develop finer character." (from "Apology")

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