“I know that I know nothing.”
This often attributed quote to Socrates suggests that ultimate wisdom is in realizing you know nothing.
The only problem is that Socrates never actually said that.
Plato chronicled the teaching of Socrates and he is the one that claims Socrates uttered those words but there is no evidence that he ever did. There is evidence that at least twice Socrates is recorded as specifically claiming that he did know something.
What Socrates did say, in The Apology, is “…that what I do not know I do not think I know…” He is claiming that an advantage in wisdom goes to those who do not pretend to know what they do not.
Socrates knew many things, as do you and I. Absurdio reduction is the reduction of an idea to the absurd, and thinking that claiming to know nothing makes you wise is such a statement.
Francis Bacon, a contemporary of Shakespeare, is considered by many historians as the last person to know “everything.” That is to say he understood all of the known knowledge of his time. Exploration, discovery and progress in all fields of study have made it impossible for any man or woman since to have a grasp of all that is known.
Wise people know that regardless of how much they have learned, there is still much they can learn (and that they can’t know everything). What they have learned seems minuscule compared to all that is known.
Knowing what you really know and what you don’t know is the beginning of wisdom. And realizing that there is always something new to learn and know will keep you on the path.
Mark Sanborn is a bestselling author and acclaimed leadership keynote speaker. For more information about his services, visit www.marksanborn.com.