CAUTION; Asking Questions, Seeking the Truth can be dangerous.  Socrates could tell you a thing or two about that, Sgt Maurice McCabe of the Irish Gardai could provide some insights too.


In ‘Sophie’s World’, Sophie’s philosophical education continues, she learns about Socrates, one of the most famous of the Greek philosophers.  Socrates lived in Athens, about 450 BC.  He is famous for his habit of asking questions of people in the streets, in attempts to discover the truth and to help them discover the truth.  Socrates would start off by asking seemingly innocent questions and then slowly lead the interviewee into a more radical assessment of themselves and the world. All our knowledge about Socrates comes from the books of his pupil Plato.  Socrates always maintained that he, himself, was ignorant, “One thing only I know, and that is that I know nothing”, hence the need for all the questions.  That is a good basis for any philosopher, any spiritual traveler, to accept that we know nothing. Lesson 3 in “A Course in Miracles”, which we shall discuss at a later stage, is “I do not understand anything i see in this room”. While Lesson 5 is “I am never upset for the reason i think“. ‘A Course in Miracles’ consists of 365 such lessons, one for each day of the year and working your way through them will change the way you think.


Back to Socrates. He believed that he had no choice but to seek the truth, to ask questions. He described having a “divine voice” inside him, driving him on, insisting that he seek out the truth.  He believed that “He who knows what good is will do good”, and that only one who does right can be “virtuous”.   

Unfortunately for him, Socrates’ truth seeking was not well received by all and his questions, and his manner, (which apparently was somewhat abrupt), made him enemies, especially amongst the establishment.  He was accused of “introducing new gods and corrupting the truth” and tried, found guilty and sentenced to death by drinking hemlock. He could have chosen exile, or silence but Socrates, like other wise and principled people down through history, refused to surrender those principles.

Socrates preferred to surrender his life, and drank the hemlock, a poison, in his jail cell surrounded by his friends and pupils.


Many paintings of Socrates, drinking the hemlock while still debating some issue with his friends, have been painted over the years.  One of the most famous was painted by the French painter, Jacques-Louis David at the time of the French Revolution.  David certainly intended this scene as a rebuke to cringing souls. On the eve of the French Revolution, this picture served as a trumpet call to duty, to seeking the truth.

Keep asking the questions, don’t cringe from the truth, sometimes it is not so pleasant but remember the famous words attributed to Socrates, ‘An unexamined life is not worth living’

Live on my friends.


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