Knowing Truth

“Until a man knows the truth of the several particulars of which he is writing or speaking, and is able to define them as they are, … and until in like manner he is able to discern the nature of the soul, and discover the different modes of discourse which are adopted to different natures, and to arrange and dispose them in such a way that the simple form of speech may be addressed to the simpler nature, and the complex and composite to the more complex nature—until he has accomplished all this, he will be unable to handle arguments according to rules of art, as far as their nature allows them to be subjected to art, either for the purpose of teaching or persuading.” ~Socrates

We could put this very simply as, “If you don’t know what you are talking or writing about, shut up!” but that would be an oversimplification. It would, of course, be wise for people who don’t know a subject at all to avoid talking about it, but should we tell a person to keep his opinions to himself simply because he doesn’t know everything about a subject? I don’t think so.

For one thing, nobody is perfect, nobody is all knowledgeable, nobody is completely free of error. Even when we do know something, we sometimes make an unintended mistake, and that shouldn’t stop us from sharing what we know. The other reason to let the person talk is that in doing so, he may reveal gaps in his knowledge which someone listening can fill in for him and help him increase his knowledge. That assumes that he is willing to listen to others and doesn’t just assume that others have nothing to tech them.

The wise man recognizes that all people can teach us something, even if it’s just that so many are very ignorant even though they believe themselves to be very intelligent. The uneducated wood carver may not be able to teach you Greek and Latin, but he can teach you how to fix a door that wont close all the way. The farmer may not be able to tech you computer programming, but he can tell you how to recognize truly fresh fruits and vegetables at the supermarket. Even the lazy man may teach us how to do some things more quickly and efficiently because that is his nature.

Socrates goes beyond learning from each other, though. He says that a man cannot speak with truth and authority until “he is able to discern the nature of the soul”. This is a simple statement thrown into the middle of this speech, but it profound in implication. What Socrates is saying is that none of us can truly speak with complete authority, especially on the nature of Man and the spiritual worlds, until he has awakened his spirit and soul, and has filled that soul with the Divine Knowledge called Gnosis. Until she does that, the person is really expressing opinion and theory rather than definite fact, and should say so. So if you truly want to speak or write with authority, listen to others and awaken you spiritual faculties through which you can learn far more that you will learn in even the best colleges.


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