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Socrates’ Human Wisdom


The concept of human wisdom is fundamental for an understanding of the Apology. But it has not been properly understood. The received interpretations offer insufficient resources for explaining how Socrates could have been humanly wise before Apollo’s oracle, when he falsely believed that he was not wise at all. I argue that a satisfactory interpretation of human wisdom can be given in terms of “philosophia”. Socrates was humanly wise before the oracle because he loved wisdom—even though he did not know that he did. The analysis is confirmed by its resolution of some enduring difficulties in the interpretation of Apology, in particular, the question of why Socrates continued to search for knowledge he thought impossible to attain.

La notion de sagesse humaine est fondamentale pour comprendre l’Apologie — mais elle n’a jamais été comprise correctement. Les interprétations généralement acceptées n’offrent pas assez d’éléments pour expliquer comment Socrate pouvait faire preuve d’une sagesse humaine devant l’oracle d’Apollon, alors qu’il croyait à tort ne pas être sage du tout. Je soutiens qu’une interprétation satisfaisante de la sagesse humaine est possible en termes de «philosophia». Socrate fut humainement sage devant l’oracle parce qu’il aimait la sagesse — même s’il ne savait pas qu’il l’aimait. L’analyse est confirmée par le fait qu’elle résout certaines difficultés bien établies de l’interprétation de l’Apologie, en particulier la question de savoir pourquoi Socrate continuait à chercher un savoir qu’il savait être hors d’atteinte.

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Dialogue: Canadian Philosophical Review / Revue canadienne de philosophie
  • ISSN: 0012-2173
  • EISSN: 1759-0949
  • URL: /core/journals/dialogue-canadian-philosophical-review-revue-canadienne-de-philosophie
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