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Isn't it pretty?

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Plato's Crito

I started writing about Plato's Crito last night. I am having a lot of trouble with the idea that unwise equals evil. In the dialogue Crito, Socrates asserts that “the opinions of the wise are good, and the opinions of the unwise are evil,” to which Crito agrees. First, why must the opinions of wise people be good? I think we need to first determine who is considered a wise person. A wise person, according to Socrates, is “one man who has understanding” in a certain area of knowledge. This understanding seems to be a comprehensive collection of insight into a specific area, to the point where a population would acknowledge this person as an expert. This person would be trusted to give advice and guidance in his specific area of knowledge. According to Socrates, this person alone should be turned to, and we should disregard the advice of any others who try to lead us in that area. It is assumed that a person with this vast breadth of knowledge in a specific area will lead wisely; they will only give instruction that will yield the greatest benefit and help people develop themselves in this particular area of expertise. But is the unwise necessarily evil? Could it not be simply ignorant? I feel like someone who is unwise does not definitely do everything bad, they could very often make the right decisions by accident, and things could turn out for the best. Even if being unwise means being absolutely devoid of any knowledge whatsoever, I still feel that an unwise person could make some right decisions by chance. The word evil has a sinister tone to it, as if the doer of evil is purposely giving advice that will cause others to be harmed. Unwise does not seem to have the same negative connotation, it just indicates a lack of understanding of a particular area. So what is the connection between wisdom and good and evil? I think what Plato is trying to imply is that if you want to be led in the correct direction, without the chance of harm, then you must pick a person to lead who is renowned for his knowledge, who has little chance of leading you astray. Why takes chances when you are listening to another’s guidance? Socrates seems to feel that listening to one person who is acknowledged to be the wisest in a certain area certainly is much safer than listening to a crowd whose knowledge is questionable.

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