Do We Really Know What We Think We Know?

  1. Socrates: Consider, do you not think it a sound statement that one must not value all the opinions of people but some and not others, nor the opinions of all people but those of some and not others? What do you say? Is this not well said?
    Crito: It is.
  2. Socrates: One should value the good opinions, and not the bad ones?
    Crito: Yes.
    Socrates: The good opinons are those of wise people, the bad opinions those of foolish ones.
    Crito: Of course.
  3. Socrates: Come then, what of statements such as this: Should a person professionally engaged in physical training pay attention to the praise and blame and opinion of anyone, or to those of one person only, namely a doctor or trainer?
    Crito: To those of one only.
  4. Socrates: The person in training should therefore fear the blame and welcome the praise of that one individual, and not those of the many?
    Crito: Obviously.
    Socrates: This person must then act and exercise, eat and drink in the way the one, the trainer and the one who knows, thinks right, not all the others?
    Crito: That is so.
    Socrates: Very well. And if this person disobeys the one, disregards the opinions and praises while valuing those of the many who have no knowledge, will he or she not suffer harm?
    Crito: Of course.
    Socrates: What is that harm, where does it tend, and what part of the person who disobeys does it affect?
    Crito: Obviously the harm is to his body, which it ruins.
  5. Socrates: Well said. So with other matters … and certainly with actions just and unjust, shameful and beautiful, good and bad, about which we are now deliberating, should we follow the opinion of the many and fear it, or that of the one — if there is one who has knowledge of these things and before whom we feel fear and shame more than before all the others. If we do not follow the directions of this person, we shall harm and corrupt that part of ourselves that is improved by just actions and destroyed by unjust actions. Or is there nothing in this?
    Crito: I think there certainly is, Socrates.
  6. Socrates: Come now, if we ruin that which is improved by health and corrupted by disease by not following the opinions of those who know, is life worth living for us when it is ruined? And that is the body, is it not?
    Crito: Yes.
    Socrates: And is life worth living with a body that is corrupted and in bad condition?
    Crito: In no way.
  7. Socrates: And is life worth living for us with that part of us corrupted that unjust action harms and just action benefits? Or do we think that part of us, whatever it is, that is concerned with justice and injustice, is inferior to the body?
    Crito: Not at all.
    Socrates: It is more valuable?
    Crito: Much more.
  8. Socrates: We should not then think so much of what the majority will say about us, but what that person will say who understands justice and injustice, the one, that is, and the truth itself. So that … you were wrong to believe that we should care for the opinion of the many about what is just, beautiful, good, and their opposites.

— From the Crito by Plato

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