I’ve been reflecting on the word “philosopher” recently, and wondering why Socrates might have felt a need to coin a new word instead of just being a new variety of sophist. Why “lover of wisdom”?

This seems connected with the myth of the Oracle at Delphi identifying Socrates as the wisest man in Athens for knowing how little he really knew.

Is loving wisdom connected with awareness of the limits of one’s own thought?

I link this with the understanding that when love a person, we must not confuse that with loving our idea of who a person is.

We must love her semi-mysterious being who is forever beyond the limits of cognition, who will never stop surprising us. Yet we do know her more than our mere our cognition knows, in a directly intuitive way. And that intuitive knowing has something to do with participating in a shared being with her.

In love, our own subject subsists within another greater subject, and our being participates in this greater being.

Wisdom seems connected with this capacity to participate in reality without needing to reduce to reality to thought — to think toward a reality known to transcend thought.

Unwisdom — sophistry — is to confuse our thoughts of reality for reality itself.

We think we love a person but instead love our own idea of a person.

We think we worship God but instead we love our own mental image of God.

We think we know who we are, but we don’t know how to know the kind of being we have in order to know it. We grasp some identity — a category of object — instead of participating in our own way as our selves.

Participatory being is subjectivity, and objectivity is its product, not its substance.

As long as we must cognize everything objectively before we will know it as real, we will remain unable to know ourselves, other people, or God. We will be cursed with the Midas touch of objectivity, and be unable to nourish ourselves. We will be nihilists.

I entertain the possibility that Socrates saw that the consequence of sophistry was nihilism.

And now I am wondering if the purpose of Socratic interrogation is to get people to realize how much they are able to do perfectly well despite lacking the? ability to account for it with explicit thought?

2 thoughts on “Sophists

  1. I’ve been trying to grok spiritual materialism lately – the simplest definition as I understand it being attachment to our ideas of spiritual concepts and achievements, ignoring their substance, or lack thereof. I find I get mentally attached to words especially when using mantras and completely forget about what the word is signifying.

    1. I am trying really hard to kick my own very severe spiritual materialism. What is tragic about it is that the deepest wisdom precludes it. So the more you greedily cling to your treasure, the less valuable your treasure actually is. (Here is a nice application of Dunning-Kruger.)

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