September 18th, 2012
What made Socrates distinctive, unlike any of the sages or sophists or others around?According
to ancient testimonies, he was distinctive in at least seven ways:
1. Socrates was notorious for pressing the “what is X?” question, speciﬁcally to inquire into the
nature of moral virtue (usually a particular moral virtue).
2. Socrates approach, ‘the Socratic Method’(known technically as the elenchus) was to cross
examine his interlocutors about their beliefs, usually on moral matters, to judge their
3. Likewise, ‘socratic irony’is standard phrase.
4. ‘Socratic Ignorance’socrates aways maintained that he did not know anything, or that the only
thing he knew was that he knew nothing, or that he knew nothing of value, or that he knows
what he does not know.
5. Socrates seems to have held that knowledge is not only necessary for virtue but also sufﬁcient
for it, which led him to deny the reality of ‘weakness of will’(where one knows the better and
the worse) and relat