The great philosopher Socrates taught many lessons on the nature of mankind. His musings on life are still regarded today as some of the most fundamental ever to have been observed. The story below depicts an interesting interaction which tells of the way the great philosopher examined the very nature of spreading a rumor.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

One day the great philosopher bumped into an acquaintance, he went straight to him enthusiastically and said, “Socrates, do you know what I just heard about one of your students?”

Wait a moment,” replied Socrates. “Before you tell me, I must first ask you to take a small test.  It’s called the Test of the Three Things.”

Three things?”

That’s right”, Socrates continued, “before you tell me about my student, let’s take a moment to analyze what you are going to say.”

The first question is about the truth. Are you absolutely sure that what you intend to tell me is true?”

No,” the man replied, “I just heard about it.”

Okay,” Socrates said. “So you do not really know whether it’s right or wrong.”

Now try the second question – the Test for Kindness. Is the thing you are going to tell me about my students good?”

No, on the contrary.

Then,” asked Socrates, “Do you want to tell me something bad about my student even when you’re not sure it’s real?”

The man shrugged with a little embarrassment.

Socrates continued, “Assumed that you can pass the two above tests, but please answer the last question – the Test of the Benefit. Is there something useful for me if you share with me those things about my student?”

No, not really.”

“Okay,” Socrates came to conclude, “You want to tell me something neither good nor helpful, so why do you want to tell it to me?”

The man felt defeated and ashamed.

It was through the use of these simple but powerful techniques that Socrates gained recognition as a great and respectful sage. His wisdom was so pure and so logical that it is still valid to this day.

The painting “Alcibiades Being Taught by Socrates” by Marcello Bacciarelli. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The later development of this, the Socratic or dialectical method, was found to bring about great results and so was applied across many fields. His method of creating a dialog between those with opposing views can be expressed as follows: a series of questions are put to help a person or a group to determine the correctness and accuracy of a piece of information.

This method works to eliminate contradictory hypotheses and leads to a clearer understanding of the honest truth. It is tailored to encourage people to review the information they have objectively and to then assess the correctness of that information. Through the asking of questions and the honest retrieval of answers, clarity can be found. In fact, Socrates once said,

“I know you will not believe me, but the highest wisdom of man is to ask himself and ask others.”

A few words about Socrates

Philosopher Socrates. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In ancient Greece (469-399 BC), Socrates was a well-known scholar. He studied philosophy and put a lot of effort into discovering the wonders of the universe. He wrote many philosophical works, brimming with philosophical reasonings well worth pondering for generations to come.

Despite being a great philosopher, he defiantly dressed in humble clothing, reflecting his simplicity of thought. It did not mean though that he was negligent in his approach to life. He always conducted himself as a cheerful and easygoing person but would always act with restraint.

His character was defined by his patience, simplicity, and his ability to control himself in the face of all life’s difficulties and contradictions.

He never got angry or hostile towards others. If someone hit him, he would respond with silence, which extremely amazed his contemporaries. Socrates explained, “if a donkey kicks you, do you need to sue it?”

Socrates was also a satirist. When he saw in the city of Athens the goods displayed by merchants to attract buyers, he said, “Many items that I completely do not need can be found here.”

The painting “The Death of Socrates” by Jacques-Louis David. Credit: Wikipedia

The philosophy of Socrates was centered around the concept of “knowing yourself”. He highly valued ​​the soul over any material object. Socrates was the first philosopher to consider meditation as the body of a human because he conceived that “your body is your soul.”