Socrates on Misology

“Socrates:  There is a certain experience we must be careful to avoid.

Phaedo:  What is that?

S:  That we should not become misologues, as people become misanthropes.  There is no greater evil one can suffer than to hate reasonable discourse.  Misology and misanthropy arise in the same way.  Misanthropy comes when a man without knowledge or skill has placed great trust in someone and believes him to be altogether truthful, sound, and trustworthy; then, a short time afterwards he finds him to be wicked and unreliable, and this happens in another case; when one has frequently had that experience, especially with those whom one believed to be one’s closest friends, then, in the end, after many such blows, one comes to hate all men and to believe that no one is sound in any way at all.  Have you not seen this happen?

P: I surely have.

S:  This is a shameful state of affairs, and obviously due to an attempt to have human relations without any skill in human affairs, for such skill would lead one to believe, what is in fact true, that the very good and the very wicked are both quite rare, and that most men are between those extremes….The similarity lies in this:  It is as when one who lacks skill in arguments puts his trust in an argument as being true, then shortly afterwards believes it to be false–as sometimes it is and sometimes it is not–and so with another argument and then another.  You know how those in particular who spend their time studying contradiction in the end believe themselves to have become very wise and that they alone have understood that there is no soundness or reliability in any object or in any argument, but that all that exists simply fluctuates up and down as if it were in the Euipus and does not remain in the same place for any time at all.

P:  What you say is certainly true.

S:  It would be pitiable, Phaedo, when there is a true and reliable argument and one that can be understood, if a man who has dealt with such arguments as appear at one time true, at another time untrue, shoud not blame himself or his own lack of skill but, because of his distress, in the end gladly shift the blame away from himself to the arguments, and spend the rest of his life hating and reviling reasoned discussion and so be deprived of truth and knowledge of reality.

P:  Yes, by Zeus, that would be pitiable indeed.

S:  This then is the first thing we should guard against.  We should not allow into our minds the conviction that argumentation has nothing sound about it; much rather we should believe that it is we who are not yet sound and that we must take courage and be eager to attain soundness, you and the others for the sake of your whole life still to come, and I for the sake of death itself.”

The Phaedo, 89c-91b

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