Philosophy Sample Essay on Understanding Philosophy

Understanding Philosophy

Question 1. Socratic ignorance and Socrates critique of Sophistic knowledge.

The Delphic Oracle claimed that there was none wiser than Socrates. Socrates wondering what the oracle meant began searching among those deemed to possess knowledge and wisdom in order to find another wiser than he. He noticed that in all things those people claimed to know, they knew nothing.

 Socrates concluded then that if what the Oracle claimed was true, then he was the wisest only because he knew only one thing, that he knew nothing as far as knowledge was concerned. He was then given a task by the Delphic oracle, to make other people aware of their lack of knowledge and wisdom.

Socrates therefore adopted an attitude of naivety. In his paradox “I know that I do not know”, Socrates knew that with respect to wisdom, he was truly worthless. He feigned ignorance in order to find someone that was wiser than he was. Socrates asked questions to his disciples instead of responding to questions asked because he claimed that he did not know anything thus couldn’t teach anything as far as theoretical knowledge was concerned.

Socrates addressed himself to common people and acted under prejudices with no basis of reflection in order to show them that their knowledge had no foundation. The questions Socrates asked were the same things he had been pondering on over the years. These were questions of ethics; mainly of how a person should live his life. He practiced severe self-discipline in that he always applied his mind to itself in order to achieve the discipline he portrayed. He always reflected on, not what he had, but the values that guide his life (Hardot, 2002 p. 27).

Socrates criticized the sophistic knowledge that those who had been persuaded by their education that they possessed knowledge that they also knew nothing. Those were of two schools, the aristocrats of knowledge and democrats of knowledge, the Sophists. He criticized those who claimed that they could sell their knowledge. Socrates claimed that knowledge wasn’t something that could be written, communicated, transmitted or sold by any discourse. He claimed that knowledge must be engendered by the individual himself, that knowledge is found within one’s soul and it is up to the individual to discover it himself (p. 28).

Socratic ignorance helps us to draw a line between dogma and genuine philosophy. Socrates from a point of ignorance sought to know the truth without any guarantee that he would find it. He claimed that we may think we know the truth but rather we are living in self-deceptive ignorance. He urges people to constantly question how much they know in order to obtain much more knowledge.

Socrates’ questions don’t lead his disciples to knowledge or to come to any conclusions. It however helps them discover truth and pass from that knowledge to themselves. This helps them become more prudent. Whenever one had a dialogue with Socrates, even if about something totally different, always found himself giving an account of himself up to the point where he found out he was doing no good. This encouraged prudence in people’s lives (p. 27).

Socrates was devoted to taking care of himself and to improving is knowledge every day. He tried to convince others, through question, that they too should give thought to the truth, their souls and improving themselves. He was hoping to invoke question within ourselves, not regarding what we have but the value of our lives as he did his.

Socrates didn’t have much interest for worldly things such as financial affairs, property, high appointments or even politics. His only aim was to help people come to the realization that that they were was more important than what they had. Socrates used his feign of ignorance, his interrogation and above all, his way of life to help people come to this realization (Hadot, 2002, p. 24-29).

Question 3. Agape love.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

In Luke 10:25-37, When Jesus was teaching, a lawyer stood up and, as if to test Jesus Christ, asked “Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”(Luke 10:25, KJV). Jesus asked him what the Bible said on the same issue. The lawyer answered that one had to Love the Lord God and thy neighbor as thyself. To keep at the argument and to justify himself, the lawyer asked Jesus to clarify who his neighbor would be (Luke 10:28, KJV).

 Jesus answered him using a parable of a man who during his travels to the city of Jericho was attacked by bandits who stripped him of his clothes, wounded him and left him for dead.  A priest went down that road, and on seeing the wounded man passed on the other side instead of helping. Likewise, a Levite passed and didn’t help the traveler (Luke 10:30-32, KJV).

Later, a Samaritan passed by the same place, saw the traveler and felt compassion in his heart. So he went to him, bandaged his wound and poured wine and oil on them. He then put the wounded man on his animal and carried him to an inn where he nursed him back to health. So Jesus asked the lawyer who he thought was a good neighbor. The lawyer responded that it was he that showed mercy, and Jesus told him to go and do the same (Luke 10:33-37, KJV).

In those days, Samaritans were people despised by the Jews. It was hard for them to fathom that Jesus could in his parable use a Samaritan to show neighborliness, and God’s love, Agape love.  

            The command to love God cannot be fulfilled without loving our fellow neighbors. In the Bible, the love for God and the love for people go together (Luke 10:27, KJV). From a human view point, it is easier to profess love for God and to observe religious rituals as a proof of our love for God than it is to show love to another person. This is because fellow humans are full of imperfections making it hard to love one another.

 Just like in the parable, the lawyer didn’t question Jesus about loving God, but he did about loving his neighbor (Luke 10:27-29, KJV).  The Priest and the Levite, who are viewed as religious symbols, were unable to show compassion to the wounded traveler because he was full of imperfection and they didn’t want to be “defiled”. It was easier for them to profess purity and observe their religious rituals, but they could not however perform a simple act of compassion for a person in need (Luke 10:31-32, KJV).

In making agape a living reality, Jesus explains that we are supposed value people, regardless of who they are. The lawyer expected Jesus to draw the neighbor line at fellow Jews. But Jesus showed him that even Jews failed to help their fellow Jew. He was helped by a foreigner, who had no obligation to help. He could have walked away, but he chose to help regardless of the fact that his people were in conflict with the Jews (Luke 10:33, KJV).

Agape love seeks nothing for itself. It seeks to help people regardless of the cost this type of love only considers what’s best for others. The Samaritan didn’t do a cost/benefit analysis to determine whether it was in his best interest to help the Jew. He was only overcome by compassion and decided to help him. He even paid for him accommodation at the inn until he got well (Luke 10:34-35, KJV). This was a very selfless act.

Agape can be a living reality if we apply ourselves to loving those around us regardless of who they are or where they come from. We can choose to love and value people regardless of what it will cost us or if we get that love in return or not. We should always seek other people’s best interests because it is a reflection of the way God loves us.


Hadot, P. (2002). What is ancient philosophy? Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Scripture. (n.d.). Retrieved October 8, 2014, from