Posts Tagged ‘Socrates’

The Death of Socrates– Jacques Louis David

“Are you not ashamed of caring so much for the making of money and for fame and prestige, when you neither think nor care about wisdom and truth and the improvement of your soul?”

― Socrates

Aah, Socrates…

He knew. 

He understood the evil nature of greed, that monstrosity which has no doubt been hanging around the neck of man since we first emerged from the primeval muck and mire and began to walk upright. 

That’s probably why they condemned him to die by drinking the poison hemlock.

Greed protects greed. 

Always has. Always will.

The best we can do is hope that we can come together enough to somehow keep the greed of the few in check. And that’s a tall task because the greedy few always gather together and organize. They seem to be in some sort of such unity right now. 

And unfortunately, as I heard someone once say, organized greed always defeats unorganized democracy. Too many of us believe that a democracy that benefits the many will always persevere, that we don’t have to be vigilant and take part in our civil duties.

That things always work out for the best for us.

But history doesn’t bear that out. Democracy is a rare and fragile thing. It requires care in order to resist the grip of greed.

It is incumbent upon us to care for our democracy. 

Enough said for today. I wasn’t even going to say this much. 

Just have a good day and try to nurture your better angels.

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The painting shown here is new and will be accompanying me next Saturday, September 16, to the Principle Gallery for my annual Gallery Talk there. It’s 11″ by 15″ on paper and is called The Understanding.

It’s a piece that that has really appealed to me in the studio over the past few weeks as I have been able to take it in. It has a sense of what I think is understanding in it. Not knowledge or wisdom but simple understanding. Just a moment of self-realization of knowing that you are a part of this world, a piece of the puzzle. There are no answers attached but there is solace in knowing that you have a place in this world in which to stand just as you are. A sense of belonging without answers or wisdom or any knowledge of the world beyond that which immediately surrounds you.

I was trying to find a piece of writing that fit this thought and came across the following from the classical Greek philosopher Socrates. It very much summed up what I was thinking as a result of this painting. Plus, as an artist, I have sometimes been given the benefit of attributes that I haven’t earned simply because people see my own desire for those things in my work. I want wisdom, I want inner peace and goodness but, to be honest, I don’t know how to get to that point and may not even know those things when I come across them.

As Socrates says:  I am strongly convinced that I am ignorant of what I do not know.

That’s understanding.


“I examined the poets, and I look on them as people whose talent overawes both themselves and others, people who present themselves as wise men and are taken as such, when they are nothing of the sort.

From poets, I moved to artists. No one was more ignorant about the arts than I; no one was more convinced that artists possessed really beautiful secrets. However, I noticed that their condition was no better than that of the poets and that both of them have the same misconceptions. Because the most skillful among them excel in their specialty, they look upon themselves as the wisest of men. In my eyes, this presumption completely tarnished their knowledge. As a result, putting myself in the place of the oracle and asking myself what I would prefer to be — what I was or what they were, to know what they have learned or to know that I know nothing — I replied to myself and to the god: I wish to remain who I am.

We do not know — neither the sophists, nor the orators, nor the artists, nor I— what the True, the Good, and the Beautiful are. But there is this difference between us: although these people know nothing, they all believe they know something; whereas, I, if I know nothing, at least have no doubts about it. As a result, all this superiority in wisdom which the oracle has attributed to me reduces itself to the single point that I am strongly convinced that I am ignorant of what I do not know.”


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