There is an old saying that a wise man knows that he knows nothing, and these are words to live by. However, to some, this phrase makes no sense, and this article will explore what it really means and how you can make the most of it yourself.
What Does “A Wise Man Knows That He Knows Nothing” Mean?
“A wise man knows that he knows nothing” means that you have to have the wisdom to understand that you can’t learn everything. Even when you think you know a lot, you should still be wise and humble enough to admit that there is always more to learn in the world.
Any man who believes that he has learned everything is actually known as a “fool” by the same saying. We use it to describe people who are too naive or close-minded to believe that there is much more knowledge out there than what they have previously attained.
What Is The Origin Of “A Wise Man Knows That He Knows Nothing”?
To help us understand more of this saying, we’ll take a closer look at the origin and where it came from.
The first iteration of this phrase appears to be linked back to the Chinese philosopher Confucius.
Confucius wrote, “true wisdom is knowing what you don’t know,” which follows the same ideas as the saying in this article. Confucius is saying that it takes a truly wise man (or woman) to admit that he does not know all things.
After Confucius’ first saying, the phrase was later developed and introduced by other renowned historical scholars.
Socrates was a Greek philosopher who appeared to draw a lot of inspiration from the teachings of Confucius.
Socrates was quoted as saying a phrase similar to this in The Apology of Socrates, by Plato. Within, Socrates said, “I appear to be wiser than he, because I do not fancy I know what I do not know.”
While it might look a little confusing at first, in modern English, Socrates said that he admits to not knowing all things and is, therefore, wiser than the man he is talking about, who believes that he already knows everything.
The Apology of Socrates is a dialogue of speech written by Plato during Socrates’ trial of corruption in 399 BC.
The phrase was passed around many times since Confucius and Socrates, but it wasn’t until Shakespeare got a hold of it that it seemed to come back into popularity again.
Shakespeare wrote, “A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool” in his comedy “As You Like It” in 1599. The meaning of the saying is the same as it meant when Confucius and Socrates used it.
The only key difference between the sayings we’ve mentioned are the chosen language of delivery. Other than that, Confucius, Socrates, and Shakespeare all believed in the same teachings.
If A Wise Man Knows That He Knows Nothing, What Is The Point Of Seeking Knowledge?
While it’s great to know where the saying came from, it’s not much good to us if we don’t understand the point of it. Many people wonder why it’s even a saying, since if knowing nothing is wise, surely learning nothing is wise too.
Unfortunately, without guidance, it can be difficult to understand the true meaning of this phrase.
The phrase is stating that no man knows everything, and it takes a truly wise man to admit that. You can always seek further knowledge, but in doing so, you’re still admitting that you’ll never have all the questions about the things that appear in life.
While the quote seems to suggest that seeking knowledge is irrelevant, that isn’t the overall point. In fact, it’s encouraging people to seek knowledge wherever they want to find it, but it’s also warning them not to take their knowledge for granted.
It’s too easy for smart people to believe themselves to be above everyone else, which isn’t a wise decision. There can always be someone who knows more about you in particular fields that will prove you wrong, hence why you’re not considered a “wise man” if you believe this.
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.