Socrates' quote about knowing

Discussion in 'Ελληνικά (Greek)' started by yad-yad, Jun 18, 2007.

  1. yad-yad New Member

    Good Day Everyone!
    My best favourite philosophic quote is the one by Socrates: "I know that I don't know anything, but the others don't even know that". In my research I have encountered many different versions of this saying which are attributed to: a) the fact that quite a few different people attempted to do the translation, and b) the fact that Socrates never wrote anything down himself and all we know about him is mostly from Plato and somewhat Xenophon. So, I was just wondering if anyone knows the original of this saying in Attic Greek language. Appreciate any help. Thank You!
    P.S. The quote above is just another translation and I do not imply it is in its original form. Moreover this is what I need some help with - finding "the original" of this saying in the original language. I am not an expert in this field what so ever, thus any any info is much much appreciated.
  2. modus.irrealis Senior Member

    English, Canada

    I haven't looked too much into this but I think this is one of those sayings that could have a number of sources. There's a passage by Diogenes Laertius where he lists, among the things that Socrates used to say,

    εἰδέναι μὲν μηδὲν πλὴν αὐτὸ τοῦτο εἰδέναι
    that he knew nothing except that he knew that very fact [i.e. that he knew nothing]

    Closer to your quote, there's a passage in Plato's Apology, where Socrates says that after discussing with someone he started thinking that

    τούτου μὲν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐγὼ σοφώτερός εἰμι· κινδυνεύει μὲν γὰρ ἡμῶν οὐδέτερος οὐδὲν καλὸν κἀγαθὸν εἰδέναι, ἀλλ' οὗτος μὲν οἴεται τι εἰδέναι οὐκ εἰδώς, ἐγὼ δέ, ὥσπερ οὖν οὐκ οἶδα, οὐδὲ οὄιμαι· ἔοικα γοῦν τούτου γε σμικρῷ τινι αὐτῷ τούτῳ σοφώτερος εἶναι, ὅτι ἃ μή οἶδα οὐδὲ οἴομαι εἰδέναι

    Which copying the translation from here is

    I am wiser than this man, for neither of us appears to know anything great and good; but he fancies he knows something, although he knows nothing; whereas I, as I do not know anything, so I do not fancy I do. In this trifling particular, then, I appear to be wiser than he, because I do not fancy I know what I do not know.

    There might be other possible passages for that quote as well, though.
  3. yad-yad New Member

    Thank You, modus.irrealis! There are too many versions to this. I want to try and stick with mine. And what would be the correct Greek translation of: "I know that I don't know anything, but the others don't even know that"? And is that a literate one or a nice one? Cheers!
  4. anthodocheio

    anthodocheio Senior Member

    Hello yad-yad!

    I personally haven't done any research and really know nothing about all the things mentioned by modus, but the phrase I know,
    the phrase that is commonly known, is; Εν οίδα, ότι ουδέν οίδα which is; One (thing) I know, that I know nothing...
    Sorry about the ancient accents missing.. I really don't know to use them...
  5. Greeklady New Member

    Pittsburgh, PA.
    USA English
    I agree. The translation I have seen most often is "One thing I know is that I know nothing."
  6. parakseno

    parakseno Senior Member

    Romanian, Romania
    Here is my try (hope I didn't get any of them wrong)

    "ἓν οἶδα, ὅτι οὐδὲν οἶδα".
  7. yad-yad New Member

    Thank You All Very Very Much!
    Can anybody help me with my second part though?: "but the others don't even know that" - just say that in Greek :)
    I know it will not be "original", but what is, right? ;)
    Have a nice day!
  8. anthodocheio

    anthodocheio Senior Member

    Never heard of that part... Sorry
  9. parakseno

    parakseno Senior Member

    Romanian, Romania
    Never heard it like this myself either. I could help you with a Modern Greek version of your text (but I don't want to hazard myself just yet and try a Classical Greek translation):

    "but the others don't even know that"
    "αλλά οι άλλοι ούτε το ξέρουν"
  10. anthodocheio

    anthodocheio Senior Member

    No it's not that..

    is: but the others don't know not even that..

    which would be..
    "Αλλά οι άλλοι ούτε αυτό ξέρουν"
  11. modus.irrealis Senior Member

    English, Canada

    Ah -- I misunderstood you before -- I thought that you were looking for an exact quote from an ancient work that you could just take and use, which is why I gave you those quotes. The saying that anthodocheio gave is also one of those things that (as far as I can tell) doesn't go back to a direct quote but is a kind of paraphrase.

    But if I were to try to translate your "I know that I don't know anything, but the others don't even know that", I would end up with

    ἐγὼ μὲν οἶδα ὅτι οὐδὲν οἶδα, οἱ δὲ ἄλλοι οὐδὲ τοῦτο ἴσασιν

    which is hopefully error-free, but I can't guarantee it would be the most elegant way of phrasing it.
  12. Kevman Senior Member

    Phoenix, Arizona
    USA English
    I hope this isn't too off-topic (since I don't have the courage either to try to render the second part myself, yad-yad :p [though I think modus' μεν...δε is a nice touch]), but I have recently seen this written exactly this way on another forum. However, I'm fairly certain that the first "εν" should have a grave accent: ἓν

    Is there any reason why it wouldn't?
    (This question has been driving me crazy! :)
    And: (possibly) other than that, nice job parakseno! :thumbsup:)

    A quick Google search shows this phrase to be more-or-less commonly quoted, but without any more original context (I was hoping for maybe a hit from a Plato text or something, but no luck!). So maybe this particular wording is apocryphal, although catchy.
  13. parakseno

    parakseno Senior Member

    Romanian, Romania
    No, no, I wanted to place a grave accent there. It was a... typo (so that I don't have to admit I'm not mastering the polytonic Greek keyboard very well yet). I've corrected it.

    None that I can think of...
  14. Tetina

    Tetina Senior Member

    Greece / greek
    May I add that when I heard the same frase of yad-yad from a Spaniard and I didn't know the equivalent in Greek I felt embarrassed :eek:. But as it seems it is probably some free translation.

Share This Page