In ancient Greece a debate arose regarding the concept of truth.
There were those who accepted and understood that truth is how things are. Many of those were builders who worked with materials within the laws of structural and mechanical function, and farmers who lived and worked within the laws of nature, and soldiers who lived and died by the laws of combat. Such men, and others too, knew that truth is how things are, and the laws of what is possible.
And some so much appreciated the truth and its wonders, that they sought not only to align their work with truth, but to align their lives, their actions, speech and thoughts with truth, and with fairness and justice.
And there were those who shied away from truth, who were deceptive and manipulative, for the truth did not suit their desires and their relationships with others. They liked power and control over others, and to have their own way, regardless of what was fair or just. Many of these were society’s would-be shapers. Others were manipulators in their own particular sphere of influence. And some merely feared the truth and what the truth might hold.
As most Greeks at that time were endeavouring to resolve issues by reason and discussion, so deception was the preferred method for those who wished to control others and have things their own way.
To deceive others, deceivers require the trust of others. And to gain trust, those who disliked truth could not very well argue for the advantages of lying and thus reveal themselves to be deceivers and untrustworthy. So instead they argued that there is no such thing as natural truth, that truth is merely individual perception and opinion; that what a man thinks is true is true for him, and if another man thinks something else is true, then that too is truth for him. And furthermore, they argued that fairness and justice do not naturally exist either and that these too are only individual opinions.
The idea that there is no truth, only individual perception and opinion, was an inevitable and attractive argument for deceivers, manipulators and the would-be shapers of society. It gave them power over others, freedom to speak without bounds, and enabled them to avoid accountability. On any issue they could slip from one side of an argument to another and argue any which way they choose. In their own sense of false honesty and fairness they could deny a known truth presented to them, or present a lie to others as a truth. They could be unfair while arguing that another’s sense of fairness was just a figment of their imagination. There were no factual or moral boundaries to their arguments, for to them there were no natural laws of truth, fairness or justice, only what people fancied there to be. Those who liked to use this type of argument in resolving interpersonal issues did not wish to establish truth and fairness, but to have their own way while avoiding accountability for being unjust.
This debate between natural truth and personal truth was occurring in Grecian governments, trials, markets and meeting places, between friends and between foes, and within families.
Those who believed in natural truth, and in natural laws of fairness and justice, lacked the skill in reasoning and argument to show the anti-truthers up for what they were, deceivers and manipulators. Those on the side of truth, who tried to argue with facts, reason and logic, were like builders trying to erect a stone wall while others could keep knocking it down faster and more easily than it could be built.
Into this debate, Socrates arrived.
Socrates clarified the concept of truth, as no one else had done before. He showed what truth is, and how to recognise it. He taught about the self and about knowledge, and about the importance of precisely defining one’s terms. And he taught men how to think with reason.
As well as teaching how to think with reason, Socrates taught how to argue with reason, and thereby argue against those who were anti truth. He taught how to recognise innate falseness, and how to make subtle fun of it in front of others.
They say there is no truth, yet they say it as a truth.
They say there is no right or wrong, and when someone says there is, they say that one is wrong.
They say that man is the measure of all things, but they cannot measure anything without a ruler or a string.
Socrates taught that truth is all connected, ever extensive, and has depth, while falsity, like a painting, has its edges and has little if any depth, and is always painted upon the truth. And so false paintings are always surrounded by truth and have truth beneath their paint. He taught how to locate the edges of false paintings, where the painting borders with and contradicts with truth, and how to peer around the edge and see the truth behind; and also how to peel away the layers of paint in any place upon the painting and so look through the hole made in the painting to see the truth behind. He taught how to recognise and counter the innately false, unfair, vague and slippery arguments of those who despised truth and fairness and wanted their own way over others.
In teaching the nature of truth and falsity and how to reason, Socrates further enabled the potential of both true reason and false reason within the minds of men. For no good use of anything can be taught without its evil use being revealed as well. Some men became more skilled at recognising, identifying and communicating truth, while others became more cunning at deception and manipulation. Deceivers too learnt how to adopt Socrates’ method to pin down others when they could with facts, then switch back to their sophistry as defence; they learnt to better mix the two methods of argument together, to mix truth with falsity, and always for their own preference and advantage. For their own preferences and advantage over others was their objective, whereas the objective of those who value truth and fairness, is truth and fairness.
And so in clarifying truth and falsity, and in teaching how to reason, Socrates widened the individual minds of men, and enabled those on each side of the debate to move further distant from each other, and so he further polarised the debate between those for truth and those against the truth.
It is impossible to teach anything good without the further potential for evil being revealed. Socrates taught men how to reason with truth towards greater truth, and in so doing, the law of opposites revealed to those who despise truth how to use false reason, how to seemingly reason, deceptively with falsity towards further falsity.
Regardless of which side of the debate men stood, after Socrates the minds of men were wider and sharper than before, more extensive and capable, either way.
The minds of men were widened in preparation for the widening and dividing of their hearts.