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MatChup's avatar

What did Socrates meant when he said: "If I am a thinking being there must be a thinker who thought about me first"?

Asked by MatChup (204 points ) March 7th, 2011

Though Socrates was one of the greatest thinkers of his time, he was constantly questioning his own rhetoric; thus, he didn’t have such a great regard for his own thoughts. Was Socrates talking more than logic here? Was he really admiting to the possibility of God’s existence?

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26 Answers

marinelife's avatar

He was intimating the likelihood of a creator.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

One can never know what he meant by that but perhaps he was just extrapolating, waxing on the a possibility that some other random person or god might have thought about other randomly thinking people.

erichw1504's avatar

He’s talkin’ ‘bout aliens.

AdamF's avatar

Mom? Accepting also that we probably have no idea if he said it, let alone, what he thought if he did say it.

thorninmud's avatar

I’m having trouble finding that quote. Do you have a source you can point us to?

MatChup's avatar

That quote may not be available in its entirety, but this is the conclussion we reached in a class we had in Junior College after reading all of his writings. Our philosophy professor agreed with my paper.
@erichw1504, the notion of Aliens didn’t exist at that time

seazen's avatar

Chicken and egg.

erichw1504's avatar

@MatChup How do you know?

thorninmud's avatar

@MatChup Then can you point us to something even close to this statement?

MatChup's avatar

I took that philosophy class back in Junior College where we had to read his teachings written by Plato and others since Socrates didn’t really leave any of his original writings. Everybody in that class had to discuss their conclussions with the class. Back then when I took this class we didn’t search this material online. All of our discussions were based on the textbooks we were using. I just happened to run across one of my notebooks last week where I had wrttien this on. There is a good chance this isn’t available online yet

thorninmud's avatar

I’m pretty sure that every surviving text by Plato is online at this point. I would especially expect any quote attributed to Socrates that supports the idea of a “first thinker” would be all over the web. I just can’t find anything like that. Hard to comment on the meaning of a quote when we’re not even sure it’s a quote.

flutherother's avatar

It is difficult to know what Socrates meant by something he may not have said. This is quite a rich seam you have opened up here however. We can imagine all sorts of things famous people might have said and try to imagine what they might have meant. Very Jorge Luis Borgian, as in “A Book of Imaginary Quotations’.

WasCy's avatar

I think the statement would form the first part of a dialectic dialog with another truth-seeker. The second party might offer a slightly different viewpoint, if not a direct refutation, and the two would seek to examine their premises and conclusions to arrive at a synthesized truth, or perhaps even to agree with one position or the other.

For example, I might enter this Socratic dialog with a refutation: “Because I think does not directly imply that anyone thought before me.”

An obvious comeback for Socrates would / could be: “How did you learn to think, if a thinker didn’t teach you?” And the dialog would go on.

Edgar Rice Burroughs could be a good participant in the dialog, as his Tarzan was more or less sui generis as a thinker, at least in the book.

MatChup's avatar

@WasCy, You are definitely in the right direction since Plato’s writngs about Socrates questioning for clarity was his main purpose. Not necessarily clarity for himself but for others to see the light. Although Socrates critical thinking was more confusing than not, after reading Plato’s apologies you should be able to reach certain conclussions.
For all of you concerned on my can of worms, I realized I don’t have enough evidence of my statement of fact so I would have to refrase this question another time. I will do my research and get the textbook name and author so in case it is available online you can find it or at least you can refer to the same textbook I used.

thorninmud's avatar

@MatChup No worries. Let us know what you find.

Response moderated (Writing Standards)
nicobanks's avatar

Why did you ask this question? It seems you already have an answer and not only that, but one you’ve already discussed extensively.

Fyrius's avatar

Socrates and his students had some weird ideas about cognition, like that we can recognise very different looking tables as all being tables because there is a template-idea of tablehood that exists objectively in a separate world of ideas, or something along those lines. It’s been a while since I learned about this stuff.
Methinks if he said this, what he meant might have been something along those lines. Socrates would have been the kind of philosopher to conflate existing with being perceived in someone’s mind.

Of course, it’s entirely forgiveable for ancient philosophers to be way off with their first guesses about complex things we’re only just beginning to understand two millennia later.

Jeruba's avatar

my homework alarm is buzzing.

ucme's avatar

Duh, i’m dinkin…..i’m dinkin…...i’m di…....no, it’s no good. I’m well & truly stumped.

nicobanks's avatar

@Jeruba Maybe, or that might be the tones of your how-do-I-fill-this-time-and-inflate-my-ego alarm…

BLITsZ's avatar

@ucme
That was funny!!!
And I think socrates didn’t know what he was talking about, I mean just go to google and look at him!!!, he is old, how is he even supposed to know where he lived or who he was talking to or about!!!.
Well earlier what what nicobanks said, I do agree, you seem to have answered your own question by asking your question….or is it the other way around….Look What you Did, Now I AM TALKING LIKE SOCRATES….thanks A LOT!!!!!

BarnacleBill's avatar

“He was but a twinkle in his father’s eye…” Planned parenthood of the Roman times. Sex = babies.

gondwanalon's avatar

What Socrates was alluding to here was that even his thoughts were not original but surely must have occurred to others that come before him.

MatChup's avatar

@nicobanks, I wanted to know the perception of others who are not familiar with this subject. There are always two points of view: 1) attached: those who are part of it and 2) detached: those who are just spectators. It is interesting to view other’s opinions based on their mere acumen.

BLITsZ's avatar

Socertes is FUNNNY!!!!.
He is saying that if he would be there, like in his mind, and so the other people would be thinking before he thinked them.
So its like his knowledge is not the superiorest, other people might share some of his ideas before Socrates thinked the ideas.
I think I answered it right, if not correct me please!

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