Socrates’ (and James’) Wisdom for Talking Through New Year

775px-Eugene_de_Blaas_The_Friendly_GossipsThis account is making the internet rounds which, of course, guarantees neither its trustworthiness nor its quality. I found this rather challenging and edifying, however — particularly as we are about to embark on a new year.

Nothing, probably, gets us in more trouble than our tongues — as the Bible certainly confirms:

… we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body … See how great a forest a little fire kindles! … The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast … is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. 8 But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. (James 3:2, 5, 6, 7-10)

Below, famed Greek deep-thinker Socrates allegedly offered a quick, practical, easy way to evaluate whether or not we need to pass on that story we’ve heard or that bit of inside information we’ve learned or that incident we’ve observed.

Gossip is one of humanities ugliest phenomenon — and gossipers don’t come across too well, either! Again, I’m unable to confirm if, in fact, the exchange relayed below literally occurred; or to provide its original attribution; but the wisdom contained therein is very edifying. And if every person on the planet imbibed of it, lived it out? This would be a much better place.

So … read on …

Socrates On Gossip:

In ancient Greece (469 – 399 BC), Socrates was widely lauded for his wisdom. One day an acquaintance ran up to him excitedly and said, “Socrates, do you know what I just heard about Diogenes?”

“Wait a moment,” Socrates replied, “Before you tell me I’d like you to pass a little test. It’s called the Triple Filter Test.”

“Triple filter?” asked the acquaintance.

BenQ Digital Camera“That’s right,” Socrates continued, “Before you talk to me about Diogenes let’s take a moment to filter what you’re going to say. The first filter is Truth.
Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?”

“No,” the man said, “Actually I just heard about it.”

“All right,” said Socrates, “So you don’t really know if it’s true or not. Now let’s try the second filter, the filter of Goodness.
Is what you are about to tell me about Diogenes something good?”

“No, on the contrary…”

“So,” Socrates continued, “You want to tell me something about Diogenes that may be bad, even though you’re not certain it’s true?”

The man shrugged, a little embarrassed. Socrates continued, “You may still pass the test though, because there is a third filter, the filter of Usefulness.
Is what you want to tell me about Diogenes going to be useful to me?”

“No, not really.”

“Well,” concluded Socrates, “If what you want to tell me is neither True nor Good nor even Useful, why tell it to me or anyone at all?”

The man was bewildered and ashamed.

This is an example of why Socrates was a great philosopher and held in such high esteem.

Image: The friendly gossip; Eugene de Blaas (1843–1932); source: http://www.allartpainting. com/the-friendly-gossips-p-955.html; the public domain because of its age.

Lower Image: Statue of Socrates; author: Joanbanjo; Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Like Clash? Like Clash.

Leave a Comment

We have no tolerance for comments containing violence, racism, vulgarity, profanity, all caps, or discourteous behavior. Thank you for partnering with us to maintain a courteous and useful public environment where we can engage in reasonable discourse.

// If comments are open or we have at least one comment, load up the comment template.