"Ã¢ÂÂ¦. he went to Delphi at one time and ventured to ask the oracleÃ¢ÂÂ¦he asked if any man was wiser than I, and the Pythian replied that no one was wiserÃ¢ÂÂ¦" 21b The oracle speaks in amphiboly. An amphiboly is a statement whose meaning is indeterminate in a peculiar way. The statement has an obvious meaning that is false and a hidden or concealed meaning which is true. It often requires an interpretation, which is done by the shrine's priest. When Socrates states the oracular respond of god, he does not give an adequate interpretation of the statement. This has lead to the inconsistency in his claims on wisdom.
By suggesting different interpretations of the statements, this contradiction could be resolved. A detail analysis of the two conflicting statements will gives a deeper insight as to what Socrates really mean when he speaks of wisdom.
Socrates totally agrees with God when he says (through the oracle) ,"wisdom is worthless."
To understand why Socrates coincides with that statement, there are three convictions of his that must be considered. One, to claim that you have wisdom, but in fact not, is ignorant. Two, to say that you do not have wisdom and acknowledge such fact is wisdom. Three, to possess wisdom but do not speak of it is true wisdom. Socrates belongs to the second group. The confession that he does not posses it is wisdom in itself. According to Socrates, this wisdom is worthless because it is not true wisdom. However, even though such wisdom is worthless, it is nevertheless, wisdom. To choose between being a fool and being wise, Socrates goes for the latter. Socrates knows that he knows nothing. This paradox is what makes him the wisest among the mortal.
If Socrates is the wisest among the mortals, and that he belongs to the second group, then it will be logical to assume that there are no mortal in the third group. It can also be said that most mortals are ignorant. Therefore, the interpretation is that even though one can never hope to attain true wisdom, and that anything below it is worthless, one should nevertheless, strive to be wise rather than a fool.
Two of Socrates missions, as lay out in the Apology, are to show people that they do not know what they think they know, and also to urge them to seek the knowledge they lack. That statement underlines these points.
Another statement that also sings the same tune is the one on how he values wisdom above others. By others, he refers to wealth, reputation and honors, things that blind people from seeing what really matters. The thing that matters here is wisdom. As mentioned earlier, he believes that one should strive to be wise rather than being a fool. A fool's eagerness to amass wealth, reputation and honors will inadvertently cause him or her to forgone the notion of wisdom.
People often assert that they do have the knowledge, and that the knowledge they think they possess is the basis of their claim to wealth, reputation and honors. They honestly believe that they deserve it. Socrates refuses to endorse such approach to life; he strongly believes that wisdom does not come with wealth, reputation and honors. Wealth, reputation and honors, he conceives, will only cause people to ignore what should be the most valuable of all - wisdom.
Both of Socrates's claims are therefore, non-contradicting. Both claims are based on the belief that the first step to true wisdom is to admit that you do not know anything. By admitting that you do not know anything, you will not be blind by things that are of no importance. When wealth, reputation and honors are of no importance, the "value" or "worthiness" of your wisdom will also cease to important. Wisdom may or may not be worthless, that depends solely on one's approach to life. People who are not concern about things of value or worthiness (i.e., wealth, reputation and honors) will also not be concern with the "worthiness" of their wisdom.