Socrates is considered one of the greatest thinkers of all time. This was not because he was the most intelligent, but as he states in the Apology, it was because he knew he didn’t know everything. He enjoyed questioning people and getting them to think deeper and he would consider other’s opinions. He refers to himself as a gadfly that pesters the horse into action. This is the case in Plato’s Meno. Socrates is having a discussion with Meno on whether virtues are teachable. This conversation leads to what does it take for a man to be a success. Socrates states that there are two ways in which men succeed. They are though true knowledge and right opinion. Although there are differences between them, they both will lead to success.
Socrates refers to True Knowledge as one of the ways in which men succeed. He makes the argument that things are only beneficial when done with wisdom and knowledge because this will bring about good and happiness which then leads to success. True Knowledge is those things we know to be correct because of our own learning experiences. Everything that a person endures if directed by true knowledge can only lead to the right decision therefore to true success. Humans are flawed and make mistakes, however, if they learn from them they will make better decisions in the future. It is shown all through history that those who have learned from their mistakes ultimately succeed. For example, King David in his excitement to get the Ark of Covenant back to Jerusalem did not follow the way in which God had commanded. The driver of the cart was killed accidentally. David realized that he had not followed the Law of God. He then repented and brought the Ark of Covenant back to Jerusalem in the way which God had intended. David learned from his experience and made the right decision the second time which led to the success of the Ark returning to its rightful place. During the battle of Thermopylae when the Persians fought the Greeks, they underestimated the strength of the Spartans this lead to heavy casualties for the Persians. In the battles that followed the Persians anticipated the power of the Spartans and they were able to match them with equal strength and win the battles. This theory pertains to all aspects of life and all people. If a person uses what they know to be true to make decisions their lives will be better. Even in the basics this works. For example, going out in the snow with no shoes or touching a hot stove. Once you have experienced it you know not to do it again. Socrates was correct in stating that if True Knowledge, that is learning experiences and wisdom, is used a person will have success.
The other way in which Socrates said that man can succeed is through right opinion. Right opinion is making decisions based on what a person has heard, read, or has been told then draws a conclusion with that information. If the information is correct it will lead to right opinion and then to success. For instance, the early Christians who followed the Apostles did so based on what they were told. Most had never meant Jesus, but made the decision to become His followers. Even through hardships people were happier because they believed they would be saved. This brought them success in their beliefs and their lives. Leaders often make military decisions based on right opinion. Information they gather from reading or from being told by other leaders or local townspeople. Such was the case with King Xertes. He made a decision to go on a mountain pass with part of his army in order to surround the Greek forces. He made this decision based on the word of a merchant from Greece. He was not familiar with the area and he had no knowledge of it, but needed to make a good decision. The merchant told him about the mountain pass. Feeling it was right to trust the merchant he made a decision based on opinion. This brought success by allowing the Persians to enter Greece. Through right opinion a person takes all information they have and make a right decision to order to bring about success.
True knowledge and right opinion will both bring success to a person’s life. Socrates believes that success is doing what is beneficial for the soul. True knowledge is making life choices based on a person’s own experience. They know through their previous choices what will bring success. Right opinion is not having experienced it yourself, but taking information from other people and using their experiences to make your decisions. This results in new experiences and memories for you thus becoming true knowledge. If both are taken into consideration, a person will choose what is most beneficial to their success and happiness.