What does this paradoxical statement of Socrates mean? He was a wise man, yet he says that he knows nothing. Socrates, after discussing with someone stated (in Plato’s Apology), that both of them knew nothing great, but the other person believed that he knew something, while Socrates knew that both of them knew nothing. So Socrates was wiser than the other person. This can be surmised by a quote of British Pastor and Author, Charles Spurgeon –
“The doorstep to the temple of wisdom is a knowledge of our own ignorance.”
“I know that I know nothing.”
A Zen story beautifully relates to this. A professor went to a Zen master to study Zen. The master brought some tea. He poured it in a cup and continued even after the cup was full. Seeing this, the professor remarked that the cup was full, it cannot accept more tea. The master replied that like cup, professor was full of his own inferences and beliefs. He needs to empty his cup to understand Zen.