I cannot help to incept this blog, unusually titled “BRAIN IN LABOR”, with the humble words of introduction pronounced by Socrates in his final speech, during the fraudulent trial, through which the Athenian government sentenced to death its most famous philosopher
“I don’t know how you, fellow Athenians, have been affected by my accusers……”
It is just with that ironic “I do not know” that sophists and traditionalists, academicians and politicians, relativists and bigots of Athens had rushed against Socrates.
The history of Western philosophy begins with the trial of a good man, ironic and kind, who asked uncomfortable questions, and who was therefore first accused and then sentenced to death for impiety.
Humans have come to structure their societies around institutions that provide stability and certainty: governments, army, police, courts, academia, religion. The desire for certainty shapes our perceptions and our lives.
There is a deep built-in fear of uncertainty in human brain. Doubt is associated with indecision, a lack of confidence, and therefore weakness. The inborn reflex to reduce uncertainty has been selected by evolution to save in many occasions our lives. Yet it sabotages us in other occasions, endangering our own life and our ecology.
Yet embracing uncertainty – feeling uncomfortable – is the only way to innovate, to evolve, finding new patterns. “Knowledge begins in wonder”, Socrates loved to say to his fellows.
With his ageless “I know not to know” Socrates celebrated the doubt, fueling new ideas. At the point to be considered a “gadfly”, disturbing the granitic and comfortable certainties of the Athenian society – especially political and religious authorities – posing novel, potently upsetting questions, unveiling the fragility of the status quo. .
Socrates used to feel himself a Midwife for his Athenian fellows. He fecundated their brain with the “seeds of doubt” and assisted them during the labor of new ideas. His method was then called “Maieutics“, from Greek “maieutikos” (= relating to midwifery). Through this approach the students were stimulated to find the truth within themselves, and thus have the opportunity to become independent. And to reach, eventually, the self-awareness, the “know thyself”.
The blog “BRAIN IN LABOR” shall try to be the Maternity Ward for minds in labor.