As Within So Without
Socrates claimed to be the least intelligent man in Athens. “Since I am not yet able to know myself,” he said to his followers, “it seems to me ridiculous, when I do not yet know that, to investigate irrelevant things.” And yet, the famous Greek philosopher investigated a vast array of phenomena during his life, as recorded by his student Plato. The subtle lesson Socrates hinted to was that you could not deepen your knowledge of the outside world without deepening your self-knowledge; as within so without. While getting carried away in arbitrary study is quite easy, the wise man prioritizes his acquisition of knowledge by its ability to teach him about himself.
As Within so WithoutAs within so without ascertains the value of knowledge by the gold standard of self-knowledge. “The very essence of knowledge is self-knowledge,” said Plato, and the volumes of Socratic dialogues he would leave for following generations all sought to reinforce man’s learning by examining the observable world around him.
As without so within was by no means exclusive to Greek wisdom. The Chinese philosopher Confucius lived at a time in which China was divided into warring states. In this delicate political reality, Confucius was prompted to explicate the rules of government that his country so desperately lacked. In the spirit of ‘as within so without’, his philosophy stressed that one could govern a country only as well as one had government over oneself.