Socrates' Triple Filter Test

A. R. M. ali at
Tue Mar 16 15:49:25 EST 2004

Keep this in mind the next time you either hear or are about to repeat a
rumor! In ancient Greece (469 - 399 BC), Socrates was well known for his
wisdom. One day the great philosopher came upon an acquaintance who said
excitedly, "Socrates, do you know what I just heard about one of our

"Wait a moment," Socrates replied. "Before telling me anything I'd like
you to pass a little test. It's called the Triple Filter Test."

"Triple filter?"

"That's right," Socrates continued   "Before you talk to me about my
student, it might be a good idea to take a moment and filter what you're
going to say.  The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure
that what you are about to tell me is true?"

"No," the man said, "actually I just heard about it and ..."

"All right," said Socrates. "So you don't really know if it's true or
not. Now let's try the second filter, the filter of Goodness. Is what you
are about to tell me about my student something good?"

"No, on the contrary ...."

"So," Socrates continued, "you want to tell me something bad about him,
but you're not certain it's true. You may still pass the test though,
because there's one filter left: the filter of Usefulness. Is what you
want to tell me about my student going to be useful to me?"

"No, not really."

"Well," concluded Socrates, "if what you want to tell me is neither true
nor good nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?".

This is the reason Socrates was a great philosopher and held in such high
esteem. It also explains why he never found out that Plato was banging
his wife.

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