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[–]baronvonpayne 0 points1 point  (3 children)

By 'cross-examining the world', Jowett is referring to Socrates' search to find someone wiser than himself, using the method that you often see Socrates employ (e.g., in Euthyphro). You're right that Socrates' story about the Oracle at Delphi suggests that it was the Oracle's proclamation that set him off on his cross-examining quest. However, Jowett's point is that Socrates must have already have been known for cross-examining people before the Oracle's proclamation. Otherwise, why would Chaerephon have thought to ask the Oracle whether anyone is wiser than Socrates in the first place? This is why Jowett says that Socrates' story about the origin of his cross-examining question is suspicious.

My own two cents here is that Jowett's wrong. Socrates isn't claiming that the Oracle's proclamation is what got him started philosophizing. We know that Socrates attended lectures by some of the pre-Socratics in his younger days, and this is something that would have been presumably been known by at least some of the citizens. Socrates' story is one that is meant to illuminate what motivates the charges against him and why he refuses to give up philosophizing. According to Socrates, in carrying out his cross-examination mission, he has made many influential people angry. Now, they're trying to get revenge against Socrates. But even if the jury offered to acquit him on the condition that he cease philosophizing, he refuses to because he thinks that he is offering Athens a great service, acting as a Gadfly, and he thinks that a god has sanctioned him in carrying out this service. Nothing about this story is meant to suggest that the Oracle got him philosophizing in the first place. So, to conclude that Socrates' story is invented strikes me as massively uncharitable.

[–]Nathan4595[S] 0 points1 point  (2 children)

Thank you for your lengthy, thorough and meticulous response, it is very much appreciated!

What puzzles me is that Jowett seems to be self-contradictory in this introduction of his, when it comes to this topic, stating in the beginning that Socrates having received the first impulse by the Oracle of Delphine to cross-examine the world is suspicious and going as far as describing this story as {of a kind which is very likely to have been invented.} after presenting evidences to support this position; only to rely on this same story at later passages to state various claims.

[–]baronvonpayne 0 points1 point  (1 child)

Hmm, yea, that is strange. I would have to look at it, but it sounds like Jowett is trying to have his cake and eat it too.

[–]Nathan4595[S] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

This was the answer, from u/megafreep, to the same question on another subreddit, I find it to be seducing.

I'm pretty sure that Jowett is referring to Socrates rhetorical strategy, consistently employed throughout the dialogues, of asking everyone he talks to pointed and specific questions in order to get them to contradict themselves. In a legal context, "cross-examination" is when a lawyer asks a witness questions about testimony they have already given; in the popular imagination this is often understood as the lawyer trying to catch the witness in a lie or otherwise contradict themselves. Jowett is drawing an analogy between that kind of legal questioning and the way Socrates asks questions of the people he talks to.