“He’s all talk,” we say, when we want to criticize someone who says a lot but never backs it up with action. “Talk is cheap,” we say, when we want to remind someone that it’s one thing to say you will help, but another thing to do it. The Italian for chatter is ciarlare, from which they make the word ciarlatano, a chatterer, a man who talks a lot – meaning, a huckster, a cheat, a charlatan.
The enemies of Socrates, and a couple of his less helpful friends too, thought that he talked too much, and that he seldom meant what he said, because he merely played with words to confuse people, to hold men of high station up to ridicule, and to corrupt the minds of young men who enjoyed seeing him do it. But I don’t think the charge was fair. Socrates often feigned ignorance in order to draw people out, so that they could see what they had taken for granted, and so that he and they might come to a sharper view of justice or piety or beauty or love, a sharper and a truer view. He …
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