No intelligent man believes that anybody ever willingly errs or willingly does base and evil deeds; they are well aware that all who do base and evil things to them unwillingly.

In the middle of his analysis of Simonides's poem (345e), Socrates gives this clear statement of his doctrine that it is impossible to want to commit an evil action. However, Socrates is being ironical when he states that other people who were renowned for wisdom also held this view. The case was, in fact, quite the contrary: Socrates's theory was generally thought to be completely absurd. Undoubtedly, it is counter-intuitive: people quite willingly steal, murder, lie and so on all the time.

However, this idea becomes harder to dismiss once we understand what Socrates takes an evil action to be. If, as he argues, to do something that is evil is the same thing as doing something in a state of ignorance, any action that is evil is an action whose character and effects are not properly understood. When we lie, for instance, we do not fully understand the damage we are doing. If we did understand, we would not lie: in this sense, no-one knowingly and willingly ever commits an evil act. How this gels with Socrates's patent falsehood in this sentence—that his opinions are shared by other wise men—is unclear.