Example Of Critical Thinking On Socrates` Pursuit Of Happiness
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Socrates believed that the meaning of human life and the supreme good is to achieve happiness. Ethics should help a person to live a life in accordance with this purpose. Happiness is a prudent and virtuous life, i.e. only a moral person can be happy (or reasonable which, in fact, is the same thing). Socrates argues that morality is not subordinated to the natural desire for happiness, but rather happiness depends on morality, or virtue, of people. Accordingly, the task of ethics is specified; to help a person become moral, hence, happy.
According to Socrates, real moral relations are largely based on limited and contradictory moral values. This is a consequence of people`s ignorance and their unwillingness to learn the truth. The essence of moral lies in immutable and eternal virtues, chief among which is wisdom. It allows you to understand the purpose of life. It is the activity corresponding to the Divine Plan.
Knowledge is the basis of virtue (each particular virtue is a certain kind of knowledge), ignorance is the source of immorality and, therefore, truth and goodness is the same thing. Moral values only have significance when a man knows they are true. Therefore, Socrates paid constant attention to moral education, which is inseparable from self-education, and moral improvement process that continues throughout adult life. Socrates` comparison of knowledge with virtue suggests a conscious and responsible attitude of individual to his moral behavior and lifestyle. The main criterion of morality is the mind and reason of an individual. A man can only improve what he has, that is, his soul. Hence, he says, "Know thyself." Self-knowledge leads to understanding of one`s place in life. It's important for everyone to find their niche, a place where an individual feels comfortable and happy.
Socrates` fundamental principle of ethics was presented in Plato's dialogue "Protagoras". Ignorance of most people is manifested in the fact that knowledge and virtue are treated as two different substances, independent of each other. People believe that knowledge has no effect on human behavior, and the person often acts not as required by the knowledge, but in accordance with his sensual impulses. According to Socrates, science, and in a narrower sense, knowledge, that demonstrates its inability to influence people, especially in moments of exposure to sensory impulses, cannot be considered a science. In this light, it becomes clear that the ethical concept of Socrates is based not only and perhaps not so much on morality, but rather on overcoming ignorance and gaining knowledge. Apparently, his concept can be represented as follows: from ignorance through knowledge, virtue, and then - to the perfect man and virtuous relations between people, and finally, to happiness.
A man sees happiness as a crucial aim of his efforts. Self-awareness helps to set priorities and form personal values. If the body is natural and is made up of particles, than the soul, according to Socrates, reveals the essence of man. Soul helps people learn things and their place in life, the world, and most importantly, the relationship between people and personal attitude towards them. Truth is a necessary condition of virtuous and fair actions.
For Socrates, morality and truth were identical concepts. A good man is both moral and intelligent, his actions are guided by moral principles and he avoids disgrace, knowing what it is. All actions that are based on virtue are good. A man, who knows the essence of such acts, does not want to make a bad act. The person who has no idea of truth and morality can make a mistake, even trying to do well. Every virtue is wisdom; therefore, only wise people can make great deeds.
Socrates saw true justice in life that is good and beautiful, and which, at the same time, makes a person happy. Only a noble man can know virtue, which itself is a blessing. Socrates believed that farmers and other people engaged in physical labor are very far from being able to know themselves. They know only bodily needs and drives. Therefore, Socrates rigidly separated one class from another. Thus, knowledge and virtue is the privilege of the noble class.
His preaching of virtue and happiness was of political nature. Socrates said that he is trying to teach more people who will be able to engage in political activity. Political education of the citizens of Athens had the purpose to restore political dominance of the aristocracy and nobility, as well as to return to the faith of the fathers. Socrates defined the main virtues that served as a condition of happiness: restraint (the ability to tame the passions), justice (knowledge of how to comply with human and divine laws), courage (the ability to overcome dangers). All these virtues can be acquired through knowledge of yourself and the world. Socrates wanted the citizens of Athens to be just to their friends, but not to the enemy; brave, but not demanding. Hence, he taught them of the virtues of prudence, humility, courage and justice. In the view of Socrates, a citizen must believe in gods, rely on their mercy, offer sacrifices, and do not dare to explore cosmos or the world around us. Citizens should be humble and God-fearing.
According to Socrates, man is unhappy not because he does not want happiness, but because he does not know what it is. Socrates said that happiness is not joy or pleasure; it has different nature. Happiness is in the internal state of mind, in the possession of virtues, chief among them is wisdom and justice. The philosopher was convinced that happy people are those people whose soul is beautiful, fair, not affected by evil, or, the one that wants to get rid of evil. In order to be truly happy, you have to take care of your soul, be truthful and kind, and keep your inner dignity. Thus, one of the hallmarks of true philosophy for Socrates is the recognition of the unity of knowledge and virtue. And not only recognition, but also the desire to achieve this unity in life. Philosophy, in the sense of Socrates, is not confined to purely theoretical work, but also includes practice - the right course of action and good deeds. In short, wisdom is a virtue, which means knowledge of the good that includes inner experience of good and therefore, leads to good deeds and keeps away from the evil, thus making you happy.
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