What is good? What is bad or evil? What is ethical?Most people think they Naturally know what is good and bad .Most people may assume that having a lot of money ,being wealthy, enjoying human pleasures, being socially acceptable in the one which they live ,or having a high social and economic status . For instance , as a king or as a ruler you would undoubtedly enjoy all of these good things that would seemingly make one happy . On the flipside most people think that feeling hurt , being rejected by society , death , or being poor and living in poverty , are the worst things a person could experience in a lifetime .
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Most would agree that those who suffer from any of these bad things are doing far worse than those who are not . Socrates would say that this outlook is a mistaken conception. Socrates would not agree that things such as wealth are good and could bring one true happiness. Socrates thought that this way of looking at things was disastrous or detrimental . HE believed that every human naturally strives for happiness and desires to be happy . Socrates might say that if we truly do not understand what is truly good or bad then we would have wasted a lifetime pursuing all of the wrong things . According to Socrates there is only one good and this good is superior . This good Socrates spoke of is Virtue and it alone could bring happiness . The definition of virtue is ones behavior showing high moral standards . Clearly Socrates thought very highly of morality and that one being Moral could bring happiness. In turn , I believe Socrates would say being Immoral would bring one both sorrow and unhappiness. Socrates held virtue as number one in his life and that we all should. Socrates said that this was the greatest good in life. He would most likely agree that a truly virtuous or happy individual would not even fear death and death seems to be the worst thing that could happen to anyone . Socrates argued that to become virtuous we must truly understand what the word means. This is most likely the reason why Socrates constantly went around questioning everyone and everything . He was always in search of the true definition of a certain virtue .Socrates also might argue that being virtuous is ethical.
But what about the bad things or evil things that people do such as stealing , killing , or even verbally harming each other ? Why do people do these things ? Socrates might argue that if people truly knew that what they were doing was bad then they wouldn’t even do it in the first place . And he would probably say that commuting evil against another is basically taking away from ones own happiness and choosing not to acquire what you truly desire which is happiness. He might also say that most people do bad to others because they have a lack of knowledge and are ignorant . Socrates believed that all evil is committed involuntarily because people have a lack of knowledge . Also he believed that when lldoing bad things to people in hopes of gaining a good of any kind we are just hurting our selves . Socrates spoke a lot about the soul he states that the soul is our true self. Basically having a good conscience is being happy to Socrates I would think .In turn , having a guilty conscience will deprive one of happiness . Socrates also believed that justice was not a political resolution for matters but instead justice is the state of a persons soul.Having wealth and riches with a guilty conscience is a waste Socrates would most likely argue because that rich person is truly unhappy. Socrates believed that an individual should live a virtuous life . Socrates was always questioning others about their personal beliefs and why they believed so. He says that examining out own lives or our souls is the most important thing in life . Examining what we do and why we do it is most important to Socrates . He also believes that a person who fails to continually self examine his or herself is living a worthless life . Socrates stood behind this notion and refused to stop self examining himself . This is basically what he said to the jury to defend himself against the charges he was facing . Socrates was accused of being ungodly and corrupting the young ones with his beliefs and personal convictions and ultimately he was found guilty and sentenced to death . Although sentenced to death he did not flee although he could have he did not because his soul would not let him. Socrates did not try to avoid death because it would contradict everything that he believed in . Socrates was truly virtuous and he could not break his moral code . Socrates would rather the whole city be happy than one individual being happy this is also another possible reason that Socrates did not flee the city in addition to the fact that he did not fear death. Clearly Socrates truly valued an orderly society and even though many may see Socrates being sentenced to death by the society by society as unjust , unfair ,or even evil, Socrates accepts his fate and chooses not run away .
It may be confusing to many but I believe atleast one reason for this is because Socrates believes that is worse to do an unjust act than to receive an unjust treatment . Socrates’s philosophy is that it is damaging to the soul to harm others , in turn receiving harm is like having something that you own damaged or taken away from you . It may damage your soul when someone hurts you in my opinion but not nearly as much and on this point I can agree with Socrates . Socrates views on good /ethical seem to derive from human nature and emotions when I summarize everything .
Friedrich Nietzche another philosopher also focuses on self reflection and morality but is totally different from Socrates . You may even say he is the complete opposite of Socrates because at first glance appears to be an amoralist (Ethics from classic and contemporary writers p 272) which is someone who disregards morals . This may not be neccecarily one hundred percent accurate because Nietzsche had morals he just questioned the origins of what man believes is moral or immoral , basically why do we believe something is moral or immoral. Why is something good or bad ? Why is something right or wrong ? He believes that western morality itself is a danger to achieving ones full potential and true greatness. He even goes on to call it the danger of all dangers (on the Genealogy of Morality). A lot of people if not most do not question why things are morally good or bad according to Nietzsche but rather conform to the social norms of the society in which they live . He believes that the morality of the western world which is dominant is still present today, and believes it to be unnatural . He goes on to call it antinatutural Morality which turns against the instincts of life (Genealogy of Morality) he believed that the western perception of Morality forces most to become something less than what they are capable of being or destined to be . He most likely would agree that those who disregard the social norms and morals of the western civilization have the most potential to be great and successful . He calls the majority of people the herd or the many , and once one separates himself /herself from this group they have the potential to become higher men .
The Higher man is the man who may seem superior to the herd . Whether it be he has wealth , a special gift that he was born with , good health , anything that causes another to have envy for him. He believes that being part of the herd is not a good thing because it causes one to be a weak sickly being , a failure . Nietzsche also believes that Morality is the main reason people become filled with hatred and envy . He believes that these higher men are perceived as evil to the many .The reason for this is because when someone else becomes more successful or great in anyway it causes the herd to want to bring that successful person down or even destroy that person. This may be one reason Nietzsche finds things like equality and compassion a bit distasteful . Nietzsche would most likely say that the meanings of good and bad have meant different things at different moments and are always subject to change depending on who is perceiving it . For Nietzsche this is the same for the matter of truth, it is not written in stone and it is all about perception. Nietzche might even go on to say that the words good and evil have no definite meaning at all . It’s kind of like that quote that says beauty is in the eyes of the beholder . He believes if you do not free yourself from these social norms and expectations you will never be the best that you can be , you must question everything . The world is constantly changing and so is the truth Nietzche may argue . When Nietzche says beyond good and evil he is trying to get people to see past the social norms of our societies . It does not mean that Nietzche did not have morals it simply means that for one to reach his or her full potential we have to get over the Moral values instilled by our society ,government , or religion . In other words everything is not simply black and white there are numerous maybe even an infinite amount of grey areas. Nietzsche uses this phrase to get us to open our minds outside of the herd morality because thinking in such a way denies one his or her true essence .
Nietzche is well known for the quote God is Dead (the Gay Science) this one sentence seems to strike a fatal blow at religion specifically Christianity , what a statement! Although being an atheist at the time of this writing he did not mean it in a literal since what Nietzsche was trying to get across is that the many are governed by the governed and simply to what they are told just like a herd of animals . What’s good is only good because you are told it is good . In turn what is evil is only evil because you were taught so . Nietzsche believes that people should not try to push their beliefs on others or their good , he just wants people to critically think for themselves and define our own good and our own bad . Nietzsche’s work causes one to question almost everything that we know . It’s all about ones perception of the world we live in far as morality , I think that this is Nietzsche’s main goal in his writings another example of this is the slave morality and the master morality . Most likely the masters look in the mirror and see themselves as good and feel no bad about owning slaves or about the way they treat their slaves .The masters may even see the slaves as bad or evil , because who wants to be a slave? I’m sure there were few slaves that didn’t mind but just looking at it from a realistic point of view , the many of the slaves probably wished that they were free or even that they were masters . In addition the slaves most likely felt resentment towards their masters or atleast some sort of envy due to their lack of having the power , money , freedom etc.. that slave masters possessed. It makes sense that once we can look past good and evil we better understand the world we live in.
Both Socrates and Nietzche make me think deep about life and even make me realize that I may need to re assess the way that I look at things . I think I agree with both of them to a certain extent if not completely as far as their outlooks on good , bad , and ethics in general but I would side more with Socrates because I personally agree that being virtuous can make one happy . I also feel that being virtuous is the key to happiness . I am facing an issue though because Nietzsche breaks down morality into tiny pieces and makes one think well if being virtuous means being Moral then what is being Moral ? Is being Moral doing only what we think is moral or does it have a literal meaning ? I guess I have to make a decision based on my personal views . I would choose Socrates because I favor him more as a person and what he stood for .but far as who makes me think more critically I would have to say Nietzche because he really made me see that we are controlled by our social norms . Many of us are worried about whos watching ? , what will people think if I did this or that? Will my religion still accept me if I did this or didn’t do this? People are always following the herd or the many like Nietzche says .I admire an individual who is not afraid to stand on his own and be alone . I admire an individual who isn’t afraid to not fit in and not fit in , because it is those individuals who in my opinion form new ideas and make our world the way it is today . Without those noble ones we would not have many of the things we have today . If they were just following the herd they would not be able to branch off and provide the world with creativity . In my opinion being part of a herd provides little to no benefit and I would agree with Nietzche that it would even make you a weak person and stop one from reaching their full potential . We need those Noble ones in our world today where the herd morality is still very much alive . This is in a sense a monkey see monkey do kind of world that we live in and if you stand out a little bit you may be perceived as bad , ugly , unjust , unkind , or even evil . It’s those fearless ones who I truly admire and it’s those like Nietzche who can think outside of the box and ask why this and why that? In my opinion it is important to question everything and everyone .you should always ask why or would you just rather blindly follow ? Or would you like to know where you are being lead?
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