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Socrates and His Views on Goodness and Evil, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

As one of the greatest Western philosophers of all time, Socrates (469 to 399 B.C.E.) is perhaps best-known for his life-long questioning of what is good and what is evil. The basic argument presented by Socrates, known as the Socratic Paradox, is that 1), individuals do not deliberately act in immoral ways; 2), that if an individual “knows what is good, (he) will always act in such a manner as to achieve it;” and 3), if an individual acts “in a manner not conducive to ones good, then that person must have been mistaken,” meaning that the individual does not possess the knowledge on how to act as a good person; in other words, he is ignorant. Therefore, according to Socrates, knowledge equal goodness via virtue or arête and evil equates with ignorance, due to the fact that “No one chooses evil or chooses to act in ignorance” (“The Ethics of Socrates”).

It appears that the key word here is “ignorance” as it relates to knowing the difference between what is good and what is evil. If as Socrates suggests that evil is based on ignorance, then it would make sense that all evil acts are the result of “ignorance of the good” (Svendsen 106). This is where the Socratic Paradox comes into play, meaning that if an individual is ignorant of what is good, then conversely, he/she is also ignorant of what is evil. What Socrates is actually attempting to say is that the lack of knowledge can result in both good and bad behavior which implies that knowledge or virtue (arête) serves as the basis for all human behavior. Also, Socrates appears to be so firmly against doing evil that he allegedly once remarked that “It is better to suffer evil than to do it” (Gaita 267). Overall then, one could assume that knowledge which we could equate with morality, wholly determines if an individual acts in goodness or in evil. However, Socrates fails to address, at least in some ways, how an individual can gain the knowledge required to know the difference between good and evil. This would serve as an excellent theme for a project on Socrates, one which does not seem to have been researched to the extent of other Socratic philosophical questions and inquiries.

Works Cited

Gaita, Raimond. Good and Evil: An Absolute Conception. 2nd ed. UK: Routledge, 2004. Print.

Svendsen, Lars. A Philosophy of Evil. Norway: Universitetsforlaget, 2001. Print.

“The Ethics of Socrates.” 2009. Web. 13 September 2014.

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