Socrates is generally regarded as one of the greatest Greek thinkers, who
participated in formation of Western philosophy. His personality and mindset
was unique, and his wisdom still remains to be a representation of
indispensable philosophy. Socrates’ field of studies includes moral virtues,
justice, and what, in general, good life is. Mentioned above issue is commonly discussed, and people
have always argued about it, because, obviously, the idea of good life might be
different for everyone. For some individuals good life intends to be materially
comfortable and luxurious, for others it is more vital to live in accordance
with moral norms and ethical standards. Yet all human beings have diverse
beliefs, there is a general comprehension of a good life. On the whole, a good
life is one that supplies people with happiness and satisfaction, brings joy
and adds sense of purpose of living. Good life is considered to make people
feel they indeed live, not just simply exist. According to Socrates and his
studies, to live a good life implies being righteous, decent, and morally
correct. Respectively, to determine virtue mankind should investigate facts,
circumstances, environment and people around, as well as explore itself and benefit
from the gained knowledge.

            First
of all, as mentioned above, Socrates’ concept of a good human life involves
knowledge. Itself knowledge is information and skills acquired through
experience and education (Oxford Dictionaries, 2017); however, for Socrates, in
general, knowledge not only signifies understanding of a particular subject,
but refers to virtue and goodness. He states, “And on the other hand, if I say
that this even happens to be a very great good for a human being—to make speeches
every day about virtue and the other things about which you hear me conversing
and examining both myself and others— and that the unexamined life is not worth
living for a human being, you will be persuaded by me still less when I say
these things” (Plato and West, 38a). On this basis, Socrates
claims that people should improve themselves to develop the world, make
progress and experience being fully human. “Unexamined life” in his perception
is useless and influences destructively on society. For instance, there is no
development, if people only eat, sleep, and work. This lifecycle does not require any beneficial aspects, and if not
lead to degradation, but at least do not profit. When people do not examine
life, they pretend to be like animals. Without any attempts to perceive the
significance of human life and to explore the world and human nature, people only
use animal instincts to survive, which does not bring wisdom and knowledge;
thus, does not provide a good life.

Secondly, according to a
well-known Greek philosopher, to live a good life means to distinguish
accurately between right and wrong. “You are mistaken my friend, if you think
that a man who is worth anything ought to spend his time weighing up the
prospects of life and death. He has only one thing to consider in performing
any action — that is, whether he is acting right or wrongly, like a good man or
a bad one.” (Plato
and West, 28b). Thus, if people know what is considered just and
acceptable, and behave in a such manner, it verifies them as good members of
society. Consequently, when humans appear to be decent citizens, they deserve a
good life. Conversely, when experience educates humans to act properly, and if
person’s actions still do not contribute and are considered unserviceable to
the majority, it demonstrates a choice of a wrong path; in this case, they are
far from living a good life. However, right actions do not necessarily affiliate
with what people want. On the contrary, actions might be unpleasant, but the
result will justify the means. For instance, Socrates states (Plato, 2013) that
“tyrants” do not kill people because of their willingness, but they propose it
“conduces to their own good”. Bearing that in mind, no matter which steps
humans follow, if the final result is right. That is why, compliance of any
actions is regulated by the tendency of self-interest.

 

Thirdly,
Socrates states that ignorance is evil. In his defense speech Socrates admits
he is not afraid of death, demonstrating that ignorance is morally wrong, “For
to fear death, men, is in fact nothing other than to seem to be wise, but not
to be so. For it is to seem to know what one does not know: no one knows
whether death does not even happen to be the greatest of all goods for the human
being; but people fear it as though they knew well that it is the greatest of
evils. And how is this not that reproachable ignorance of supposing that one
knows what one does not know?” (Plato and West, 29a). Socrates underlines that
ignorance, not death, is evil; it cannot provide people with a good life.
Ignorance, itself, is a lack of knowledge, and it is already known, according
to Socrates, that knowledge is a component of a good life. The state of being
ignorant implicates the blurred idea
of what is appropriate, that is why impossibility to fear things humans do not
know is useless, even though they can occur to be good. Therefore, Socrates
asserts that self-interest regulates people’s minds, that is why humans cannot
willingly harm themselves. Consequently, as long as high moral standards are
considered to be the best kind of representation of self-interest for Socrates,
the only possibility and premise to act wrongly is to misunderstand what is
right or wrong. Hence, inaccurate attempts and decisions are not intendent
actions, but rather an outcome of ignorance.

 

The
last but not the least aspect of a good life according to Socrates, is to have
a rich mind rather than be wealthy. Socrates indicates, “For I go around and do
nothing but persuade you, both younger and older, not to care for bodies and
money before, nor as vehemently as, how your soul will be the best possible I
say: Not from money does virtue come, but from virtue comes money and all of the other good things for human beings both privately and publicly” (Plato
and West, 30b). Philosopher
believed that his aim from the God was to persuade people of Athens that the
most significant righteousness for humans was the care of the soul.  Citizens of Athens, who cared substantially
about their empire (still full of problems), experienced lack of happiness,
because they were concerned only about valuable material possessions and
reputation. In turn, emerge supervision of material goods and money, especially
between countries on the whole (not only between individuals), might
conceivably cause conflicts. Sequentially, conflicts lead to insufficiency of
fairness and imbalance in society. Moreover, Socrates states, “Best of men, you
are an Athenian, from the city that is greatest and best reputed for wisdom and
strength: are you not ashamed that you care for having as much money as
possible, and reputation, and honor, but that you neither care for nor give thought
to prudence, and truth, and how your soul will be the best possible?” (Plato
and West, 29e). While citizens of Athens are concerned about
wealth, the city will suffer from absence of justice and virtue. Thus, Socrates
assumes that his objective is to improve the city of Athens, as well as its
residents, and the way to gain his aim is to tempt people to ameliorate their
souls to the best possible.

 

Considered
all mentioned above arguments, it can be concluded that for Socrates living a
good life means to examine oneself and the world around, to seek justice and
virtue, to differentiate between right and wrong, and to value healthy mind
more than wealth. According to Socrates, to lead righteous life humans should
not stop questioning themselves and the world, to demonstrate that they are
more than animals. Evaluation of the good life according to the famous
philosopher may seem rather subjective than objective; consequently, there is
no one right answer to the mentioned above issue. However, from the standpoint
of author’s essay, Socrates’ notion of a good life is quite relevant and
appropriate. On the basis of generally known data, aspects of living happily
and virtuously that Socrates highlighted in ancient times, are still applicable
in our modern society. Assuming that moral standards basically require a long
time to be generated and adjusted, Socrates’ rules somehow have become the norm
of the contemporary world. This fact reveals that Socrates’ principles are
accepted by the majority of people, not only by the author of the following
essay. Hence, it can be concluded that his notion is reliable and has the right
to exist.

 

 

References:

 

1. Oxford Dictionaries | English. (2017). knowledge | Definition of
knowledge in English by Oxford Dictionaries. online Available at:
https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/knowledge

 

2. Plato. (January 15, 2013). Gorgias. The Project
Gutenberg EBook of Gorgias. online Available at: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1672/1672-h/1672-h.htm

 

3. Plato and West, T. (1980). Plato’s Apology of Socrates.
Cornell University Press, pp.11-20.

 

 

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