Socrates’ Understanding of Virtue and Morality

Socrates’ Understanding of Virtue and Morality

June 28, 2021 Off By Felso

Socrates, in the practical dimension of his ethics, primarily calls people to “take care of their souls”; It implies that the Athenians did not pay due attention to this issue, and that they lacked the necessary self-consciousness.

In other words, for Socrates, who believed that in a clear understanding of what man really is, some things are far more important than others, these important and valuable things are not what the Athenians were after.

From this point of view, his ethics or philosophy can be understood as an attempt to move Athenians away from their existing lifestyles and existing values, towards a correct way of life in which new and real values ​​are embodied.

This is where Socrates’ understanding of man becomes important. In his eyes, a human being is a composite being consisting of a body and a soul, with a material and a spiritual dimension, and the element or component that corresponds to the real self of man and makes him whatever he is is the soul. Against the truly existing immortal soul, the body has to be just a tool. According to Socrates, these two separate components that make up the human cause the emergence of two different types of values. Those who believe that the body is what really exists, or who lack the awareness that the soul is what makes a human being, are those who seek happiness in bodily satisfactions, and seek pleasure, material wealth or glory, honor. As for Psukhe or the soul, Socrates identifies the soul with reason, with the rational faculties or faculties of man.

The real self of man, what makes him human, is the psukhe, and the essence of psukhe is the mind. Socrates, who thinks that every being has a function to fulfill, and that its existence has a purpose, develops the famous notion of arete or virtue at this point. The basic questions he asks in this context are: “What is the purpose of man?”, “Which type of activity is unique to man?”, “What functions does the human being have to fulfill that other beings cannot fulfill?” For Socrates, the type of activity peculiar to man is not movement, growth, sensation, or reproduction. Because other animal species also do this. The human’s arete has to be related to the human mind, which is found only in humans. Because reason and the use of reason are unique to man and distinguish him from other animal species that have a body.

The most important function of the Psukhe, or mind, is to direct, direct and regulate the life of the individual, just as a craftsman directs his tools or uses them well to create something. In other words, Socrates, who says that “virtue, truth, and the perfection of the human spirit” are of one and the same kind, and that man should lead a rationally organized life, argues that only knowledge can play a role in this process. Accordingly, he demands a strict moral autonomy from the moral agent, unlike people who are swept away without autonomy because they pursue material or external things, allowing such material things as pleasure or well-being to determine the course of their lives; argues that a person should organize his life with a moral knowledge that should be his own. This is what he means when he says that “an unexamined life is a life not worth living”.

From this point of view, Socrates states that (i) there is a universal and objective moral truth that the moral agent can discover, that he can then live in accordance with himself and that will make him happy; (ii) it can be said that he argues that the perpetrator should be morally autonomous and live in accordance with the moral knowledge he has to appropriate. Although Socrates did not give the content of this objective moral truth and did not clearly reveal the elements of a universal and self-evident range of values ​​and code of behavior, what moral knowledge he meant or could be can be deduced from his own life and thoughts. Indeed, the most basic element of this heroism of Socrates, who is distinguished by his way of living in accordance with the values ​​he defends, his heroic character or secular prophetic attitude, shows that the way of action of a person is the only thing that gives meaning to his life or puts him in danger, and values ​​moral considerations above all else. consists of the importance he attaches to caring for the soul.

Accordingly, Socrates, who criticized his compatriots for forgetting virtue while valuing matter, glory and honor, argued that the most important duty or activity of a person is to pay due attention to his spirit. Expressing that not really thinking about the question of how one should live is synonymous with leading a worthless and therefore unhappy life, Socrates says that people are included in a world where there are others and social values ​​are dominant. In a world dominated by tradition and traditional values, although tradition compensates for this lack of reflection to some extent, traditional codes of conduct