WhySocrates’ assertion on the pursuit of goodness was a shift towardsthe philosophy of social and ethical concepts.
Socratessecured a special place in the history of goodness and happinessbecause he believed and convinced the society that the two valuescould be obtained by simply applying some human efforts. Socrates isdocumented as the first figure to support the pursuit of goodness andhappiness instead of mere pursuit of wealth (Pursuit of HappinessIncorporation 1). However, Socrates does not mean that people shouldstop pursuing wealth, but he implies that members of the societyshould engage in activities hat will culminate in the goodness ofindividuals as well as the entire society. There seems to be someresidents of Athens Greece who agree and support Socrates doctrine,while others feel offended to an extent of bringing legal chargesagainst him. This paper will defend Socrates assertion that wealthand other benefits for human beings are derived from the pursuit ofgoodness and not from the pursuit of wealth and other advantageousdesires.
Priorto Socrates’ assertions, the Greek philosophy was composed ofmetaphysical questions that focused on helping the Greeks explore thephysical world, including the existence of the earth and theuniverse. Early Greek philosophers rarely focused on human life,social, or ethical issues that affected human co-existence. To thisend, Socrates was the first Greek philosopher to take a differentdimension in the field of philosophy by addressing social and ethicalissues affecting the society (Pursuit of Happiness Incorporation 1).The dimension was controversial and made earlier philosophers arguethat Socrates had extracted philosophy from heaven (the place of thegods) and brought it to the earth. Socrates tried to impart the newknowledge to the society and show people the importance of beingmoral in a society where the immoral members of the society seemed tobenefit more than the moral ones. This was the major cause ofcontroversy that culminated in legal charges against Socrates. Theaccusers believed that Socrates was guilty of inquiring into thingsthat are in the sky, making the weaker arguments appear stronger,failed to acknowledge the gods, and corrupted the youths.
Applicationof ethical concepts in Socrates’ defense
Throughouthis defense, Socrates attempts to restate and emphasize thesignificance of his teachings to the society and to demonstrate thathis opponents are after a negative course. Socrates uses his unusualway of questioning, which helps him expose the ignorance of hisaccusers and create an opportunity for the jury to acquire theknowledge of his actual teachings. In essence, Socrates’ defenseindicates that his philosophy focused on helping the members of thesociety, both old and the young, to embark on doing what is good forthe society instead of silencing others who have opposing views(Grube 74). The concept of pursuing goodness instead of wealth andadvantageous desires can be traced in Socrates’ defense in bothsets of accusations. This concept is based on the ethical theoriesthat emphasis on the consideration of the impact of human actions onother members of the society.
UtilitarianismLessons from Socrates’ service to the youths
Meletusaccuse Socrates of teaching the youths to convince them follow hisphilosophy, which is solely based on the notion of maximizinghappiness for all members of the society by pursuing goodness (Grube35). This set of charges indicates that Socrates was being chargedfor enlightening the young members of the society and rescue thefuture generation from philosophy that disregarded the ethical andsocial aspects of human life. In his defense, Socrates states thatthe main objective of his teaching was to make the youths become asgood as they could (Grube 35). Although Socrates accusers assert thathe was paid for his services of teaching the young there is noevidence to prove this fact and his poverty serves as evidence thathe was not teaching the youths in pursuit of financial gains. In thiscase account, Socrates serves as good example of his own assertionthat it is not the wealth that produces goodness, but it is thepursuit of goodness that produces wealth and other benefits desiredby human beings.
Fromthe utilitarian perspective, all human actions can be judged to beeither good or bad depending on the number of people whose happinessis maximized by those actions. For example, an action is consideredto be right if it maximizes the happiness or reduces the pain amongthe largest number of the members of the society (Sadler 8). Thismeans that Socrates does not stand out to blame the concept of wealthcreation, but he criticizes the methods used to obtain that wealth.In essence, the key guiding principles in human activities should beto engage in doing what is right and will potentially benefit otherpeople. Similarly, the methods used by people to create wealth andother human benefits (such as promotions at places of work) can beassessed on the basis of the nature of their outcomes. For example,corruption is a wealth creation strategy, but it is not an act ofgoodness and it can results in imprisonment or fine. Engaging in alegally accepted business (such as a restaurant) is, on the otherhand, is a wealth creation activity that can be regarded as an act ofgoodness because it results in a positive outcome (bringing foodproducts closer to the people) to the local residents. This impliesthat people should be guided by potential outcome of their intentionswhen deciding on the best approaches of pursuing wealth and otherhuman benefits.
Socrates’assertion and care ethics perspective
Basedon the care ethics perspective, Socrates’ assertion can beinterpreted mean one’s actions should be prioritized on the basisof their capacity to assist members of the society who morevulnerable. The care ethics perspective is based on the notion that agood action is one that supports those who are in need (Sadler 11).This implies that all human actions should be geared towardsminimizing the suffering of other people and rescuing them from thefuture misfortunes. The perspective seeks to reduce selfishness inthe society and create an environment in which people care about thewellbeing of others rather than pursuing their own pleasures. The actof helping the vulnerable promotes the sense for humanity, which inturn results in a society where people live for others and not justfor their own good. Eventually, everyone is able get human benefits(such as social support) in times of their need.
Socratesserves a good example of people who pursue goodness by helping thevulnerable members of the society. For example, his idea of teachingthe youths originated from the fact that the young generation was atthe risk of emulating the corrupted ideas used by Athenians toaccumulate wealth irrespective of the impacts of their actions toothers (Grube 14). Socrates believe that the youths needs to beimparted with the right virtues that will help them avoid themisconceptions help by the stakeholders in many fields, such asorators, poets, craftsmen, and politicians. According to Socrates,these people assert that they are wise, but in essence, they onlyhold some knowledge in their respective fields. Sharing knowledge andwisdom with the youths is one way of reducing their vulnerabilityfrom the common misconceptions in their environment. Thisdemonstrates care ethics, which will reduce pride in the futuresociety and create an environment that all people will enjoy andrespect professions help by others. Therefore, the perspective ofcare ethics support Socrates’ assertion that the pursuit ofgoodness produces wealth and other advantageous desires, such asliving in a society that is free of pride and supports knowledgesharing.
Socrates’assertion and virtues
Thevirtue ethics, as proposed by Aristotle holds that actions are judgedto be wrong or right depending on the type of traits they culturallypromote (Sadler 12). The traits promoted by these actions in turndetermine one’s ability to realize the full potential or toflourish. In the context of Socrates’ assertion, ethics of virtuecan be used to imply that the methods used by people to accumulatewealth can be judged to be wrong or right depending on whether theypromote bad or good wealth creation practices in the society. Thismeans that, according to Socrates, the priority consideration shouldbe the potential ethics behind the action and not amount of wealththat the actions are likely to produce. Socrates intended to teachAthenians that the pursuit of goodness by observing virtues is moreimportant than the pursuit of wealth and other benefits. Socratesuses all his teachings to enlighten the youths on the right virtuesthat can help them achieve the true excellence. For example, Socratesstates in Grube “If your two sons were born as calves or colts, wecould find and engage a tutor who could make them excel superbly inthe required quality” (p. 12). In this statement, Socrates attemptsto show that the true excellence (such as political success andwealth creation) is determined by virtues surrounding its attainment.
Implicationsof Socrates statement to the society
AlthoughSocrates emphasizes on the pursuit of goodness, he does not intend tocurse the wealth creation and pursuit of other human benefits. Themain objective of Socrates’ assertion is to reduce the Wall Streetgreed that is the mother of all evils (such as corruption, burglary,and murder) associated with the process of wealth creation. Theguiding principles, according to Socrates, are impact of the outcomethe income generating activity to the society. For example, Socratesteaches good virtues to the society at a fee (Grube 14). This impliespriority is to impart good virtues to the youths, while money comesas a product of pursuing the goodness that is teaching virtues to theyouths.
Socratesalso shows that the position of material wealth is not necessarilythe most important thing in human life. Although he charges some feesto the youths and parents who value his teachings, je remainsfinancially poor because he does not exploit his customers bycharging exorbitant fee. When requested to select betweenimprisonment and imposition of a fine, Socrates demonstrates hispoverty by stating that he can only manage the fine if the jurycharged him the little amount he could afford. Grube states“Socrates’ poverty was his best witness” (p. 56). In anotherinstant, Socrates is denoted as one of the most reputed wise peoplein Athens (Grube 19). This implies that the pursuit of goodness canresults to others benefits (such as recognition by the society) otherthan material wealth. This widened the perspective of Athenians byhelping them see the outcome of the pursuit of goodness beyondfinancial gains and political excellence.
Socrates’reputation and his eventual death originated from the fact that hewas the first philosopher to introduce social and ethical aspects ofphilosophy in Greece. Early Greek philosophers focused on physicalissues, while neglecting the issues of human interaction. Mostimportantly, Socrates’ assertion that wealth and other humanbenefits were derived from the pursuit of goodness was a surprise tomany Athenians, especially the politicians and those ho heldpositions in the leadership. This is because the integration ofsocial as well as ethics in the process of wealth creation was notfactored in by the Greeks prior to Socrates’ teachings. However,Socrates did not assert that wealth creation and pursuit of otherhuman benefits was wrong, but meant that all human actions should begeared towards the achievement of what would be considered to be goodby the society. The guiding principles in Socrates teachings wereethics and virtues.
Grube,G. Commentaryon Plato’s apology of Socrates.Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 2000. Print.
Pursuitof Happiness Incorporation. Socrates: Bringing the science ofhappiness to life. Pursuitof Happiness Incorporation.2014. Web. October 23 2014.
Sadler,B. Five ethical theories: Bare bones for business educators.ReasonIO.2011. Web. October 23 2014.