Do you count harm to a persons character, or soul if you like, to be a real type of harm? If you answered yes to these two questions and have answered yes to previous questions about the instinct in humans to benefit themselves, then you have no logical problems with the idea that humans never willingly choose to do wrong because they never seek. If you answered no to question one above, then question two is important for you. The only ambiguities with question one are to the extent that wrongdoing does not physically harm the wrongdoer. If there is no harm to our body or to our ability to physically survive and thrive then the idea of harm to self is less clear. This clarity is further reduced when wrongdoing both fails to hurt the body and also improves our ability to survive and thrive physically.
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Socrates maintained that people are never motivated to bring harm to themselves. Since socrates believed that wrongdoing always harmed the wrongdoer, he saw all wrongdoing as a mistake in judgment or an expression of ignorance. This is especially true in cases moral where a life full of wrongdoing never physically harms the wrongdoer. Socrates believed that the most pitiable of humans were those who lived under the delusion that their wrongdoing benefited them. According to socrates, the successful tyrant 3 who is able to do great wrong for many years without ever being essay held accountable, was the most terribly harmed of all human beings. Socrates believed that doing injustice made us less just and diminished our character. For Socrates, the only harm in life comes through our own wrongdoing (Apology 41c-d). When we see people knowingly doing wrong to others, they are not cognizant of the harm that their wrongdoing brings upon themselves. So it is that even the most flagrant examples of willful human wrongdoing, which may seem to contradict Socrates belief, actually confirm Socrates belief by being examples of our instinct to benefit ourselves misguided by ignorance. If all wrongdoing harms the wrongdoer and all people make decisions only to benefit themselves, then all people commit wrongdoing through ignorance and not through a will to do wrong. Do you believe all wrongdoing harms the wrongdoer?
If you answer no, then your own life is a testimony to the truth of Socrates belief. If you answered yes, you must try to asses your answer. Did you really commit a wrong without trying to gain om that action? If you commit any action, wrong or right, without a view shredder to any end then you have done something extraordinarily rare. Completely motiveless actions are virtually unknown except perhaps in the case of disease or brain trauma. Even in cases of disease or brain trauma there is usually some kind of motivational context although it may be incoherent. It is highly likely that you have never committed a wrong action in which you did not seek to benefit yourself. It is at this point that we come to an important clarification. Socrates did not state that doing wrong to others is ever right, but that the motivation for such actions determines the character of the will involved.
In the same way the structures of ethical reasoning are independent of the phenomenon of self interest. However, it is guaranteed only by responding to self-interest that people embrace moral rules and ethical reasoning, and only through self-interest has any ethical thought ever been developed. So it is that our ethical thoughtfulness about moral right and wrong is born of and embraced through self-interest. Our self-interest is the foundation of our capacity to be moral. Our instinct to benefit ourselves makes our participation in moral choices possible. That this instinct for self-interest may assert itself in minds that are ignorant, confused, twisted, broken and utterly unable to know what is truly good is a separate issue that does not negate the fundamental truth of Socrates insight that people never willingly harm themselves. Action based on ignorance still has the motive of benefiting the actor but lacks the knowledge to make good of that motive. Have you guaranteed ever committed a wrong action in which you did not seek to benefit yourself in some way? Even motives of entertainment, stress relief or avoidance of anxiety count as seeking to benefit you.
Right and wrong, in the perception of the actor, are defined by the ends that the actors natural instinct of self-interest guides her to embrace. The ends that we seek are always defined in the context of our self-interest and moral choices are always expressed in light of the ends we seek. We are not saying that morality is self interest; nor are we saying that structures of ethical reasoning are synonymous with self-interested reasoning or motivation. Mathematics provides a clarifying example. Nobody would say that mathematical reasoning and self-interest are the same thing. The structures of mathematical reasoning are independent of the phenomenon of human self-interested reasoning. However, all mathematicians always use the structures of mathematical reasoning in a self interested manner. Also, the only reason that mathematicians ever discover new mathematical structures is because they are responding to self-interested motivations.
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It is our nature to see what we perceive to benefit us as being good and right. It is also our nature to see that which harms us as being bad and wrong. We may resume objectively see that some particular circumstance may harm us in some way, but calculate what is of overall benefit according to the character of our self interest. Even when we are merely choosing between the lesser of two evils, neither of which interests us per se, we are still expressing self interest in the choosing. Even when one makes the ultimate sacrifice of choosing to give up their life (an act which one may be loath to do per se self interest is still expressed in the act when the one who chooses has a purpose in mind.
Self interest is persistent. It operates continuously in our capacities to give and receive, to labor and play, to attend to and ignore, and it always operates with a view to benefiting ourselves in some way. Self-Interest and Morality, our obsession with benefiting ourselves brings up the relationship between self-interest and morality. Deciding that a particular behavior godfather is morally wrong in a particular circumstance is a value that can only be imposed by a self-interested being. A non self-interested being is incapable of conceiving of right and wrong in a moral sense. There is no such thing as moral right or wrong until there first exists self-aware self-interest.
This is more difficult than you may think. The difference between objective knowledge and our personal intuitive insight into our own well being is important. People can know that stealing is wrong, but they experience a benefit through theft that makes them feel the wrongful action results in obtaining some good, which improves their lives. Remember the important psychological principle, there is no motive for committing actions that are right or wrong, which bring no perceived benefit. If we keep the distinction between the ends and means clear, we see that nobody commits an act for the sake of the wrong involved but with a view to obtaining the perceived benefit or good, which results from the action.
Even when the benefit of horrendous actions defies our understanding, the actor usually still has a conscious motive to benefit herself. So it is that some people can commit horrible actions with no sensible benefit. In such circumstances, either the benefit of the action is only perceptible to such person's own distorted inner sense of well being or such persons are aware of acting out of uncontrollable compulsion. In the latter case they are rendered unable to make real choices and are thus removed from the realm of morality altogether. To the extent that we are unable to choose, we are unable to be moral. We all have a powerful instinct to benefit ourselves. This instinct is our natural morality. We all have a natural instinct to create criteria and guidelines for behavior so we may be benefited.
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Do you believe that all humans, to the extent that they suffer, instinctually seek to relieve their suffering? If you answered yes to the above questions, then you can accept the idea that nobody chooses to do wrong when they perceive that the wrongdoing in question will bring harm upon them. To the extent that we simply obey our instinct to benefit ourselves and relieve our suffering, we are not willing pdf to harm ourselves. Socrates believed that persons who seek what they understand to benefit them are not trying to do wrong. They do not act for the sake of the wrong, but for the sake of obtaining the perceived good with which they are trying to improve their lives. If you answered no to one or both of the questions above, then you are responsible for giving one clear example reviews relevant to our subject that shows the truth of your belief. In this example you must describe a human committing an wrongful action with no ulterior desire to either benefit herself or relieve her suffering.
Here, we must keep the distinction between ends and means clear in our minds. They do not cut in order to harm their flesh. That is just a means. They cut in order to relieve stress, which is the end that their action seeks to obtain. In their intuitive calculus of personal benefit, they conclude that their overall state, which results from cutting, is better than the state of unrelieved stress. Even though the rationality and efficacy of such actions can gas be questioned, these persons believe they are benefiting themselves. A basic principle in this Socratic perspective is that choices, right or wrong, serve the ends that the chooser seeks to obtain and not the means through which the ends are realized. Ask yourself Two questions:. Do you believe that all humans have an instinct to benefit themselves?
be wrong (harmful) for themselves. Humans have a powerful instinct for benefiting themselves. Even when there is an obvious inherent self harm in the action, people can do wrong and cause harm while their goal is to seek after the good they believe will benefit them. Our objective knowledge is often subordinated to the power of our intuitive personal self-understanding. It is our personal intuition into a sense of our own well being that causes us to choose to do, or have a compulsion to do, a particular wrong even when that wrongdoing will obviously harm. We have an instinct to engage in our own personal calculus about what is best for our own well being. One example is a psychologically distraught person obsessed with cutting themselves. We know that such persons are merely trying to relieve psychological stress. They discover that, for some reason, cutting their flesh provides this relief.
In this view all wrongdoing is the result of ignorance. This means that it is impossible for a human being to willingly do wrong because their instinct for self interest prevents them from doing. This is an extraordinary statement essays that strikes disbelief in many people going all the way back to Aristotle. It seems contrary to experience that nobody knowingly does wrong. Perhaps you have personally witnessed examples of people who did wrong and seemed to know full well that their behavior was wrong. We propose that this belief of Socrates is true in a clear and simple way. It is true that people can choose to do things they know other people think are wrong.
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By max Maxwell and Melete, all Rights Reserved. Essay version.0, click-tap "contents" at the top to see the table of contents for this essay. A socratic view of Wrongdoing. Morality is a term that refers to our adherence to rules that govern human behavior on the basis of some idea of right and wrong. Although resumes the terms moral and ethical are often interchanged, in this essay i restrict my use of the terms ethics/ethical to refer to our process of reasoning about morality. Whatever your concept of morality, it must address the human capacity to identify and choose between right and wrong and then to act accordingly. Socrates believed that nobody willingly chooses to do wrong. He maintained that doing wrong always harmed the wrongdoer and that nobody seeks to bring harm upon themselves.