Website owner:  James Miller

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On teaching of Socrates: we do wrong due to ignorance

   Does man know what is right and wrong because he has learned 
   it, because he has been taught it, or does he just know it 
   intuitively (because he was born with that knowledge)?  In 
   other words, is knowledge of right and wrong something that is 
   learned or something that is innate?  If a boy secretly steals 
   something from a trusting, good friend doesn't the boy just 
   know intuitively that the act is wrong?  I think he does.  
   Especially if it is the first time he has ever done it.  If he 
   continues to do this sort of thing he may lose the sense of 
   doing wrong after he has done it a few times.  But the first 
   time he does it I believe that he would instinctively know that 
   it was a wrong and bad action even if he had never been taught 
   anything about the wrong of stealing.  Similarly if a man in 
   passion raped and murdered a woman wouldn't he know, just 
   instinctively, that he had done a wrong and bad thing?  I think 
   he would.  Whenever any of us does something for our own gain 
   or benefit which is at the expense of someone else, something 
   that does harm to an innocent person, I think there is 
   something innate and intuitive in us that tells us it is wrong. 

   Another question.  Aren't all of us at times in our life 
   tempted to do something that we know would be wrong out of the 
   promise of some gain or benefit or pleasure?  Isn't this a 
   common experience?  Aren't we all tempted at times to do wrong?  
   Due to the power of the sexual fantasies and desires that we 
   all must deal with aren't we all quite familiar with that 
   struggle between our higher and lower natures, between our 
   knowledge of right and the powerful lure to do wrong? 

   Considering all that we have said now, how is it possible that 
   Socrates could possibly have argued so ardently that no one 
   would knowingly act contrary to the good?  That if a person did 
   wrong he was doing it because he thought it was right and thus 
   he was really doing it in ignorance?  From what we know about 
   ourselves and life this contention seems like a very absurd 
   one.  Even Aristotle doesn't seem to have a good clear concept 
   of the essence of the whole thing:  that great struggle between 
   our Higher Nature and our Lower Nature, the great conflict 
   between our knowledge of Good and Right and that powerful 
   temptation to go against Good and Right in favor of personal 
   gain, benefit, self-interest, comfort and pleasure.  It all 
   basically comes down to the struggle between Good and Evil 
   within us, that voice of God within us that tells us what is 
   right and that voice of Evil within us that keeps tempting us 
   to go in the way of Evil.  

   Feb 1984

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