Website owner: James Miller
Many years ago I started reading some of Plato's works in which Socrates as the main character engages in a dialogue with one or two other people concerning some philosophical question. By using a dialectic process of question and answer a conclusion is arrived at. These works were presumably intended by Plato to reveal the beliefs and ideas of Socrates. I was reading them with great eagerness since Socrates is of such great renown as a wise man. I expected to find great and profound ideas. I was very impressed by the dialectic style of argument used by Socrates and was reading the works very carefully when I suddenly found myself shocked and dumbfounded by a conclusion he had come to. He had concluded that wrong actions arise from ignorance. I couldn't believe what I had read. I thought I must have read it wrong, understood him wrong. I thought, "Surely he doesn't really believe that. How could any man with any knowledge of human nature believe anything as absurd as that?" But, no I hadn't read him wrong. That is what he asserted. Buddha, who lived at around the same time as Socrates, possibly a bit before, asserted the same idea. Both asserted that man's evil and wrong actions arise out of ignorance. Socrates asserted that no man knowingly does evil, that no man is really bad. I still find it hard to believe that intelligent men could assert an idea so obviously incorrect. People do certainly knowingly do wrong. It happens all the time. What causes them to do wrong? They may be tempted by base appetites, by lust or greed, to do wrong. They may do what they know to be wrong from cowardice, fear, or intimidation. They may be bribed by money or gifts into some perversion of justice or wrong deed. Lying, deceiving, corruption is part of the world we live in and people don't do these things innocently. They know what they are doing. A great many people don't take goodness, virtue, right conduct, right actions very seriously. They are not strongly committed to virtuous action. They are not lovers of righteousness and goodness. They do wrong very easily without giving a lot of thought to it. They develop habits of acting wrongly and their consciences may become dulled so they no longer think much about it. Wrong action in general doesn't stem from ignorance, lack of knowledge. It stems from a basic disposition that doesn't value virtue and goodness, a disposition not strongly inclined towards doing right, where temptation pulls on them and there is no restraining force. Or it may stem from a disposition simply inclined toward evil. It is true that a thinking man in pursuit of Wisdom, Understanding, Truth, Goodness and Virtue may become convinced of the importance of always doing the right thing, of always acting right. But more than knowledge is involved in preventing wrong action. Will, resolve, seriousness, commitment are also involved. Values are involved. A love of Goodness, a belief in Goodness, an appreciation of the importance of Goodness. This whole question of what causes people to do wrong is very important because if a person does wrong through ignorance he can't be blamed, can't be held accountable. To do wrong out of ignorance is not blameworthy. To do wrong knowingly is blameworthy. Thus for a person with the idea that wrong doing comes from ignorance, the concept of sin wouldn't exist. The wrong action might be termed a spiritual error but it can't be called a sin because he doesn't realize it is wrong. With Christianity we have a God who has explicity decreed what is right and wrong. Here the issue is clearer. We are not dependent on an inner voice, on conscience, for our knowledge of right and wrong. We have been told explicitly. With the Bible the concept of sin becomes very clear. It is transgression against God's law. After discovering that Socrates believed that wrong actions are caused by ignorance my opinion of him dropped drastically and I lost interest in him. I read quite a few of the works of Plato and wasn't very impressed by him either. I felt that he was just far too visionary, impractical, far too removed from reality. Often he just didn't make much sense. There is a Greek philosopher, however, that I did develop a great respect for. It is Aristotle. He was wrong on a number of things but I consider him a great and profound thinker. I have been very impressed by many things that he wrote. I credit him with great insights on many things. May 2009 More from SolitaryRoad.com:
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Principles for Living Life
Topically Arranged Proverbs, Precepts, Quotations. Common Sayings. Poor Richard's Almanac.
America has lost her way
The really big sins
Theory on the Formation of Character
You are what you eat
People are like radio tuners --- they pick out and listen to one wavelength and ignore the rest
Cause of Character Traits --- According to Aristotle
These things go together
We are what we eat --- living under the discipline of a diet
Avoiding problems and trouble in life
Role of habit in formation of character
The True Christian
What is true Christianity?
Personal attributes of the true Christian
What determines a person's character?
Love of God and love of virtue are closely united
Walking a solitary road
Intellectual disparities among people and the power in good habits
Tools of Satan. Tactics and Tricks used by the Devil.
On responding to wrongs
Real Christian Faith
The Natural Way -- The Unnatural Way
Wisdom, Reason and Virtue are closely related
Knowledge is one thing, wisdom is another
My views on Christianity in America
The most important thing in life is understanding
Sizing up people
We are all examples --- for good or for bad
Television --- spiritual poison
The Prime Mover that decides "What We Are"
Where do our outlooks, attitudes and values come from?
Sin is serious business. The punishment for it is real. Hell is real.
Self-imposed discipline and regimentation
Achieving happiness in life --- a matter of the right strategies
Self-control, self-restraint, self-discipline basic to so much in life
We are our habits
What creates moral character?