Doing what one wants and what one sees fi to do is a prominent argument within Socratic ethics. This is because it involves one’s duty to oneself and one’s obligations towards society. Creating a balance between these two aspects of individual life is extremely important in the achievement of a fulfilling existence. Doing what one wants is one of the most important desires that all individuals have because it allows them to ensure that they are able to live in a way that they like rather than depending on circumstances surrounding them. However this situation is often curtailed by the need by individuals to ensure that they do what they see fit. This paper seeks to discuss the distinction between doing what one wants and doing what one sees fit to do according to Socrates in the Gorgias.
One of the most important arguments made by Socrates is that everyone desires the good (White 849). This is essential in discussing doing what one sees fit to do because it shows that individuals always seek to ensure that they do what they think is right. Therefore, no one willingly does what is wrong because they often want to ensure that they whatever their actions, the results are favorable to all people around them. Socrates argues that wisdom is the only thing that is good, while ignorance is what brings about evil. This means that individuals often use their own wisdom to do what they believe is fit, even though the consequences might not turn out the way that they expect. Doing what one sees fit to do can have some unexpected consequences, especially considering that Socrates states that only the good have the power to commit evil (Plato 468). Doing what one sees fit to do is essential in the establishment of harmony around the individual and those around him because their actions will involve putting the interests of others into consideration before undertaking any action. It also makes it possible for individuals in society to act in such a way that they consider their conscience so that they are able to decipher the consequences of their actions before undertaking them. The natural orientation towards the good helps in bringing about a sense of duty towards society in such a way that individuals seek to do what they believe is fit and overcome the desire to do what they want.
Doing what one wants, according to Socrates, can be achieved through the virtue and wisdom of an individual. This action tends to be undertaken despite the considerable possibility of bad actions that an individual will be inclined to perform. Because of this possibility, Socrates seems to encourage his students to ensure that they think critically of their actions before undertaking them (Plato 468). Doing what one wants, while it might yield some good, tends to lead to situations where the individual ends up having to undertake bad actions that might end up hurting others in society. Because everyone desires good, it is pertinent for individuals to undertake to think about the consequences of their actions in order to prevent themselves from taking actions that might have dire consequences. Doing what one wants, even though it is for the good, does not often involve good actions. Instead, it creates a situation where individuals end up stepping on the toes of others without caring for the consequences in order to achieve what they want. Despite Socrates’ argument that all individuals tend to desire the good, doing what one wants creates a situation where it is difficult for good to be achieved. For example, in a situation where an individual wants the property of another and kills him for it, he attains what he wants yet has committed an evil by committing murder. This example shows that individuals tend not to be satisfied by attaining what is considered good, but often seek to attain more (Plato 505); essentially what they want.
In conclusion, there is a clear distinction between doing what one wants and what one sees fit to do. This distinction can be seen where doing what one wants involves individuals undertaking actions, whether good or bad, and without thinking of the consequences, in order to achieve what they desire. Doing what one sees fit, on the other hand, involves individuals thinking critically of the potential consequences of their actions before undertaking them. Therefore, the latter advocates for creating a balance between individual desires and the interests of others within the society in which one lives, while doing what one wants only considers individual desires.
- Plato. Gorgias. Penguin Books Baltimore, 1960. Print.
- White, James Boyd. “The Ethics of Argument: Plato’s” Gorgias” and the Modern Lawyer.” The University of Chicago Law Review 50.2 (1983): 849-95. Print.