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Question One: Discuss the meaning of the Socratic Maxim “Know Thy self” as a moral imperative. What is the nature and significance of the debate over the ontological status of the Good in Plato’s Euthyphro?
A moral imperative is a strongly-held principle that compels a person to act in a certain way. It is the motivation to do the right thing in all circumstances. According to philosophers in history, it moral imperatives originates from the conscience; which is – in essence – unquestionable. It is a property of the human form that the conscience does not require any justification altogether. Human beings have the responsibility of upholding the morality of humanity (Fieser). For certain things to work out fine, there are conditions to which the human race should conform. The world runs on hypotheses; and if one of the ends of a deal is unmet, the complementing end is compromised.
Moral imperatives denote necessity. They imply and argue that things cannot just happen the way we want in life. We have to make things happen. We have to be held responsible for our actions and what we do reflects on the results we get. The moral imperative is built on values and principles that are common and acceptable to all human beings. It all comes down to what is correct and wrong; guided by the conscience. “Know thyself” maxim demands that humans have a right to know themselves. Self-awareness is the solution to most issues in life. People engage in immorality because of confusion and lack of knowledge of self.
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It is a moral responsibility to know oneself. This phrase seems simple to behold. One may think it is easy to understand themselves. It is a fact that many people die without ever discovering who they were when they lived. Knowing thyself is more than just knowing your name and demographic information. It is more than knowing what you like and what you dislike. It is about understanding fully what you represent and the values you hold dear. It is about understands all the dynamics of being you and knowing those pillars that hold you together in crises. It is only when you fully understand this that you define what appeals to you and what is repulsive.
Doing the right thing is a character drawn from strong foundations of the self. When I understand everything I represent, I can decide the issues I can compromise and those that I consider divine. I can draw boundaries and define those things I cannot do versus what my conscience allow me. When I understand fully what I represent, I will respect myself, and relate well with those around me. The thing I would hate to experience, I will ensure that I do not subject others to the same ordeals. Virtues, such as patience, tolerance, and self-control come easily when one understands themselves. They will follow their pain and discomfort thresholds, and work to keep their actions within the constraints of morality. It is because they understand that, sometimes it is necessary to compromise for the sake of the greater good of humanity and to avoid conflicts. Knowing thyself also ensures that someone does not yield to social pressures that may lead to doing the wrong thing.
Ontological Status of the Good in Plato’s Euthyphro
What is good is relative. What may be good to one person may be otherwise for another. This issue of what is good has been a debate for centuries as different philosophers present various arguments in support of their definitions and interpretation of good.
In Plato’s Euthyphro, there exists a dilemma that brings into question the notion of “good.” There is a question of what makes something good. This dilemma is included in the philosophy of religion. There are two scenarios or arguments to this issue. One is the possibility that something becomes good because God loves it or considers it good. The second possibility is that God loves something because it is merely good. Who determines good and evil? This is a debate that still exists. It may be possible for everything to be good depending on how different entities view and define it.
In a dilemma, Socrates proposes that it is impossible to say that the piety refers to that which is loved by the gods. He presents that the gods may disagree. Euthyphro then revises the definition to say that the piety is that which is loved unanimously by the gods. These claims hold controversial to monotheist entities (Fieser). To them, there is only one God; and there is no way He could disagree with Himself. This Euthyphro theory brings about other issues, such as the existence of morality without God. It implies that the moral standards can stand independently and govern the lives of human beings. It also brings about issues of God’s omnipotence. The present arguments denote a limit and boundary to the power of God. The moral stands and imperatives have to be in line with the will and power of God.
Question Two: Discuss Plato’s notion of “unchanging Truth.” What constitutes the basis of Knowledge of the Good? How does this relate to the Doctrine of forms? What the nature of Plato’s ideal form of Justice is as presented in the Republic?
According to Plato, some things in life are unchanging. They remain constant and bring sanity to the universe. Plato introduces his account of the soul and insists on the preexistence of the soul. It is the soul that does not change. He also talks about the necessity to determine the difference between opinion and knowledge. Knowledge denotes facts, and facts are unchanging. The unchanging is contemplated by the mind through the use of intelligence as opposed to the changing that is inspired by persuasion.
The truth will always remain true. Our estimations of it may keep changing, but the facts remain. Plato’s point is that sometimes we may not know the truth. That, however, does not undermine the nature of truth. Knowledge is different from the fact. What you know is subject to changes and influence from other sources. However, the truth did not change; your perception of it changed. For us to fully negotiate that some things, the facts, do not change, we must be ready to accept the existence of different forms and realms. Once someone contemplates the truth and ascertains that that truth holds, it, therefore, becomes unchanging. What you know as truth will not be false or cease validity tomorrow.
The notion of unchanging truth also appears under one of his theories theory of the forms. According to this theory, the universe has to different realms; the physical and the spirit form and the physical realm, specifically the body-soul dualism. He introduces that the physical form represents those things that keep changing in appearance (Fieser). Experience of it gives rise to opinions. The spiritual form represents the unchanging. This existence of the human nature in two ways is what Plato refers to as dualism. There is also a realm, which is outside time, which is not distinguishable through the senses, and in which everything is unchanging and perfect or ideal – the realm of the Forms. The empirical world shows only shadows, and imperfect copies of these Forms, and so is less real than the universe of the Forms themselves, since the Forms are eternal and immutable (unchanging), the proper objects of knowledge.
The knowledge of the good has strong bases on the need to understand all other forms according to Plato. The knowledge of the good is the basis of all understanding. Plato compares the form of good to the sun. The sun is not light. It, however, is the cause of light. The eyes perceive sight, but only when illuminated. Therefore, the sun is the cause of sight. In the same way, the form of the good is not knowledge. It is, however, what allows us to perceive other forms that require contemplation. From the above discussion, the different forms of life, such as justice, require intelligence. Such intelligence, calls for the exercise of the form of good. It is the factor that gives truth to the things known and is an object of knowledge.
As discussed herein, the form of good is the basis of knowledge and the interpretation of other forms. One of these forms is justice. In the republic, there is a definition of justice that constitutes helping friends while harming enemies in the process. According to Plato, this claim lacks the rigidity that descriptions demand (Fieser). He argues, through the character of Socrates, that a man who is just would never harm another. It is the wish of every man to be just, rather than unjust.
According to Plato, ideally, “justice is a ‘human virtue’ that makes a man self-consistent and good: Socially, justice is a social consciousness that makes a community internally symphonic and right.” Justice implies superior character and intelligence while injustice means a deficiency in both respects. Therefore, just men are superior in integrity and intelligence and are more effective in action. As prejudice implies ignorance, stupidity, and badness, it cannot be excellent in character and intelligence. A just man is wiser because he recognizes the principle of limitation. The nature of these arguments is ideal. It is how the word is supposed to run in the absence of chaos and injustice. It is what different people around the world seek as a way of ensuring peace and survival in the society.
Plato gives conditions to ensure the existence of justice among human beings. These terms stand for the three parts of the soul (Fieser). They include appetite, passion, and reason. Injustice is when one of these elements is missing, and the entire soul is out of balance. Justice is, in essence, the peace and harmony that exist when the three parts of the soul are in sync. Appetite refers to a strong liking for something or a desire to satisfy a particular craving. It is imperative for the soul to have, such aspirations. It is only human to do so. However, with appetites acting on their own, there may be causes of injustice as one seeks their gratification at the expense of others. Passion is a mighty liking and devotion to an object in one’s life. It is the driver of people towards achieving success in different paths. It can be consuming. People are willing to sacrifice all their resources to pursue their passion as they seek something that will make their lives feel complete. That is where reason comes in. It is the faculty of the mind to use logic in the interpretation and understanding of issues. It is the source of sound judgment. It prevents one from consuming everything else to pursue passion and stepping on others as they feed their appetites.
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Question Three: Explain the following quote: the Good of man is the active exercise of his soul’s faculties in conformity with virtue”
This quote denotes different definitions of good. It implies that what is good or what people consider good is subject to their souls and their virtues. It shows the right of people to choose what virtues to exercise. It shows that people can determine how good they depend on the virtues they hold in their souls. According to Aristotle, one can only be happy within the confines of their lives by doing the best they can. “If there be several human excellences or virtues, in conformity with the best and most perfect among them.” People can cultivate happiness. They must pursue good and happiness within the confines of what is considered right and virtuous.
What are Aristotle’s rational claims concerning the nature of the good?
He dwells on the need for happiness and satisfaction. Some think that happiness is to be realized in pleasure while others argue that it is to be found in honor, and others ascribe it to contemplation, however, this s not the case. He goes ahead and classifies those goods that are basic and those he considers luxuries. Of these categories are bodily needs (IEP). They include vitality, health, and pleasure. These are the things that the body demands to function properly and originate from within oneself. Another category is the external goods. They include food, shelter, clothing, and sleep. The other form of commodities is goods of the soul. They include self-esteem, friendship, knowledge, acceptance, and honor. They are also unlimited and can never be in excess. The soul can only get so much and nothing more.
He argues that the gap between knowledge of the good life and living it depends on one’s moral character. This ethical style originates from the habits people cultivate each day. The practice of something, whether it is an art or quality, eventually yields morality in one’s character. There are things that someone can control in the process of ensuring happiness and living well. These dynamics involve wealth and property; anyone can acquire that depending on how much they work. Other forms of happiness demand in other external factors that require the participation of others to bring us happiness. He also states that sometimes, the environment puts us at certain disadvantages that slow our process of acquiring a good life and happiness. One can never fully control where they grow up. Therefore, they can only choose to seek happiness in their context to the highest level they can.
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How does it differ from Plato’s notion of the absolute form of the Good?
According to Plato, the form of Good is the foundation of all things and style. Without it, there exists no intelligence and no other types that determine and govern other aspects of life, such as justice. On the other hand, Aristotle’s ideas in the form of good are lenient and less divine. According to Aristotle, the ideals can be practiced. It is not absolute. It is not a sacred nature that exists in people. He explains that what is good is determined by the virtues we develop over time.
Aristotle believes that happiness is the ultimate good. This view brings into question of ethics and morality. What I may consider happy may cross lines I should not cross. It shows that I could do anything I want to be satisfied. It could compromise on the happiness and well-being of others. He also explains that we learn virtues through experiences and practice as opposed to reasoning and instructions. He defines moral virtue as a tendency to behave right within the limits of what is excess and inadequacy (IEP). Every character has its surplus and its baseline. The upholding of moral virtues is dependent on the balance between these two extremes. For someone to be considered virtuous they exhibit all the ethical aspects, but in different dimensions of their lives in general.
- Fieser, J. “2: Classical Greek Philosophy.” The University of Tennessee at Martin, 2017
- IEP. “Aristotle | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy | An Encyclopedia of Philosophy Articles Written by Professional Philosophers.