The Antithetical Nature of Socrates’ Ethics

Socrates has never really defined for us what virtue means for him, other than the antithetical stance between an idealist and a hedonist. Perhaps in the final analysis a Socratic ethics is rested in the thought that the ultimate Good is also the ultimate desirable object. This is to say, while human beings are obligated to pursue goodness, such pursuit is at the same time beneficial to us in the final analysis. That is to say, our pursuit of goodness and our happiness come in a single package, like the two sides of a coin.

In Meno, Socrates declared that “right and good action is [only] possible under guidance… of knowledge”. This is to say, the action of a person, whether it be good or evil, is depended on how much one knows the consequences of such action.

He taught that human beings do not pursue virtue altruistically, that is, self-sacrificially and without incentive to oneself. In fact, he seemed to echo the hedonists in saying that virtue is being pursued for the sake of incentives, the basics of which are pleasure and happiness.

the salvation of human life has been found to consist in the right choice of pleasures and pain (Protagoras)

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