Both Socrates and Plato proffered that the knowledge of good defines a man’s life as a virtuous person, by engaging him in righteous acts that aggregate to his betterment. Where they diverged, is that while Plato dwells on the ideal from which goodness issues forth, and to which goodness returns, Socrates adheres to the precept that goodness is attributed to the truth that bides within man itself. The contention that man did good only because committing evil entailed
dreadful consequences if discovered, was emphatically repudiated by Plato. He conceives of God as the author of all good things, who does nothing hurtful, and as an entity that cannot be associated with evil. While rhetorically inquiring, “But surely God and the things of God are in every way perfect? ”( Jowett), Plato appears to find it reprehensible that God would be attributed the nature of Zeus, “who is the dispenser of good and evil to us” ( Jowett).
He would much rather be inclined to opine that, like the evanescence of light, (tangible energy), effectuates darkness, (a condition of nothingness), it is a state from which goodness is removed, that man is impelled to indulge in evil. “The soul is drawn to the good, the ideal, and so is drawn to God” (Boeree) observes Plato, adding that “the soul will always choose to do good, if it recognizes what is good,” (Boeree) and thereby, man, being a “thing of God” does the right thing in his effort to be
perfect like God. Socrates, associates virtue more with the realm of reality and exhorts one to seek the truth within the self. “The Socratic enterprise emphasizes the importance of the individual’s task of self-examination”(Elleray). To discern the truth within one’s self and live his life transforming himself into a virtuous person, is the aim of an enlightened man, according to him. “…only the good is chosen if its true nature is wholly known, and conversely, since its source is ignorance
alone, evil cannot possess any intrinsic attraction” (Elleray). He adds further that “…what is to be considered a good act is not good because gods say it is, but is good because it is useful to us in our efforts to be better and happier people”(Boeree). Socrates held that man in possession of the truth will do the right thing. Ergo, it is inferred that both Plato and Socrates essentially believed that man needed to recognise the truth, either within himself or from a perfect ideal, to motivate him to do the right thing.
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