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Socratic Ignorance

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Socratic Ignorance

According to Socrates, all wrong, or evil, is due to ignorance. He claims there is no actual intention to commit evil acts and that one does not simply choose to dwell in wrongdoing when they are aware that it is wrong. While I might agree that some acts of evil can be due to ignorance, I do not agree that all acts of evil are left to be only explained by ignorance. It is in our human nature to periodically act in ways that are apparently evil.

Socrates believes that every human action is out of self-interest. He argues that one will choose to act in a way that will be highly beneficial and or make them feel good. But, what about moral weakness? Socrates eventually recognizes and acknowledges moral weakness as a type of ignorance. If ignorance to Socrates is defined as the lack of knowledge, and moral weakness is knowing that something is bad yet choosing to partake in it anyways, then moral weakness is not ignorance because one attains the knowledge of the consequence of his/her action.

If someone was mistakenly given more money than they should have been given, it would be in their best interest to keep it. This is an example of acting immoral. People, out of self-interest, are noted to act immoral which then denies the concept that nobody does wrong knowingly.

Socrates believes that living a virtuous life grants ultimate happiness and inner-peace. Living an unjust and immoral life grants the opposite. You are actually harming yourself and preventing happiness to enter your life by acting immoral or harming others. If ignorance leads to wrongdoing, and wrongdoing leads to an unhappy life, how is it possible to possess happiness for one who does not possess knowledge of what is good and bad due to mental illness, the nature in which he or she was raised, or flawed education?

Any of a broad range of medical conditions that are marked primarily by sufficient disorganization of personality, mind, or emotions to impair normal psychological functioning and cause marked distress or disability and that are typically associated with a disruption in normal thinking, feeling, mood, behavior, interpersonal interactions, or daily functioning is known as mental illness (Merriam-Webster, 2016). Notice that psychological functioning is impaired, and in some mental illnesses the ability to acquire knowledge. If one with mental illness cannot comprehend what is right and wrong, is it our place to decide whether or not their life is virtuous if they cannot possess the same knowledge as someone without mental illness? If him/her was born with and did not purposely attain mental illness, then Socrates argument is invalid because in mental illness the mind is disrupted and impaired.

Socrates is certain that ignorance is the root of all wrongdoing. Yet in law, charges against someone with a severe mental illness are usually, almost always, dropped. Are these crimes committed due to ignorance? Well, was there lack of knowledge during the course of action? Yes. Does this person have the capability to possess the knowledge needed to decipher right from wrong? No. Is this defined as ignorance if it is not humanly and scientifically possible for one to attain this knowledge?

Misguidance and failed upbringing may also play an important role in immorality and explaining poorly made decisions. Many murderers, stealers, and likewise grew up in an environment where right was taught to be wrong and wrong was taught to be right. Or their childhood environment consisted of unsafe surroundings, and their violent actions now are the result of the violent actions they witnessed then or the protest of the actions that he/she was the victim of. One may know good from evil but still choose to dwell in wrongdoing despite their knowledge. Moral education is vital although being morally educated does not prevent you from doing evil works.

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