Professor Avery Goldman
19 December 2017
around doing nothing but persuading both young and old among you not to care
for your body or your wealth in preference to or as strongly as for the best
possible state of your soul” (pp. 34, Apology, 30b). Socrates says this to a
jury during his trial where he is accused of corrupting the youth of Athens
with his philosophical teachings. He believes that god has ordered him practice
philosophy, and the greatest blessing to the city is his service to god. It is
crucial to note that Socrates believes that our souls are immortal, but our
bodies are mortal. So, he persuades the youth to value their souls over their
bodies because their souls will carry the truths of themselves after the
separation from their bodies at death. In my view, if somebody believes that
their soul is immortal, they should value their soul over the body throughout
their life; this can be done by carrying out good actions with good intent.
“Wealth does not bring about
excellence, but excellence makes wealth and everything else good for men, both
individually and collectively” (pp. 34, Apology, 30b). Socrates uses this
statement as part of his philosophical teachings to place a larger emphasis on
the soul than the body. Pursuing only wealth does not bring out the best in the
individual or society. Instead, trying to be excellent at something and making
a positive impact on society will lead to wealth and prosperity for both the
individual and society. The soul will be in good condition if the individual
tried to do well for himself and the rest of his people. Contrary, if the
individual only pursued wealth in life, his soul will be tarnished because he
was not caring about the people around him.
While Socrates tried to persuade
a change in character by preaching that he believed that the soul was immortal,
Aristotle tried to stress good deliberation as a way to make change character
and make better decisions. Deliberation is a long and careful thought. However,
Aristotle believes that human do not deliberate about just anything. “We deliberate about what is up to us, that is to say,
about the actions we can do; and this is what is left” (pp. 35, Book III, C3,
S7). As human beings, we do not deliberate about something like natural disaster
where we have no influence. Alternatively, we deliberate about things that are
in our control like which job offer would be the best to accept.
When something has
an unknown outcome, we deliberate about it. For example, a jury must deliberate
about whether or not the defendant in the case is guilty or not guilty. They
must look at the evidence provided, and they must decide whether the defendant
is right to be facing the charges. The verdict is open to question, and the
fate of the defendant is in the hands of the jury. Once the jury has reached a
verdict, they are fully responsible for the decision made. After the case, the
members of the jury will have to look back and see if they deliberated well
about which verdict they came to an agreement on.
If people deliberate
about things that they cannot control, they are wasting their time. Deliberating
about the massive earthquake that just hit their town serves no purpose. The
earthquake has already occurred, and there is nothing that they can do to
affect the outcome. Instead, the people of the town should deliberate about
what steps will be best to take to rebuild the infrastructure that was damaged.
They should deliberate about what the best strategy is to get those who are
injured to the closest hospital. If the people of the town deliberate about
things that they can control, they will be more productive compared to
deliberating about the earthquake that just hit them.
if human beings deliberate about the right things and analyze the effects of
the consequences of their actions, they will be make good decisions. Good decisions
will lead to good action, and good action will lead to virtue. This is how our character
will change for the better; our thinking will have a profound impact on the
decisions we make. “What we deliberate about is the same as what we decide to
do, except that by the time we decide to do it, it is definite; for what we
decide to do is what we have judged as a result of deliberation” (pp. 36, Book
III, C3, S17). What it is that people decide to do is the action that they
deliberated about. So, deliberating about only the possibility of wealth will
lead to a decision of chasing wealth. Likewise, deliberating about how to
positively contribute to society will lead to a decision of positive impact.
of the relation of the soul and body with his belief that good deliberation
leads to good action, which then leads to virtue. He believes that virtues are
habits of the soul when somebody is acting through reason and not passion. So, virtuous
actions convey reason. Virtues are also obtained through habituation and practice.
Therefore, we can become virtuous by acting virtuously, and do what we should,
when we should and in the way that we should. It is also important to note that
a virtuous person is happy when acting virtuously. Somebody who is giving money
to the poor just so that he can say that he is charitable is not virtuous.
Instead, giving money to the poor because he knows that it is right to help
people is virtuous.
“Different people have different
natural tendencies toward different goals, and we shall come to know our own
tendencies from the pleasure or pain that arises in us” (pp. 29. Book II, C9,
S4). If somebody allows flawed ways of life to become habitual, he will become cruel.
Virtue will not be easy to attain if we decide to follow our passions. Even
though there is a natural desire for happiness that lies in us, we must
recognize that our passions will frequently lead us away from our correct happiness.
It is because of this that a good upbringing is important.
Aristotle emphatically disagrees
with the position that becoming virtuous involves being unaffected by pleasure
and pain. The reason for that belief is because he feels strongly that virtuous
people are happy with doing what is good and noble, and they are pained at what
is wrong. We must learn to act right and feel right. If a young boy getting
caught by the police for stealing from a store, he will surely learn from that
pain that stealing should not become a habit. Alternatively, personally paying
for the item that he wants and leaving the store in one peace will be pleasurable,
and he will learn that carrying out those actions are good habits to have.
Aristotle also believes that
when it comes to the soul, the human soul differs from that of plants and
animals. He thinks that there is ranking when it comes to living things. Humans
are above both plants and animals because they have the power of reason. “We
have found, then, that the human function is activity of the soul in accord
with reason or requiring reason” (pp. 9, Book I, C7, S14). To Aristotle, the
soul is the grand total of the activity of a human. We witness human good when
our activities involve reason.
When we look at Friedrich
Nietzsche’s criticism of the soul in what he calls the ‘internalization of man’,
he believes that “all instincts that do not discharge themselves outwardly turn
inward” (pp. 84, Second Essay). In other words, instead of imposing cruelty on
somebody else, we impose cruelty on our own selves. Nietzsche believes that encountering
guilt is related to our human desire to cause pain in order to show how much
power we have. Even if we become civilized in society where those actions are
not allowed, there is still going to be an instinct of cruelty. We will still have
the urge to find a way to show our power, and bad conscience comes from this.
Guilt and bad conscience are
different because while they both include a feeling of disappointment in an
outcome, bad conscience does not include the feeling that we are responsible
for our character. For example, if I borrowed money from a friend and was
unable to pay him back at the agreed time, there is a good chance that I am
going to feel badly in the situation because the consequences are unfortunate
for me. I now have a friend that is probably going to be tougher to ask for
money in the future. However, it is very possible that I will not feel that the
action makes me a worse person. So, bad conscience can be described as a
feeling of responsibility for the actions and feeling badly, but it does not
include the feeling that carrying out those actions were wrong.
In the case of guilt, we are
only able feel guilty if we believe that we are responsible for our actions and
our character. When we feel guilty, we start to favor the different procedures
that could have dealt with the situation. So, when I borrowed money from a
friend and did not pay him back at the agreed time, I will not only feel a
sense of responsibility for that action, but I will feel guilty that I failed
to keep my promise because I should be the type of person who can be trusted to
pay back money on time. After experiencing this situation, I will make it a priority
to make sure that regardless of who I borrow money from, I am going to be able
to pay it back on time.