Socrates in front of the National Academy of Athens, Greece

by Laura A. Roser

 

In Phaedo, Socrates states that an unexamined life results in a soul that is “confused and dizzy, as if it were drunk.” The only way to develop a soul that is sound is to continually ask questions.

How Do You Define “Good”?

Socrates, often referred to as one of the originators of Western philosophy, believed the only life worth living is a good life. But this leads to the question, “How does one go about determining the definition of a good life if she does not know what constitutes good and evil?”

Socrates believed “good” and “evil” are not relative. They are absolutes, but the only way to define them is through a process of questioning. Therefore, knowledge and morality are connected. Thus, a life without questioning is one of ignorance and immorality and, therefore, not worth living.

According to Socrates, everyone values virtue. No one desires evil. If someone were to knowingly perform an evil act, they would be acting against their conscience and it would make them feel uncomfortable. But, because we all strive for peace of mind, no one would willingly perform an evil act. So, evil acts are done exclusively out of ignorance. It is this lack of knowledge that produces terrible results.  All this questioning, however, didn’t lead to many answers. Socrates said, “I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance.” And he enjoyed questioning others to reveal their ignorance as well, which ultimately led to his death when he powerful political figures crumbling their long-held beliefs and his own fate.

How Does The Socratic Method Apply to Your Life?

You are born into certain belief systems. Your parents, teachers, religious leaders and others thrust their beliefs upon you and you make your decisions based upon what will gain approval from your tribe. But there’s a time when you want to start growing and moving beyond the path that has been carefully laid out for you.

You can start to break out of autopilot thinking by asking yourself these sorts of questions:

  • What are my mother’s values?
  • What are my father’s values?
  • What kinds of beliefs did I learn as a child that I no longer believe?
  • What did I like about growing up? (And would like to emulate.)
  • What didn’t I like about growing up?
  • Who were my mentors and teachers growing up?
  • What did they teach me? Does their philosophy still apply to my life?
  • When do I feel out of integrity?
  • When don’t I speak up for myself?
  • When do I let others make decisions for me?
  • When do I judge others?

These sorts of questions will help you begin to establish what “good” means to you and hopefully dissuade your soul from becoming confused and dizzy.

 

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by Laura A. Roser
CEO and Founder of Paragon Road
#1 Expert in Meaning Legacy Planning

 

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