Moral principles can be described as guidelines that human beings live by to ensure that they behave the right way and that their actions are appropriate. These ethical principles include qualities like equality, fairness, and honesty. However, these moral principles are different for different people because they are dependent on a person’s background and how an individual was raised. Moral principles were believed to be essential in the past because the societies that followed them believed that people required a clear sense of wrong and right to be successful. Socrates had his own moral principles, and they were based on ethics. Generally, Socrates believed that if everyone knew what good is, they would always strive to do what is good. Therefore, if one genuinely understood the meaning of important values like self-control, courage, and justice, they would act in a self-controlled, courageous, and just way. Socrates believed that those who committed vices did so out of pure ignorance. In Socrates’ Apology, he mentioned several vital things in his defense that can be considered as moral principles of life.
Socrates says, “They have hardly uttered a word, or not more than a word, of truth; but you shall hear from me the whole truth” (Plato 1). This statement refers to his accusers who are using false accusations against him. The virtue that Socrates is trying to highlight here is truth or honesty. Socrates always argued in philosophy that the absolute truth is knowable and that people communicate best when they communicate by telling only the truth. He was therefore surprised that his accusers would go to the extent of making up lies that were extremely convincing so that they could convince the judges that he deserved punishment all because they hated him for condemning their wrongdoings. Socrates urges people to always stand for truth and speak only what is true because lying is a vice. He, therefore, gave his life up in the name of justice and truth because he believed justice could not be separated from the ethical commitment of honesty. Socrates subliminally relates wisdom to goodness and associates ignorance with evil. His principle is that no one would practice immorality knowingly and since we are all wise in unique ways and thus we cannot just blindly do evil because it results from the highest level of ignorance.
Socrates says, “I tell you that virtue is not given by money, but that from virtue comes money and every other good of man, public as well private” (Plato, 12). This is one of the most profound doctrines taught by Socrates. He lets his audience know that wealth and riches do not bring about values to an individual’s life. On the contrary, he argues that people need to have virtues if they want to acquire anything else that is good in life. Therefore, those who want to succeed in life should focus on practicing what is right and generally doing to others what they would like to be done unto them.
I partly agree with Socrates’ principles. Most of the things he says make sense and are accurate. However, I choose to disagree about the argument that evil is brought about by ignorance. Some people could be fully aware of what they are doing, but they still choose to engage in vices. I believe that doing right or wrong is a matter of choice rather than wisdom and ignorance, and people make decisions to be either good or bad.
Jowett, Benjamin. “Selected Dialogues of Plato: The Benjamin Jowett Translation.” (2000).