Morality is a broad term that embodies aparticular set of principles, values, and standards of which differentiate andguide the intentions and actions of human behavior as being good or bad. TheSocratic perspective on wrongdoing and behavior is illustrated in Socrates’sphilosophy that no one willingly commits evil deeds and instead that all evilacts are a byproduct of human ignorance; in this view, Socrates is expressingthat no individual willingly does wrong. Although this philosophy may seem divergent from typical beliefs and constructs, Ibelieve Socrates’s philosophy that evil is rooted in ignorance to be truebecause every individual that commits a wrongdoing believes they are doing itto benefit themselves one way or another. The heart of Socrates’s philosophyon evil and ignorance lies in that fact that individuals are always acting outof self-interest and what in the moment they believe to be beneficial to them. Whenconcerning evil and wrongdoing this same construct applies; although anindividual is carrying out an unjust act, they are doing it because they feelthat that particular action is going to benefit them and bring about thegreatest amount of gain.
However, this also implies that individuals are notgoing to commit a wrongdoing or carry out any behavior whatsoever that at themoment they feel is going to be unbeneficial or harmful to themself. This isillustrated by the fact that once again, humans instinctively act in regards toself-interest and whether they are perpetrating a just or unjust act, they aredoing so because they perceive it as being beneficial to them. With that beingsaid, no individual behaves in a manner that is against his or her ownself-interest and happiness and therefore, one who commits any wrongdoing orevil act is doing it as a result of ignorance.
It is correct to say thatindividuals still decide to commit wrongful acts and behaviors that they knowothers think are wrong and unjust (Pecorino,P. A. (n.
d.)). Socrates’sphilosophy illustrates that humans do not deliberately do wrong andsubsequently, do not bring harm to themselves due to once again, self-interest.For example, a mother goes to the grocery store and steals food in order tofeed her two children. This mother is most likely fully aware that other peoplethink that what she is doing is wrong; and although the mother may understandthat, she commits the act regardless because in her mind she is acting out inself-interest and due to the circumstances of needing to feed her children she disregardsthe act of stealing as wrongful and as instead beneficial. Therefore, themother’s evil act is a consequence of ignorance because she views the act asgood and beneficial at that moment in time.
Additionally, it can go one step furtherto say that the mother who steals the bread is well aware that other peoplethink that it is wrong and also that she herself knows that the act is wrong,but once again, the mother with hungry children sees benefit and good in heractions and therefore, does not see her particular wrongdoing as harmful or baddue to the circumstances (Pecorino,P. A. (n.d.)). We all have a powerful instinctivedrive to benefit ourselves, which explains our human ignorance for committingthe wrongful acts that we do.
Although, how far does Socrates’s philosophy goto justify evil acts as rooted in ignorance? Consider the mother who stole foodto feed her two children, that mother may have a conscience and understand thatstealing is wrong, but she dismisses her better judgment and believes thatstealing will grant her a benefit and makes her feel as though the wrongful actis bringing her good. Now consider an individual without a conscience who doesnot experience remorse and who seeks pleasure from inflicting pain andsuffering on others, a sociopath per say. It is without a doubt that a motherstealing food for her children versus a murderer with a severe distorted mentalfunctioning is the lesser of the two evils. Consider the horrendous acts thattook place in Concentration Camps by the Nazis during the 1930’s, would evilacts such as this magnitude still be rooted in human ignorance? When dissectingthe Socratic philosophy, evil acts such as those by the Nazis would still beconsidered a precedent of ignorance; in the minds of the Nazis during thosemoments in the 1900’s they were seeking to obtain what they believed to bebeneficial and of good cause by committing the evil and malicious acts thatthey did. Although one evil in this scenario may have a conscience and one maynot, both were committing wrongdoings in order to benefit themselves and did soout of self-interest, which prevents them from knowingly doing wrong. One could make the argument that Socratesis wrong in his philosophy that people do evil acts out of ignorance and saythat people commit wrongdoings voluntarily and have the conscience ability todifferentiate and make either the right or wrong decision; such as voluntarilychoosing to steal. Although, Socrates would say that even a wrongful act thatis described by a fault in character doesn’t alter the reality that anindividual consciously committing a wrongful act is still doing so because theyfeel the act is going to benefit them, whether they know the act is wrong ornot, which still makes their evil act a result of ignorance. A subsequentargument one could make is that if evil acts are done voluntarily due toignorance, then wrongful acts wouldn’t have consequences and people wouldn’t bepunished.
Although, Socrates clearly states in Gorgias, that ignorance does not serve as an excuse for evilbehavior and does not eliminate the need to punish the wrongdoer (“Plato:Gorgias (excerpt)”). Additionally, Socrates continues on in his conversationwith Polus saying that punishment for evil deeds is a necessity and thatpunishment is beneficial for the wrongdoer and in the instance that a wrongdoerdoes not receive proper punishment then they carry a burden and as Socratesputs it, the wrongdoer remains wretched (“Plato: Gorgias (excerpt)”).Therefore, the argument that Socrates’s philosophy reprieves a wrongdoer fromthe need for penalty is erroneous. Socrates philosophy on unjustbehavior is that no individual intentionally does evil deeds and that insteadall acts of evil are a result of ignorance. Socrates’s theory stems from themain concept that individuals commit wrongdoings out of self-interest becausethey foresee a beneficial outcome from partaking in an evil act. Socrates’sphilosophy also reveals that evil deeds only harm the wrongdoer whether it bethrough punishment or spiritual burden; therefore, no individual is willingly goingto participate in a wrongful act that they know is going to harm them. Althoughsome may say that Socrates’s philosophy on evil is the result of ignorance hasflaws, I am firm believer in Socrates’s theory due to the fact that humans areinstinctively driven to do things and carry out behaviors, even evil deeds,that they feel as though will benefit them; which explains why wrongdoings area consequence of ignorance.