You are on page 1of 12

Moral Thought of Socrates

Knowledge - the ability to discover in facts the abiding elements that remain after
the facts disappear.
To attain reliable knowledge, one must employ the dialectic method intellectual
To know the good is to do good. Knowledge is virtue. Vice or evil is the absence of
No one commits an evil act knowingly. Wrongdoing is always involuntary, being the
product of ignorance. When people commit evil acts, they always do them thinking
that they are good in some way.
As a rational being, a persons function is to behave rationally. Every human being
has the inescapable desire for happiness or well-being of her soul. This inner wellbeing can only be achieved by certain appropriate types of behavior.
There are some forms of behavior that appear to produce happiness but they dont.
There are some goods that appear to promote happiness but they dont.
Physical Pleasure
Symbols of success and happiness
Are they the ground for happiness/unhappiness?
Wrongdoing is therefore a consequence of an inaccurate estimate of types of
behavior. It is the inaccurate expectation that certain kinds of things or pleasures
will produce happiness. Wrongdoing then is the product of ignorance simply
because it is done with the hope that it can do what it cannot do. Ignorance consists
in failing to see that certain behavior cannot produce happiness.
It takes a true knowledge of human nature to know what is required to be happy.
Happiness, therefore, requires knowledge.
No one ever deliberately chooses to damage, disfigure, or destroy his or her human
nature. When we choose pain, we do so with the expectation that pain will lead to
virtue and to the fulfillment of human nature. When man chooses to pursue a good
which entails pain or discomfort, he does so with the hope or expectation that it will
result in a greater good.
Whether our actions are right depends upon whether they harmonize with true
human nature and this is a matter of true knowledge.
For Socrates, virtue meant fulfilling ones function. As a rational being, a persons
function is to behave rationally. Happiness is the well-being of ones soul.

Moral Philosophy of Plato

A. The Soul
-the principle of life and movement
1. Three Parts of the Soul
a. Reason- awareness of goal or value
-a goal seeking and measuring faculty of reason
b. Spirit-the drive toward action and responds to the direction
c. Appetite-desire for the things of the body
Charioteer - soul or mind
Chariot - body
It is the function of the rational part of the soul to seek the true goal of human life by
evaluating things according to their true nature.
PASSIONS/APPETITE- could lead us to a world of fantasy and deceive us
to regard certain pleasures to give us happiness
REASON- penetrates the world of fantasy, discover the true world and
directs the passions to objects that are capable of producing
true pleasure or happiness
Our human soul can achieve order only if our rational part is in control of our spirits
and appetites.
2. The Cause of Evil ignorance or forgetfulness
Evil occurs when the soul forgets. Upon its entrance into the body, there is a
breakdown/disorder of the harmony between the various parts of the soul.
Irrational Parts- search for contentment
- appetites
The body exposes the soul to a cascade of emotions. Human souls would reappear
and bring into a new body their earlier errors and judgment of value.
Knowledge is virtue false knowledge must be replaced with accurate appraisal of
things or acts and their values. The soul must be awakened from a sleep of ignorance.
Recollection- latent knowledge is gradually brought to the surface
- begins when the mind experiences difficulties with the seeming
contradictions of sense experiences
- moral crisis we try to make sense of the multiplicity of things
Knowledge - we go beyond the seeming contradictions of sense experience
Could be attained through a teacher- ignorance to knowledge

3. Virtue as Fulfillment of Function

Good Life - the life of inner harmony, of well-being and of happiness
- the souls unique function is the art of living
The art of living requires knowledge of limits and measure. The souls various
functions must operate within the limits set by knowledge or intelligence.
SOUL- Appetites kept within limits temperance
- Spirit energy of will avoiding rash action - courage
- Reason the ability to continue to see the true ideals in spite of the
constant changes in life wisdom
The Human Soul
The human soul combines in itself all the lower forms of the soul the vegetative,
nutritive and sensitive. In addition to this, the human soul is rational. Being
rational, it is capable of scientific thought. At the same time, human reason is capable
of distinguishing between different kinds of things, which is the capacity for analysis,
and it also understands the relationships of things to each other.
Besides scientific thought, the rational soul has the capacity of deliberation. We do
not only discover what truth is in the nature of things, but we discover also the guides
for human behavior.
The soul is the definitive form of the body. The soul and body together form one
substance. This is in sharp contrast with Platos explanation of the body as the
prison house of the soul. Aristotle claims that with the death of the body, the soul, its
organizing principle also dies.
Our rational soul is capable of understanding the true nature of things. But reason
has its knowledge only potentially, it must reason out its conclusions. Human
thought is a possibility and not a continuous actuality, for while it is possible for the
human mind to attain knowledge, it is also possible for it not to attain knowledge.
People, as everything else in nature, have a distinctive end to achieve and a function
to fulfill. Every art and every inquiry, and similarly, every action and pursuit, is
thought to aim at some good.
The principle of good and right was embedded within each person. This principle
could be discovered by studying human nature and could be attained through actual
behavior in daily life.
But how should we understand the word good?

Like Plato before him, Aristotle tied the word good to the special function of a thing.
To discover the good at which a person should aim, Aristotle said that we must
discover the distinctive function of human nature. The good person is the person
who is fulfilling his or her function as a human being.
But what is the distinctive type of activity peculiar to human beings?
Not mere life because it is shared even by vegetables
Not mere sensation because it is common to every animal
It should rather be an activity of the soul that follows or implies a rational principle.
Thus, the human good is the activity of the soul in accordance with virtue.
But the human soul has two parts, irrational and rational, which tend to oppose each
other. The conflict between the rational and irrational elements in human beings is
what raises the problems and subject matter of morality.
Morality involves action. The particular kind of action involved here is the rational
control and guidance of the irrational parts of the soul. The good person is not one
who does a good deed here or there, now and then. Instead, it is the person whose
whole life is good.
We do not automatically act according to the right way. Morality has to do with
developing habits, the habits of right thinking, right choice and right behavior.
Happiness as the End of Human Action
People everywhere aim at pleasure, wealth and honor. Although these ends have
some value, they are not the chief good for which people should aim.
To be an ultimate end, an act must be self-sufficient and final, that which is desirable
in itself and never for the sake of something else. It must be attainable by man.
Aristotle is certain that all people will agree that happiness is the end that alone
meets all the requirements for the ultimate end of human action. We choose
pleasure, wealth and honor only because we think that through them, we shall be
Happiness is another word or name for good, for like good, happiness is the
fulfillment of our distinctive function. Happiness, according to Aristotle, is a working
of the soul in way of excellence or virtue.
How does the soul attain happiness?
The general rule of morality is to act in accordance with right Reason. This means
that the rational part of the soul should control the irrational part.
Virtue as the Golden Mean
Human passions are capable of a wide range of action, all the way from too little or
too much. Consider the appetite for food where one can have the excessive desire to
eat or the deficiency in the appetite for food that could result in starvation.

The proper course of action, that is, the virtuous course, is a middle ground or mean
between excess and deficiency. We should seek out this middle ground with all of
our passions, such as those of fear, confidence, lust, anger, compassion, pleasure and
When we fail to achieve this middle ground, we expose ourselves to vices of excess or
deficiency. We control our passions through the rational power of the soul, and
thereby, form virtuous habits that lead us to spontaneously follow the middle course.
Virtue, then is a state of being, a state apt to exercise deliberate choice, being in the
relative mean, determined by reason, and as the person of practical wisdom would
The mean is not the same for every person, nor is there a mean for every act. Each
mean is relative to each person to the degree that our personal circumstances vary.
But for each person, there is nevertheless, a proportionate or relative mean, which is
the virtue of temperance.
Although a large number of virtues stand between two extreme vices, there are
actions that have no mean at all. Their very nature already implies badness, such as
envy, adultery, theft and murder. These are bad in themselves and not in their
excesses or deficiencies. Doing them is always wrong.

Epicurus (342 BCE)
Everything that exists is made up of eternal atoms hard, indestructible bits of hard
matter. Apart from these clusters of atoms, nothing else exists. If God or gods exist,
they too must be material beings.
There is no beginning to the atoms. There is no beginning to atoms. Atoms have
always existed in space. The clusters or arrangements of atoms are the things we see.
Human beings are not part of a created or purposeful order caused by God but are
the accidental product of the collision of atoms.
Human beings have no destiny nor is there any God who controls human destiny.
Therefore, people should not fear God.
People should not be bothered by fear of death because death is the absence of
sensation. In fact, men do not actually experience death because death is the absence
of sensation.

With no God to please and not fearful of death, human beings are therefore in
complete control of their lives.
One thing that human beings could control or regulate is the traffic of human desires.
Although the chief aim of human life is pleasure and pleasure is the standard of
goodness, not every kind of pleasure has the same value.
Men should distinguish the various kinds of pleasure:
1. Natural and necessary food
2. Natural but not necessary - sexual pleasure
3. Neither natural nor necessary any type of luxury or popularity
Too much concern with the pleasures of the body is unnatural and is the surest way
to unhappiness and pain. There are certain types of bodily pleasures that could
never be fully satisfied. People pursuing such pleasures would always be unsatisfied
and would therefore constantly suffer some pain. They would always be dissatisfied
with their present situation.
The wise person is able to determine the minimum that his nature requires and is
able easily and quickly to satisfy these needs. When these needs are satisfied, a
persons constitution is in balance.
The wise person learns not only to consume little but to need little. The ultimate
pleasure that human nature seeks is repose, which means the absence of bodily pain
and the gentle relaxation of the mind
This sense of repose is most successfully achieved by scaling down our pleasures,
overcoming useless fears and turning to the pleasures of the mind, which have the
highest degree of permanence.
The wise man must detach himself from the entanglements with other people and
particularly with poor people whose needs and problems are many. We do not find
good life through our service with our fellow human beings but in the pleasant,
decent company of intellectually fascinating friends.
The only function of civil society is to deter those who might inflict pain upon
Founded by Zeno of Citium (334-262 BCE)
The name of the school came from the word Stoa, the Greek word for porch, the place
where he conducted his classes.
View of Nature
The world is an orderly arrangement where people and physical things behave
according to principles of purpose. God is a rational substance existing not in a
single location but in all of nature, in all things. God is a pervading substantial form

of reason that controls and orders the whole structure of nature and likewise
determines the course of events. Therefore there is a law or reason that operates in
all of nature.
The Stoics sought happiness through wisdom which consists in being able to control
what lay within human ability and to accept with dignified resignation what had do
We cannot control all events but we can control our attitude toward what happens. It
is useless to fear future events because they will happen in any case. However, it is
possible by an act of will to control our fear. We should not therefore fear events. We
have nothing to fear but fear itself.
Each person is an actor in a drama. In the drama of the world, it is God, or the
principle of reason, who determines what each person shall be and how he or she will
be situated in history.
Human wisdom consists in recognizing what our role in this drama is and then
performing the part well. Some people have bit parts while others have leading roles.
A persons business is to act well the given part.
Man should develop a great indifference to those things over which he has no
control. Since man has no control over the story or plot, he has no choice but to
control his attitude and emotions. Sulking or harboring jealousy because one only
has bit parts and not the hero only robs one of happiness.
If man can remain free from these feelings, or develop what the Stoics called apathy,
man will achieve serenity and happiness that are the mark of a wise person. The wise
person is the one who knows what his or her role is.
Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to
change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Moral Philosophy
Morality clarifies the sure road to happiness which is the ultimate goal of human
The human condition is made in such a way that it seeks happiness. Human nature
is so made that it cannot itself be the good by which it is made happy.
It is not by accident that we seek happiness. Rather, it is a consequence of our
incompleteness and finitude. It is no accident that we find happiness only in God
since were made by God to find happiness only in God.
Oh God, you have created us for Yourself so that our hearts are restless until they
find their rest in you. - Confessions

Theory of Love
Human inevitably love. It is the human incompleteness that prompts human beings
to love. To love is to go beyond ourselves and to fasten our affection upon an object
of love.
Objects of Love:
1. Physical Objects
2. Other Persons
3. Oneself
--- all these provide us some measure of
satisfaction and happiness
The real issue is the manner in which we attach ourselves to these objects of love and
our expectations regarding the outcome of this love.
Everyone expects to achieve happiness and fulfillments from love but we are
miserable, unhappy and restless because we love specific things more than we should
and at the same time fail to devote our ultimate love to God.
We have different human needs that prompt different acts of love. Love is the act
that harmonizes these needs and their objects.
Each object of love can give only so much satisfaction and no more. Each of the
persons needs likewise has a measurable quantity.
Clearly, satisfaction and happiness require that an object of love contain a sufficient
amount of whatever it takes to fulfill or satisfy the particular need.
We love food and we consume a quantity commensurate with our hunger. But our
needs are not all physical. We also love objects of art too for the aesthetic satisfaction
they give. At a higher level, we have the need for love between persons. This level of
affection provides quantitatively and qualitatively more in the way of pleasure and
happiness than love of a mere physical thing can.
It is therefore clear that certain human needs cannot be met by a mere interchange of
objects. Our deep need for human companionship cannot be met any other way than
by a relationship with another person. Things cannot be a substitute for a person
because things do not contain within themselves the unique ingredients of a human
Although each thing is a legitimate object of love, we must not expect more from it
than its unique nature can provide.
While things or persons are all legitimate objects of love in a limited way, our love of
them is disordered when we love these for the sake of ultimate happiness.
Disordered Love consists in expecting more from an object of love than it is capable
of providing, and this produces all forms pathology in human behavior.

Normal self-love becomes pride, and pride is the cardinal sin that affects all aspects
of our conduct. The essence of pride is the assumption of self-sufficiency.
The permanent fact about human nature is that it is not self-sufficient, neither
physically, emotionally or spiritually. Our pride, which turns us away from God,
leads us to many forms of overindulgence since we try to satisfy an infinite need with
finite entities.
We therefore love things more than we should in relation to what they can do for
themselves. Our love for another person can become virtually destructive of the
other person, since we try to derive from that relationship more that it can possibly
give, resulting in Envy
Jealousy --- traits of a disordered person
We can love a person properly only if we love God first, for then we will not expect to
derive from human love what can be derived only from our love of God.
Free Will as the Cause of Evil
Augustine did not agree with Plato that the cause of evil is simply ignorance because
there are indeed circumstances in which we do not know the ultimate good, and thus
are not aware of God.
Still, Augustine says that even the ungodly have the capacity to blame and rightly
praise things in the conduct of people.
The overriding fact is that in daily conduct, we understand praise and blame only
because we already understand that we have an obligation to do what is praiseworthy
and to abstain from what is blameworthy.
Under these circumstances, our predicament is not that we are ignorant but that we
stand in the presence of alternatives. We must choose to turn toward God or away
from God. In short, we are free.
Whichever way we choose, it is with the hope of finding happiness. We are capable of
directing our affections exclusively toward finite things, other people or ourselves,
and thereby, away from God. This turning away and this turning to are not forced but
voluntary acts.
Evil or sin is a product of the will. It is not ignorance as Plato said or the work of the
principle of darkness permeating the body as the Manicheans said.

In spite of the fact of original sin, we still possess the freedom of the will. This
freedom of the will is not the same as spiritual freedom for true spiritual liberty is no
longer possible in its fullness in this life. We now use free will to choose wrongly.
Augustine argues that even when we choose rightly, we do not possess the spiritual
power to do the good we have chosen. We must have the help of Gods grace.
Whereas evil is caused by an act of free will, virtue on the other hand, is the product
not our will but of Gods grace. The moral law tells us what we must do, but in the
end it really shows us what we cannot do on our own.
Augustine concludes that the law was given that grace might be sought; grace
was given that the law might be fulfilled.


Ethics is the quest for happiness. But human happiness is closely connected with
human end or purpose. As a Christian, Aquinas viewed human nature as having both
its source and ultimate end in God.
For this reason, human nature does not contain its own standards of fulfillment. It is
not enough for humans to be simply human and to exercise our natural function and
abilities in order to achieve perfect happiness. Thomas Aquinas argued that there is
a double level to morality corresponding to our natural end and to our supernatural
The ingredients of our moral experience are provided by human nature. Our bodies
incline us to certain kinds of acts. Our senses become vehicles for appetites and
passions. Our senses provide a level of knowledge about sensible objects so that we
are attracted to some objects which we perceive as pleasurable and good. This
attraction and rejection are the rudiments of our capacity for love and pleasure, hate
and fear.
In animals, these irascible and concupiscent appetites immediately control and direct
behavior. In a person, however, the will, in collaboration with the power of reason,
consummates the human act.
The will is the agency that inclines a person toward the achievement of good. That is,
our full range of appetites seek to be satisfied and the process of satisfaction requires
that make choices between alternative objects. We must make this choice by our
wills under the direction of reason.
If we make right choices, then we achieve happiness. But not every choice is a correct
one. For this reason, the will by itself cannot always make the right move; the
intellect must be the guide.
The intellect, however, is not the final source of knowledge, for our supernatural end
requires Gods grace and revealed truth. Still, the will represents our appetite for the

good and right, whereas the intellect has the function and the capacity for
apprehending the general or universal meaning of what is good.
The intellect is our highest faculty and a natural end requires that the intellect, as
well as all the other faculties, seek its appropriate object. The appropriate object of
the intellect is truth and truth in its fullness is God.
When the intellect directs the will, then it helps the will to choose the good. The
intellect knows however that there is a hierarchy of goods and that some goods are
limited and must not be mistaken for our most appropriate and ultimate good.
Riches, pleasure, power and knowledge are all good and are legitimate objects of the
appetites but they cannot produce our deepest happiness because they do not possess
the character of the universal good that our souls seek. The perfect happiness is
found not in created things, but in God who is the supreme good.
Moral constitution consists, then, of sensuality, appetites, the will and reason. What
confers upon a person the attributes of morality is that these elements are the
ingredients of free acts.
Freedom is not the only prerequisite for an act to be considered moral. Aquinas adds
that an act is human only if it is free. For freedom is possible only where there is
knowledge of alternatives and the power of will to make choices.
Virtue or goodness, consists in making the right choices, the mean between extremes.
Aquinas agreed with Aristotle that the virtues of the natural person are achieved
when the appetites are duly controlled by the will and reason. The dominant or
cardinal natural virtues are courage, temperance, justice and prudence. In addition
to these natural virtues, our natural end is further realized through our knowledge of
the natural law, the moral law.

Relies on faith and reason as complementary sources of truth which is both

natural and spiritual