Of the philosophers I have studied, Socrates stands out to me from all the rest. Although I would be the first to confess that I have never put forth the time nor the effort necessary to consider myself a philosopher (at least not in the sense that I imagine most would consider to be the credentials of a philosopher), my philosophy about life is most closely aligned with what I understand Socrates philosophical beliefs to be.
Although there are some distinct differences in what I believe to be the ultimate meaning behind life, which I will later address, I believe his thoughts on how one should live their ife to be the wisest of any philosopher we have studied. First, let me relate what I understand Socrates philosophy to be. Socrates believed that we all have a soul. He believed that we are to live our life by principles, and that these principles should be what is considered to be good.
He was convinced that there were moral absolutes, a right and a wrong, his reason being that if there werent everything would just be relative. This seems most logical. Also, according to Socrates, in order to find which standards we should live by we should test these standards in real life situation to see if they are right or rong. From what I understand, we are to live our lives according to rights and wrongs – in our dealings with others, and our private life as well. And, this is all in order to be living according to the dictates of the soul, if you will, and not by the desires of the flesh.
One of the most interesting ideas Socrates had, I believe, were his thoughts regarding the true philosopher. He said that the true philosopher is often misunderstood by other men, that they do not understand that his whole life is the pursuit of death. And, that when death finally comes he does not meet it with dread, but with the acceptance of nderstanding that the soul is finally to be unencumbered of the body and all its evils. The soul will finally meet truth away from the constraints of an imperfect body. He believed that the soul is immortal and imperishable.
He believed that good souls departed to an invisible world where happiness is secured and they are free of human folly and error, and of all the problems that normally plague us. Evil souls, on the other hand will wander about in misery paying their penalty until they are reincarnated to a form fitting of their former evil ways in life. And, although I do not believe this view, I appreciate it for the thought and logic behind it. I am intrigued with the way Socrates can look beyond the physical, and make reality of the spiritual aspect while holding no allegiance to any certain god or gods.
I can agree with his philosophy regarding living our lives in an effort to be good, and cherishing the soul above the body, and placing all emphasis on the soul and not on the body. Although we cannot scientifically prove that the soul is imperishable – or beyond that, if we even have a soul, but we do know that the body is only emporary, so it seems logical to place importance on something beyond the physical. I think Socrates reasoning behind the evidence of our souls, is brilliant even if incorrect – which I am in no means implying.
His idea of anamnesis/recollect intrigues me. Where would we have any idea of perfection, if not from our souls? Certainly anything from the body or physical has yet to show us any form of perfection. For the sake of relating to the reader why I think Socrates philosophy could contribute much to human well being, let me take a moment to relay my thoughts or philosophy on life. I agree with Socrates n the stand he makes that nothing good or perfect can ever come from the physical.
Pleasing the desires of the flesh always results in only temporary happiness, and even then it is questionable if it is a real happiness, or just a temporary source of satisfaction. Socrates said that the soul is where we can know perfection, and that the important things of this life lie in living for the development or realization of the soul, and that through proper development of the mind in its pursuit of truth, beauty and goodness that the goal and purpose of human life can be achieved. I personally believe that yes, we all ossess a soul, and that yes it is good to live for the eternal and not the present.
However, I believe that personally we can have not have a good soul, on our own. Human nature alone, I believe would support this. We are not essentially good creatures as can be supported by the fact that if we were, we would not be plagued with hate, dissension, and strife in our world. I would go on to say then that we must find apart from ourselves a righteousness that can heal our souls, and bring them into the light, because we are imperfect and incomplete of our own to ever fully realize truth, beauty, and goodness.
I realize that philosophy deals with reason, and that perhaps authority should not be used, but I hold to the truths found in 1 Peter 2:24 which reads He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. So you see, in and of ourselves we are sinful creatures – soul included, but in He, meaning Jesus Christ, we have been made complete.
Socrates view of how life should be lived, except for my reliance on a personal savior for salvation, lies very closely beside my beliefs in the area of what should be made of importance n our lives. Matthew 6:25 reads Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? This is the philosophy of Socrates, that why worry with these things? What will they matter when you die?
Is it not more important to focus instead on lasting things and things that will have an eternal reward, and bring true happiness in this lifetime. I believe Socrates would probably agree with Jesus Christ, although probably in different terms, when he said in Matthew :19-21 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves in treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
So you see, it is because Socrates philosophy lie so very close to the beliefs of my faith, that I believe his philosophy could be a balm to the worlds problems. Too many of us, myself not excluded, put so much importance on things that dont account for much at all. What a person wears, what a person drives, r how a person looks is placed far above things such as honesty, integrity, love, and other virtues. We are society I believe to have been so blessed and made so rich that we have forgotten the joy that can be found in hard work, loving someone, and the simple pleasures in life.
I wonder sometimes if many people could be happy if they were alone. The physical wouldnt matter much then, at least beyond what is needed for a comfortable existence. All they would be left with is self, and whatever they have in their soul to be happy or sad about. If society were to try to readjust itself to Socrates way of life, it ould be such a huge reform. But it would be, I think, a very comfortable reform; it would be like hearing an old favorite song, or like remembering something we know we should have never forgotten.
Such a reform wouldnt be just like a decision to suddenly live in the clouds, we would just learn and finally realize what we have been missing. I dont ever expect to see such a change in society, because it is such a personal thing, it is an entirely different way of seeing things, and would warrant entirely different behavior. It isnt something that a government could mandate, it isnt something that an be done so to speak, its more of a lifestyle change; it cant be faked.
I believe that Socrates philosophy could be the solution to a lot of the worlds problems. Things such as racism, jealousy, and greed, and materialism all appear so trite when you look at it in regards to the soul, and humanity could learn to be at peace with itself. Socrates, stating that he was not greedy for life, was willing to die for what he believed to be the truth. Socrates said he spent his whole life getting ready for death, let us all hope we have found the truths that will leave us at peace when we are to die.