According to Socrates and Plato, the debate on whether we are prisoners of fate or we can control our own destiny would be very interesting because it impinges on human rights and freewill. Socrates was Plato’s mentor and as such, he would have the upper hand in seeking the absolute truth and justice in the issue (Guthrie, 1975, Gill, 2006). Plato having attended the trial of his mentor, Socrates in 399BC got troubled on the destiny of humanity and, as such, he wanted to come up with an ideal society (Gill, 2002, Jowett, 1871). The following is a transcription of the discussion that would ensue between the two on the above issue.
Plato: master, what say you over the destiny of man, is a man, a prisoner of fate or is he in control of his own destiny?
Socrates: An interesting topic you raise my friend, what is your take on the matter and what do you define destiny to be?
Plato: Destiny, dear Socrates, is the eventuality of man, his fate, or his ending. I am of the view that man has the knowledge and ability to control of his destiny
Socrates: Interesting point you raise, but have you posed to think of men who are imprisoned and persecuted for sins that are not of their making. Have you thought of men who have died in floods? Are such men to be relegated as misfits in society who invite trouble or undesirable destiny upon themselves?
Plato: I have thought of such men. I consider that they at some point they fail to act as they guided by intrinsic thoughts, as the gods guide them or as nature demands of them.
Socrates: You seem to be counteracting your argument my friend. When you say that a man ought to act as he is guided by intrinsic thoughts, as the gods guide him and as nature guides him, then doesn’t that elevate the “intrinsic thought”, the gods, and nature to a level above human control? Doesn’t that mean that a man is subject to the determinations of the gods, nature, and “intrinsic thoughts”?
Plato: No, it does not. Since man chooses the gods to worship and obey. Man can also choose where to stay and, therefore, he can choose the kind of nature and intrinsic acts that dictate to him what to do.
Socrates: I find your argument as interesting as it is contradictory dear Plato. I should also point that you have failed to mention “intrinsic thoughts” because you know that man can never change those thoughts and he will forever be subject to them. In addition, dear Plato, although man can choose where to stay, he has to abide by the controls and dictates of nature that rules his place of residence. In that case, dear Plato, do you still maintain that man is in control of his destiny?
Plato: I appreciate your insight and counsel dear Socrates. However, I pose to you one question; do you appreciate that man has higher control and power as compared to other aspects in nature such as the animals and plants?
Socrates: That is true dear Plato. Man had higher control and power over other aspects in nature. However, you have to accept that even then, man has limited control over nature and even then, the nature still wields strong and unpredictable power over man’s destiny.
Plato: Your wisdom and logic are evident on this matter and I retract my earlier assertion.
Socrates: I appreciate your retraction and your appreciation of mu heightened wisdom. However, in summation of the query that prompted this debate let me state this; man has substantial control of his destiny due to his elevated reasoning capacity but he has limited control over the nature. If man succeeds in controlling his thoughts, then he can significantly alter nature and his destiny in the process. Is the matter regarding and destiny laid to rest now dear Plato?
Plato: It is dear Socrates, although we need to revisit it soon in light of the changing times.
Jowett, B. (1871), Apology By Plato. C. Scriber’s Sons, New York
Gill C. (2002). Dialectic and the dialogue form, in Annas & Rowe (2002), 145-171.
Gill C. (2006). The Platonic dialogue, in Gill & Pellegrin (2006), 136-150.
Guthrie W. C. (1975). A History of Greek Philosophy IV, Plato, The Man, and his Dialogues: Earlier Period, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.