Understanding oneself is the way to happiness. Philosophy as taught by Socrates helps people turn inwards and in the process better themselves. Socrates apology is an account of the speech he made in a trial when he was being charged with not recognizing the gods that the state recognized. Instead, according to his accusers, he invented new gods and corrupted the youth in Athens. This speech is, however, not an apology as the modern meaning of the word suggests. The word apology in the speech is derived from the Greek word apologia that means a speech made in defense of, therefore, the apology by Socrates is by no means an apology but an attempt to defend himself against the accusations brought against him.
During this time in Athens, there were many professional teachers who taught the wealthy city youth and many sophists, as well. Plato, throughout his work portrays an unkind picture of sophists. In fact, at some point he portrayed Socrates as a sophist. According to Plato, they were trivial thinkers who taught politicians to defeat sound ways of thinking with inferior reasoning using ornate rhetoric. This paper reviews the works of Socrates, Plato and Weber and the theories they put forward in pursuit of living a satisfying life. The major undertaking in life should be to know oneself. The soul is the basis of all decisions, values and one’s view point. Intelligence is based on the state of the soul therefore, it is essential to constantly learn and gain wisdom.
One of the most appealing characteristics of Socrates is his realization that, like others, he knew nothing. The awareness of his own ignorance made him immensely wise. He used philosophy to assist determine how man should live in order to live happily and fulfilled. He felt that unless one examines his/her life to discover who they are, what one wants to be and what one believes in then life is not worth living Socrates also believed it was crucial to care for the soul. According to him, man is his soul. It represents the man’s character and the real person. Socrates taught that many people never realize their potential because of ignoring the soul, and the way to the soul is introspection.
Additionally, Socrates observed that a person who is truly exceptional cannot be harmed by others. If the soul is good, nothing even the physical can harm it. It is only an individual who can change his soul by changing what he/she believes in and his/her values but the outside forces cannot. Plato maintains a virtue based eudemonistic ethics. This means that eudemonia, human well being, is the peak ethical aim of contemplation and behavior, and the arête that is virtues, are the obligatory skills and character traits. Plato undermines all traditional thinking and comprehension of a good life.
He observes happiness as a situation of perfection, which is hard to understand as it is based on metaphysical presumptions that are obscure and out of the sphere of understanding. Plato's moral principles come out as both strict and self-abnegating. According to Plato, the soul is to stay detached from the gratification of the body; shared life stress the subordination of one person’s desires and wants. In the Socratic dialogues, which are Plato’s early works, he gives no suggestion that the exploration for virtue and human morality goes further than the human comprehension sphere. However, this changes with time and leads to the recognition of the ‘form’. This he describes as the true nature of all that things and the Form of Good as being the inspiring principle of all goodness. To him, moral values are based on suitable political order that can only be preserved by leaders who have gotten thorough, scientific training. The theory of the form is not only based on human values but also embraces the nature of all there is (Banach n.page).
The theory of form was meant to solve the ethical problem of whether human beings can live a happy and fulfilling life in this conditional and changing world where everything that one attaches to can be taken away at any time. Second, it was meant to address the problem of permanence and change. That is the world professed through human senses appears to be always changing while that is professed through the mind and the use of concepts gives the impression permanence and unchanging. It was to address and help figure out which of these two was real and why the worlds appears in both ways instead of one. Humans have admission to the sphere of forms through reason, through the mind, given Plato's hypothesis of the subdivisions of the human soul. According to Plato, to solve the first problem, there is a need to detach from the material world and the physical, human body. To do this one needs to develop the ability to concern oneself with the form.
Plato explains this using the sun metaphor, like the sun providing light, which permits observation of objects, the form of the Good give organization, and simplicity, which makes it possible to have knowledge of things. Additionally like the sun gives energy for nourishment and growth, so does the form of the Good give the order and structure that is the origin of existence. The Theory of Recollection says knowledge is fundamentally an act of recollecting things that were known even before birth. True knowledge is knowledge of the everlasting and static Forms that motivate detectable reality. The soul according to the teaching of Socrates existed before birth. This implies that the life of the soul is longer and exists outside that of the physical body. Further, the human soul is eternal and has been reborn several times and has seen all there is to see and nothing more can be learnt. It is, therefore, not strange to suppose that it is likely that the soul could recollect things that it already knows from past existences (Bastos 3).
Max Weber the Protestant Ethic is a study of the connection between morals of austere Protestantism and the materialization of the modern capitalism. Weber argues that spiritual thoughts of groups like the Calvinists took part the role of creating the capitalistic spirit. Protestantism presents a notion of the sophisticated "calling," and gives worldly movement a religious character. According to the theory by Weber, he argues that capitalism perceives profit as an end to itself and taking profit as virtuous. His objective was to comprehend the origin of this new spirit of capitalism. He first observed the relation between being in business and being a protestant and affirmed his intention to discover religion as possible grounds of the new spirit of capitalism. According to Weber, this new attitude broke down the traditional economic system, which led to capitalism. Nevertheless, after the full emergence of capitalism, the values held by the Protestants were not necessary to explain it anymore. Capitalism became useful for modern economic system and took on a life of its own. He, however, does not mean that Protestantism is the origin of capitalism, but it is one of the contributing factors. In the theory, he also points out that capitalism itself is also contributes to some religious ideologies (Weber 56-60).
According to Weber, a calling is consistent with traditional values because it means that every human being should accept his purpose in life and not struggle for more. Before reformation, people thought that worldly activities like businesses as were not in service to God. However, as essential evils that was noteworthy for survival. People overvalued ordinary monastic life’s that removed them from the need for worldly activities and put them in full service of God. However, reformation rejected this ideology and insisted it was wrong not do according to ones calling (Weber 65).
Weber explains religion as a contributor to capitalism. In his theory, he explains why people live the way they live. Religion is part and parcel of living a virtuous life. His analysis sheds light on the platonic explanation of a virtuous life; Plato was strict in his theories and how to have a pure soul and to find true knowledge. Weber gives a realistic view of Plato’s explanation. Weber’s theory is easily applicable and understandable as he explores realities that every human being can relate to, religion and economics. They are both in pursuit of explaining how to live a satisfying and happy life. This can be achieved by doing what one is supposed to do that is, by serving one’s purpose in life.
In conclusion, the three scholars all agree the way to a virtuous life is through the nourishment of the soul. The soul is the entry to the body and true happiness only comes from separating the soul from the body. Plato in the description of the theory of Form shows the importance of separating oneself from the objects of the world and perceives the world through senses. The soul exists independent of the body, and it existed before birth. It is, therefore, vital to keep the soul pure to achieve full happiness.
Bastos, Daniel. On Plato’s theory of recollection, September 4, 2006, page 2-3. Web. 18th May 2012.
Banach, David. Plato's Theory of Forms 2006, Web. 18th May 2012.
Frede, Dorothea, "Plato's Ethics: An Overview", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 2009, n. page. Web. 18 May 2012.
Weber, Max. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. London: Routledge, 1997. Chapter 2. Print.