Socrates is one of the greatest and most well known of the Greek philosophers, along with Plato and Aristotle. This article looks into some of Socrates ideas on achieving happiness, and also on why people perform evil acts. I also add my own interpretations and thoughts into this article.
Socrates believed that most people who are seeking happiness do so based on the common values of the societies in which they reside. These values are mostly unquestioned and followed automatically or unconsciously. These common values are the belief that social status, power, pleasure, wealth and material goods make someone happy, I would also add popularity or social acceptance onto this list.
Evil acts are ignorant acts
Socrates suggested that most if not all evil acts are committed in order to achieve happiness, based on the common unquestioned values which are stated above, such as material goods and wealth. Because Socrates believed these values were wrong, those who commit evil acts to achieve happiness are doing so out of ignorance.
Socrates believed the true way to achieve happiness was from virtue, therefore preserving your true self, or your soul. The ancient Greeks referred to your soul as your virtuous self, or your actual being.
For this reason Socrates talks about how it’s better to be the victim of an injustice rather than the perpetrator. The belief is that when we knowingly commit an act of injustice, we harm our soul, losing apart of ourselves in some sense. These acts of injustice are often motivated by the perpetrators desire for self-interest, and to attain happiness, via money, status or even popularity. However, if you harm your soul, deep routed negativity can set in, ultimately leading to unhappiness.
If your soul is good, your inner world can become essentially a type of heaven. In contrast if your soul is corrupted, your inner world can become hell, and you may do anything to avoid or distract yourself from it. Someone may turn to drugs, alcohol and other distractions and pleasures in order to avoid facing their own soul, or their true self.
Virtue or Narcissism?
Seeking virtuousness is common in our current day, in fact I would say many people have a desperation to feel virtuous. Some people are even creating imagined villains in order to feel good and virtuous. However, those that promote and telegraph how good they’re, are likely doing it so they can look good to their friends and family. This is tilting towards narcissism and attaining status rather than being truly virtuous.
I have noticed that those who claim to be the most virtuous are often unpleasant people. Is this a compensation? They are perhaps compensating for their dark corrupted soul. However, they’re seeking a shallow narcissistic virtue.
I think Socrates was mostly right with his views on achieving happiness via the means of virtue, rather than the pursuit of the common misguided social beliefs and goals. However, only if it’s true virtuousness, and not the telegraphed virtue signalling that we currently see for the sake of image and status.
So if you want to achieve happiness, seek virtue. However, true virtue, and not by creating artificial monsters in order to feel virtuous and better about yourself.