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 life 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 weren’t 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 wrong. 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 understanding 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 temporary, 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 on 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 .