Moderation vs. Extremism
Man is a complex individual. Embodying the gift of life and the challenge of living it, man is faced with challenges brought by the decision he makes in living his life. Through these challenges, he explores his identity and personality. He is able to assess his inherent characteristics, his abilities and skills. The discovery of his potentials will lead him to utilize it in a manner in which he sees fit. The ability to do what he wants in life is attributed to the freedom that he lives.
Humans are driven, free, and capable of governing their lives. The need to survive is the challenge that humans continuous to overcome every day. The individual behaves and reacts to the situations and the people around him. He has an idea of what he wants in life and how he should live it to its full potential. Personal reasons such as success or the need for financial resources and a suited career is sometimes included in the reasons why man behaves and reacts towards his surroundings in a certain way. All these reasons contribute to what is essential in life, to be happy.
It is such a cliché for people to talk about happiness in the modern times the society now lives in. The information technology era had brought a perception that man is keen to adapt in a fast-paced and complicated life. The modernism ideology has influenced how people thinks and behaves. This can be mostly associated with the need to be famous, or rich. To further understand how man identifies himself with happiness, Socrates’ definition and view regarding happiness can be used to explain how it is. The Greek word “ethos” is where the word ethics is derived from.
Consequently, the word also is defined as “habit”.(Beebe, 2003) Socrates is one of the several philosophers who explored the definition of habit and character that one must cultivate in order to live. On a greater scale, how should man be and become in this life. Socrates believed that one should settle the definition of ethical character as a manifestation of its morality actions.(Beebe, 2003) As an example, when a child discovers his father killed someone, and his father is hunted by the F.B.I, when someone ask him, he would automatically refuse to be truthful about the whereabouts of his father.
This is considering the facts that the child admires his father very much and can not imagine his father committing the crime. In that situation, should the child be tagged as a liar and dishonest person, considering the person involved in very dear to him and is a very influential person in his life. Should one doubt the ethical character of the child or understand the reason why he had lied. This is the question that Socrates posted on the idea of ethical values. With the definition of ethics comes the idea of virtue. Virtue is also associated to “excellence” and can be applied in many aspects of our lives. Socrates posted a question, “when does someone consider his life to be happy?” (Beebe, 2003)
Beneath the question is the question connecting the idea of virtue and happiness. Using the definition of virtue, it questions how man can be of his full potential. What can make his life truly happy? In reality, when one person thinks of happiness, it becomes a subjective view on the person’s life. Socrates on the other hand thinks of happiness as an objective feature of one’s life. Socrates also claimed that “the most important thing is not life, but the good life”.(Beebe, 2003)
This statement comes with the idea that the fulfillment of life is the essence of life itself. Happiness is not just the mere smiles and the happy feeling attributed to it, but when everything is wrong, one lives and overcomes it. This is exercised by the ethical and virtuous persons. They consider more of the quality of their lives rather than just the length and living simply the life they ought to live. Understanding Socrates definition of ethics and virtue, rather than the pursuit of wealth, reputation, prestige and others, one must focus on aspiring to be ethical and virtuous more than anything else.
Because these two ideas generates happiness, is a factor of happiness and creates the life with moral quality. Virtue and happiness is both necessary and sufficient to be able to be happy. Being virtuous is necessary to become happy. The idea of living a virtuous life is fulfilling the excellent kind of life a person can fulfill. This is disregarding the material aspirations of one’s life, in return, one gains the ideals of honesty, fairness, and bravery that contributes to the quality of life one lives. These attributes may not give enough material possessions but the morale and quality of life is the result of living the virtuous life.
In Socrates famous saying, “The unexamined life is worth not living”.(Beebe, 2003) To this saying we pose the idea of wisdom and the pursuit of knowledge and reason. Virtuous living is having the gift of rationality and the capacity to think critically. The discussion of virtue is also important in the pursuit of happiness. Virtuosity also comes with work. Being virtuous is a process and a pursuit, and together with work, one can achieve happiness. We can therefore say that according to Socrates, one can not be happy without being virtuous, and one can not be virtuous without being wise.
BEEBE, J. R. (2003) Socrates on Prozac and Happines. acsu.buffalo.edu.
Beebe, James R. “Socrates on Prozac and Happines”. 2003. Lecture notes. acsu.buffalo.edu. November 27 2006. <http://www.acsu.buffalo.edu/~jbeebe2/Happiness.htm>.
Kalin, J.G., Davis, G.S, and Geisler, N.L. “Determinism”. 2004. November 27 2006. <http://mb-soft.com/believe/text/determin.htm>.