It is contemporary man’s tendency to place himself atop of the evolutionary cycle of human development. Today’s man with his technology and his gadgets believes that he is superior to his ancestors in many ways. Ancient philosophy and the mystery of its origins are still contemplated and studied in wide fashion today, but only by those who understand the timeless importance of truth and necessity.
The purpose of this essay is to describe the relevance of ancient philosophy to the morality of today. This essay will examine how the Platonic school of philosophy, inherited by the ideas of Socrates, The Bible and Kant all have considerably contributed to the modern understanding of morality, action, truth and harmony.
Although Socrates never wrote one word that has been found, his ideas carried out by the efforts of Plato and his academic efforts allow his ideas to still live. Solon and Pythagoras contributed mightily to this stream of thought and Plato captured and brought it to life at the height of the Macedonian Empire. Plato taught his followers that morals and ethics are not necessarily static and permanent ideas. Rather, morals, like everything else in nature takes forms and are applied in a subjective nature. Plato understood that humanity has achieved a proper way of how to think, rather than the contemporary ideas of what to think.
Thucydides, a near contemporary of Plato, brought about the idea of political realism as it applies to the moral application of ethics into society. Thucydides explained power as the driving force in the universe and those who can wield its force are entitled to its benefit while morality is a consequence of this reality. This moral stance is premised on fear, contempt and lack of faith in one’s community and neighborhood as fear, not love, is used as the motivating factor for explaining the human experience.
Morals to the Greeks were applied to the different levels of society and each group was expected to act and behave differently. The Bible, which is best understood and applied philosophically when interpreted as a myth, presented a myriad of interpretations of morals. Within the two testaments of the bible, the Jewish God Jehovah prefers revenge and violence to answer moral challenges, while Jesus Christ suggests that turing the other cheek is often the best way to approach conflict and ethics. The Bible is much too confusing to take at a literal level and its true value to its reader is when it is interpreted as myth and individual interjection of one’s own moral stance can be projected on to the fables to gain insight and wisdom into one’s own heart.
According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Kant believed “that moral requirements are based on a standard of rationality he dubbed the “Categorical Imperative” (CI). Immorality thus involves a violation of the CI and is thereby irrational.” This is an obviously subjective approach to the very objective idea of categorical. What is imperative in one person cannot and should not be imperative in another. Rationality is entered into the equation to help balance out the emotional aspects of the psyche which in combination allow one to choose or ignore the moral impulses that arise according to Kant.
The New Oxford Annotated Bible. Ed. Michael D. Coogan. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. Print.
“Kant’s Moral Philosophy.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Published 6 Apr 2008. Retrieved from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-moral/
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