How to become more rational?
Do you need to be rational? What is the meaning of being rational? And how could we be more rational? Are we rational enough? What is rational and what is irrational?
The difference between rational and irrational thinking is grounded in the way we appraise our reality. Do we use good reason to reach conclusions or leave it for our emotions, whims and desires to control our assessment? Rational thinking means using reason to evaluate events. There are different ways of understanding observed events and making decision and forming opinion about our world. Our reality is made up of two realities: our internal reality, such as our feelings and thoughts, together with external reality: such as natural phenomena and behaviour of other people in our community. An important quality of rational thinking is its ability to correct its own errors of judgement. Rational thinking uses logical thought processes to correct false thoughts.
Magical thinking is established on linking unrelated events. In religious rituals, a prayer, a sacrifice or observance of religious rules may be correlated with beneficial outcome, which is not related to the actual act. For example, many religious cults believe that rain is controlled by a deity and appeasing this God would bring rain. Prayers are given to appease such deity and when rain falls, it is believed that this is a consequence of the prayers. In our everyday life, we may do the same when our fear compels us to perform certain acts to ward off a dreaded danger. This is commoner in children and some adults with obsessive-compulsive disorder. A person come to believe that performing a certain ritual would make him avoid a harmful outcome to themselves or others they love. Touching a specific object a number of times, or doing a particular act a number of times or in a certain way cannot be resisted because of the fear that something terrible would happen to self or others. Other people may believe that a ritual behaviour will bring some positive event like a good luck charm.
Irrational thinking is uncorrected thought or incorrigible thinking. In the mind of the person who thinks irrationally, ideas are linked together by chance without evidence to support this connection in reality. Distortions from the effect of strong emotions can make thinking irrational. Some people are more likely to have irrational thoughts because of faulty brain connections or faulty processing of information. Such faulty processing of thoughts in the brain may arise from neurological or biochemical disorder. Firmly held and fixed thoughts obsess the mind of some people to the extent of aberration of thoughts. We are subject to possession of stereotypes and prejudices, which alter our thought process and lead to irrational ideas.
Emotional thinking is usually motivated and directed by strong emotions, which divert the stream of thought into unexpected ways. Without our full awareness of such an effect, we tend to commit many logical errors.
Some people may come up with an idea or thought out of the blue, claiming that they are inspired by the divine or from an internal knowledge known as intuition. Intuition is actually a form of undeclared thinking process in which a series of ideas are connected beyond the conscious awareness of thinking person. The result is a new idea or a novel view. Analysis of such intuitive ideas will show precedents in the person's previous experiences, wishes, desires, emotions and knowledge. Some of these "revealed truth" are actually ingenious and creative thoughts that may go beyond the usual mainstream ideas. Intuition joins and weaves together previous thoughts into a new construct of ideas. Such new ideas should be examined and analysed by the rational logical thinking: the most trustworthy venue to reality and judgement supported by evidence.
In time of trouble, and collapse of the state will order of the world around us, we look for consolation in new guidance, on how to get on with our life? What is the right and wrong path to go? Which conduct is morally good or evil?
Philosophy is a systematic view of a life problem. It to suggest explanation or solutions. Sometimes the solution is just to accept reality or ignore it. Such is the case with Stoicism. Cynicism advice us to become more focused on self and pull-out from external reality. Becoming more involved with the present and forgetting about the past and future is the advice of hedonism. Hedonism tells us that the answer is pleasure, cynicism claims it is withdrawal, and stoicism believes it is in difference.
Each philosophy-which is a systematic comprehensive outlook into a logical question which tries to give an explanation and advice about a theoretical or practical problem-each theory, is a group of ideas put together in a coherent, consistent framework such ideas persist and stand the test of time because they are modified, added to, pruned here and there with new additions and updates according to the time.
No philosophy is isolated from the time it lives, and its appeal will fade out or flourishes depending on how useful is it to sort out human problems. Those philosophies which deal with an intrinsic human dilemma may persist over time, because there are no better answers to the posed questions, or because some new modification has been added, which make such theory more appealing to the need of the time.
Stoicism appeared in the time of collapse of the Hellenistic civilisation. It swept over Greece after the death of Alexander and dominated the Roman thought until the coming of Christianity. Stoicism is a development of cynicism, although it went through different developments throughout its history. Stoicism is a philosophy of ethical conduct, but it is also a metaphysical theory and a logical system. No part of the philosophy of Zeno remained unchanged. However, the ethical component of stoicism remained relatively unaltered.
The founder of stoicism is Zeno, who lived in the third century BC, and lectured from a porch from which stoicism gets its name. "Stoa" is a Greek word which means porch. Stoics claims that we have no power to change the world. In the face of a collapsing moral and ethical world, there is no hope, we as individuals, we be able to work for a new social reconstruction. The advice, which this philosophy gives, is personal salvation, like cynicism and hedonism. Its basic tenets, though Stocism as a philosophy is a more complex moral theory- is to learn to live indifferent to external influences and to withstand pain and suffering, private losses and a crumbling world.
Stoics believe that good or evil depends on ourselves. And evil would not touch us, if we are indifferent towards its effects. Evil events have no power on us if we become indifferent to them. Virtue lies in the will. If they have a good well, I'm not going to be devastated by external troubles. People will become free when they discard any concerns or worries, and become indifferent to external happenings. Detachment from external reality and events set us free. The world may be in chaos, but we have our inner world, which is in order.
Stoics proclaimed that everything which happens in the world is planned and fixed by God or natural laws according to a preconceived plan. They believed in Predestination, some form of fatalism. Nothing happens without purpose or meaning. In this way, we are unable to change such as superior a grand plan. We have to accept it and not to be disturbed by the suffering it brings on us or others.
This show is a will to accept and live according to this superior plan, to live in agreement with happenings of nature. It is this acceptance of what happens in life as a divine plan which makes us powerless to change and unable to understand calamities of life. In this way, there is no need to be frustrated or angry, there is no need to feel despair, heartbreak or sadness, as we cannot change events ordained by deities.
Freedom, according to stoicism, is acceptance of this universal predestination and powerlessness of humans. The virtue is to learn to practice indifference for events in a frame of mind, which is not affected by such events.
Contrary to cynicism, stoicism do not believe that we have to renounce the luxuries of the world. We may be able to enjoy the word with all its pleasures and success, material gains, and possessions. Stoicism advocates to live a life of detachment and freedom from the trap of this material world. We may live without concern if we are indifferent to how much gain or loss we make in our material success. We don't gets distressed when we lose all material possessions, enjoy life, but remain unaffected by the pleasures or pains of events.
Stoicism believes we are responsible for making ourselves good or bad, happy or miserable, and it is not the society or events which make us behave badly or feel unhappy. Through our ability to build such a frame of mind, we will be able to become indifferent to what is good or bad in the word. We remain virtuous, regardless of what happens around us, and nothing is going to change our essential virtuous character.
Cynicism starts from the assumption that the world is fundamentally evil. The best way to fight this evil is to withdraw from taking part in the world. Possessions are deceptive, money, clothes, a house; women are all just illusions and false. To free ourselves from fear, we have to reject all the goods of the world. All products of civilization are worthless, and all pleasures of the senses are artificial and misleading. Salvation is of personal salvation that is found in rejection of society and return to a simple, primitive and ascetic life.
The early cynics like Diogenes and Antisthenes lived moral and upright lives of external frugality and miserable animal-like lives. The word "Cynic" comes from the Greek word "kunos " which in Greek means dog-like. The modern meaning of the word cynical includes a connotation of rejection of people and complete indifference and lack feeling for other's suffering. Perhaps this developed later when followers of Cynicism have shown insincerity and callousness for the feelings of other people.
Cynicism is a product of its time. It appeared at the time of great wars between Sparta and Athens and Alexander the Great conquered the world. The traditionally world was collapsing, and social institutions were breaking down. During such turmoil in society and big suffering, people turn to personal salvation. Philosophers express more clearly what the common man vaguely realizes. In the face of disasters and catastrophes, either we try to change our circumstances, or we escape from them. Cynicism holds that the best way is to escape from reality and isolate ourselves into a simple rudimentary shell.
Although of cynicism is a product of its time, it had a big influence on moral philosophies, which came after it. It contributed to the Christian moral philosophy and religious asceticism. We find elements of this philosophy later in the history of philosophy with Stoics and Spinoza. In its pure form, Cynicism undermines social standards and concentrates on individual salvation rather than the common good of the society. It rejects the society with all its products and goods and acquires some hostile and antisocial sentiment towards the community in which it exists.
Cynicism is a reaction to disappointment and shock to the state of the world we live in. It has similarities to the depressive attitude and feelings of someone traumatized by events in his life. People who are depressed usually withdraw from everyday life. They neglect themselves and their interest in social interactions, food and dress. They may give up their possessions. They lose all concerns about the outside world and may be only worried about their personal state of physical and mental well-being. Cynicism is a philosophy of a depressive attitude. Cynics may tolerate a lot of personal suffering in a similar way to the acceptance of suffering by a depressive person.
The word ethics is used in different contexts to mean different things. In philosophy, it indicates the important subject of moral philosophy. At the same time, we use it in our modern life in various fields such as philosophy of education or educational philosophy, as well as, in political and cultural debates. Ethics inspect our human values and our cultural values. We use it to make judgement about a certain course of action on individual and on societal level.
In our individual life, we use moral philosophy to decide if a certain personal action is morally good or bad. In all aspects of our modern life, we look at the moral values we take or practise in our particular field of behaviour. In medicine, the subject of medical ethics studies the best manners doctor deal with their patients. In Research Ethics, the values of performing research on humans and animals are probed. In business and financial industry, we have realized the need to examine the moral values of current practice of making financial profits on the expense of debt accumulated from unscrupulous victims through unwise lending. Even in our individual personal choices, for example in the case of vegetarians, we have to decide if killing animals for food is morally right or wrong. Environmental ethics has to consider the moral values of exploiting nature to the extent of damaging environment.
The different theoretical systems of moral philosophy includes religious ethics. The Ten Commandments are one of the examples of a system of religious ethics which give a detailed account of moral values commanded by the religious authority. However, moral philosophy studies the general questions about ethics such "as what is moral value?" and "what is good and evil?".
Ethics reflects on the moral code we use in our life. It speculates about the general principles which guide our actions and the rules of conduct we consider to be right. We appreciate the values of our moral code. Ethics is not only about a theoretical academic study, it is about how we ought to believe and what is a good life for all of us. Ethics thinks over general situations and not the individual particular problems. It looks at the universal systematic principles, which can be applied to different particular situations.
Different philosophers have suggested various theories to establish an ethical system of moral values. It is important to examine these various theories in the light of our modern dilemmas and questions. Our modern complex social situations have made essential to re-think our moral values and ethical decisions.
Stoicism is the moral philosophy which advocates indifference in the face of calamities of the world and human suffering. It provides a solution to the individual through personal salvation, but it doesn't provide a method or a way to change the world, it doesn't tell us how to make our lives better to the greater majority of mankind. It doesn't believe that anything can be done to make life any better for the greater number of individuals.
The first contradiction in stoicism is its claim that we can change our attitude towards external events by becoming indifferent. If we are powerless to change our predestined nature and character, which are ordained by a supreme power such as God, deities or universal natural laws, we will not be able to change our natural attitude of getting worried, concerned and disturbed by all the suffering and losses occurring to us and to others around us. It is difficult to be indifferent towards the pains and anguish of those dear to us. Man is not free and unfree at the same time.
The second contradiction is the problem of Free Will, which has been a consistent and troublesome philosophical question throughout the centuries. We cannot be responsible for our moral conduct if we are not free individuals, who are able to change our circumstances and our behaviour. If we are powerless and all our behaviour is ordained and predestined, we will not be able to describe our behaviour as good or evil, and we will not be responsible for our actions. Anything we do will be neither morally right nor wrong. It would be the responsibility of our natural constitution and mental setup or psychological make-up. This would totally undermine their principle of moral responsibility.
The third inconsistency is that stoicism may be useful in certain circumstances when the world events are disturbing and human condition is unfavourable. It would be unreasonable to advise people to be indifferent towards the joys of life and the welfare in society, when everyone lives a stable, peaceful and satisfying life, with minimal suffering, nothing more than the unavoidable, which can be alleviated by the support, the help, and achievements of other fellow human beings in our society or a cross the world. It is impossible to consider stoicism as the universal theory which can be applied in different circumstances and throughout different social events, either when people are happy peaceful, productive and progressive or during the times of war, calamities, destruction, misery, and collapse of our social, moral and cultural structures.
Hedonism is the principle that considers pleasure as intrinsically good. We may ask : what is pleasure? Is it that sensual, physical sensation, which makes us happy and satisfied, or is it a mental state, which can be brought about by mental imagination and various states of awareness and consciousness.
The moral philosophy of hedonism tries to ask ethical questions like other philosophies of ethics. What is a good life? What is a happy life?
If pleasure is intrinsically good, then any act that brings about pleasure is morally right. However, many pleasures end up in pain and some have short term or long-term bad consequences on the person and others. For example, excessive drinking or taking drugs may not harmful to person immediately, although many years later some degree of harm may come out.
Some individual pleasures may entail a lot of suffering for other people. For example, sadists find great enjoyment in inflicting pain and torture on others. Would we accept such behavior as morally right?.
It is important to know if pleasure is restricted to one single individual, or to the greatest number of people. Utilitarianism as a moral philosophy is based on pleasure as an ethical standard when it applies to the greatest number of individuals rather than a single person.
Although, Aristippus of Cyrene is considered the father of Hedonism, it was Epicurus who argued that pleasure is the only good, and that good behavior is a pleasurable behavior. He did recognize that sometimes the consequences of pleasurable activity might lead to pain.
Epicurus realized that too much pleasure may be followed by pain and the best path to pursue is a life of moderate pleasure, to live pleasantly and avoid the painful after effects. This is similar to Aristote’s principle of moderation.
Epicurus himself was not an Epicure. He lived a simple life, ate infrequently and drank only water. He represents the opposite of the current connotation of the word Epicure. He suffered from stomach trouble for years. Epicurus was interested mainly in intellectual pleasures: products of culture and the Muses. He considered friendship and discussion of philosophy as sources of pleasure.
If you believe that the criterion for good and moral conduct is pleasure for agent doing the act, you are an egoistic hedonist. You are an altruistic hedonist, if your criterion for moral conduct is the greatest good of the greatest number.
Epicurus distinguished between two different types of pleasures: the first are pleasures which are followed by pain, and the second are those which followed by pain. He believed that pleasures of the senses are usually followed by pain, while pleasures of the intellect and social interactions do not have painful after-effects.
Certain intellectual activities may be as pleasurable as the physical pleasures. The ascetic hermit who lives an austere, abstinent and isolated life finds his ultimate pleasure in solitary intellectual or spiritual activity and rejects any physical temptation of sex, delicious food, riches or fame.
Scientific knowledge tells that it is difficult to separate pleasure from pain. Physiologically, pain can induce release of substances in the brain called endorphins, which are similar to natural morphine. Such substances bring about a state of mind of happiness and euphoria. This is the cause of getting a buzz out of long physical exercise. It is our natural mechanism to cope with physical pain.
Psychologically, it is clear that desires and needs motivate humans. Pleasure is a product of satisfaction of these needs and desires. Is this satisfaction morally right or wrong? Can we judge that our instincts and biological needs are ethical or unethical? We are born to behave in a particular way because of our genetic and biochemical make-up. So, are we morally wrong if we follow our instincts? Seeking food, comfort, sex, security, forming families and caring for children: Are these morally right or wrong?
It is seeking pleasure as the ultimate and only goal in our life, seeking pleasure in excess regardless of the consequences, which may be labeled right or wrong. The actions we may consider as morally right or wrong are the excesses of gluttony, promiscuity, and addiction to drugs that lead to painful consequences.
Do we have the right to interfere in individual's pursuit of pleasure?
We are free souls and able to decide for ourselves the right course of action. No one is able to force another person to stop pursuing any pleasurable behavior even if it leads to negative consequences. Do we have the right to interfere in people's choices in search of pleasure? What about the cost of negative after-effects? There is loss of health, wealth, and even personal damage and disability. Personal losses have some cost to society and it is not without toll on other people involved in that agent's life.
We, as human beings, can get addicted to habits and substances that induce pleasure. We can be easily hooked on pleasurable items.
Internal forces - under the influence of reinforcement and reward through learning -motivate people to get addicted to personal pleasures. It is quite difficult to change habits. Habituated people are determined to continue their pleasurable habits irrespective of losses of personal health and damage to finance or family. Those people are victims rather than culprits, they need help rather than blame, and they need our sympathy rather than our opinion about their behavior.
Another trouble with the pleasure principle is the phenomenon of quest for non-pleasurable activity by some people. Some persons find so much satisfaction in activities such as collecting wealth and money while living a deprived frugal life. In the case of the masochist, a person takes a lot of pleasure in the pain inflicted on him. Although these are the exception rather than the rule, there is still a need for some explanation for such pattern of behavior. We may find an answer in psychology rather than philosophy.
We know from psychology that we substitute an object of desire for another when the first is unattainable. There are other psychological mechanisms such as displacement of our pleasure from one object to a different one, which may have similar features. Conditioning make us associate pleasure with unpleasing objects or situations, even with pain as in the case of the masochist.
Physiologically, a very mild degree of pain may be pleasurable. Pain stimulates release of endorphins inside the brain. Endorphins are morphine like substances which when released in the brain relieves pain and gives a sense of euphoria, excitement and well-being. This makes a person feel a high or a rush. For example, after a long strenuous exercise we get such feeling. Pleasure can replace or substitute the unpleasant activity associated with pain.
In general, everyone seeks pleasure. We are all motivated in our activities by search for pleasure. However, each one of us is unique in the nature and quantity of pleasures that satisfy his needs. Our physical, biological and psychological make-up determines what type and how much of pleasure we need. Various lifestyles and our personal life histories make us different and it is difficult to generalize for everyone.
Individuals differ in their objects of satisfaction and degree of satisfaction needed. Our sense of obligation and duty may take over any pleasure. We learn to delay pleasures and suppress them or substitute them for sublime alternatives.
Moral philosophy studies the question of pleasure as the sole intrinsic value of a good life. If we use philosophy in lieu of psychology or biology to explain why people seek pleasure, it would fail. If such moral philosophy argues that, a good life is a life of pleasure that assumption would encounter a number of problems.
We cannot separate painful consequences from any pleasurable activity. Pleasure and pain are inseparable. Such philosophy does not add much we do not know. If it advocates seeking pleasure as the sole criterion of good life and moral behavior, it cannot ignore that pleasures in excess can be detrimental to the person and others. If it advocates moderation in seeking pleasure, it would be reiterating the same Aristotle principle of "The Golden Mean." Human behavior is too complicated to explain with such simple principle when we have such complex and variable human actions.
Hedonism alone cannot explain our behavior and the pleasure principle cannot explain all of our strivings. Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, has realized that the pleasure principle alone cannot explain human behavior, and he introduced another principle: the Death Instinct or "Thanatos" in his book "beyond the Pleasure Principle".
The classic Greek philosopher Plato had a strong influence on life throughout the Middle Ages and perhaps until our day. Plato had such influence through the adoption of his ideas and moral philosophy in Judaic, Christian and Islamic theology. With the expansion of the Islamic Empire to Syria and territories under the Hellenistic rule, Arabs came to know and study Greek philosophy. As they went on translating Greek philosophy, ancient Islamic scholars studied the philosophy of Plato and tried to adopt and adapt some of his ideas to the Arab culture and religion.
One of the best-known theologians in Islamic history is Al-Ghazali . Al-Ghazali refuted in his School of theology the teachings of Plato which were well-known to Islamic philosophers such as Avicenna, Al-Farabi and Averroes(Ibn Rushd). Thomas Aquinas is indebted to Islamic philosophers in some of his theological ideas. Moses Maimonides read those Greek philosophers accessible in Arabic translations, and was deeply immersed in the sciences and learning of Islamic culture. In this way, the moral philosophy and teachings of Plato on Ethics spread around the globe for a considerable time. The teachings of Plato on Ethics came to be known through the writings of his disciple and student Socrates in his book "the Republic" which took the form of dialogues between Socrates and other Greek philosophers.
The influence of Greek or Hellenestic Civilisation on the Middle East (or Near East) as we know it today was undeniable due to geographical proximity. The Greek built colonies around the Middle East shores and ruled a good part of this region of the world. Greek philosophy developed during the fifth-century BC, and it is conceivable that such influence is evident in Christianity, which came to the world 500 years later in addition to on Islam, which came 11 centuries later.
Plato's ideas about Ethics took the form of his doctrine of "absolute Good". It seems that he believed that such "Absolute Good" is even superior to any God. This aspect of his philosophy was omitted, excluded and ignored by religious theologians of Christianity and Islam. Plato believed that to be virtuous you have to get knowledge, and the virtuous people are the knowledgeable, and ignorance breeds Evil. He believed in some form of aristocracy or superiority of those who has gained knowledge that are entitled to rule and lead the society. This is reflected in tenets of theological theories advocated by religious scholars in the three monotheistic religions. There is also a belief in absolute truth. Religious authorities derive their power from their knowledge of such absolute truth. Theologians believe that evil is due to a lack of belief in God, which is similar to the Platonic view. Plato advocated absolute knowledge of subjects such as Mathematics and Philosophy while theologians advocate "the absolute religious knowledge," such as belief in Jesus or Allah. A similar view about attaining absolute knowledge through training is found in Sufism.
For Plato, training to gain such absolute knowledge was an intellectual task in a similar way to discovering a mathematical truth. On the other hand, theologians preach spiritual training to reach the absolute and supreme truth: God. It only then disciples can arrive at this final destination, which is called in Sufism a status of being "The Knowledgeable" or “3rif” in Arabic.
Plato suggested a program of training for persons to become knowledgeable so that they may lead a good life. This resembles the practice of building religious schools (madrasah) or circles of religious study or Sophism training. Plato encouraged training in intellectual knowledge while religious theology encouraged spiritual knowledge, sometimes to the extent of exclusion of all other-worldly knowledge.
The Platonic philosophical view aims for development of mental and intellectual abilities and skills, while theology promotes spiritual power and attainment. As some people may not own the capacity to gain such knowledge or mental skills, Plato advocated censorship and control of knowledge available to society. He believed that young people, in particular, are weaker in their ability to filter the harmful knowledge, and in this way, they should be protected from exposure to certain experiences that may distort or impede their chance to develop a virtuous life. Platonic theory proposed that some people are gifted and talented enough to develop this mental power through intellectual training. Similarly, in Sufism, it is believed that not everyone will have the ability to go through the arduous training to become a knowledgeable person.
Politically, Plato's theory on the "Absolute Good" and "Virtue" envisaged a society of classes where the knowledgeable, the virtuous, and the scholars rule, on the basis that they will act in a moral way, and they have acquired the knowledge and consequently, the moral values to be just and good rulers who will never act in an evil way. History has never proven that this is the case.
To understand how philosophy started and what philosophers actually do we have to go back to the beginning of philosophy at Ancient Greece.
Philosophy began as a quest by intelligent thinkers in Greece who were not satisfied with the common beliefs. Greek philosophers began a pursuit for a better explanation of natural events and world phenomena. They looked for a better account of events. The majority of people in their community at the time were devout believers of different myths and legends, some of them can be found in the Iliad of Homer. Such fables talked about different Gods who were fighting among themselves in endless jealousy and rivalries. The accepted belief was that such gods or spirits were in control of the natural world.
Greek philosophers at such an early time re-examined the same questions and re-assessed the evidence for such acceptable viewpoint. They were not satisfied with what is provided in the conventional religion. They tried to find a better explanation. They considered that the popular beliefs were inadequate as explanations for the natural and social events.
The early philosophers of Greece were at odds and in conflict with their community. Socrates himself was judged and sentenced to death because he was accused of corrupting the youth of Athens and being atheist. He defended himself and is believed to have said: "a life unexamined is not worth living". The rejection of the traditionally accepted beliefs was the very beginning of philosophy. The search for more plausible answers and building new theories to explain the natural world in a way consistent with reason is the method of any philosophical pursue. After all, philosophy is a way to find answers to questions about life and the world in which we live. Answers that are consistent with reason and based on an approach that is more rational. From the early time, philosophers have engaged in examining problems that are important to our life directly or indirectly. The method was careful critical examination of the information and beliefs which are held by most people: Beliefs about the universe at large, the world and human affairs. From here, philosophers try to build some general coherent and systematic opinion about the world. They try to build a consistent picture of our life. Science came after philosophy and was built on a similar basis. Science uses different methods based on experiments and testing. Philosophy gives generally consistent theory and interpretations of the world. Some philosophers have been scientists and some scientists have tried to form a consistent coherent theory out of scientific discoveries. Both science and philosophy are based on critical examination of the world and finding adequate evidence for the views and beliefs we adhere to.
Philosophers tries to bring to light our implicit believes and our assumptions about the world, our life and our values. Philosophers insist that such believes can be only accepted by reasonable and intelligent people if they can meet certain standard of examination by the critical logical mind. Our scientific achievement, our moral discussions and values, our reasons for waging war and accepting peace, our legal system and jurisdiction, our education and ethical values are all based on philosophical views and theoretical structures built by philosophers since the early time in ancient Greece.
Platonism is the school of thought of Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher. Although, he died 2500 years ago, some people are still adhering to his ideas about ethics, values and virtues. His ideas are used by countless people to make up their mind about decisions and judgements on what is right and what is wrong. Plato claims there are "Absolute Good" or Virtues and people who have knowledge will act morally. He thought that philosophers and mathematicians are virtuous people. He also believed that everyone can attain a good level of moral behaviour if he is trained well enough to gain necessary knowledge.
Plato does admit that not everyone can be a philosopher or a mathematician. Some people would be weaker in their moral behaviour and judgement. He divided the society into classes. The rulers who are intelligent and knowledgeable is a class made of philosophers. The guardians (which probably represent The Army) come next as the second class. The public comes last as the third class. Plato advocated censorship for those who are weak in their virtues and moral values, including the youth.
Plato's moral philosophy is based on two basic assumptions: first that if you have knowledge, you will have a morally correct behaviour, and second that values and virtues and moral life are absolute and fixed. Plato even believed that ethics are superior to God and comes before him.
Plato understands of knowledge as intellectual knowledge such as philosophy and mathematics. However, if we extend the definition of knowledge to include other subjects of human knowledge such as literature, arts and scientific knowledge, it is difficult to believe that the educated is more a virtuous. Only if we consider psychological awareness has an important component of moral education, we may accept the idea that education and training can affect moral behaviour. The upbringing of a child involves psychological training to avoid certain behaviour and to allow some others. This psychological development helps to develop the conscience or Superego as known in psychoanalysis. The conscience has a role in control of socially unacceptable behaviour. Clearly people, who are brought up by morally strict families, grow up to be persons of values and virtues. This kind of learning is due to emotional punishment and reward, modelling, imitation and also a sense of altruism and imagination of assumed reciprocal treatment by others for one's good behaviour.
The civilized, educated and well-trained individual behaves in a moral way because he puts some control on his impulses, wishes and grossly antisocial tendencies. The morally right behaviour is a matter of the social image the person is trying to portray. Those people who have knowledge, education and good bringing are usually of a high social status and class. Such persons would not sacrifice their status and social respect for any wish or whimsy that can be controlled. They avoid any obnoxious behaviour to maintain their respect and the trust they have gained in their community. When they are out and a way of social scrutiny, they may do what they wish. If they do not allow themselves such privilege, they made divert their wishes and tendencies into other alternative outlets of satisfaction.
We tend to judge immoral behaviour as characteristic of the weak in the mind or the lower classes. People who act in a morally unacceptable way are usually criticised and ostracized by the community. When people are confident that their community or society will condone their behaviour, they will act out whatever they wish. Moral behaviour and values depend on the definition of morality by acertain society at acertain time. Slavery, physical and sexual exploitations of other human beings were condoned for a long period of human history and were considered moral and virtuous behaviour at the time of Plato. No philosopher or a religion refused or preached against slavery until the time of the great human awakening in the 18th century.
Moral education - which is based on moral philosophy- may succeed in development of persons who are able to control their evil tendencies and harmful impulses, though there is no guarantee that such approach would work. Moral principles are not absolute or separate from the social context. Moral values and virtues change among societies, across different times, and even among classes within the same society. Objective and realistic needs and demands of the human life determine moral values and moral behaviour. Even if we assume that there is a psychological determinism which is built in everyone according to his moral upbringing, conflicts may arise between what the individual wishes and what he believes is right or wrong. If his impulses and desires are stronger than his moral inhibitions, he may act against his moral values, even though he may later regret it. If his moral inhibitions are stronger, he may succeed in diverting his desires and impulses into an alternative target.
Values and virtues do not exist separately from humankind; they are not independent, and they are part of our daily experiences. Through altruism, men realise that certain behaviour will not be acceptable as they imagine that they will not accept it if it was done to them. A rational belief in the common good for the whole community makes us adopt certain values and morals to guide us into good behaviour.
As religions has adopted the Platonic view of moral philosophy, they claim there are absolutevalues and virtues, which are valid across societies and times. Religion, such as Islam, lives the inherent contradiction in their basic belief about absolute values when they come face to face with modern society. The problem is exacerbated when certain religious groups migrate to a very different society in an advanced stage of development. They find it difficult to accept the morality of the society they live in. At the same time, they have to adhere to their religious beliefs. Either, they clash with their new society, or they put their followers into a strenuous situation and emotional conflicts. Followers of such religion may become zealots that are more hostile against the society they live in, and they may resort to violence. Finally, they realise that violence is futile, and it would be more rational to abandon their archaic concepts that morality is absolute and independent of the human situation. philosophy of Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher. Although, he died 2500 years ago, some people are still adhering to his ideas about ethics, values and virtues. His ideas are still used by many people to make up their mind about decisions and judgements on what is right and what is wrong. Plato claims there is "Absolute Good" or Virtues and people who have knowledge will act morally. He thought that philosophers and mathematicians are virtuous people. He also believed that everyone can attain a good level of moral behaviour if he is trained well enough to gain necessary knowledge.
Plato does admit that not everyone is able to be a philosopher or a mathematician. Some people would be weaker in their moral behaviour and judgement. He divided the society into classes. The rulers who are intelligent and knowledgeable is a class made of philosophers. The guardians (which probably represent The Army) come next as the second class. The public comes last as the third class. Plato advocated censorship for those who are weak in their virtues and moral values, including the youth.
Plato's moral philosophy is based on two basic assumptions: first that if you have knowledge you will have a morally correct behaviour, and second that values and virtues and moral life is absolute and fixed. Plato even believed that ethics are superior to God and comes before him.
Plato understands of knowledge as intellectual knowledge such as philosophy and mathematics. However, if we extend the definition of knowledge to include other subjects of human knowledge such as literature, arts and scientific knowledge, it is difficult to believe that the educated is more a virtuous. Only if we consider psychological awareness has an important component of moral education, we may accept the idea that education and training can have an effect on moral behaviour. The upbringing of a child involves psychological training to avoid certain behaviour and to allow some others. This psychological development helps to develop the conscience or Superego as known in psychoanalysis. The conscience has a role in control of socially unacceptable behaviour. It is clear that people, who are brought up by morally strict families, grow up to be persons of values and virtues. This kind of learning is due to emotional punishment and reward, modelling, imitation and also a sense of altruism and imagination of assumed reciprocal treatment by others for one's good behaviour.
The civilised, educated and well-trained individual behaves in a moral way because he puts some control on his impulses, wishes and grossly antisocial tendencies. The morally right behaviour is a matter of the social image the person is trying to portray. Those people who have knowledge, education and good bringing are usually of a high social status and class. Such persons would not sacrifice their status and social respect for any wish or whimsy that can be controlled. They avoid any obnoxious behaviour to maintain their respect and the trust they have gained in their community. When they are out and away of social scrutiny, they may do what they wish. If they do not allow themselves such privilege, they made divert their wishes and tendencies into other alternative outlets of satisfaction.
We tend to judge immoral behaviour as characteristic of the weak in the mind or the lower classes. People who act in a morally unacceptable way are usually criticised and ostracised by the community. When people are confident that their community or society will condone their behaviour, they will act out whatever they wish. Moral behaviour and values depend on the definition of morality by a certain society at a certain time. Slavery, physical and sexual exploitation of other human beings were condoned for a long period of human history and were considered moral and virtuous behaviour at the time of Plato. No philosopher or a religion refused or preached against slavery until the time of the great human awakening in the 18th century.
Moral education - which is based on moral philosophy- may succeed in development of persons who are able to control their evil tendencies and harmful impulses, though there is no guarantee that such approach would work. Moral principles are not absolute or separate from the social context. Moral values and virtues change among societies, across different times, and even among classes within the same society. Objective and realistic needs and demands of the human life determine moral values and moral behaviour. Even if we assume that there is a psychological determinism which is built in each individual according to his moral upbringing, conflicts may arise between what the individual wishes and what he believes is right or wrong. If his impulses and desires are stronger than his moral inhibitions, he may act against his moral values, even though he may later regret it. If his moral inhibitions are stronger, he may succeed in diverting his desires and impulses into an alternative target.
Values and virtues do not exist separately from humankind, they are not independent, and they are part of our daily experiences. Through altruism, men realise that certain behaviour will not be acceptable as they imagine that they will not accept it if it was done to them. A rational belief in the common good of the whole community makes us adopt certain values and morals to guide us into good behaviour.
As religions has adopted the Platonic view of moral philosophy they claim there are absolute values and virtues which are valid across societies and times. Religion, such as Islam, lives the inherent contradiction in their basic belief about absolute values when they come face to face with modern society. The problem is exacerbated when certain religious groups migrate to a very different society in an advanced stage of development. They find it difficult to accept the morality of the society they live in. At the same time, they have to adhere to their religious beliefs. Either, they clash with their new society or they put their followers into a strenuous situation and emotional conflicts. Followers of such religion may become zealots that are more hostile against the society they live in, and they may resort to violence. Finally, they realise that violence is futile and it would be more rational to abandon their archaic concepts that morality is absolute and independent of the human situation.
According to the great Greek philosopher Aristotle, we may achieve happiness by moderation. Happiness is not something you have to reach to, it is not a goal in itself, and it is not the end or destination of our daily activity. Actually, it is the activity itself. Our activity should be a happy activity. Happiness is not a fixed static condition; it is a dynamic ongoing accompaniment of our activity. It is how we do things; it is not what things bring to us.
We feel happy when we eat good tasty food in good company. We do not eat without any feeling of happiness and then at the end we feel happy. When we recall some good happy memories of good past times and we feel happy, this in itself is an activity accompanied by happiness. We have to engage in activities in our daily life to feel happy. We cannot sit down and wait for happiness to come to us.
However, people differ in what makes them happy. Someone may feel happy among crowds of people and hectic activity. Another may feel happier when he is alone or in a quiet peaceful environment. There is no fixed formula or a prescription to tell people how to get happiness. We can only achieve happiness by trial and error. If a certain situations or activities make us happy, that is how to achieve happiness. However, what makes you happy may seem unpleasant to me.
Does this mean that there are no rules and people can decide for themselves what sort of activity to make for being happy? Is this unrelated to the impact of such activity on other people and on the individual's own future happiness?
Aristotle has introduced the principle of the golden mean. By this, he implies a certain degree between two extremes. It does not mean the middle or average value. Someone may find that he feels happy to eat as much as he wants, may end up suffering unhappiness in the future. Moderation is the way to strike a balance between current happiness and future outcomes. The moderate pleasures are those, which would make you happy now and will not make you suffer in the future or make other people suffer because of your behaviour. That moderate degree is different among different people. Some people may need to eat more than others and many do not feel happy when they sense they are bloated and obese. What is good for one person may not be good for another. We cannot prescribe how much activity a person should do to make him happy. We have to take in consideration individual variations and choices.
The moral philosophy of Aristotle considers what is ethical and moral and what is unethical and evil. It looks at how much pleasure and happiness a particular behaviour would bring to the majority of people and to the persons involved. Sometimes we cannot decide by rational thinking alone if certain behaviour would lead to happiness or unpleasantness. Trial and error may lead us to know which behaviour to choose. We do need to learn from others' experiences. A certain amount of experimentation would help us know how to be sure of our choices. A well documented and evidenced scientific knowledge may also provide us with warning signs about the future consequences of a certain current happy behaviour .
Some of our behaviours which makes us happy may make others would suffer. This is not ethical in any logical argument. A certain degree of self-control and restraint on unethical behaviour is needed. The government or the state enforce law and order to prevent unchecked hedonism from inflicting pain and suffering of others. Moral education is needed for the young to develop a sense of moral judgement and to develop self-control. Some people by nature are morally weak or lack self-control Self-discipline is a crucial element to achieve happiness for the individual and for the group.