Socrates and Augustine on Choice and Virtue

Philosophers’ views on such topics as virtue and choice are usually based on their overall attitudes towards ethics and sources of their beliefs: either religious or non-religious. If to provide an example, Augustine and Socrates’ views on virtue and free will were completely different. In Plato’s Apology, Socrates argued that there were no connections between one’s belief in God and the desire to make a choice in favor of good. The philosopher’s key argument about choice and virtue was that human beings could not choose in favor of a harmful action.

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Therefore, he claimed that wrongdoing was done not based on choice but from ignorance. For many philosophers, such a view was considered highly controversial because there were a vast number of instances when people commited wrongful actions based on impulses or the desire to fuel their personal interests. This means that the key idea behind Socrates’ teachings on choice was that all actions were based on self-interest, which prevented people from harming themselves. When people do harmful things, it is likely ignorance that leads them to commit such actions. With regards to human virtue, Socrates saw it as the most important benefit that people can have, and argued that immoral actions took place only when people misunderstood this benefit.

In contrast to Socrates, St. Augustine of Hippo applied Christian doctrines and belief in God when explaining how people should act morally. In Augustine’s opinion, wrongdoing was associated with one’s will to do so, which means that it is an individual’s choice to act in an immoral way, as proposed in his work On the Free Choice of the Will. On the contrary, people deny the nature of wrongdoing when choosing to act morally. Importantly, either choice is associated with the maintenance of a belief in a higher deity, which means that a person will be held accountable for his or her choice in front of God. Augustine argued that the scripture taught that the freedom of choice and the doctrine of virtue were both necessary.

The comparison of Socrates and Augustine’s views on virtue and choice showed that their opinions differed based on religious beliefs. While Socrates saw no point in making connections between choice and virtue and the belief in God, Augustine’s teachings on the same topics heavily relied on whether a person followed the word of the Scripture. As to the similarities between Socrates and Augustine’s opinions, they both underlined the importance of virtue and making choices in favor of good regardless of religious beliefs. In my opinion, both views are valid when applied to real-life situations, and every person has the right to choose either perspective on moral behaviors.

In everyday interactions, both ignorance and the desire to commit a wrongdoing can happen and cause adverse outcomes. What is important to mention is that the impact of wrongdoing should not be diminished based on whether a person committed it because of ignorance or a personal choice; either way, a wrongdoing has negative connotations and should be viewed as such. Both Socrates and Augustine offered interesting views on the nature of choice and virtue, and regardless of the differences, their opinions apply to real-life situations. Despite the fact that my personal views are similar to those of Socrates, I also agree with some points made by Augustine.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Socrates and Augustine on Choice and Virtue'. 28 May.

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