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Reason and the Moral Life

Living a moral life means living a life of reason, for to live a moral life one must make choices, which means one must apply reason to alternatives and select the best among them. The thrust of philosophy from the time of the Greeks has been toward the supremacy of reason and to the idea that reason could be applied to every aspect of human life and interests and could illuminate each of these areas. At the same time, reason was seen as essential in adopting a moral life. Socrates in the writings of Plato emphasized the importance of reason and its relation to morality, and this idea has been carried forth by others under a variety of philosophical and religious headings.

The underlying basis of Plato's philosophy was derived by him from Socrates, and that principle is that virtue is knowledge. Plato relies on sense experience as the source of knowledge, which means that he relies on sense experience as a way of analyzing virtue to determine what is virtuous and what is not and thus what is knowledge and what is not. He presents his views through the Socratic method of question-and-answer leading to truth. He sees there as being one general truth which can be found in this method. His philosophy is that of the idealist, and in political terms this relates with authoritarian political views. For Plato, the act of examination itself is a necessary condition for knowledge, and no authority is possible without an enquiry into values and reason. The Socratic method becomes a way of getting to the ideal.

In the dialogues Euthyphro and Phaedo, Plato addresses the events leading up to the death of Socrates, his mentor, and the injustices visited on that individual by a society that did not understand his method of teaching. Inherent in these dialogues is the view that the society of the time has lost sight of the true values supported by the gods, while Socrates has only attempted to revive them in the youth. Socrates ...

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Reason and the Moral Life. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 20:41, February 23, 2017, from