Virtue is an inborn behavioral pattern that is often responsive to a certain set of stimuli in a manner that facilitates the perception of what is desirable, as per the expectations of a society. However, virtue is not purely instinctive. Moral excellence is enhanced by cognition, such that an individual acquires the ability to abide by the society norms, even when they seem to infringe his/her notions. This definition is agreeable to Meno and Socrates, as it is apparent towards the end of their discussion (p.12). Therefore, being virtuous entails the use of this ability in the formulation, utilization, as well as deciding what actions one should engage in (p.20-29). With little or no knowledge, it is impracticable for individuals to accomplish their wishes in a manner that ascertains happiness to them and others. Moreover, they may continue to entertain their enemies, while hurting their friends. According to Socrates, things are neither good nor bad. They can only be classified based on perception or lack of it. Moreover, Socrates presumes that anybody who has got brains will always act in a manner that is advantageous to him and his friends.
Virtue is presumed to have the potential of instilling desirable qualities in a person to enable him/her become morally upright and admirable. Consequently, these qualities help a person to act justly, and in a way that is beneficial to the society as a whole. Although these realities are widely acceptable, individuals are at times coerced to give these to give them up, thereby becoming less virtuous. (p.12-32). For example, occasionally, individuals are forced to tell lies in situations where truth would hurt their acquaintances. In this case, being compassionate leads to the moral weakness of telling a lie. Nevertheless, this is condoned. In fact, protagonist affirms that unrestrained generosity or honesty is at times deleterious to the happiness. The assumption is that being exceedingly compassionate, courageous, and honest does not guarantee the well being of a society. Therefore, knowledge of the prevailing circumstances as well as consequences of a certain act is important in order to warrant harmonious co-existence.
Philosophical, moral, and social principles should be used as aids in ethical decision-making as they shape the basis for realization of inter-relationship between the institution/community based decisions and individuals’ values. Determining and administering of what is regarded as right may be challenging as exact precepts of morality and ethical principles are hard to establish. Nevertheless, an individual is expected to weigh his ideas against the societal values so as to act in the best way possible as par the situation. He/she should be ready to utilize the applicable and logical methods during decision making especially in scenarios where right or wrong answers are not apparent.
The society regards actions as honorable whenever they have desirable qualities. The ability to determine what to quality like depends on the knowledge that one has. A likable quality is that which is acceptable to the general public, as it benefits the majority. Nevertheless, a virtuous person is expected to pursue knowledge in a semi-autonomous manner instead of accepting the opinions of others blindly. Learning helps a person organize his thoughts in a way that facilitates resolving live problems. With regard to this, it is evident that the slave acquires a better position after he recognizes errors in the opinion which he had held without question (p. 14). Learning commences with opinions and assumptions that are held to be true in the society. Consequently, an individual analyzes them with the aim of correcting any misconceptions so that he can ultimately have his own definition of a virtuous life.
Through the realization of an individual’s ignorance, an individual is inspired to pursue knowledge in an endeavor to become a better person. However, unrestrained pursuit of knowledge by individuals may fragment the society as it would lead to the emergence of varied opinions, which may in the end lead to dissent. Since no one has every aspect of the required knowledge, it is difficult to avoid mistakes in life. Nevertheless, virtuous individuals attempt to minimize these mistakes especially when they become aware of them, and, therefore, reduce the chances of hurting others. During the learning process, an individual need to take precaution because distorted information would lead to faulty decision making.
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