The Conception of Good by Socrates/Plato and Augustine

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The Conception of the Good

In their entire life, human beings have always been activelysearching for happiness and the good life that is free from evil orbad. In their attempt to expound on what good entails in human life,philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, and Saint Augustine developed agreat concern for the concept of good and tried to explain it intheir works. These three philosophers presented their works atdifferent times and in a different setting in the society usingdifferent perspectives. Socrates adopted the dialogue method, Platoand Augustine presented their work in writing. Notably, the threebased their conception in two separate ideologies, whereSocrates/Plato based their concept on the real world, Augustinefounded his philosophical work on Christianity (Reshotko, 2012).

Similarities in Conception of Good

Plato in his explanation of the idea of goodness was based on thetheory of the form of good which postulates that everything exists inthe form of being. Plato expounds this by acknowledging that thereexists a hierarchy of the forms of good ranked from the higher tolower levels. Socrates in his work describes the concept of good asthe acquisition of knowledge and developing a morally uprightlifestyle as more wisdom is acquired by the individual. Augustine onhis approach is more practical as it’s based on his personalexperience towards the discovery of what is good. He affirms thatgoodness is an element that comes from God who is the creator of theuniverse and everything in it. God is a being, and all He created ispart of the goodness including human being and their daily actions.This concludes that in both philosophical theories the concept ofgood has an origin.

A significant similarity between the two philosophical approaches tothe concept of goodness comes through two aspects of goodnessunconditional and everlasting. Plato argues that the form of what isgood existed for all eternity and there was no period it stoppedexisting. Therefore, there is only one form. There is no differencethat exists between forms of good since by acting through one form avariation is created down the pyramid. In his presentation of theconcept of goodness, Augustine affirms that God who is the reason forthe existence of Christianity as a religion is absolute andeverlasting. God is the origin of everything else, and he created theuniverse. God’s existence is beyond the creation of the universe.This concludes that the two philosophers accept that God and the formof good are both everlasting and unconditional (Howell, 2014).

All human beings in their lives have a duty bestowed upon them toseek wisdom and knowledge about the universe and do what ispresumably right and just after the acquisition of the knowledge andtruth. Plato believed that philosophers had to strive to seekabsolute knowledge which only came from the highest form of thepyramid known as the form of good (Batukan, 2017). This was a call toall individuals to acquire through learning, the form of goodness andto review their actions in relation to the teachings of right actionsthey learned. Socrates in his teachings asserts, for philosophers andrulers to competently discharge their roles, they should attain thehighest level of knowledge. Which is the knowledge of the good.Augustine in support of Socrates and Plato states that all Christianshaving acquired wisdom and knowledge of God had a duty to modifytheir actions to be in line with God’s teachings.

Socrates and Plato acknowledge that the form of good is a reality andresides at the pinnacle of the pyramid. Given this, the two assertthat all other forms of good base their existence, functioning andauthenticity through unrestricted interactions with the highest form.In support of this, Socrates and Plato emphasize on the essence of anindividual to acquire this highest knowledge in order to receive andappreciate other forms of knowledge essential in human life. In hiswork, Augustine asserts that God is the highest level and absolutereality in Christian foundation, believe and faith. God is thecreator of the universe, and He is good, an indication thateverything He created is also good. Human beings in their actions,should emulate God and major on doing what is right as found inChristian teachings.

The existence and origin of the human evil according to Plato can betraced from the presence of the faculty of free will in the humanmind. Through his life experience from Manichean lifestyle to aChristian, Augustine learned the concept of human free will, which bynature is a good state of mind created by God. However, the freestate of mind capacitates the man to choose what is bad or what isgood. By doing this, human beings modify their actions and turn awayfrom God’s teachings. Socrates and Plato on their teachingsemphasize the idea of acquiring knowledge of what is right and justfrom the acquisition of wisdom about nature and the society (Hecht,2014). This ideology goes on to the modification of actions by humanbeings to comply with the requirements and teachings of the society.Deviation from these rules acts as a violation of the norms of thesociety and results to wrong or unacceptable life.

Differences in The Conception of Good

Socrates and Plato acknowledge evil as the cause of disharmony,injustice, and immorality in the society. This evil originates fromignorance on the part of human beings or lack of education. Accordingto Socrates/Plato, every individual must seek wisdom and know what istrue and what is wrong. Upon acquisition of these morals, ethical andright character, they should teach others in the society to subscribeto such good ideals. However, Saint Augustine postulates that eviloriginates from disobedience to Gods teachings only. God is thecreator of the universe, and everything in it is pure and holy. Whenhuman beings choose to do what is against the teachings of God, thisresults to evil as according to him evil is the deviation from God’swill which is good.

Wisdom regardless of its source is the sole source of goodness inhuman life. Socrates and Plato in their work stress on the importanceof natural love for knowledge which every individual should strive toacquire. They believe wisdom is born out of one’s desire to acquireknowledge about nature and to generate logical reasoning in theirdaily activities. Socrates teaching was based on the belief that, ifwisdom could be learned, the virtue of doing what is right could alsobe learned. On the other hand, Augustine argues that a man becomeswise by diligently seeking the will of God through learning andpracticing in their lives. This concludes that, according to Plato,wisdom is acquired from within but with the help of an external beingwhile Augustine claims it comes from God only.

The basic of living a good life is found in adopting ethics in thesociety by and creating harmony, justice, and peaceful co-existence.To Socrates and Plato, a decent living is by choice and is a virtueknitted in the norms of the society. Individuals should seek toacquire what is good in their lives and transform their actions tofit into these standards. Augustine in his hypothesis argues that,common good in life comes from living according to the will of God,the creator.

To experience the good life, Socrates/Plato and Augustine presentedthe human soul to question. According to Socrates/Plato, the humansoul and the human body make a whole human being. However, theycontent that the human soul is immortal and the body acts a prisonerof the soul. The body and soul separate at the point of death wherethe soul remains alive, and the body decomposes. Notably, Augustinesupported the ideology of human soul being immortal but disagreedwith the doctrine of the body being a prisoner of the soul. Accordingto Augustine, the soul and the human body must exist in unison toform a complete human, and once it leaves the body at the point ofdeath, the union ends, and the soul cannot exist independently.


Batukan, C. (2017). Philosophy as a Concept Synthesiser. Rhizomes:Cultural Studies In Emerging Knowledge, (31).

Hecht, J. (2014). Freedom of the Will in Plato and Augustine. BritishJournal For The History Of Philosophy, 22(2), 196-216.

Howell, R. (2014). Plato is still on form. The Philosophers`Magazine, (66), 119-120.

Reshotko, N. (2012). Socrates and Philosophy in the Dialogues ofPlato. By Sandra Peterson. Ancient Philosophy, 32(2), 433-440.