Philosophy and Ethical thinking in Ancient Greece by Adnan Hasani

The Only Thing I Truly Know Is That I know Nothing

– Socrates

An issue that came across while learning about the ethical thinking in ancient Greece was the relativism. As in many religious systems and in Confucius, ancient Greek ethics focused on that which brought social cohesion and the triumph of one’s own tribe and culture. Ethically looking into relativism is what is good. The Sophists said that it is ok to be a criminal, and being wrong is relativism. However, not everyone in Greece spoke of ethics in some ways. Man is the measure of all things: of things which are, that they are, and of things which are not, that they are not.

Plato interpreted this as relativism. For instance, judging the wind that for one man is warm and to another, the wind is neither warm not cold in it, but rather warm to one man and cold to another, and morality is the same way. But few were happy with relativism. Socrates, whom we “know” mostly through the dialogues of Plato, did not think ethics were relative. Like the Buddhists and Jains, he thought the good life was one of developing one’s character, not the pursuit of material wealth. He advocated wisdom and the pursuit of knowledge.


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