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Socrates vs Sophists (On Morality and Society)

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    The sophists: morality and morals in a human are born from social influence, i.e. people believe in right and wrong based on the kind of society they live in and how they were brought up.
    Whereas-
    Socrates: many morals might be socially created but there is a universal set of morals that everybody follows, everywhere.

    What do you think? Personally, I think that the sophists might have an edge.
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    Is Socrates' claim that there is a universal set of morals which everybody follows, or that there is a universal set of morals which everybody ought to follow?
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    Socrates says that there is a universal set of morals which everybody follows, or tries to follow. The sophists said that people's ability to distinguish between right and wrong was based on society, Socrates said that it was based on an inner reason.
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    Who knows? However, as I'm reading the Republic at the moment, Plato gives him pretty obviously going for the latter - doesn't always tally that well with his idea of historicism and the progression of states into tyranny, but nevermind.

    He's wrong about the whole ethics thing, naturally - as are the Sophists, for that matter. Doesn't help that he (or rather, Plato puts the words in his mouth) dresses it up with plenty of questionable metaphysics.
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    (Original post by Abiraleft)
    The sophists: morality and morals in a human are born from social influence, i.e. people believe in right and wrong based on the kind of society they live in and how they were brought up.
    Whereas-
    Socrates: many morals might be socially created but there is a universal set of morals that everybody follows, everywhere.

    What do you think? Personally, I think that the sophists might have an edge.
    I think Sophists are right in that everyone is undoubtedly influenced by the society in which we live. Whether or not we chose to conform to society is another matter. I don't believe anyone is born inherently evil but neither do I believe that everyone is born with an innate sense of morality. I mean, if that were the case, why do people murder or abuse innocent victims for no apparent reason? It is evident that not everyone adheres to these 'morals'.

    I think I have missed the question! I can see where both views are coming from. Sophists recognise that circumstances do alter a way in which a person acts but fails to acknowledge the sense of morality that many (but not all) adhere to. Socrates can see the goodness that exists in humanity but he chooses to ignore how relative society can be I.e. how people do not always agree about what is right and what's wrong. Some people think that it is acceptable for a man to marry more than one wife, while others feel that such a practise is a crime. Different cultures express different moral codes of conduct. The ancient observer King Darius witnessed that while certain Greeks burnt the bodies of their fathers, a different people called Callations ate the bodies of their fathers. He brought the two groups together and asked each of them how much he would have to pay them to adopt the practise of the other. In both cases, the groups were horrified at the suggestion and refused outright.

    The quotation: 'When in Rome do as the Romans do' is called to mind.

    Sorry if that doesn't answer the question!

    Laus
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    I remember in The Last Days of Socrates (by Plato), Socrates spends a great deal of time denying that he is a Sophist, as prominant ones at the time had a reputation for being money-grabbing and publicity seeking.

    As to the question, I have never heard this distinction before -but then I am not a philosopher - but based on this definition I would have to go with the Sophists.
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    (Original post by geetar)
    I remember in The Last Days of Socrates (by Plato).
    Is that a real dialogue? Or is it another name for the Apology?
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    Yes, it's the Apology. The book - as in the penguin edition - was called TLDoS.
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    (Original post by Laus)
    I think Sophists are right in that everyone is undoubtedly influenced by the society in which we live. Whether or not we chose to conform to society is another matter. I don't believe anyone is born inherently evil but neither do I believe that everyone is born with an innate sense of morality. I mean, if that were the case, why do people murder or abuse innocent victims for no apparent reason? It is evident that not everyone adheres to these 'morals'.
    I thought Socrates argued that people would do those things because they were ignorant of good. That people did have an innate sense of morality but were ignorant of it. That the use of pure reason would lead them to discover their innante sense of morality. Or have I no clue of what Socrates was saying...I dont study philosophy formally so I may be wrong.
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    Determined entirely by circumstance. Fear of retribution in the form of physical or emotional pain being the deciding factor.

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