Any student of philosophy looking through Plato's Socratic dialogues will find evidence of some of the same moral views. Two doctrines in particular are staples of Socrates' thought. Chief among these doctrines is the view that knowledge and virtue are the same thing; in other words, that to know the good is to do the good. For instance, if a person really knows it is bad to smoke cigarettes or cigars, then he won't do it. A second ethical doctrine is that wrongdoing harms the doer more than it harms the recipient of the wrongdoing.
Knowledge Equals Virtue
According to Socrates, if a person fully understands what the good is, then he will do that good. Put another way, he identified goodness and knowledge, saying that to know the good is to do the good. Vice or evil is the absence of knowledge. So just as knowledge is virtue, vice is ignorance. In his mind “knowing” is necessarily linked with “doing.” Anyone who knows what goodness is will automatically do it. Socrates thought that anyone who failed to act courageously or justly simply didn't know what it meant to be courageous or just, otherwise they would not have failed to act.
If a person understands that abstaining from drugs is the right thing to do, then such a person would follow through and shun drug use. This concept presents the idea that performing a good action or choosing a good life course — or avoiding an evil action or life course — is an intellectual matter.
This may be another of those famous Socratic paradoxes. It seems as if people fail to do what they set out to do all the time. They resolve to diet, to stop drinking, to give up smoking, but they backslide and do these things, which bring bad results. According to Socratic thinking, the person who has the cigarette or uses the steroids lacks self-knowledge; that is, he confuses his
It sure seems like Socrates is wrong in saying if you know the good you will do it. How could he have missed a point so obvious? He didn't. If a person claimed he knew it was wrong to smoke cigarettes but did anyway, then he didn't really know. But what kind of knowledge was Socrates speaking of? Self-knowledge, the most important kind of knowledge there is.
Wrongdoing Harms the Doer
After Socrates was sentenced to death, he explained to the jury why he did not fear death. He described death as either one of two things: a state of unconsciousness — a kind of dreamlike state of sleep; or a “migration of the soul from this place to another.” In this other place, he believed he would meet his “true judges” like Homer, Hesiod, and others who were “upright in their earthy lives.”
Thus, he said his physical death would not be a great evil. For even if he met his physical death, it wouldn't follow that he would suffer harm to his soul.
Socrates turned the tables: the harm will be greater for those jurors and ambitious prosecutors who sentenced him unjustly than it will be for him. Those who have put him to death will suffer greater harm, for their souls will endure the mark of wrongdoing.