The only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorance.
Greek philosopher in Athens (469 BC – 399 BC)
Upon reading the Science Fiction novel “A Thousand Sons” from the Warhammer 40,000universe, written by Graham McNeill, I came across a quote made by one of the main protagonists in the novel, Ahzek Ahriman, in the first few pages, the quote being “the only good is knowledge andthe only evil is ignorance”. It made me consider the quote and what I observed in life or in the news.
The ancient Roman Empire and the Greek Empire attacked other countries and built huge armada to control the land and sea, by doing that they acquired gold, silver, trade, fishing etc. Napolean attacked Venice by taunting it to attack France’s ships thereby it gave Napolean the pretext to attack Venice and take many of its treasures, one being a thick gold plated altar dedicated to Jesus Christ. Likewise, the British Empire fought in the Boer War to subdue the Afrikaners and control the gold mines, attack India to control the spice and opium trade etc. In summary, you can see that much of the conflict in the past and even now was/ is driven by the desires and wants to subdue nations while giving the excuse that it was all done to spread Christianity, bring civilisation to non-Western cultures, war was executed in response to an attack etc. The soldiers of these Empires who carry out the dirty work of their Governments do so because they need and/ or want the job of being a soldier to provide a standard of living as well supply the needs of their families and the soldiers themselves. Other reasons because they are indifferent to what is actually going on in the war which is where the “only evil is ignorance” comes into play because by being indifferent, they are CHOOSING to ignore what is really going on and unwittingly have limited knowledge to know what is actually good. Others fight in wars because they like killing people so it fulfils their need and wants.Other soldiers say “they would dies for their country” and all this patriotic nonsense when in fact what they mean, as pointed out by a fellow philosopher who I can’t remember the name of yet,that they would gladly kill for their country. Again, a need and desire is being fulfilled here, overriding their sense of reason and the ability to be fully aware of what the ACTUAL situation here is which is the taking of one Nation’s resources to be given to another,thus maintaining the old hierarchy of First World, Second World and Third World countries.
Serial killers kill because they are driven by the NEED and DESIRE to become famous and be recognised for their killings even though they know all too well the Law and what it prohibits regardless of culture or nation.
People spend thousands of ££££/ $$$$$ (or other currency) on clothes,televisions, music etc because it sates their needs and desires to feel good, to stroke their ego etc. This may sometimes lead to them overspending beyond their means which could lead them to debt, to crime etc. Despite knowing they are not affluent to have these items,they still do it because their needs and desires override their reasoning. When like another Fashion season arrives, the same people will again spends LOTS of money on a new set of clothing, when a new gaming console arrives, people will gladly pay to acquire it despite the initial price of the console being very expensive etc. Thus the whole cycle of Consumerism starts again. So Socrates quote about goodness consisting of being knowledgeable falls short here because he ASSUMES people would be more of the mind and would be rational to make their decisions when in fact, most people are not e.g. look at protest rallies, the fluctuations of the stock market which are reflection of people’s emotions to changing prices in oil, gold,company value etc. Socrates places too much EMPHASIS on the mind and its capabilities, ignoring the non-mental and physical side of human beings which are generally the dominant.
Surely you must have had the experience of thinking you were friends with people in your class or work, chatting to them casually etc but when it came to when you really needed them or you wanted to speak to them after so many years, they would appear to ignore you after making so many repeated requests or they would ask something off of you and then totally discard you like a piece of rubbish by being very explicit about it aurally. They were never really your “friends” in the first place and had already acquired what they wanted/ needed from you which in their minds is perfectly justifiable. Again, needs and wants dictate right or wrong.
The same with prostitutes or people with dubious preoccupations in South American or Third World countries where there seems to be a prevalent Catholic religion being followed. Their religion dictates what they do to be wrong yet these drug dealers, soldiers, prostitutes etc do it because of the level or poverty which forces them to do the most unpleasant of things.
Then there’s the question and apparent contradiction in all of our societies where Murder is something to be seen as clearly wrong but when it comes to War like in Iraq and Afghanistan, we all seem to be perfectly fine with it, just some group of guys and girls in uniform with weapons butchering another bunch of guys and girls, doesn’t seem to be Murder despite being the same thing. Their governments appear to not punish or jail them for killing. Think about the rapings and killings of civilians going on in wars. Contradiction! Again, it comes back to wants and needs i.e.governments don’t want Murder to occur in their countries because itcauses social unrest but when they carry those same types of killings to other countries, it’s perfectly fine.
What I am suggesting in this rant is a slight modification of Socrates’ ancient quote by putting instead, in light of this disordered discussion,something that appears like this: “the only good is knowledge, the only evil is ignorance provided you reason in a way that is fair and doesn’t harm people directly or infringe on their rights without their consent. Otherwise, morality is generally all about wants and needs.”