The ancient Greek poet Hesiod divided human history into five eras, namely, the golden age, the bronze age, the silver age, the heroic age and the black iron age. From the golden age to the black iron age, it is a process of gradual decay. According to Hesiod, the golden age was prosperous and harmonious, with abundant materials and good weather. Under the protection of God, human beings can enjoy a good life without labor. The worst thing is the black iron era, an era in which human beings dominate the world. When Zeus injected life, death, illness and intrigue into the world, the original social order began to disintegrate, and human beings could no longer enjoy beauty without warning. Because of escaping from the protection of god, people in the black iron era had to enter all walks of life to engage in productive labor and compete for living resources. but at the same time, Zeus also feared that mankind would eventually go to collective destruction due to chaos and sent justice to the world. With the blessing of justice, human society has restored order.
However, such narrative strategies are often ineffective, because examples of unequal pay and return are widespread in all sectors of society. A conscientious and conscientious employee will lose his job due to the wrong decision of the company’s superior leadership, and a soldier who saves a drowning child will be washed away by the flood due to exhaustion. There are also many negative cases, such as business tycoons who made their fortune by doing illegal activities and tyrants who slaughtered innocent people to secure power. In the United States philosopher Martha? According to Nasbaum, these examples mean the fact that human life is full of uncertainties, and the results of actions are largely due to luck rather than choice. Here comes the question: why do we have to be good people, since good people suffer bad luck and bad things can be done for years?
Why be a good person?
Plato tried to replace ” myth narration” with ” happiness narration” in response to this problem. His view is that happiness is the common pursuit of all people, and being a good person helps happiness, so we should be good people. However, it is difficult for people to reach a consensus on the issues of ” what is happiness” and ” how to realize happiness”. If some people believe that doing bad things can also improve happiness, then happiness narration will face the same bankruptcy risk as myth narration. Therefore, from a strategic point of view, two basic problems need to be overcome in order for people to accept that ” doing a good job is good for happiness”. First, how can people form a consensus on happiness? Second, if there are many ways to realize happiness, how to regard ” being a good person” as the optimal item.
The problem here is that ” happiness” is a compound concept rather than a single concept. The difference is that the compound concept is abstract and vague, and the single concept is clear and definite. In order to overcome fuzziness, Plato adopted reductionism, because reductionism can transform the compound concept into a single concept. He restored happiness to happiness in his early work protagoras. According to the explanation of modern psychology, happiness is a kind of psychological state or feeling. Although there are various reasons and means to cause happiness, there is no difference and homogeneity in the experience of happiness. Moreover, people are also highly similar in expressing happiness, such as smiling all over their faces. Therefore, reducing happiness to happiness can successfully solve the first problem.
However, the second problem is still unsolved, that is, happiness orientation does not guarantee that ” being a good person” becomes the best choice. There are three reasons. First, the pursuit of happiness is obviously utilitarian. The pursuit of happiness is driven by the individual’s expectation of the future. However, a good purpose does not necessarily contain good means. If stealing can bring happiness, then stealing will also be considered legitimate. Secondly, happiness is a personal feeling that cannot be transmitted to others. It will show certain exclusivity in the pursuit process. Especially in a wide range of zero-sum games, one person needs to deprive another person of happiness at the expense of others. Therefore, happiness-oriented conflicts often occur. Third, happiness has certain timeliness and will decrease with the passage of time. However, being a good person is an act that requires long-term investment. Since long-term investment can only bring temporary happiness, there is no sufficient reason for people to stick to ” being a good person” to the end.
In order to solve the second problem, Plato upgraded reductionism in his mid-term work Utopia, pointing out that ” the ultimate purpose of a good life is not to feel, but to act”, directly restoring happiness to a state of action and replacing ” happiness as a happy feeling” with ” happiness as a rational life”. The so-called rational life is a contemplative life that is constantly baptized by philosophy and devoted to inner peace and harmony. Because meditation is a completely independent life, which can achieve full self – sufficiency, Plato declared that the only way to happiness is to lead a rational life.
Plato’s argument can be reconstructed into three steps: the first step, he divides the mental activity into rational and irrational parts, and points out that the function of rational part is to know and pursue wisdom, and the function of irrational part is to create emotion and desire, which are different in nature but will affect each other. When irrational part interferes with rational part, people’s understanding will deviate. In the second step, he pointed out that no one intends to lead a bad life. The reason why a person leads a bad life is because he is influenced by emotions and desires, mistaking a bad life for a good life. Although some people lead a bad life in action, they always think that they lead a good life in their hearts. The third step is his conclusion, since emotions and desires can lead to misunderstanding, so as long as they are eliminated, the model of a good life – that is, a contemplative life in pursuit of wisdom – will naturally emerge in front of the eyes and become an inevitable choice for individuals.
In Plato’s context, it is not so much a question of choice as a question of epistemology whether one should act properly or not, because in Plato’s view, as long as one can know well, one must choose well, and because there is only one good form, so long as one can see it, consensus will follow. In this regard, replacing ” happiness as a happy feeling” with ” happiness as a rational life” can successfully solve the ” consensus problem” and ” choice problem” mentioned above.
Can irrational factors be eliminated?
In fact, Plato’s plan is extremely radical, because he requires the transformation of human nature. We have never seen the sun collide with the earth, nor have we ever heard of the friction between the earth and the moon, but we know that the three follow the physical mechanism and move quietly in specific positions. It is based on the investigation of other things in nature that Plato put forward the plan of expelling irrational factors, because once successfully eliminated, human beings can revolve and rotate like stars ” harmoniously, beautifully and happily”. However, this elimination plan will not succeed because irrational factors are part of human nature.
From the perspective of modern brain science, ” human nature” refers to mental phenomena that emerge based on the brain’s operating mechanism and behavior patterns that match mental phenomena. The so-called reason, emotion and desire are all the products of brain activity and are the dominant features produced by numerous specific neuron cells when they cooperate together. Therefore, to eliminate irrational factors means that craniotomy, removal of specific cell clusters and breaking of specific nerve chains must be carried out. If such operation is feasible and safe, it must be based on a clear understanding of the brain’s operating mechanism.
However, the brain is an organism, not a machine. Machines are tools made for specific purposes, but the brain is an organism that gradually evolves after experiencing numerous stimuli in the natural environment. Whether the machine is clear in structure or material, its function can be realized through the combination of parts. If the machine is aging, it can also be renovated by replacing parts. For people, machines are knowable, but the brain is a black box, and its operating mechanism can only be inferred through control group experiments and tracing methods. However, experiments can only do external tests rather than internal tests, so the brain can only be known to a limited extent, or to a large extent.
In this case, there is no sufficient reason to believe that people can get rid of the constraints of biological mechanisms and transform themselves through specific means. This makes us have to accept the assumption that emotions and desires, which are animal characteristics, are not burdens, but are necessary conditions for the reproduction of human species that are preserved after experiencing numerous natural selection mechanisms. Plato did not admit this in the early and middle period, so he believed that only through the baptism of philosophy can we eliminate the animal nature of human beings and reduce the uncertainty in human life. However, Plato changed this position in the later period, and admitted the positive role of irrational factors in ” Pedro”, specifically classified into three items:
First, reason can help us to know things, but knowledge does not arise out of thin air, just as maps can help us to understand the terrain and location, but it does not prompt us to go to school unless there are irrational factors like thirst for knowledge behind it. Second, the realization of the goal is a progressive process, which requires continuous motivation, just as driving a long-distance bus requires multiple refueling. If there is no long-term desire, rational activities will return half way. Therefore, non-rational factors, which are the opposite of rational activities, are also an indispensable part of rational activities. Third, irrational factors are inherently valuable components. Life is full of uncertainties and conflicts. Although rational activities can sort them out one by one through detailed analysis, there are always some factors that need irrational factors to provide lubricant functions. For example, quarrels between husband and wife, reasoning is useless, but concessions taken by love are effective.
How can we save our lives?
We want to save our lives, because we are afraid that unexpected risks will pull us into the abyss. However, risk is a neutral word, which means loss and conflict, as well as opportunity and surprise. Blocking loss means giving up opportunity, while longing for surprise must face up to conflict. If divided by the attitude towards risks, Plato is a risk-averse player and advocates self-cultivation to achieve self – sufficiency, because he believes that self-sufficiency is a necessary and sufficient condition to avoid accidental injury. Aristotle is an open-minded player who believes that risks always exist. Although people can strengthen their resistance, they cannot get rid of disasters and accidents completely. Therefore, instead of thinking about avoiding, they should learn to adapt.
In Aristotle’s view, the self-sufficiency advocated by Plato is a kind of result that can only be obtained when people completely separate their own sociality, but it is impossible because people are social animals and are always in contact with each other. In fact, all living organisms exist in the form of a community, because only living in the population, reproduction can continue, and there is a chance to continue life. Once an individual is left alone, his or her viability will be rapidly weakened. Eric, an American sociologist? Kriner Berg has studied the death cases of isolated people. In his work ” Heat Wave”, he pointed out that in July 1995, continuous hot weather broke out in Chicago and more than 700 people died in the heat. These people could have used various means to escape the heat, such as going to various public places, relatives, friends and children’s homes. However, due to living in a relatively closed space for a long time, they had lost the ability to communicate with the outside world, so that when the heat wave hit, they had nowhere to go but to die. The abnormal death caused by ” heat wave” is insignificant in Plato’s view, because Plato does not think that physical injury is injury. As he claimed in the Republic, ” good people will not be hurt”, so even if good people suffer physical injury, they can turn a blind eye. However, Aristotle does not agree with this point. He believes that survival, seeking benefits and avoiding harms are the natural tendency of human beings. As long as they are human beings, they are bound to be afraid of physical pain – even if some people are willing to bear physical pain, it is not because they are not afraid of pain, but because some larger goals are doing traction and others are willing to bear it. In my opinion, the difference between the two lies in how to view ” the position of human beings in nature”. Plato regards human beings as higher than animals, but Aristotle only regards human beings as one of animals.
Nasbaum believes that if we agree with Aristotle’s stance on human beings, it means that we recognize the fragility of human beings and their innate desire for survival. If you have the opportunity to face the isolated people who survived the Chicago heat wave, Aristotle would say: Go back to the crowd and live with others. Only when you are in the same boat can you have the chance to overcome the storms in your life and you have the chance to save your life. Aristotle is more willing to try to change interpersonal relationships than to change human nature.
Returning to the question at the beginning, is it necessary for us to persist in being good people? This depends on how to define ” being a good person”. If being a good person refers to a rational choice made in order to realize personal happiness and avoid risks, ” being a good person” is not so urgent, especially for the aloof and arrogant strong with absolute reason. However, in addition, if ” being a good person” also means a series of social commitments, that is, to behave as including virtues such as integrity, courage, loyalty and trust, then we must think about it carefully. After all, people are born in society and grow up in society. Leaving these virtues means alienating people. On the other hand, once we recognize that individuals have the responsibility to be ” good people”, it also means that we are willing to accept demands from society.