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Ignorance is Bliss Or not

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Myth has been known to play an important role in the lives and beliefs of people throughout time. Myth is often more closely associated with ancient Greece and its use in telling their history and creation stories. People would worship the many Greek gods and use the myth of their ability and feats to guide the way life was lived. Myths were used to tell stories and history. Philosophers would analyze myths and credit them in the philosophical theories they came up with; however, as time proceeded more and more people like that Socrates came around and felt the idolization of fictional stories and tells were not to be praised as much as they were. The meaning of myth is irrelevant according to Socrates. He believed that myths shouldn’t be used as a focal point of people’s beliefs and understanding of the world since they may create misconceptions in people’s perception of the world. Additionally, he claimed they should not be used and treated as important texts due to them being false and not serving any valuable purpose, making it illogical for philosophers to credit them.

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By choosing not to believe in the generalized concept of myth telling Socrates does create a wall around himself. He views those who credit myths as illogically especially in the case of philosophers. He presents himself as slightly more arrogant currently but, even so, he seems to hold the idea that while everyone around him holds these texts and these stories as the way they view and perceive things is simply an idiot for you can not a should not rely on something or someone you don’t truly know. Ignorance is something Socrates seemed to find a common occurrence in the people around him. The ignorance did not come from an entire lack of knowledge but an unwillingness to used the facts as a belief basis.

A consistent theme in the text about Socrates and the beliefs he had clearly show his lack of belief in the logic and reasoning behind myth and poetry. One of the aspects of myths that Socrates had a large issue with was the blind following of the gods, his “theory of the divine seemed to make the most important rituals and sacrifices in the city entirely useless, for if the gods are all good, they will benefit human beings regardless of whether or not human beings make offerings to them.”1 This argument is one that many people use today to argue the concept of gods about religion as a concept. You cannot directly see or hear the gods but only find things you can see and hear and label them as signs from the gods. Socrates seems to feel that without evidence of their existence it would be ridiculous to place such a strong yet blind faith in them and their abilities.

In Plato’s The Republic, there is a conversation between him and Glaucon and Plato uses the Myth of Er in an attempt to portray the concept that the actions people commit in life will then later impact them in death. Separately in book two of The Republic Socrates is talking about people’s ability to trick even the gods. He talks about this along with his belief of how if gods were truly as great as people thought they’d do more to help mankind.

“The man who told the biggest lie about the biggest things didn’t tell a fine lie—how Uranus did what Hesiod says he did, and how Cronos in his turn took revenge on him. And Cronos’ deeds and his sufferings at the hands of his son, not even if they were true would I suppose they should so easily be told to thoughtless young things; best would be to keep quiet, but if there were some necessity to tell, as few as possible ought to hear them as unspeakable secrets.”

In saying this Socrates directs the main focus towards the stated idea about the role gods play. It would be so easy for them to do more and make lives better if they existed in the way people think that they do. Myths are what bring the gods to life and make them such real and important parts of the lives of believers. Socrates believed in this so deeply that he was willing to sacrifice his own life to stick to his claims. This is interesting because the Myth of Er is a story told by Plato who is a student of Socrates. Despite being a student of a man how clearly opposes the idea that gods exist in a manner consistent with being able to interact and impact the lives of man tells a story about the life of a man after death. The myth discusses the role of gods in life and in death which goes against the beliefs of Socrates. By sticking to his beliefs Socrates can strengthen his argument in his willingness to stand by it.

Socrates was a man you knew and understood poetry well. He is even said to have admired it but “though they spoke in beautiful verses, they did so through divine inspiration, not because they had the wisdom of any kind.”3 Due to their lack of wisdom their works should be praised for their imaginative context but not recognized in any historical or analytical way. In many dialogues, he condemns the use of images in knowing things and claims that true philosophical knowledge should avoid images. He would have had strong reasons for avoiding the use of myths: they are not argumentative, and they are extremely visual. But he didn’t. He wanted to persuade and/or teach a wider audience, so he had to make a compromise. Sometimes, however, he seems to interweave philosophy with myth to a degree that was not required by persuading and/or teaching a non-philosophical audience.4

Everything cannot be known about how Socrates viewed the works of others because there are not many works of his own to reference or create an understanding of but mainly the works and texts of his student like Plato. It is the work of Plato that Socrates’ views and opinions can be interpreted. The Myth of Er is an example of a text that while fictional conveys meaning and an understanding in a lesson trying to be taught. While Socrates didn’t appear to hold an issue with ideas like these the use and role of gods could have been something that allowed him to discredit the importance of work. For example, “Myth expresses what rational and scientific language cannot, and takes over where philosophy proper leaves off. This approach has elements of the mystical in it, and is attractive when applied to philosophers such as Parmenides and Plato, who believe in a transcendent world.”5 differentiating from the ideals of Socrates.

Myth has been known to play an important role in the lives and beliefs of people throughout time. Myth is often more closely associated with ancient Greece and its use in telling their history and creation stories. People would worship the many Greek gods and use the myth of their ability and feats to guide the way life was lived. Myths were used to tell stories and history. Philosophers would analyze myths and credit them in the philosophical theories they came up with; however, as time proceeded more and more people like that Socrates came around and felt the idolization of fictional stories and tells were not to be praised as much as they were. The meaning of myth is irrelevant according to Socrates. He believed that myths shouldn’t be used as a focal point of people’s beliefs and understanding of the world since they may create misconceptions in people’s perception of the world. Additionally, he claimed they should not be used and treated as important texts due to them being false and not serving any valuable purpose, making it illogical for philosophers to credit them. 

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