The Divine Motivation: An Examination of Socratic Ethics

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University Of Ghana


There are several drives, both internal and external, which influence people to act. Reason, fear, love, hate, money, and pleasure are a few of such driving forces. More often than not people are driven by the motivating forces which are not based on sound ethical reasoning. They end up disappointed or causing harm either to themselves or to others, depending on the consequences of their action. This study examines the motivations of Socrates’ ethical behavior, concentrating on the role of reason, and the daimonion, which is traditionally taken to be a divine or an extra-rational force. The main thrust of my argument implies that throughout human history, certainly from the time of Socrates in fifth century BC Athens to contemporary times, reason and extra-rational forces (whether this latter is seen as intuition, gut feeling, revelation or other) have been claimed by people as the motivating sources of their ethical behavior. The key issues here are whether Socrates’ daimonion is an external divine power and whether its role is complementary or superior or inferior to reason. The traditional interpretation in Socratic scholarship is that Socratic ethical behavior was centrally motivated by reason or rationality. This is the position I shall critique. A substantive portion of this work is dedicated to the examination of the function of the Socratic daimonion and rationality. I hope to have shown that the influences of the daimonion override rationality. To provide a persuasive account of what it means to act morally rightly on the basis of divine or extra-rational motivation, I have used multiple qualitative research approaches, ranging from semantic clarifications of concepts, to historical and textual analyses of texts on the daimonion and rationality in Plato and Xenophon.




Divine Motivation, Socratic, Ethics