Every individual is unique. Therefore, the perception of the world and particular philosophical questions also differ from one individual to another. Every human being has distinctive experience and a different worldview.
The Socratic Method is an approach to expose truth by own lights. Discussions bring conflicts. Conflicts reveal the truth that lies dormant in the consciousness. A philosophical inquiry exposes people to themselves and reveals to them of what their thoughts comprise. A good place to look for insight on the qualities of a virtuous individual is the human being. During the time at Socrates Caf?, together with three different personalities, we determined core qualities of a decent person: helpful, caring, lawful, sacrificing, and kind. The participants agreed that a person is righteous because of what they do, such as performing thoughtful deeds. We also determined that familial, cultural, and social environmental factors shape a person as good or not so good. Individuals learn more when he/she interrogates and debates with others. This philosophical discussion enables the participants to descend into the depths of their understandings and create their definition of what makes someone a virtuous person.
The participants in the conversation are a 25-year-old-man, Huidi, a 20-year-old-woman, Qianyu, a 20-year-old-woman, Shiyao, and I, a 28-year-old-man. Huidi is a wealthy Chinese, who lives in the apartment. Usually, he wears sports clothes, smokes, and likes going out. Huidi states that he has no religion. Qianyu is a shy girl from the South China and lives in a homestay. She wears designer brand clothes, puts her makeup on, and likes food. Qianyu also raises dogs. Shiyao is from the North China; she drives Mercedes-Benz and lives in a house with friends. She is shy, likes basketball and watching films. Shiyao and Qianyu enjoy chatting about food. I am from the North China, married and have no children. I am a photographer. I belong to the middle class, drive Mitsubishi, and live in an apartment. I am a religious investigator of Christ, and I also like music and drawing. In Socrates Caf?, Christopher Philips introduced each participant right away as they spoke providing some explicit details. However, I did not have enough background information to give the reader a description of a general personality type. I have altered Philips' style to focus more on the replies.
Shiyao was the first to answer the question - "What makes someone a good person?" She said the following: "I think that a good person can be characterized not by his/her effective deeds to the world or how clever he/she is, but how he/she treats others. I feel it is a combination." She said that a man should be respectful and truthful; this is what distinguishes human beings from animals. Huidi agreed with her and assumed that one should not strictly follow some specific rules to be good. His underlying point was if a person does not hurt anyone else, one may consider her or him as an essentially righteous individual. While Shiyao stated what a person should do to be good, Huidi simplified the statement to the point that one just should not hurt others. I was a host, so I just sat and observed their point of views subtly. In the beginning, I let a few of participants respond in any way they pleased. Then, when they felt comfortable and safe to speak their mind, I started probing the question.
First two participants opened the discussion with the notions of basic ethic. I have tried to narrow the topic. Therefore, I asked what concepts the idea of being good embodies, and what does it mean to be a virtuous man? Qianyu's response to the question was: "In my view, being a friend and helping other can make someone a good person." Huidi assumed that Qianyu's statement was the same as the one she just said about non-acting. By her response, Qianyu meant that some people think that being a decent man is as simple as not doing harm to another. But it is not always about what you do not do, but what you do for others. Being a virtuous person also includes helping yourself as much as others. It is easier to be good when you are alone and do not need to interact with other people since interaction is a hard work. We determined that a virtuous person is the one who interrelates with others. Consequently, one can be good when he/she projects his/her good deeds on others.
After we separated the concept and explored it individually, the participants got to see the question from a slightly new perspective. Next, Huidi talked about different levels of good: "not hurting others can be a basic level right? Being kind can be a higher level… or even sacrifice, sacrifice can be a much higher level of good." He tried to assume different levels of good and how the degree of goodness may differ, be more, or less, or absolutely good. Later, she added that: "a person who sacrifices a lot for others will be very good, and we usually admire people like that a lot. … That is the most important part of being good." Nonetheless, Huidi admitted that it is not obligatory to sacrifice something to be a decent man. However, he tried to distinguish different levels of goodness; he still held to "no act – no harm" concept.
Later, in a course of the discussion, Shiyao developed Huidi's remark about "specific rules" and "non-acting" into the concept of laws and why one never does immoral things. "I feel like people think obeying the law means being a good person, however, some people don't care about anyone but their family and themselves." She explained the reason why such people never do "bad" things; it turned out that they just did not want end up in prison. Qianyu went further and concluded that such people are just normal, not good. It is often said that when a virtuous individual chooses to act righteously, he/she does so for the sake of the greater good, something beautiful or noble. In the middle of the discussion, Qianyu asked a question: "For example, I have been to Red Cross to do volunteer, but it's not my voluntary to do that, just for school's requirement. Is that count to be a good person?" I have answered that it does not matter what the initial purpose was. In the process of helping people and doing good deeds, one may genuinely want to help others.
Qianyu's question led to the other level of discussion of the philosophical argument: what are the reasons to be a good person? We determined three compelling reasons: family, education, and environment. Since a family takes the first place, where we start our early encounters with the world, the influence of parents is tremendous. A well-educated couple can provide their child with proper upbringing and education. Shiyao shared her example from her life and told the story of the neighbor's kid. She often observed him sitting on the street; he was deliberately avoiding the pointless quarrels of his parents. "I feel like the boy hates the world. I have seen he hit the stray cats and dogs several times. I think that what he learned from his family – anger, which made him not so ‘good'." I have provided a contrasting example of my family, and Huidi concluded that a family is also a part of the environment, which can deeply influence a person's character. At the end of the discussion, I tried to develop the question of the influence of surroundings, such as school and society. Shiyao managed to drive an inevitable conclusion that immediate environment has an undoubtedly powerful psychological impact on individuals.
What makes someone a good person? One of the affirmative responses to this question is that a righteous man is the one, who is not indifferent to others trouble and tries to help in the best way he/she can. People reach eye-opening disclosures and illuminations by different means; some can see their delusions whereas others will repeat them over and over again. We have discussed the concept of goodness with a group of three people at distinct periods of their lives. Overall, the discussion at Socrates Caf? resulted in the conclusion that questions help to delve deeper into philosophical arguments. If to ask the participants about the problems that embedded in the initial question, it can aid to separate concepts and explore them individually. Such discussion clubs play a moral reform role for the people of different ages and social classes.