In The Republic, Socrates asked whether we should be good and just, and why.
A listener suggested that if we are trusted we’ll do better in our business and personal relationships.
But what if no one knows you are a good person?
“The gods will know, and reward us,” observed another.
But what if the gods don’t know that we’re good? Socrates pressed.
Later, I read Emerson on the same topic. His Minister had lectured that while the wicked are often successful, and while the righteous can be miserable, at least compensation would be made in the next life.
Emerson felt that the fallacy lay in conceding that the base estimate of the market constitutes success, and assuming that justice is not done now.
What REALLY makes us happy? Doing ill to others? Stepping on others so we can get ahead?
What Emerson and Socrates were getting at was made more real to me when I heard a man talk about why he had left the KKK.
He and his wife had become so filled with hatred in that organization that misery had overtaken their lives. They left because acting hatefully, hurting others, had ended up mostly hurting themselves.
As it turns out, when we work to harm others we harm ourselves.