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Is there good that is not based in knowledge and evil that is not based in ignorance?

Socrates said, "There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance," but lately I've wondered if this in fact true. As of now, I have not been able to come up with examples that truly discredit it, and it seems a very plausible and elegant description. So I'm curious what theTED communities thoughts are.


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    Apr 29 2013: Knowledge-based acts of evil are everywhere (bomb building knowledge in the hand of terrorists). Acts of goodness not based upon knowledge are everywhere (pulling a trapped, helpless victim from a burning car).
    • May 1 2013: Knowing how to build bombs is not evil in and of itself. I know how to build several different kinds of bombs but being a pretty radical pacifist I would never choose to harm another human being. In cases of the misuse of knowledge the particular belief that needs to be taken into account is the one that motivated the individual to commit the act. In the case of a terrorist it would be the false belief that their view point, or cause, or whatever they're fighting for justifies the deaths of innocents. This false belief is a form of ignorance.

      As for pulling a person out of a burning car, if you don't know the situation is dangerous would you feel any need to help them? When you see the trapped victim, you recognize that the situation is dangerous (which is a justified true belief and therefore knowledge) and that if the victim is left in the flames they will die (again this is knowledge).
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        May 1 2013: Points well-taken. I too am a fan of JTB. However, I specified the COMBINATION of bomb-building knowledge with terrorist sentiments. The end is evil while the enabler is knowledge, thus challenging the Socratic premise. The burning car illustrates the auto-response to a cry for help. What we call heroic is the response to help WITHOUT knowing all the relevant facts about what led up to the dilema. Helping (a good thing) without knowledge. I do not think a hero goes through all the thought processes you describe either consciously or subconsciously, they just ACT! Sorry Socrates.
        • May 1 2013: Yes, it is the combination of the knowledge and the ignorance that leads to the terrorist act, meaning if the ignorance was challenged and they gained greater knowledge the act would not occur, making it the ignorance that causes the knowledge to be used incorrectly. As for the burning car, the pieces of knowledge I stated that they have are not knowledge that they gain in that moment but rather knowledge they gained prior to the event. They then use their knowledge to recognize the person needs help. As I said before, if they did not know it was a dangerous situation they would not know the person needs help and so would not give their help. Yes, they may not have all the pertinent knowledge but they have enough to recognize that the person needs help.
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        May 1 2013: RE: "Yes, it is the combination. . . ". I fear you are imagining a human act which is 100% uninfluenced by knowledge, or by lack of knowledge. That cannot be. You support the generalization put forth by Socrates (which I am unable to verify as to source)? I have offered two examples that I believe discredit the idea. You are being faithful in your defense of the old Greek. I must depart before I commit Socratic Irony.
        • May 1 2013: No, there cannot be a human act that is completely uninfluenced by human knowledge, that was my point about your burning car scenario. What I'm positing is that it's not the knowledge a person has that leads to the evil, it's the ignorance they have. To clarify, I am not supporting this position based on faith, I raised this question in an attempt to find a scenario that actually disproves it, which as of yet I have not found.
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        May 1 2013: RE: "No there cannot be a human act. . . ". The knowledge contributing to the act of rescuing the victim from the burning car is in no way the CAUSE of the act of goodness. Socrates says an act of goodness can only come from knowledge. There is no specific knowledge which CAUSED our hypothetical hero to act heroically. Frankly, I think knowledge would motivate one more toward seeking one's own safety, to heck with the poor person trapped in the car which might explode at any moment. Acts of goodness are NOT motivated by processing information and choosing a course of action. Consider this as a scenario that disproves the sweeping generalization of the old, dead Greek. I'll wait. :-D
        • May 1 2013: There may be something to that. Knowledge equating to good would imply that greater knowledge would lead to greater good but it would seem that choosing to preserve yourself would not be an act of good. Of course, if we consider it from a utilitarian standpoint then it would actually be better to not save the person as if the car explodes while you are inside then you have twice as many deaths as you would have if you simply left them. Which means were more or less left with considering it in term of deontology. So then the question is do you have a duty to save a person in a burning car? If you do then Socrates' quote is not entirely correct, but if we're not duty bound to rescue people then it becomes unclear which is better; self sacrifice or self preservation. I'll have to take this one into consideration. Thank you.

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