The papers in this volume were originally presented at a conference on Contemporary Ethical Thought and the History of Moral Philosophy held at Marquette University in October of 1985. Of the papers here six are historical in character while four deal with contemporary thought directly. The historical essays include contributions by Nicholas White (Plato), John Cooper (Aristotle), Vernon Bourke (Augustine), Ralph McInerny (Aquinas), Bruce Aune (Kant), and Fred Berger (Classical Utilitarianism). The four contemporary papers, while clearly not historical in nature, owe much to a one or another particular tradition in moral philosophy and bear strong witness to this volume's thesis that contemporary moral philosophy is integrally connected to its historical background. These final four essays are by Richard Brandt (inspired by Classical Utilitarianism), Germain Grisez (natural law morality inspired, in part, by the thought of Aquinas), Marcus Singer (inspired by the thought of Kant), and James Wallace (virtue ethics inspired by Platonic and Aristotelian thought in part).
The editors of this collection believe that this volume contributes in a singularly valuable way to present-day discussions of moral philosophy through its effort to show the continuity that is at the base of the relationship of contemporary moral thought and its historical traditions. The expertise of the contributors whose work here constitutes the argument for this belief needs no explanation in light of the many contributions all have made to modern philosophical thought.
The most complete treatment of moral philosophy found in the dialogues of Plato lies in his Republic. It is with this work and Plato's efforts in it to present a comprehensive account of the preferability of the life of the just man over that of the unjust man that Nicholas White deals in the opening essay of this volume, "Happiness and External Contingencies in Plato's Republic." Two key difficulties stand out as particularly problematic both for the moral argument of the work and for the comprehensive unity of the work as a whole. The first problem is that of the missing response to the charge of inadequacy. No careful and critical philosophical reader can study this dialogue without considering the charge that the argument of the Republic is inadequate to its stated goal of proving the life of the just man is preferable and happier than that of the unjust man. Clearly, well-being or happiness, which for Plato in the Republic is a harmony of the parts of the soul, is far from being enough to . . .