Plato's Theory of Ethics: The Moral Criterion and the Highest Good

By R. C. Lodge | Go to book overview
underlying differences of thought, while the treatment of (3) lends itself, in practice, to a certain narrowness and undue confinement of the platonic genius.In the third place, we note that the treatment, even of the platonic writings, reveals a certain restriction of outlook. While other dialogues always receive honourable mention, it is usual, in practice, to confine the arts of strict analysis to (a) that portion of the Republic which deals with the "idea of 'good," and (b) the Gütertafel of the Philebus. In spite of scrupulously accurate treatment of details, such deliberate narrowing of the field of vision inevitably induces intellectual myopia, and brings with it a certain incompleteness of insight which diminishes the general significance of the results of even persistent inquiry.1Finally, if we look at the results, we find diversity more in evidence than agreement. So far as these results can be reduced to brief definitions, by disregarding or slurring over minor disagreements, we find "Plato's summum bonum" declared to be some one or two or three of the following:--
Pleasure, or pleasures organized into a system.2
Happiness, or a life founded upon, and participating in, the harmonious life of the universe.3
Virtue, or the life of active citizenship in the ideal community, under the guidance of science and philosophy.4
The co-ordination of all individual purposes into a single system patterned upon the "idea of good."5
The intellectual or rational life.6
Contemplative wisdom, or the intuitive vision of the definitely transcendental "idea of good."7
Beatitude, or complete subordination of self to God until one becomes like God or unified with God.8
These definitions refer to the highest good considered relatively to man. Considered absolutely, without especial reference to humanity, Plato's highest good is declared to be:
Absolute unity.9
Conformity to law.10
The idea of good.11
The self-identity of thought.12
Absolute Mind, or God.13

-2-

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