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

By R. C. Lodge | Go to book overview

to judges, in a very literal sense. In fine, the guardian or legislator sums up all that is of importance in the characters previously considered, and gives out, in the form of administrative and legal decisions, his judgments on matters of conduct. He is the philosopher become practical.


SUMMARY

To sum up, then, the results of our inquiry:--We have that, while at first sight there appeared to be no less than eight groups of candidates for the position of judge in matters of conduct, yet, when we examine the cases more closely, there is a certain unity underlying all eight groups. Every normal human being has at least the Anlage for moral judgment, and indeed a little more than the Anlage. Social and political intercourse, co-operation in the work of the army, the law-courts, religion, the theatre, and the various other institutions of Greek social life, develop the moral sense in a way which, so far as it goes, is genuine and valuable. Practical experience of all sorts, when it is the experience of a man of fundamentally sound character, develops this sense to a much higher degree. Add to these qualities a certain type of intellectual education--by dialectical discussion--and we have the wise man, who, with yet further and more intensive intellectual training, passes over into the philosopher. Finally, the philosopher as ruler gives laws to his state and expresses his moral judgments in the way which is most helpful to his country as well as to himself. There is something of philosophy in every normal human being. Environmental stimulus and dialectical training will bring this out and develop it. This is the principle of unity which entitles members of each one of the eight groups to the position of judge-in-matters-of-conduct. So far as their judgment is philosophical, so far it is valuable.

It might be inferred from the above treatment, that every normal human being without exception is capable of developing into a philosopher-king--as though it were purely a matter of the appropriate social and educational milieu. This is, however, far from being the case. Men are born unequal. Some belong to the copper class, others to the silver class. Very few belong by birth to the golden class, and extremely few can pass into it by especial merit from one of

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