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

By R. C. Lodge | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
THE OBJECTIVE BASIS OF THE MORAL JUDGMENT

THE aim of the present chapter is to discover, so far as possible, what elements in the cases before the philosophical judge are made the basis of his judgment. In the dialogues, the philosophical judge is represented sometimes by the Platonic Socrates, sometimes expressly by the dialectician or the legislator. We shall therefore proceed to examine a number of typical cases of such moral judgments, with the aim of discovering what the elements are, in such cases, which lead Plato to regard them as "good." In order to cover the whole field of "goods," we shall examine the following sample cases:--(1) Health, (2) money and possessions, (3) pleasure, (4) right opinion, (5) good memory, (6) intellectual acumen, (7) courage, (8) self-control, (9) justice, (10) art, (11) law, (12) philosophy. We shall then sum up our detailed results, and compare them with Plato's general attitude on the subject of goodness, and also with his general attitude on the subject of evil, in order to reach a sufficiently valid general conclusion.


1. Health.

Bodily1 health is spoken of by Plato sometimes simply as health, but most frequently as the product of the medical art, as the "good" produced by medicine.2 In order to form a concrete idea of its meaning in the Platonic dialogues, we shall therefore commence with the concept of disease-- such opposites being intelligible only in this kind of cross- reference3--and shall then consider briefly the transition to a state of health. When we have in this way obtained a concrete acquaintance with the Platonic concept of health, we shall proceed to ask, in virtue of what characteristic it is regarded as "good."

Disease, for Plato, is emphatically what we should call

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