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

By R. C. Lodge | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
THE PSYCHOLOGICAL ASPECT OF THE MORAL JUDGMENT, (a) ANALYSIS; (b) GENESIS

SO far we have investigated the questions, (1) Who is entitled to pass judgment in matters of ethics? (2) What are the objective elements common to all situations judged to be ethical? (3) What are the standards which the judge applies in coming to a decision? It is now incumbent upon us to pass from the objective to the subjective aspect, and to investigate the moral judgment itself. We wish to discover how the judge comes to his decisions, (a) what it is in his mind or personality which actually makes the judgment, i.e. what are the psychological elements involved in the moral judgment as such, and (b) how these elements become fused together in the case of the recognized authority on moral questions, i.e. to trace the development of the moral judgment. These two problems belong (a) to analytic, and (b) to genetic, psychology, respectively. After completing these two inquiries, we should then be in a position to sum up our results, and answer clearly and fully, what it is in the character and personality of the moral judge, which enables him to come to his decisions, i.e. what really does the judging.


(a) Analysis of the moral judgment.

If we attempt to put together the very various hints and statements in the Dialogues as to the psychological basis of the moral value-judgment, we find that these fall, naturally and inevitably, under three main heads. These are:--(1) Nature--i.e. original psychological equipment for making value-judgments überhaupt; (2) Experience-i.e. a development of the "natural" equipment in accordance with repeated social experience, so as to attain a new equilibrium at the level of social habit; (3) Reason, or the spirit of philosophy-- i.e. a development of the natural equipment in accordance with insight into ultimate reality. Under these three heads

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