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

By R. C. Lodge | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
CONCLUSION: THE MORAL CRITERION

THE aim of the present chapter is to sum up the results established in the preceding studies in such a manner as to focus every ray of illumination upon the question of the moral criterion, the distinction between good and evil. As we look over what we have discovered, we note that three main concepts stand out as affording an adequate basis for distinguishing good from evil. These are (1) the concept of idealized human experience; (2) the concept of ultimate reality; and (3) the concept of value expressed in the principle of ideality. What we have discovered concerning each one of these, considered apart from the other two, we shall now put together. We shall then proceed to sum up the three conclusions thus established, in order to see whether there is a single more fundamental conception which can express the truth established in each of our three investigations, and thus exhibit the final view of Platonic thought concerning the moral criterion.


1. Idealized human experience.

Again and again in the course of the preceding studies, we have met with the view that human experience, in idealized form, constitutes the court of appeal in moral questions, whatever is consistent with moral and intellectual development being regarded as good, and whatever tends towards lower levels of acting and thinking being regarded as evil.1 All normal human beings have some kind of moral sense, and the moral judge par excellence, the philosopher-guardian, is only a man, born and educated under conditions so ideal that he comes to represent human potentiality at its best. His judgments, then, which in questions of right and wrong are accepted as beyond question valid, express human experience in idealized form. These judgments are published in the form

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