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

By R. C. Lodge | Go to book overview

PART II
THE MORAL CRITERION AND THE HIGHEST GOOD SCALES OF GOODS IN PLATONISM

INTRODUCTION

SO far we have studied the general moral criterion in Platonism, the standard for distinguishing between good and evil. The object of the present investigation is, remaining within the field of goods which are recognized as such and conform to the criterion already discovered, to examine the relations of "higher" and "lower" accepted in this field. This investigation of the various scales or ladders of goods discussed in the Dialogues is preliminary to a final investigation of the "highest" goods recognized by Plato, which are, for the most part, related to one or another of these scales.

If we approach the Dialogues wholly in the empirical spirit of inductive inquiry, we find between two and three hundred passages which refer to such scales, and about fifty more or less distinct scales. Very many of these scales have at least one term in common, such as "wisdom" or "justice" or "pleasure," but, as the other terms differ, such scales must be regarded as distinct. Distinct as they are, however, many of them are so clearly inter-related, that we can treat them together as distinct groups, especially in the case of scales which seem to be fundamental for Platonism, and occur again and again, in the greatest variety of contexts, i.e., are of more central and universal significance. Such grouping naturally occurs (1) in relation to a scale consisting of soul-body-wealth, (2) in relation to a scale of virtues, from wisdom, justice, temperance, etc., down to physical well-being, good looks, etc., (3) in relation to a distinction between public and private

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