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

By R. C. Lodge | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC SPIRIT IN PLATONISM

AMONG the value-distinctions which we find in the Dialogues, one of the most frequently emphasized is the distinction between private and public spirit. So various are the contexts in which this occurs, that it seems to cover the whole field of Hellenic living, and to discuss in adequate detail all cases of this distinction is impracticable. For the purposes of the present study, it will perhaps be sufficient if we examine carefully some five "sample" cases, and then, after reaching some kind of generalization on the basis of these detailed investigations, proceed to verify our conclusion by applying it somewhat widely to the variety of cases discussed in the Dialogues. In this way we should be able to discover concretely, as well as abstractly, how and why public spirit is ranked above private spirit in the Platonic value-judgment.

We shall begin, then, by examining in detail the following "sample" cases, selected arbitrarily1 from the vast field before us:--(1) Eating and drinking; (2) Farming; (3) Business and commerce; (4) Schooling; and (5) Politics. The aim of our examination is to discover on what grounds community eating and drinking, community farming and business, etc., are regarded as an improvement upon private eating and drinking, private enterprise in farming and business, etc., and eventually to construct a generalization which can be extended so as to cover all types of cases discussed in the Dialogues. We shall then verify this generalization, by applying it to such cases as property, the home, art, science, philosophy, and religion, and if these cases substantiate our generalization, we shall regard it as conclusive for platonism.


1. Eating and Drinking.

The body is naturally subject to the action of physical elements in the external environment, and, in the action and

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