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

By R. C. Lodge | Go to book overview

PART III
THE HIGHEST GOODS IN PLATONISM

CHAPTER XIII
PLEASURE, WEALTH, HEALTH

SO far, we have investigated the setting in which candidates for the position of highest good are found. If we now turn to the Dialogues and ask directly what candidates actually put in a claim to this position, we find the following:--(1) Pleasure, (2) wealth, (3) health, (4) power, (5) happiness, (6) the life of the "guardian" or ideal statesman, (7) immortality, (8) goodness of character, (9) temperance, (10) justice, (11)genius, (12)religion, (13) science, (14) philosophy, (15) mind, (16) civilization, (17) the community, (18) intelligent self-knowledge on the part of the community, (19) law and order, (20) measure or the mean, (21) the idea of good, (22) the comprehensive or composite life, (23) the excellence or preservation of the whole, (24) God. Each of these goods is explicitly accepted as fulfilling the requirements of the ethical ideal, in some cases immediately, and in other cases only after discussion. In what follows, we shall scrutinize the claims of each one of these candidates, with an attention to detail proportioned to the amount of evidence contained in the Dialogues, in order to discover, in each case, how far and for what reasons it is regarded as a "highest" good, an adequate expression of the value-ideal.

(I) Pleasure. --The casual reader of the Dialogues receives the impression that, for platonism, pleasure is a satisfaction of our bodily nature which is of no positive value, something to which our spiritual nature is supremely in-

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