The Sophists, Plato, and Aristotle
The role of aidōs in the doctrines of the sophists is a topic to which the preceding chapters have already alluded; the present chapter, therefore, begins by following up some of these indications of the trends in fifth-century thought that are most important for our study. Consideration of aidōs in Sophocles and Euripides, in particular, has identified a growing recognition of the interaction of that concept with the internalized self-regulatory mechanism that we call conscience, as well as insight into the role of aidōs as an important factor in the development of character. Accordingly, we look first at the evidence for the popular conception of 'conscience' in later fifth-century Athens, before turning to the evidence for the doctrines of some of the major contemporary thinkers themselves, with particular reference to one particular controversy (that concerned with the problem of 'doing wrong in secret') which sheds considerable light on ancient views of the nature of aidōs, and, indeed, brings the view expressed in our ancient sources into relationship with the modern discussions of the nature of shame and guilt with which we began our study. This focus on the essence of aidōs, on, its relation to internal or external sanctions, on its nature as a feature of the ethical and psychological outlook embedded in the texts under discussion, and on its relevance or otherwise to the concept of 'conscience', is then extended into the discussion of its place in the ethics and moral psychology of Plato and Aristotle. Essentially, our discussion now comes full circle, as we consider ancient views which reveal important perspectives on the issues raised in the Introduction.
We saw that conscience and its expression as such (that is, in terms of the individual's own assessment of the character of his or her actions, as opposed to modes of expression--references to Erinyes, and the like--which might or might not be regarded as alternative ways of