Pursuing the Good

Pursuing the Good: Ethics and Metaphysics in Plato's Republic

Douglas Cairns
Fritz-Gregor Herrmann
Terry Penner
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 352
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3366/j.ctt1r2515
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  • Book Info
    Pursuing the Good
    Book Description:

    This volume combines articles on the ethics, epistemology and ontology of Plato and the influence of his thinking on Aristotle and beyond.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-3188-9
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. vii-ix)
    Douglas Cairns, Fritz-Gregor Herrmann and Terry Penner
  4. CONTRIBUTORS AND EDITORS
    (pp. x-xii)
  5. INTRODUCTION THE GOOD AND THE FORM OF THE GOOD IN PLATO’S REPUBLIC
    (pp. 1-14)

    Of these essays, about half pursue an honourable twentieth-century tradition of exploring in tandem substantive questions of ethical theory and the light thrown on them by Plato’s thought about the good in the Republic. Others address related exegetical questions concerning the Form of the Good and its relations to other Forms in the Republic and in other dialogues. Three of the former group of essays also discuss exegetical questions relating Plato’s treatment of the good and the Form of the Good to Aristotle’s opposition to the Forms, and his alternative, but often quite similar approaches to the human good.

    The...

  6. 1 WHAT IS THE FORM OF THE GOOD THE FORM OF? A QUESTION ABOUT THE PLOT OF THE REPUBLIC
    (pp. 15-41)
    Terry Penner

    I have chosen a theme which I hope will turn out to be of equal appeal to classicists and to philosophers. This is the exploration of a very serious – and largely ignored – difficulty in our usual presentations of the plot of the Republic. True, details of plot over and above the fairly clear surface organization of this dialogue might seem of minimal interest to philosophers. One hears analytical philosophers objecting:

    Are we not all about formulating and assessing arguments? If one’s philosophical job in reading Plato is to assess arguments for what their premises say; what conclusions Socrates draws from...

  7. 2 GLAUCON’S CHALLENGE, RATIONAL EGOISM AND ORDINARY MORALITY
    (pp. 42-60)
    Lesley Brown

    In his inaugural lecture ‘Duty and interest’ delivered in 1928,¹ Prichard singled out for criticism a theme which, he believed, pervaded many ethical theories, both in ancient times and in his more immediate predecessors. Among philosophers, wrote Prichard, Plato is far from being alone in presupposing that an action, to be right, must be for the good or advantage of the agent (2002:26). After spending a few sentences on Cook Wilson and Butler, he resumes:

    Nevertheless, when we seriously face the view that unless an action be advantageous, it cannot really be a duty, we are forced both to abandon...

  8. 3 THRASYMACHEAN RULERS, ALTRUISTIC RULERS AND SOCRATIC RULERS
    (pp. 61-75)
    Antonio Chu

    Let me begin with an account of the three conceptions of rulers mentioned in the title of my chapter.

    1. A Thrasymachean ruler (TR) is a ruler (a) who seeks his own benefit in ruling by taking advantage of the subject and (b) who, in virtue of his expertise of ruling, never errs in his pursuit of the aim of the ruling craft, which is to secure what is beneficial to the ruler by taking advantage of the subject.

    2. An Altruistic ruler (AR) is a ruler (a) who seeks the benefit of his subject in ruling without regard to...

  9. 4 NEUTRALISM IN BOOK I OF THE REPUBLIC
    (pp. 76-92)
    George Rudebusch

    Some ethical theories are based upon a descriptive account of what is intrinsically desirable for human beings, taken to be an objective good. Call any such theory perfectionism.¹ Egoism and altruism are species of perfectionism, each making the good relative to the agent, either himself or his others. An example of an egoist perfectionist is the Callicles featured in Plato’s Gorgias. For he defines the good in such terms: ‘Here is what is fine and just by nature . . . that he who would live rightly should allow his appetites to get as big as possible and . ....

  10. 5 THE GOOD, ADVANTAGE, HAPPINESS AND THE FORM OF THE GOOD: HOW CONTINUOUS WITH SOCRATIC ETHICS IS PLATONIC ETHICS?
    (pp. 93-123)
    Terry Penner

    In my earlier investigations of the ‘longer road’ in Books IV and VI–VII of the Republic (pp. 19–44 above), I come to the conclusion that the good which the Form of the Good is the Form of is benefit or advantage pure and simple. It is not some moral good, or some ‘intrinsic good’ (whether utilitarian or quite impersonal), or some mystical good. This, in spite of the fact that moral, ‘intrinsic’, utilitarian, impersonal or mystical goods are nowadays almost universally supposed to exhaust the possibilities as to what the Form of the Good is all about. The...

  11. 6 THE FORM OF THE GOOD AND THE GOOD IN PLATO’S REPUBLIC
    (pp. 124-153)
    Christopher Rowe

    This chapter addresses a topic that everyone will agree in locating at the very centre of Plato’s philosophy: his conception of the good.¹ However I propose to address the topic from a perspective which, for at least some readers, will appear an unusual one. The standard view, at any rate in Anglophone circles,² is that the treatment of ‘the form of the good’ in the Republic, and in consequence perhaps the Republic itself, represent a new departure for Plato. According to this view, the Plato of the Republic differs significantly from the Plato of that set of dialogues that the...

  12. 7 FLOURISHING: THE CENTRAL CONCEPT OF PRACTICAL THOUGHT
    (pp. 154-167)
    Richard Kraut

    To Plato we are indebted for the hypothesis, breathtaking in its boldness, that the highest object of desire, study and action is the good. In one form or another, that suggestion was accepted by many of his successors in the ancient and medieval world. Aquinas, for example, is following in his footsteps, when he says: ‘this is the first precept of law, that good is to be done and pursued, and evil is to be avoided. All other precepts of the natural law are based on this’ (Summa Theologica, Pt. I–II, Q. 94, Art. 2). The practical pre-eminence of...

  13. 8 IS PLATO’S CONCEPTION OF THE FORM OF THE GOOD CONTRADICTORY?
    (pp. 168-196)
    Gerhard Seel

    One thing is sure: we don’t know what Plato’s conception of the Form of the Good was, exactly. If we knew, the fourth A. G. Leventis conference would probably not have taken place, and if it had the papers given would have looked quite different. However, as is well known, Plato gave us some indications of how he conceived of the Form of the Good. For what we find in the Republic in the three famous figures or similes, i.e., those of the Sun, the Line and the Cave, is a kind of wanted poster we can use in order...

  14. 9 THE GOOD, ESSENCES AND RELATIONS
    (pp. 197-201)
    Andrew S. Mason

    I sympathise with many of Gerhard Seel’s claims in his chapter, particularly about the practical significance of the Good and about how it can have effects in the sensible world; and I am attracted by his view of what sort of thing the Form of the Good is; so my response will be largely concerned with some points of detail. I want to raise a number of questions about the steps by which Seel reaches his conclusion.

    Seel says (p. 178) that most scholars agree that the method of dialectic discussed in the Republic is the same as the method...

  15. 10 THE IDEA OF THE GOOD AND THE OTHER FORMS IN PLATO’S REPUBLIC
    (pp. 202-230)
    Fritz-Gregor Herrmann

    In one respect at least, the Republic holds a special place in the development of Plato’s ontology: in the Republic, Plato lets Socrates talk about forms apodictically. There is neither the tentative searching and allusive adumbration of the earliest dialogues, some of which end in aporia; nor the reasoned demonstration and laboured introduction that can be seen in the Meno, Euthyphro and, most of all, the Phaedo; there is no need for divine or daimonic revelation, as in the Symposium through the mouth of the priestess Diotima; nor yet is there any explicit questioning or criticism of the notion of...

  16. 11 THE APORIA IN THE CHARMIDES ABOUT REFLEXIVE KNOWLEDGE AND THE CONTRIBUTION TO ITS SOLUTION IN THE SUN ANALOGY OF THE REPUBLIC
    (pp. 231-250)
    Vasilis Politis

    This chapter has two aims. In section I, I examine the aporia in the Charmides about a certain kind of knowledge (for short, reflexive knowledge): the knowledge of what one knows, that one knows it, and of what one does not know, that one does not know it. The aporia (stated, and referred to as an aporia, at 167B), is whether or not, first, it is possible that there should be such a knowledge as this, and, second, if this is possible, the possession of it would be of any benefit. I concentrate on the following questions. First, what is...

  17. 12 THE GOOD AND MATHEMATICS
    (pp. 251-274)
    Christopher Gill

    I begin by citing two important pieces of evidence for Plato’s thinking about mathematics and the good, both based on Plato’s (or Platonic) unwritten teachings. The relevance of this evidence for understanding Plato’s dialogues, especially the Republic, is brought out later. The first item is a report of Plato’s famous lecture on the good, given in the Academy:

    Everyone came expecting they would acquire one of the sorts of thing people normally regard as good, on a par with wealth, good health or strength. In sum, they came looking for some wonderful kind of happiness. But when the discussion turned...

  18. 13 THE GOOD AND ORDER: DOES THE REPUBLIC DISPLAY AN ANALOGY BETWEEN A SCIENCE OF ETHICS AND MATHEMATICS?
    (pp. 275-278)
    Rachana Kamtekar

    In his chapter in this volume, Christopher Gill discusses three ways in which to understand the elusive relationship between ethical ideas and the mathematical terms in which Plato describes them in the Republic. According to Gill, a satisfactory explanation of this relationship should both account for Platonic texts on mathematics and ethics and avoid the twin dangers Gill calls ‘Scylla’and ‘Charybdis’: on the one hand, so technical an account of the mathematical terms as to make them inapplicable to ethical matters, and on the other hand, an account of the mathematical terms as merely metaphorical, that is, as having no...

  19. 14 INQUIRY AND JUSTIFICATION IN THE SEARCH FOR THE HIGHEST GOOD IN PLATO AND ARISTOTLE
    (pp. 279-292)
    Mariana Anagnostopoulos

    Aristotle was convinced that there is a singular highest good. He provides, in the Nicomachean Ethics, formal features of the good, a complex analysis of its nature, and an explanation of the ways in which the good human exemplifies goodness, intellectually and in action. Plato’s contrasting conception of the highest good is striking in part because of the metaphysical nature he attributes to the good, and the relationship he thereby envisions the good to bear to other good things in the world. When we consider varying conceptions of the highest good, we notice their points of insight, error and difference,...

  20. 15 THE CARPENTER AND THE GOOD
    (pp. 293-319)
    Rachel Barney

    My question is how good an argument Aristotle has at the end of Nicomachean Ethics I.6, in his final criticism of Plato’s Form of the Good. Aristotle says (numbering is mine, for ease of reference later):

    [1] Even if there is some one good which is predicated of goods in common, or some separate good ‘itself by itself’, clearly it could not be realised [prakton] or attained [ktêton] by man; but we are now seeking something attainable. [2] Perhaps, however, someone might think it worth while to have knowledge of it with a view to the goods that are attainable...

  21. 16 CONVERSION OR CONVERSATION? A NOTE ON PLATO’S PHILOSOPHICAL METHODS
    (pp. 320-327)
    Timothy Chappell

    Plato scholarship often tends to lead us in the direction of a very general choice about the nature of philosophical inquiry. The choice – which can emerge, for example, from thinking about the contrasts between the Republic and the Euthydemus – is one between two very different conceptions of what should be the product of the best philosophical activity: a choice, as we might crudely put it, between conversion and conversation.

    No one (Richard Rorty and some other postmodernists possibly excepted) will deny that philosophy aims at the prizes of truth, understanding and wisdom. But there is a choice between conceptions of...

  22. INDEX
    (pp. 328-340)