Plato's Moral Realism

Plato's Moral Realism: Aquinas on emotion

JOHN M. RIST
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 293
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt31nkzb
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  • Book Info
    Plato's Moral Realism
    Book Description:

    Surveying many of Plato's dialogues from the early, middle, and late periods, prominent philosopher John M. Rist shows how Plato gradually came to realize the need for metaphysics to support his ethical position and that a rigorous ethics required a secure metaphysics grounded in universal values.

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-1984-4
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-14)

    In the West we now live in a post-moral society. That may seem an extraordinary claim in view of the endless public and private debate on all kinds of apparently moral questions: on the distribution of the world’s wealth, the control of crime, the necessity or undesirability of capital punishment and of punishment in general, the rights and wrongs of abortion, of warfare, indeed on a whole range of inalienable rights, most particularly the right of choice, however to be determined. Most of this discussion, however, is free-floating, depending only on prudential or arbitrary beliefs and judgments about the good...

  5. 1 RELIGION, SOCRATES, AND THE PLATONIC SOCRATES
    (pp. 15-22)

    Socrates was born in 470 B.C. and died in 399, victim of a judicial murder at the hands of an Athenian democracy restored to power after a brief period of oligarchic tyranny in which some of Plato’s relatives had played a prominent role. His father was a stonemason, and Socrates belonged to the middle class of Athenian society, able therefore to serve as a “hoplite” infantryman, as he did with distinction during the Peloponnesian War. He had, however, many friends among the aristocracy and the political élites, was endlessly fascinating to bright young men, and became sufficiently well known to...

  6. 2 SCRUTINIZING CHARACTER, SCRUTINIZING MORAL PROPOSITIONS
    (pp. 23-42)

    Socrates’ major insight, which he derived from reflecting on the enigmatic judgment on his own wisdom pronounced by the Oracle at Delphi, was that most people, if not everyone, do not know what they are talking about when they pronounce on ethics. The need to examine that insight more carefully goes far toward explaining why he is insistent that his interlocutors say exactly and truthfully what they think, and why they are thanked if they do so (Crito 49de; Gorgias 495a). For if they do not know they are ignorant, they do not know who they are—and the Oracle...

  7. 3 THE DISCOVERY OF SEPARATE FORM
    (pp. 43-65)

    Euthyphro, the self-declared pious man, that is, the man with a proper attitude to the gods, has had a bad press, while Sophocles’ Antigone, who also puts the gods first, has had a good one. The two are similar in that they both advocate a morality higher than the merely conventional—indeed a universal, “natural” morality. An important difference is that whereas Antigone sets the claims of family duty—backed, she believes, by divine decree—above the duty she also owes to the city and its rulers, Euthyphro thinks that the claims of the gods override even those of the...

  8. 4 FORMS AND EROTIC PASSION
    (pp. 66-89)

    In the dialogues examined thus far Socrates believes that if we can recognize the mistakes we make in judgments about what is good for us, we shall be able to take due care of our souls. But why do we make such mistakes? Is it that we are stupid or misled by the conventions of our flawed societies or by wicked Sophists—which would suggest a purely intellectual weakness—or is it that we are more specifically deluded by bodily pleasures and desires? And if bodily desires are a large part of the problem, what happens to them when we...

  9. 5 ETHICS, PSYCHOLOGY, AND METAPHYSICS IN THE PHAEDO
    (pp. 90-105)

    The Phaedo is the story of Socrates’ death in prison, as recounted to two of his Megarian admirers, Eucleides and Terpsion, by Phaedo of Elis, who had been present at the end along with many other of Socrates’ closest associates—but not Plato, who was ill (59b). Its basic theme is that philosophy is practice for death (64a ff.; 67e). In so presenting Socrates’ last conversations and immortalizing his memory, Plato aims to show that the “genuine philosopher,” so far from being sad or afraid at the moment of death, welcomes it as a release from what has ultimately impeded...

  10. 6 THE REPUBLIC: The Finished Theory of Forms?
    (pp. 106-164)

    The Republic is Plato’s most ambitious and elaborate composition. While accomplishing considerable further steps in metaphysics, ethics, psychology, and aesthetics, it is also a Summa of insights gained in previous dialogues. It represents a sustained attempt to defend the possibility of morality by giving it as full a metaphysical underpinning as Plato can yet provide—for, as we shall see, that metaphysic will undergo modification and correction in later dialogues. In its present form—I shall look briefly at the view that the first book was originally a separate work—the Republic is an example of ring composition. Book one...

  11. 7 RECONSTRUCTIONS: From Parmenides to Philebus
    (pp. 165-212)

    Composed in the mid-360s, the Parmenides, Theaetetus, and Phaedrus form a revisionary triptych, the principal targets of which are the Phaedo and the Republic. The Parmenides affords an opportunity to start reshaping the Theory of Forms, adding precision and eliminating possible misinterpretations—chiefly about the scope of the intelligible world and the relationship of Forms to particulars. Plato progresses in the latter case while leaving the former still problematical, not least as to whether any distinction should be made between substance—forms, perhaps, as the Republic said, made by God, and forms of values. For its part, the Theaetetus expands...

  12. 8 GODS, GOD, AND GOODNESS
    (pp. 213-241)

    According to Aristotle’s pupil and successor Theophrastus, Plato proposed two causes of the physical universe: an all-receiving substrate and a moving cause that he “clothes with the power of God and the Good” (fr. 9, in Diels, Doxographi Graeci). Or is it of God, i.e., the Good? Aristotle himself, in the Metaphysics, also attributes two first principles to Plato, the One and the Dyad (A. 988a9ff.), but these sound to be metaphysical, rather than physical, and remind us of the limit and unlimited of the Philebus. Aristotle’s account seems radically different from that of Theophrastus, who clearly identifies a moving...

  13. 9 ETHICS AND METAPHYSICS: Then and Now
    (pp. 242-270)

    My intention in this book has been to show how Plato developed a moral theory, underpinned by metaphysics, that in his view offered the only possible defense against the ethical conventionalism, relativism, and nihilism of his day. I have organized the preceding chapters in a tentative chronological sequence that reveals Plato working himself through to his final position—which is still incomplete. Philosophically, as I noted in the introduction, it does not matter whether Plato generated that final position over the long span of his life or whether he had much of it clear in his mind early in his...

  14. APPENDIX A: REPUBLIC BOOK FIVE—Some Background to Eugenic Theory
    (pp. 271-274)
  15. APPENDIX B: LITERATURE AND PLATONIC TRANSCENDENTALISM
    (pp. 275-278)
  16. SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 279-282)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 283-286)