Plato's Ethics: An Overview (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Top definition Get a Meet in the Middle mug for your brother-in-law Bob. 2 Janine and Sandra were going down on me the other night, when all of a sudden . Clarity means that people can describe what they are choosing in specific age through middle age, who have helped me learn how to teach ethics, and Statements let you see how relativistic you are in ethical decision making. A high. The positive accounts contained in the middle dialogues – the so-called . particular virtues, and therefore be able to give an account or definition of it (cf. Meno, is just a wholesome intermediary stage on the way to knowledge (Me. .. Socrates has met Glaucon's and Adeimantus' challenge to prove that.
Before turning to these, however, we will discuss the areas of life most impacted by surveillance: Privacy, trust and autonomy. Privacy One of the core arguments against surveillance is that it poses a threat to privacy, which is of value to the individual and to society.
This raises a number of questions about privacy, what it is and to what extent and why it is valuable. Much of the early work on privacy was carried out in the legal realm, particularly in the United States. Developments in technology then gave rise to defining legal cases, such as Katz v. United States which related privacy and surveillance to the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution forbidding unreasonable search and seizure by the state.
Baird then established that the right to privacy involved the right to make important choices without government intervention, drawing a connection between privacy and autonomy. This was drawn upon in Roe vs. In the aftermath of these legal decisions the concept of privacy was increasingly debated by philosophers.
Judith Jarvis Thomson Thomson argued that the right to privacy consists of a cluster of rights which overlap with both property rights and rights of the person. She held that there are no privacy rights which do not overlap with clusters of other rights, and so there is no distinct right to privacy. Instead he proposed that we have socially-defined zones of privacy which enable us to act with the assumption that we are not being monitored. These zones are motivated by our interest in not having to be alert to specific observation at all times.
James Rachels Rachelsresponding to both Thomson and Scanlon, argued that privacy was rather a matter of relationships. In defining our relationships with others, we use varying degrees of privacy to establish intimacy. With a stranger we uphold a high degree of privacy, whilst with a close family member we may have and expect much less privacy.
Indeed, he argued, what it means to be a friend is for the relationship to involve less privacy than would otherwise be the case. Parent Parent argued that privacy involved the control of undocumented information about oneself.
Emmanuel Levinas (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
This has been contested by Jeffrey Reimann Reiman and Tony Doyle Doylewho hold that privacy is not restricted to information. A porn star whose body is freely available for all to see may still have his or her privacy violated if spied upon in his or her own home. Daniel Nathan Nathan and Danah Boyd Boyd agree with Parent that control is an important issue, while Herman Tavani and James Moor Tavani and Moor hold that privacy relates more accurately to the access another has to me than to who controls the information about me.
Despite the disagreements, most would agree that on an individual level, privacy affords us the space to be ourselves and to define ourselves through giving us a degree of autonomy and protecting our dignity. In our interactions with others we may define the intimacy of our relationships with them through the amount of privacy we relinquish in that relationship. As we engage with society at large we gain confidence and security from our privacy, safe that those we do not know do not in turn know all about us.
We fear the stranger and what they might do if they knew our vulnerabilities. Through keeping those vulnerabilities private, we maintain a level of personal safety. Privacy is also of value to society at large. As noted, we may appear in public safe in the knowledge that our weaknesses are not on display for all to see, allowing for confident personal interaction. When we vote we do so in the belief that no-one can see our decision and treat us well or poorly in the light of how we voted.
Privacy is thus important in the social context of democracy. In many cases we do not want to know everything about everyone around us and so privacy can protect the rest of us from being exposed to too much information.
Thanks to a level of anonymity I may also feel emboldened to speak out publicly against corruption or injustice, or simply to be more creative in self-expression. Many of these benefits can be seen through the contrast with states employing high levels of surveillance, such as the former German Democratic Republic.
There is also of a tension between the safety of the individual as granted by his or her privacy, and the safety of the community which comes from denying the individual his or her privacy. On the most basic level, I feel safest if you know nothing about me but I know everything about you. This is reversed from your perspective, leading to the tension of balancing privacy against security. Trust and Autonomy Linked closely to the issue of privacy is that of trust.
As highlighted by Rachels Rachelsprivacy is often held in an inverse relationship to trust such that the more trust exists between two people, the less need there is for privacy. This is not universally true as intimate partners may still lock the bathroom door.
Nonetheless committed relationships are often marked by a higher degree of trust and a reduced level of privacy. When one of those elements is breached, either through intruding on limited privacy or through a breaking of trust, the relationship is damaged. One reflection of diminished trust in a relationship is increased surveillance, as when suspicious partners hire private investigators to determine an infidelity.
Conversely, the discovery of increased surveillance, especially when the surveilled party is innocent, may also lead to decreased levels of trust. At a personal level trust is often reciprocal: The discovery of surveillance could well therefore damage personal relationships. While Bentham believed the Panopticon would encourage inmates to self-discipline, this would only occur through fear of repercussions.
The inmates would be denied the opportunity to demonstrate willingness to reform without the surveillance. There would therefore be no opportunities for the supervisor of the prison to place his trust in the prisoner, nor for that prisoner to demonstrate his trustworthiness other than in the presence of surveillance. Any traits displayed would then arguably not be genuine reflections of the character of the inmate. The same is true of surveillance in the workplace, schools and society at large.
If the surveilled is suspicious of or conscious of the surveillance then they might conform to the expected norm, but this will not necessarily reflect their character. Surveillance therefore diminishes the need to trust the surveilled person. Its presence will pressure that person to conform and so render his actions more predictable.
Furthermore, as in the Panopticon, if he does not conform there is the chance he will be subject to sanctions. Surveilled people therefore can become more predictable if they fear reprisals for acting in ways that merit the disapproval of the surveillant. In that sense they are therefore more trustworthy an authority can trust that they will act in such a manner. If the purpose of surveillance is to control or deter people, then surveillance of which the subject is aware could be effective.
If, on the other hand, the purpose is to assess the character of people as that character is expressed in integrity, then surveillance of which the subject is aware will be of little help. We have seen the impacts of surveillance on privacy, trust and autonomy. We are now in a position to consider when surveillance may be justified in spite of or because of those impacts.
Cause The purpose of surveillance, or one particular instantiation of surveillance, is probably the most fundamental ethical question that can be asked on this subject. We may think of security as an obvious response, especially as it concerns state surveillance in the form of espionage, or in the form of security cameras surrounding particular buildings.
In a sense this throws the question back one degree to ask whether security, or this degree of security, is justified under the circumstances. This will then hinge in part on who it is that is carrying out the surveillance and in part on whom they are monitoring. Is state surveillance of political dissidents, for instance, really necessary for state security? Many retail establishments use surveillance for the mutual benefit of themselves and their customers.
Loyalty cards in supermarkets enable the stores to see who is buying which goods and build up detailed pictures of their customer base. Customers participate in this surveillance in return for exclusive deals. Frequent users receive special offers either to widen their shopping experience or to encourage loyalty to the particular store.
Efficiency savings such as these are not limited to retail. They also apply on public and private transport when smart cards enable a person to use the subway or a toll road without using cash. Security and customer benefit may also come together as, for example, when credit cards are suspended following atypical spending habits of the user.
This might also be the case if law enforcement agencies find that they need to establish an alibi or build a profile of a suspect.
Finally there is the possibility of using surveillance for personal gain. This might be financial or emotional, but can extend to other reasons.
An unethical computer hacker might break into a website to steal credit card numbers which she can then use for her own ends. While issues of simple personal gain which involve violating the privacy of another seem to be unacceptable, although there might be exceptions, questions of security and efficiency are less clear-cut. Many choose to opt-in to supermarket or transport surveillance precisely for the benefits that these systems offer, despite the intensely personal knowledge of the customer that the store can gain from these interactions.
In the case of state security the questions often fall along the lines of how far should the privacy of the few be sacrificed for the security of the many. As shall be seen when we come to consider social sorting, however, questions of distribution also arise: Who stands to gain and who to lose from a particular instance of surveillance? Consent is a major consideration in the justification of surveillance, and particularly the cause of surveillance.
If I invite you into my home I am consenting for you to see me in a context which would hitherto have been private and secluded from you. Insomniac and in the throes of horror, the hypostasis falls asleep. Or again, it lights a light and reassembles its consciousness.
But the il y a gives the lie to the question: Why is there Being instead of simply nothing? Nothing, as pure absence, may be thinkable, but it is unimaginable.
Indeterminate Being fills in all the gaps, all the temporal intervals, while consciousness arises from it in an act of self-originating concentration. This is the first sketch of Being as totality. It hearkens to a call that comes not from neutral Being but from the Other. The stage is thus set for Totality and Infinity's elaborate analyses of world, facticity, time as now-moment, transcendence in immanence, and transcendence toward future fecundity.
These themes constitute the core of Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority. For Levinas, to escape deontology and utility, ethics must find its ground in an experience that cannot be integrated into logics of control, prediction, or manipulation. That is, it cannot step outside the totalizing logics of metaphysical systems, without supposing them or restoring them.
There is no formal bridge, for Levinas, between practical and pure reason. Philosophy in the twentieth century Heidegger, the Frankfurt School, deconstruction has shown, at least, that the universality of concepts and the necessity carried by transcendental arguments are simply not sufficient to prevent the triumph of ends-rationality and instrumentalization. Ethics is therefore either an affair of inserting particulars into abstract scenarios, or ethics itself speaks out of particularity about the first human particularity: For much Jewish thought after Kant, the ethical message of the biblical prophets held a dignity equal to the justice aimed at in Jewish law.
Levinas carries this insight into phenomenology, starting with a relationship that is secular, yet non-finite not conceptually limitablebecause it continuously opens past the immediacy of its occurring, toward a responsibility that repeats and increases as it repeats.
The new framework of transcendence as human responsibility involves an extensive exploration of the face-to-face relationship, and it opens onto questions of social existence and justice.
Finally, Levinas approaches to Being more polemically as exteriority. We will examine these themes in what follows. Levinas again reframes labor, less as mastery and humanization of nature, and more as the creation of a store of goods with which an other can be welcomed. Thanks to his joy in living and his creation of a home, the human being is able to give and to receive the other into his space.
On the basis of these descriptions, transcendence comes to pass in several stages. Second, in accounting for itself, the subject approached by the other engages the first act of dialogue.
Out of this, discourse eventually arises. The unfolding of discourse carries a trace of ethical investiture and self-accounting, and may become conversation and teaching. As the breadth of dialogical engagement expands, the trace of the encounter with the other becomes attenuated; and this, to the point where the meaning of justice poses a question.
Is the essence of justice the reparation of wrongs; is it disinterested equity, or is it the interest of the stronger?
Because justice is clearly all these things, it constitutes a kind of pivot between the mechanism evident in Being and the supererogatory gesture of responsibility. Levinas's logic unfolds up to the question of justice and then takes an unanticipated tack. In the family, election by the father and service to the brothers, set forth a justice more decisively conditioned by face-to-face responsibility than the justice of the State could ever be.
Because Being is accepted in its Hobbesian character as mechanistic causality and competition, human time will not be situated firstly in social time with the invention of clocks and calendars.
History, too, seems to be a history of metaphysicians: Levinas describes history as violence, punctuated by extremes of war and annihilation. However, an alternative history, in which the wrongs done to particulars can be attested, is envisionable. It will not be recorded in a history of the State. It was like the time of ritual participation in dream worlds, as observed by French ethnographers. For Levinas, time will consist in two axes: Transcendence is, above all, relational: An event should be characterized as a force that introduces a decisive break into the historical status quo and redirects it in function of its own magnitude.
The encounter with the other person, so far as it is an event, merely inflects history or leaves a trace in it. But this is not the history found in the textbooks. It is more like a history of isolated acts or human ideals justice, equity, critique, self-sacrifice.
Transcendence in Levinas is lived and factical. How could transcendence be factical? That is, transcendence, understood as the face-to-face relation, lives from our everyday enjoyment and desire even as it precedes these.
Human existence, as sensibility, is full and creative, before it is instrumentalist or utilitarian. From enjoying the elements to constructing a home, human existence is never solipsistic.
Our life with others is never a flight from a more resolute stance toward our reason for being our mortality. We are always already in social relations; more importantly, we have always already been impacted by the expression of a living other. Because this impact is affective, because transcendence is not conceptualizable, we forget the force the other's expression has on us. We therefore carry on, in our respective worlds, motivated by our desire for mastery and control.
Nevertheless, desire in Totality and Infinity always proves to be double. There is a naturalistic desire, subject to imperatives of consumption and enjoyment. This desire is coextensive with the exercise of our concrete freedom. And there is a desire that comes to light in the failure of our will to mastery. This failure of the will is experienced in the face-to-face encounter. The other's face is not an object, Levinas argues. It is pure expression; expression affects me before I can begin to reflect on it.
And the expression of the face is dual: The face, in its nudity and defenselessness, signifies: Any exemplification of the face's expression, moreover, carries with it this combination of resistance and defenselessness: Each one lacks something essential to its existence: It is as summons that we see expression precipitating transcendence.
In other words, if I am self-sufficient in my everyday cognition and my instrumental activities, then that is because I am a being that inhabits overlapping worlds in which my sway is decisive for me. The approach of the other person halts the dynamism of my cognitive and practical sway.
Passive resistance inflects my freedom toward an affective mood already explored in Of course, Levinas's descriptions are presented under phenomenological bracketing, so this is not a philosophy of moral feeling or a psychology of empathy.
Now, Levinas argues that the instant of trans-ascendence belongs to an order different from that of existence or Being: It is impossible to set up a linear logic of priority between Being and the Good beyond Being.
For humans, the Good comes to pass, as if trivially, in that responsibility and generosity are perceivable in human affairs. Cruelty and competition are also readily discerned. The two moments in the philosophical tradition in which the irreducible value of the Good has been pinpointed are, for Levinas, Plato's Idea of the Good, and Descartes's Idea of Infinity, which points beyond itself to an unknowable cause. It may be that insisting that the Good is prior to, rather than just beyond, Being, is necessary to deconstructing Hegel's phenomenology of consciousnesses in struggle for recognition, that there are moments of inexplicable generosity, even occasional sacrifices for another person or groupis otherwise inexplicable within a logic of competing freedoms and reductive desires.
In that respect, the trace of the Good is always present within Being, as a possibility that something other than consumption or instrumentalization may take place. So far as Infinity has a positive sense, then it has the affective qualities of desire for sociality, and of joy. And sensibility consists of an indeterminate number of affectations, of which we become conscious only by turning our attention to them. Like the embodied self, who suffocated within itself in in nauseathe self of sensibility is the locus of relationality and transcendence in The implication of this is radical.
Whereas light and consciousness afforded Levinas the means by which to sublate the a priori-a posteriori distinction inand therewith Heidegger's ontological difference between Being and beings, here, the everyday facticity of the face-to-face encounter destabilizes transcendental versus pragmatic distinctions.
Any philosophical translation of embodied concrete life must consider the human subject as it is constituted through relations with others in a simultaneous occurrence of particularization and loss of self. As we have seen, it is possible to envisage Being as existence by way of the concepts of willing and strife in Levinas.
Certainly, the experience of the Shoah is reflected in this work, notably in the very anti-Heideggerian characterization of Being as constant presence. For Levinas, this Being has two modes of carrying on.
In nature, it is mechanism, drives, and linear causality. Inthe State, no matter what period of its history we examine, decides questions of security and property, life and death. This leaves the question of justice suspended between the moral responsiveness coming out of the face-to-face encounter, and the conflict of ontological forces. Thus, Being is not an event per se.
Levinas never addressed the question of whether an ethics could be derived from Heidegger's ontology. But it is clear that no thinking whose primary focus was on an openness toward the world, and a confrontation with one's mortality, afforded the means necessary for grasping the hidden meaning of consciousness, which begins in the double constitution of the subject by life and by the encounter with the Other.
For Levinas, Heidegger's philosophy was a thinking of the neuter, a recrudescent paganism that sacralized natural events and anonymous forces. Worse, it was a thinking that drew its inspiration from an ancient structure of temporality, Paul's kairos, which was the time of awaiting the messiah's return for the early Christian community.
If the evacuation of lived, religious content gave Heidegger access to a temporality more substantial than what was available to the neo-Kantian, formalist tradition, one question remained: How can one preserve the living source of human facticity while removing all connection to its contents? Being carries on as continuous presence for Levinas. The face-to-face encounter inflects it toward the possibility of responsibility and hospitality.
But an inflection does not mean a transformation. This inflection of Being also opens a course toward universality as ethical humanity rather than universality as politics. An inflection toward humanity is fragile, because it is continually absorbed by the rhetoric of political institutions. However, inLevinas's inflection is best seen in the family. How the responsibility and election experienced by fathers, sons, and brothers, passes into a larger history and public space remained a difficult question—probably best addressed through critique, witnessing, perhaps even limited demands for justice.
Beginning with fecundity, in which the time of an individual life span is opened beyond its limits by one the son who is both the image of the father and other than he, the life of the family continues through election and responsibility enacted between parents and offspring—and between brothers. This is illustrated by the fact that there are events and crimes that the son or grandson may pardon, whereas the father could not. However, the logic of fecundity-election-responsibility leaves the State and the family as two distinct human collectivities with nothing to mediate between their ontological and moral characteristics.
Being, understood as existence in all its dimensions, may be modified, but not durably. Thus Being could be called absolute, were it not for the fragile interruption of transcendence and the persistence of its trace. If family and State represent two irreconcilable instances in Levinas's thought, willing and ethical responsibility prove likewise irreconcilable.
It must never be a matter of nature, even human nature. That excludes from transcendence not only an intentional component already bracketed by Levinas's phenomenologybut also anything like moral sentiments or innate capacities to be affected by the other. The non-violent force of the face as expression can be reduced neither to physical force nor to inertia.
In such a case, there would be no question of escaping the mechanistic order of Being. Thus the moment of address in the second person comes after the impact of the face as widow and as He.
Moral height is thus not expressed in thou-saying; it is a third person relationship. Here lies the point at which a reading begins that bridges the philosophical and the religious, particularly the Jewish dimension of Levinas's thought. It is and must remain a question too large for philosophy to know what explains the force of the other's expression. There are, Levinas insists, objects behind their objects only in ages of penury.
To say more than this is to return to the confidence that representation and conceptuality capture every aspect of meaning lived out in a human life. We will have more to say on this when we discuss time and transcendence in Otherwise than Being 5. The central wager of Otherwise than Being is to express affectivity in its immediacy, with minimal conceptualization. Consequently, transcendence becomes transcendence-in-immanence before it is transcendence toward the other as untotalizable exteriority.
Emphasizing the processual quality of Being, Levinas will now refer to it equivalently as Being or essence. Responsibility will be focused more sharply as the condition of possibility of all signification. The themes of conversation and teaching recede into the background. A more strategic use of the body as flesh, that is, simultaneously an inside and outside locus, is evident. Subjectivity is now the coming to pass of responsibility itself.
That means that subjectivity is properly itself because it is regularly dispossessed of itself from within. The other has become other-in-the-same. Xenophon Memorabilia I, 10; In the Laches, he discusses courage with two renowned generals of the Peloponnesian war, Laches and Nicias.
Similarly, in the Charmides Socrates addresses—somewhat ironically—the nature of moderation with the two of the Thirty Tyrants, namely the then very young Charmides, an alleged model of modesty, and his guardian and intellectual mentor, Critias.Zedd, Grey - The Middle (Lyrics) ft. Maren Morris
And in the Gorgias Socrates discusses the nature of rhetoric and its relation to virtue with the most prominent teacher of rhetoric among the sophists. Finally, in the Meno the question how virtue is acquired is raised by Meno, a disciple of Gorgias, and an ambitious seeker of power, wealth, and fame. Nor is such confidence unreasonable. These flaws vary greatly in kind and gravity: Socrates shows that enumerations of examples are not sufficient to capture the nature of the thing in question.
Definitions that consist in the replacement of a given concept with a synonym are open to the same objections as the original definition. Definitions may be hopelessly vague or miss the mark entirely, which is to say that they may be either too wide, and include unwanted characteristics or subsets, or too narrow, and exclude essential characteristics. Moreover, definitions may be incomplete because the object in question does not constitute a unitary phenomenon.
Given that the focus in the early dialogues is almost entirely on the exposure of flaws and inconsistencies, one cannot help wondering whether Plato himself knew the answers to his queries, and had some cards up his sleeve that he chose not to play for the time being.
This would presuppose that Plato had not only a clear notion of the nature of the different virtues, but also a positive conception of the good life as such.
Since Plato was neither a moral nihilist nor a sceptic, he cannot have regarded moral perplexity aporia as the ultimate end, nor regarded continued mutual examination, Socratico more, as a way of life for everyone. Perplexity, as is argued in the Meno, is just a wholesome intermediary stage on the way to knowledge Me. But if Plato assumes that the convictions that survive Socratic questioning will eventually coalesce into an account of the good life, then he keeps this expectation to himself.
There is no guarantee that only false convictions are discarded in a Socratic investigation, while true ones are retained. For, promising suggestions are often as mercilessly discarded as their less promising brethren. It is therefore a matter of conjecture whether Plato himself held any positive views while he composed one aporetic dialogue after the other.
He may have regarded his investigations as experimental stages, or have seen each dialogue as an element in a network of approaches that he hoped to eventually integrate. The evidence that Plato already wanted his readers to draw this very conclusion in his early dialogues is somewhat contradictory, however. Plato famously pleads for the unity of the virtues in the Protagoras, and seems intent to reduce them all to knowledge.
This intellectualizing tendency, however, does not tell us what kind of master-science would fulfill all of the requirements for defining virtues, and what its content should be. Though Plato often compared the virtues with technical skills, such as those of a doctor or a pilot, he may have realized that virtues also involve emotional attitudes, desires, and preferences, but not yet have seen a clear way to coordinate or relate the rational and the affective elements that constitute the virtues.
In the Laches, for instance, Socrates partners struggle when they try to define courage, invoking two different elements. His comrade Nicias, on the other hand, fails when he tries to identify courage exclusively as a certain type of knowledge e—a.
The investigation of moderation in the Charmides, likewise, points up that there are two disparate elements commonly associated with that virtue — namely, a certain calmness of temper on the one hand Chrm.
It is clear that a complex account would be needed to combine these two disparate factors. In his earlier dialogues, Plato may or may not already be envisaging the kind of solution that he is going to present in the Republic to the problem of the relationship between the various virtues, with wisdom, the only intellectual virtue, as their basis.
Courage, moderation, and justice presuppose a certain steadfastness of character as well as a harmony of purpose among the disparate parts of the soul, but their goodness depends entirely on the intellectual part of the soul, just as the virtue of the citizens in the just state depends on the wisdom of the philosopher kings R.
Nicias is forced to admit that such knowledge presupposes the knowledge of good and bad tout court La. But pointing out what is wrong and missing in particular arguments is a far cry from a philosophical conception of the good and the bad in human life. But the evidence that Plato already had a definitive conception of the good life in mind when he wrote his earlier dialogues remains, at most, indirect.
First and foremost, definitions presuppose that there is a definable object; that is to say, that it must have a stable nature. Nothing can be defined whose nature changes all the time. In addition, the object in question must be a unitary phenomenon, even if its unity may be complex.
If definitions are to provide the basis of knowledge, they require some kind of essentialism. This presupposition is indeed made explicit in the Euthyphro, where Plato employs for the first time the terminology that will be characteristic of his full-fledged theory of the Forms.
Despite this pregnant terminology, few scholars nowadays hold that the Euthyphro already presupposes transcendent Forms in a realm of their own— models that are incompletely represented by their imitations under material conditions. No more than piety or holiness in the abstract sense seems to be presupposed in the discussion of the Euthyphro. Given that they are the objects of definition and the models of their ordinary representatives, there is every reason not only to treat them as real, but also to assign to them a state of higher perfection.
And once this step has been taken, it is only natural to make certain epistemological adjustments. For, access to paradigmatic entities is not to be expected through ordinary experience, but presupposes some special kind of intellectual insight. It seems, then, that once Plato had accepted invariant and unitary objects of thought as the objects of definition, he was predestined to follow the path that let him adopt a metaphysics and epistemology of transcendent Forms.
It would have meant the renunciation of the claim to unassailable knowledge and truth in favor of belief, conjecture, and, horribile dictu, of human convention. It led him to search for models of morality beyond the limits of everyday experience. This, in turn, explains the development of his theory of recollection and the postulate of transcendent immaterial objects as the basis of reality and thought that he refers to in the Meno, and that he presents more fully in the Phaedo.
We do not know when, precisely, Plato adopted this mode of thought, but it stands to reason that his contact with the Pythagorean school on his first voyage to Southern Italy and Sicily around BC played a major role in this development. Mathematics as a model-science has several advantages. It deals with unchangeable entities that have unitary definitions.
It also makes a plausible claim that the essence of these entities cannot be comprehended in isolation but only in a network of interconnections that have to be worked out at the same time as each particular entity is defined.
For instance, to understand what it is to be a triangle, it is necessary — inter alia — to understand the nature of points, lines, planes and their interrelations.
That Plato was aware of this fact is indicated by his somewhat prophetic statement in his introduction of the theory of recollection in the Meno, 81d: The slave finally manages, with some pushing and pulling by Socrates, and some illustrations drawn in the sand, to double the area of a given square. In the course of this interrogation, the disciple gradually discovers the relations between the different lines, triangles, and squares.
That Plato regards these interconnections as crucial features of knowledge is confirmed later by the distinction that Socrates draws between knowledge and true belief 97b—98b. And that, Meno my friend, is recollection, as we previously agreed. After they are tied down, in the first place, they become knowledge, and then they remain in place. Not only that, the same is suggested by the list through which Socrates first introduces the Forms, 65d—e: And the Beautiful, and the Good?
How does it work? The hypothesis he starts out with seems simpleminded indeed, because it consists of nothing more than the assumption that everything is what it is by participating in the corresponding Form.
But it soon turns out that more is at stake than that simple postulate. First, the hypothesis of each respective Form is to be tested by looking at the compatibility of its consequences.
Second, the hypothesis itself is to be secured by higher hypotheses, until some satisfactory starting point is attained. The distinctions that Socrates subsequently introduces in preparation of his last proof of the immortality of the soul seem, however, to provide some information about the procedure in question d—b.
Socrates first introduces the distinction between essential and non-essential attributes. This distinction is then applied to the soul: The viability of this argument, stripped here to its bare bones, need not engage us.
The procedure shows, at any rate, that Plato resorts to relations between Forms here. The essential tie between the soul and life is clearly not open to sense-perception; instead, understanding this tie takes a good deal of reflection on what it means to be, and to have a soul. To admirers of a two-world metaphysics, it may come as a disappointment that in Plato, recollection should consist in no more than the uncovering of such relationships.
Plato does not employ his newly established metaphysical entities as the basis to work out a definitive conception of the human soul and the appropriate way of life in the Phaedo. Rather, he confines himself to warnings against the contamination of the soul by the senses and their pleasures, and quite generally against corruption by worldly values. He gives no advice concerning human conduct beyond the recommendation of a general abstemiousness from worldly temptations. But as long as this negative or other-worldly attitude towards the physical side of human nature prevails, no interest is to be expected on the part of Plato in nature as a whole — let alone in the principles of the cosmic order but cf.
But it is not only Platonic asceticism that stands in the way of such a wider perspective. Socrates himself seems to have been quite indifferent to the study of nature. And in a dialogue as late as the Phaedrus, Socrates famously explains his preference for the city and his avoidance of nature d: If Plato later takes a much more positive attitude towards nature in general, this is a considerable change of focus.
In the Phaedo, he quite deliberately confines his account of the nature of heaven and earth to the myth about the afterlife d—c. This is as constructive as Plato gets in his earlier discussions of the principles of ethics.
The aporetic controversy about justice in the first book is set off quite sharply against the cooperative discussion that is to follow in the remaining nine books.
Of these disputes, the altercation with the sophist Thrasymachus has received a lot of attention, because he defends the provocative thesis that natural justice is the right of the stronger, and that conventional justice is at best high-minded foolishness. The arguments employed by Socrates at the various turns of the discussion will not be presented here.
Though they reduce Thrasymachus to angry silence, they are not above criticism. Socrates himself expresses dissatisfaction with the result of this discussion R. Perhaps Thrasymachus has defended his case badly, but if Socrates wants to convince his audience, he must do better than that. The brothers demand a positive account of what justice is, and of what it does to the soul of its possessor.
The change of character in the ensuing discussion is remarkable. Not only are the two brothers not subjected to elenchos, they get ample time to elaborate on their objections a—e. Though they are not themselves convinced that injustice is better than justice, they argue that in the present state of society injustice pays — with the gods as well as with men — as long as the semblance of respectability is preserved.