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Introduction In their moral theories, the ancient philosophers depended on several important notions. These include virtue and the virtues, happiness eudaimoniaand the soul.
We can begin with virtue. There is the excellence of a horse and the excellence of a knife. Then, of course, there is human excellence. Conceptions of human excellence include such disparate figures as the Homeric warrior chieftain and the Athenian statesman of the period of its imperial expansion.
Plato's character Meno sums up one important strain of thought when he says that excellence for a man is managing the business of the city so that he benefits his friends, harms his enemies, and comes to no harm himself Meno 71e.
From this description we can see that some versions of human excellence have a problematic relation to the moral virtues. In the ancient world, courage, moderation, and justice were prime species of moral virtue.
A virtue is a settled disposition to act in a certain way; justice, for instance, is the settled disposition to act, let's say, so that each one receives their due. This settled disposition includes a practical knowledge about how to bring it about, in each situation, that each receives their due.
It also includes a strong positive attitude toward bringing it about that each receives their due. Just people, then, are not ones who occasionally act justly, or even who regularly act justly but do so out of some other motive; rather they are people who reliably act that way because they place a positive, high intrinsic value on rendering to each their due and they are good at it.
Courage is a settled disposition that allows one to act reliably to pursue right ends in fearful situations, because one values so acting intrinsically.
Moderation is the virtue that deals similarly with one's appetites and emotions. Human excellence can be conceived in ways that do not include the moral virtues. For instance, someone thought of as excellent for benefiting friends and harming enemies can be cruel, arbitrary, rapacious, and ravenous of appetite.
Most ancient philosophers, however, argue that human excellence must include the moral virtues and that the excellent human will be, above all, courageous, moderate, and just. This argument depends on making a link between the moral virtues and happiness.
While most ancient philosophers hold that happiness is the proper goal or end of human life, the notion is both simple and complicated, as Aristotle points out. It seems simple to say everyone wants to be happy; it is complicated to say what happiness is.
We can approach the problem by discussing, first, the relation of happiness to human excellence and, then, the relation of human excellence to the moral virtues. It is significant that synonyms for eudaimonia are living well and doing well.
These phrases imply certain activities associated with human living. Ancient philosophers argued that whatever activities constitute human living — e. One can feel fear and react to dangerous situations sometimes appropriately and sometimes inappropriately; or one might always act shamefully and dishonorably.
However, to carry out the activities that constitute human living well over a whole lifetime, or long stretches of it, is living well or doing well.Thrasymachus therefore turns out to be an ethical egoist who stresses that justice is the good of another and thus incompatible with the pursuit of one's self-interest.
Scholars in this group view Thrasymachus primarily as an ethical thinker and not as a political theorist. Glaucon's account is in accordance with the cluster of ethical theories such as psychological and ethical egoism, the myth of the magic ring of Gyges.
It is important to notice that in this essay from the Republic, Plato is using Glaucon's account as a challenge for Socrates to overcome. Psychological Egoism in Plato's Republic and Other Literature Essay - In Plato’s Republic and in Rachels' Egoism and Moral Scepticism, the authors attempt to combat psychological egoism, which is the ethical theory which asserts that all human motivation is ultimately self-interested.
One of the most remarkable indi- cations of his curiously unexcitable fancy is a Historical Essay upon Chivalry and Modern Honour, which was found among his early papers.
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A summary of Book II in Plato's The Republic. Learn exactly what happened in this chapter, scene, or section of The Republic and what it means. Perfect for acing essays, tests, and quizzes, as well as for writing lesson plans.