By Alasdair C MacIntyre
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Extra resources for A short history of ethics : a history of moral philosophy from the Homeric Age to the twentieth century
Aristotle later tries to show how there are certain specifically human ends in the light of which policies of action can be justified to rational beings as such. But Plato restricts the class to whom his justifications can be addressed to those who have acquired knowledge of the Forms. When, subsequently, he discusses the justification of justice in terms independent of this knowledge, that is in the passages where he compares types of state and of soul, he in fact falls back on comparisons, half a priori, half empirical, which are bound on his own terms to founder–for they presumably belong to the world of opinion, of δ α, not of πιστ µη, of knowledge–except against the background of a transcendental knowledge which has been pointed to but never brought on the scene.
Plato does not believe in a correlation between intelligence and some merely accidental property, such as a color of the skin, in the way that racists in South Africa and Mississippi believe; he does, however, believe in the occurrence of inborn intelligence, or the lack of it, in the way that conservative educationalists do; and he believes that ingenious propaganda–the telling of what he calls “noble lies”–can insure that inferior people will accept the fact of their own inferiority. Those of superior intelligence proceed to the vision of the Forms in ways that Plato delineates by means of two different parables, that of the Line and that of the Cave.
It is a companion error to suppose in any case that my wants are given, fixed, and determinate, while my choices are free. My wants are not simply determinative of my choices; they are often enough the material on which choice has to be exercised. This is blurred by conceiving of moral concepts as part of the realm of convention, but of desires as part of nature. Socrates does not of course pursue any of these points, and he does not answer his own question any more than Gorgias answered it. What he does is to state one necessary condition for an answer to the question, What does a good consist in?
A short history of ethics : a history of moral philosophy from the Homeric Age to the twentieth century by Alasdair C MacIntyre