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
Honor instead has this role. In oligarchy they are still disciplined, but only by the love of wealth and a regard for stability which springs from a regard for property. In democracy every taste, every inclination has equal sway in the personality. And in tyranny–in the men with despotic souls–the baser appetites, that is the bodily ones, exercise absolute and irrational control. Plato now uses this classification of personality types in order to return to the question of the justification of justice in the form in which Glaucon and Adeimantus had raised it.
For the suggestion that in the realm after death the just will be rewarded and the unjust punished appropriately depends for its force upon the notion that justice is indeed superior to injustice, that the just man deserves his reward and the unjust his punishment. So that the question of the justification of justice is still left without a clear answer. A very brief reconsideration of the central arguments of the Republic makes it clear why on Plato’s terms this has to be so. The argument begins from the need for an understanding of the meaning of ethical predicates apart from their particular applications.
How do we understand the concepts which we use in decision and appraisal? What is the criterion for their correct application? Is established usage consistent? and if not, how do we escape inconsistency? But to have asked the philosophical questions about how we are to understand concepts will only take Socrates part of the way. Clearly, if our moral concepts are concepts at all, if our moral words are words, then there must be criteria for their use. They could not be part of our language unless there were rules for their use, rules which could be taught and learned, rules which are socially established and socially shared.
A short history of ethics : a history of moral philosophy from the Homeric Age to the twentieth century by Alasdair C MacIntyre