By Alasdair C MacIntyre
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Extra info for A short history of ethics : a history of moral philosophy from the Homeric Age to the twentieth century
Socrates retorts that this is like asking what 12 is and refusing to accept any answer of the form that it is twice 6, or 3 times 4, or 6 times 2, or 4 times 3. But Socrates does accept the task of offering a quite different kind of elucidation; it would be a mistake to suppose that when Socrates does offer us a formula, namely that justice is that state of affairs in which everyone has regard to his own concerns, this is in itself the answer that was being sought. This formula is unintelligible apart from the rest of the Republic, and Thrasymachus is right to suppose that the search for expres-sions synonymous with δικαιοσ νη would not be to the point.
He was only talking. ) But there is still a striking difference between the case where a man never does what he says he believes he ought to do (when we should need the strongest reasons for not supposing that his behavior gives the lie to his avowals) and the case where a man occasionally does not do what he says he believes he ought to do (which is what constitutes a moral lapse, in most circles a commonplace occurrence). And this difference Socrates just does not recognize: if a man really knows what he ought to do, what power could be greater than knowledge and so prevent him from doing what he ought?
He wants not a list of just actions, but a criterion for inclusion in or exclusion from such a list. Again, a definition of justice as “doing good to one’s friends and harm to one’s enemies” is rejected not just because of the argument that to harm someone would be to make him worse –that is, more unjust– with the consequence that the just man would be involved in making men less just, but because any definition of justice in terms of “doing good” and the like is bound to be unilluminating. ” Socrates retorts that this is like asking what 12 is and refusing to accept any answer of the form that it is twice 6, or 3 times 4, or 6 times 2, or 4 times 3.
A short history of ethics : a history of moral philosophy from the Homeric Age to the twentieth century by Alasdair C MacIntyre