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The Development of Ethics: Volume 1From Socrates to the Reformation$
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Terence Irwin

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780198242673

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198242673.001.0001

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(p.69) 5 Plato
The Development of Ethics: Volume 1


Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses Plato's ethical views and compares the Republic with the Socratic dialogues. The structure and style of the Republic encourages this comparison. The Socratic positions that it considers are recognizable in Plato's early dialogues. If Cynic and Cyrenaic views go back to Plato's contemporaries, one should suppose that he writes the middle and late dialogues against a background of conflicting interpretations and evaluations of Socrates. According to the Republic, some identify the good with pleasure, others with intelligence. Plato mentions these two candidates again in the Philebus. These descriptions capture the Cyrenaic and the Cynic attitudes to virtue, pleasure, and happiness. Plato disagrees with both of them. Plato and Aristotle do not dominate later reflexion on Socrates or later ethical theory. On the contrary, the one-sided Socratics influence the main Hellenistic ethical theories; the Stoics seem to derive more from the Cynics, and the Epicureans from the Cyrenaics, than either school seems to derive from Plato or Aristotle.

Keywords:   Plato, Republic, virtue, pleasure, happiness, Socratic dialogues, Socrates, Cynics, Cyrenaics, Aristotle

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