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by: Elizabeth Kaur

PHILOLecture3 PHI 001

Elizabeth Kaur

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About this Document

Third Lecture
Intro to Philosophy
George Mattey
Class Notes
philosophy, Introduction to Philosophy, ethics, Ethics and Political Philosophy, Socrates, Virtue, Social Contract, Plato, Plato's Meno
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This 12 page Class Notes was uploaded by Elizabeth Kaur on Sunday January 31, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to PHI 001 at University of California - Davis taught by George Mattey in Winter 2016. Since its upload, it has received 18 views. For similar materials see Intro to Philosophy in PHIL-Philosophy at University of California - Davis.


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Date Created: 01/31/16
Socratic and Platonic Ethics G. J. Mattey Winter, 2016 / Philosophy 1 Questions needed to be addressed about quizzes: How are you going to be informed that quizzes are live? l i a m E Time given to take the quiz? Unlimited Plan to sit down and do the quiz in one sitting Questions will be like? Multiple choice Material is taken from slides and the readings that are assigned within the week How to study for them Come to lecture Go over slides Read the readings Ethics and Political Philosophy • The first part of the course is a brief survey of important texts in the history of ethics and political philosophy. • Ethics is a normative discipline, which primarily concerns the evaluation of human behavior. What makes something normative? How things ought to be done as opposed to how things are done. “Someone did some action” “Should that person have done that action or should that person not have done that action?” “Is it neither right nor wrong?” This involves evaluation • Historically, two broad questions are asked: – What makes a person a good or a bad person? Evaluating characters of a person. good or bad. – What makes a human action right or wrong? An evil person could do a good thing. “Well, Hitler loved his dog.” “That was he right thing to do” “But that’s just an action” Similarly, good people can do bad things. • Closely connected with ethics is political philosophy, which deals with such questions as: – How ought society to be organized? Ex. aristocracy, oligarchy, democracy, etc. Plato’s book The Republic, asks this fundamental question. – What makes the actions of a society or of individuals just or unjust? Country invades another country. Is this just or unjust? • These questions were asked by the ancient philosophers and remain of vital interest today. These are still questions we ask today. In the US, it is generally held that tyranny is bad. “regime change” “we need to give them democracy" Ancient Ethics and Political Philosophy • The fundamental practical issue for the ancient philosophers was how to attain the good life. Ancient philosophers focused on the good life. What is the good life and how is it that a person can attain it? What makes for a good life? • There were two main candidates as answers to that question: – Through virtue or excellence of character, thought, and action (arete), (One view, that we are going to focus on. Exploring virtue) Alife where a person has excellent character, actions, thoughts – Through a state of either happiness (eudaimonia) or pleasure (hedone). The good life might then be a pleasurable life, where most of the time you are in a pleasurable state. These two might not match up.Avirtuous person might have a person life.Avicious person might have a pleasant life. The two of these need not go together at first glance. • Generally, it was thought that virtue and happiness are closely related, while virtue and pleasure are not. • If this is so, then happiness and pleasure are two distinct kinds of states. • The larger question was how individual virtue, happiness, or pleasure are related to norms such as justice and injustice that apply to society. Socrates: The Man of Virtue • The first ancient philosopher to undertake a comprehensive investigation of virtue was Socrates. • Socrates described his behavior as a response to a divine voice (daimon) within him and to an utterance by the Delphic Oracle. He had a belief that he was being spoken to by an agent of the gods. The oracle told Socrates he was the wisest of all men. • His philosophical goal was to seek the truth through the interrogation of people alleged to be wise. • His practical goal was to teach that the each person should attain the best possible state of the soul, which would entail being as virtuous as possible. •According toAristotle, Socrates believed that our actions always aim at the best and fail to attain it only because we are ignorant of what the best is. We just don’t know what the best action is. We act for what we think is the best. What makes an action the best action. Socrates thought the best action was the most virtuous. He was willing to face death when he was unjustly sentenced to death. • Socrates’s commitment to virtue was so strong that he accepted an unjust sentence of death rather than escaping into exile. The Sophists •Although Socrates tried to expose the pretensions to knowledge of everyone he came across, he was especially hostile toward the Sophists. Sophists were his “chief enemy” • The Sophists were professional teachers of rhetoric, whose aim was to train young people to debate in the political arena. Sophists were teachers of the art of persuasion. Rhetoric was important because there was a direct democracy at the time so all of the citizens would go in person to vote on legislative matters. It was important for them to be able to debate and speak well in a certain way. • One boast of the Sophists was that they could make the worse argument appear better than the better argument. This irritated Socrates the most (according to Prof Mattey) • Socrates charged that the Sophists trained their students to advance their own interests, even by arguing for falsehoods. • By promoting ignorance, the Sophists promoted actions which are not aimed at what is best. • In this way, the influence of the Sophists was to turn people away from virtue. Socrates is against the type of egoism. The Priority of Virtue • In contrast to the Sophists, Socrates tried to turn people toward virtue. • His message was that one should care most strongly for the best possible state of the soul, rather than for wealth or bodily pleasure. • Wealth and other goods that a person pursues do not make the person virtuous when they are attained. You can pursue and gain wealth but that won’t make you virtuous. • “Wealth does not bring about excellence, but excellence makes wealth and everything else good for men, both individually and collectively” (Apology 30b). Virtue is what makes wealth good for us. Without it, we might become greedy. • The virtuous person cannot be harmed, as the only real harm is the loss of virtue. If Socrates is virtuous and is put to death, that cannot harm him. But if he starts doing bad things, that can hurt him as he has deviated from virtue. Virtue above all. An Injustice • Socrates was accused of crimes against the city ofAthens, convicted by a jury, and sentenced to death. The Apology is the story of his trial. One charge was a charge of impiety as he was accused of creating new gods because of a demon speaking to him. The second charge was the he was corrupting the youth ofAthens. • He regarded his conviction as wrongful, as he thought he had proved that the charges against him were unfounded. • He claimed that the only reason for his conviction was his own refusal to beg for the jury’s mercy. He said they were convicting him for not groveling and begging for mercy • Had he done so, he would have brought shame on himself. • In fact, it was the jury that brought shame on itself by treating him unjustly. He turns the tables on the jury. • The jury would reap the consequences of its actions: – Socrates’s followers would be emboldened to act against members of the jury, Could be the followers would be mad and take it out on the jury – The jury members would lose out on the opportunity to improve themselves with the help of Socrates. The jurors wouldn't have Socrates to make them virtuous • The second item is an example of the famous Socratic irony Death Philosophy of death • Socrates faced death resolutely, due to his belief that the virtuous person cannot be harmed. • He proposed a dilemma which shows the harmlessness of death. Adilemma is when you have two choices and you see what follows from both choices. • Death is either: –Adreamless sleep, or no consciousness whatsoever. same thing as when you’re sleeping. –Apassage to another life. death is a transition from the current to the after life •Adreamless sleep is desirable, not harmful. • The virtuous person who passes on to another life would find justice there and would associate with other virtuous souls. If you’re virtuous and pass on to another life, things will be good because in this other life, there will be justice and you can hang out with other virtuous people. Neither of these two things are harmful and both are desirable, as long as you’re virtuous. The Social Dimension of Virtue • Excellence of the soul seems to be an entirely personal matter. • Socrates argues that the opinions of others are irrelevant to whether one is acting from virtue or not. Virtue is objective. The opinions of others about what I should do are irrelevant unless they are opinions of the virtuous. • The virtuous person cannot be harmed by the actions of others, no matter what their opinion of him. • The only harm another can do is to lead one away from virtue. Only harm that a human being can undergo. • In looking to others for guidance in action, one should look to those who have knowledge of virtue. – By analogy, an athlete should look for guidance from a trainer or a physician. You should go to the expert. Getting guidance from someone who is virtuous. • What should guide our actions is not how non-virtuous people think we should behave, but whether the actions themselves are right or wrong, just or unjust. Objectively UnjustActions • Suppose someone, or some group of people, has behaved unjustly toward a person. –Acase in point is Socrates’s conviction and death-sentence. • The injustice of the act does not justify an unjust act in return. – Socrates should not avoid death by escape and exile if such behavior would be unjust. One injustice should not be met with another injustice. • In general, no consequences of an unjust action, however favorable, make it acceptable to perform it. No matter what happens asa result of your actions, you must not do what is unjust. • So the issue facing Socrates is whether avoiding the death penalty by escape is indeed unjust. “Would it be wrong for me to escape?” Bad Consequences • Socrates argues in the specific case of his escape that the consequences would not in fact be favorable. – His friends will be put into danger by helping him escape – He will be received as an enemy of the law – If he finds a lawless state that would accept him, his life would not be worth living there – His conviction would be vindicated, as his escape would prove that he was not teaching virtue “Oh well, Socrates was a bad guy after all” – He would be disgraced by acting in a cowardly way Not facing resolute death so he’s a coward • On the other hand, no real harm will be done if he does not escape. –As a virtuous person, he cannot be harmed – No harm would come to his family members, as friends would look after them His friends would take care of his family so they’ll all be okay The consequences of escaping are not that great. Would escape be an unjust act, whatever the consequences may be. If he were to escape, he would be in violation of a just agreement. Justice andAgreement • But as stated above, the consequences of his escape should not be the basis of his decision. • The question is whether to escape is to act unjustly. • Socrates argues that to escape would be to violate a just agreement, which is always unjust. • The agreement in his case is to follow the laws of the city. • So even if the laws are executed in an unjust way, they must still be followed. Obligatory following of the laws The Social Contract • Socrates did not make an explicit agreement with the city ofAthens to obey its laws. • His agreement was a tacit one, which is now called a “social contract.” – He stayed in the city, – Yet he could have left at any time with all his property. • Moreover, he received benefits from his tacit agreement with the city, e.g., his education. • It was also in his power to argue for better laws, so the laws of the city are not oppressive in any way. Because it was a democracy Socrates and Modern Political Thought • Social contract theories have been used by many modern philosophers to justify the application of laws to members of society. • In the mid-twentieth century, such thinkers as Ghandi and King have claimed that it is just to disobey unjust laws, or laws that are enforced unjustly. Social contract theories are very popular among philosophers. On the other hand there are people that think it is just to violate the laws. • There may be a way to reconcile this attitude with Socrates’s argument that it is unjust to disobey the laws of the city. • The indigenous people of India and theAfrican-Americans were not related to the laws in the same way Socrates was: – The laws were oppressive, in that these people were in no position to influence the legislative process. • The difference in the two situations can be made vivid by considering whether a slave in ancientAthens was party to any kind of social contract. Beyond Socratic Ethics • Socrates maintained several theses in ethical and political philosophy: – People ought to act only from virtue, – It is never right to respond to injustice with further injustice, –Avirtuous person can be harmed only by a loss of virtue, – People have obligations to obey the laws of a state with which they have voluntarily associated themselves. • But the Apology and Crito (where Socrates defends his decision to accept death) leave a number of central questions unanswered, including the following: – What makes a person virtuous? – What makes an act just or unjust? – How should society be organized in a virtuous or excellent way? • Plato began to supply answers to these questions. Plato’s Meno • In the dialogue Meno, Plato elaborates on the nature of virtue • He describes virtue as composed of “parts,” which include: – Justice – Temperance moderation in one’s behavior – Piety • Socrates looks for a common character which all the individual virtues have in common. • He fails to get a positive answer to the question. • He advances a negative argument to the conclusion that virtue is not a kind of knowledge, and that accordingly it cannot be taught. He draws the conclusions that virtue is not something that can be taught. “If it cannot be taught, what makes people virtuous?” He draws that conclusion partly because the children of some virtuous people turn out to be really bad. • Based on that reasoning, he concludes that virtue is given to us by the gods. Agift of the gods • But he notes that the issue of the origin of virtue cannot be resolved until it is discovered what virtue is. Plato’s Republic • Plato’s Republic is a comprehensive work of political philosophy. • Its main goal is to determine the best possible form of government • The conclusions reached there are important in themselves, but they also shed light on the common character of virtue. In the end, he doesn’t think democracy is the best form of government. • In Book I of the Republic, Plato has Socrates ask what justice (one of the virtues) is. “What is justice”And the answers are mostly unsatisfactory • He gets a number of unsatisfactory responses before giving his own account. Justice as Rendering to Each His Due • The first account of justice is given by Simonides and Polemarchus: – Justice is to give to each person what is due to him. – For example, it is just to repay one’s debts to another. • This account is easily refuted, since it is not just to return weapons to someone who has gone insane since they were borrowed. • Polemarchus revises the account by explaining what “due” means: – Justice is to give to each person what he deserves. Now that person who is unstable, doesn’t deserve to get that weapon back. • What someone deserves from me depends on my relationship to him: –Afriend deserves benefits from me, –An enemy deserves harm from me. So justice is helping your friends and hurting your enemies ➔ Modified account of justice The Defeat of the FirstAccount of Justice • Socrates refutes the revised first account of justice in several ways. • It is possible to be wrong about who is one’s friend and who is one’s enemy, in which case one could act unjustly when he thought he was acting justly. “You don’t know who your real friends and enemies are.” “If you harm someone who is really your friend, you have done something unjust.” • This leads to a second revision of the first account: – Justice is to benefit the just and harm the unjust • Socrates then argues that it is never just to harm anyone. 1. Harming something make something less excellent with respect to the kind of thing it . s i Ties in with the notion of virtue 2. Justice is “the specific virtue” of a person. 3. So, harming a person makes him less excellent with respect to justice. 4.Ajust person would not make another person less just. 5. So, a just person would not harm another person. January 14, 2016 Justice as theAdvantage of the Stronger • The second account of justice is given by Thrasymachus. – Justice is what benefits the stronger. “Might makes right.” ➔ Not a very popular view. • Specifically, the stronger are those in power in a state, so that: – Obeying the laws set down by those in power for their own benefit is just. “They make the laws to benefit themselves.” •An initial problem for this view is that the rulers may mistake what is for their own benefit, and so obedience to their laws will not benefit them. They might make laws that they think will benefit them but won’t really benefit them. The Craft of Ruling • Thrasymachus replies that a ruler does not make a mistake when he is acting as a ruler. When the ruler is acting as a ruler, then the ruler cannot make a mistake. • Ruling is a craft, and insofar as one practices the craft, one does so correctly. –Adoctor does not act as a doctor when he harms a patient. Then that person is not acting as a doctor. If s/he were a doctor, there wouldn’t be harm. • So in practicing the craft of ruling, rulers enact laws that really do benefit them, and obeying these laws is just. When the ruler acts as ruler, he cannot go wrong. So the laws enacted by the ruler, are beneficial. • Socrates’s further response to Thrasymachus exploits the claim that ruling is a craft. • The important point is that what is advantageous to one acting as a craftsman is to accomplish the ends of the craft. – It is advantageous to the doctor, when acting as a doctor, to cure his patients. Acting as a ruler, you act for the advantage of the people that you rule. •And the end of the craft of ruling is to build a healthy state, and not to attain personal advantage. What Justice Is • The rulers of a state act justly when they act for the advantage of those they rule. • To do so, the rulers must act wisely, from which Socrates concludes that justice is wisdom in ruling. How is ruling supposed to be done? . y l e s i W • Justice, then, is wise rule for the advantage of those who are ruled. It is said then that justice would be found in wise ruling. • Moreover, justice is more effective than is injustice. –Aband of thieves that treated one another unjustly would not be able to accomplish much. ➔ Honor among thieves. If there was dishonor among theives, things wouldn’t work out so well in terms of acting dishonorably or unjustly to society. Claims that justice has social advantages. • Socrates ends the discussion with Thrasymachus by noting that the just soul, in carrying out its functions wisely, will live well and be blessed and happy. Socrates concludes that having a just soul will have you live well. Three Kinds of Value • There are three ways in which any kind of behavior might have value. • It may be intrinsically valuable, or valued for its own sake. Socrates gives us examples: simples pleasures, simple enjoyment, binging on Netflix • It may be instrumentally valuable, or valued for the sake of something else. Something valued for the sake of something else.All that time in the weight room that the athletes put in is instrumentally valuable. They may not find pleasure in doing it but they do it to maintain health. ➔ In terms of the soul, a harmonious soul will function the best and bring the most advantage to the person.And also, a person who does this will live happily and be respected by others. So why is justice desirable for its own sake? Go back to the notion of health. We desire health for its own sake. Healthy soul is a harmonious soul. • It may be both intrinsically and instrumentally valuable. Health. You want to be healthy. Health is something that has great instrumental value. • Socrates believes that justice is something that is valuable both intrinsically and instrumentally. Is Injustice More Valuable Than Justice? • Glaucon proposes an argument to the effect that justice has instrumental value only. Not as crude as Thrasymachus • He contends that people behave justly only when they are in a position of weakness. He says the best state of a person would be to be unjust and to get away with it. ex. successfully stealing from people and become rich and never get rich • Injustice is the natural state of people, because of their desire to get more and more. – Someone with an instrument that would make them powerful (like the ring of Gyges) would use it unjustly. Story of someone how discovers a ring. He finds that when he twists the ring he becomes invisible. How does he put this to work? Gyges makes himself invisible, gets into the castle, kills the King, and takes the King’s wife and becomes King himself. Moral of the story: If you could get away with it, you would do it. He believes this is the natural state of h • Glaucon’s brotherAdeimantus notes many ways in which people recognize the advantages of injustice. Civic and Individual Justice • Socrates undertakes to answer Glaucon andAdeimantus in an indirect way. Socratres wants to look at how justice functions in a city because he says, if you want to understand something, you need to look at the big picture, then you can look at the individual. • He considers the effects of justice on a city. • He finds that justice is advantageous to the city. • He then compares features of the city to those of the soul. • His conclusion is that acting justly is to be valued for its own sake. Civic Harmony • The city exists because people must work together in order to achieve their ends. • If a city is to function well, its citizens must take on specific roles and perform them well. And they shouldn’t try to escape their specific roles. (Very un-American) • To this end, people in the city should be trained in carrying out their roles. • The rulers of the city must be trained as philosophers. Famous notion of the “Philosopher King” Music and gymnastics training to become the philosopher king – Only philosophers have the wisdom to reconcile the high spirits needed to rule with the gentleness that must be shown toward those who are ruled. What is this wisdom directed to? If you want to rule people, you have to have a lot of energy. You can’t be a tyrant and someone how is just so high spirited they run all over the other people. • Thus the city functions best when it is under the guidance of wise rulers who act with the best interests of those they rule at heart. This is not democracy. The philosopher kings are trained and are put on the job. They don’t even want the job. They would much rather do something other than rule the country. The Virtues of the Soul The just city is ruled by a wise ruler. What about a just soul? • In Book IV, Socrates argues that the just soul will resemble the justly-ruled city. • The city contains many individuals with different functions which must be coordinated by the rulers. The soul is like the city. Has different parts. • The soul contains several parts which must be brought into harmony for it to achieve excellence. – The emotional – The willful “spirited” – The rational Three part/tripartite • Each of these parts of the soul has its own virtue or excellence: – The emotional: temperance, or moderation – The willful: courage – The rational: wisdom • The virtue of justice is the co-ordination of the parts of the soul, under the guidance of the rational part. Justice is the harmony between the different parts of the soul.


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