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
Moreover, the just man will rarely exist except in the just state, where at least some men–the future rulers–are systematically educated in justice. But the just state cannot possibly exist except where there are just men. So the questions of how the state can come to be and of how the just man is to be educated have to be posed together. And so we reach the point where Plato brings on stage the ideal of the philosopher-king. Plato defines a philosopher by setting out an account of knowledge and belief and then contrasting the philosopher, who knows, with the nonphilosophical man, who at best has only true belief or opinion.
This example depends on that fallacious portrait of the presocial, natural man which I have already criticized. For Plato’s suggestion is that perhaps Gyges with his ring is natural man. The superiority of the present case over that originally put into the mouth of Thrasymachus is that Plato now turns sharply to-ward the identification of self-interest as a trait in social and not merely in natural man. He makes Adeimantus stress that the conventionally virtuous and just citizen is on the side of Thrasymachus, not of Socrates.
But clearly this distinction has nothing to do with the subject matter of our beliefs. It concerns rather the different ways in which individuals may acquire and hold their beliefs. Why, then, should Plato suppose that his distinction is one of subject matter? The reason is that Plato thought himself to have independent grounds for believing that no secure, rationally grounded judgments could be made about the subject matter afforded by sense perception. Some of these grounds were derived from earlier philosophers.
A short history of ethics : a history of moral philosophy from the Homeric Age to the twentieth century by Alasdair C MacIntyre