Plato's two forms of second-best morality

Philosophical Review 118 (3):351-374 (2009)
Abstract
Plato presents a hierarchy of five cities, each representing a structural arrangement of the soul. The timocratic soul, characterized by its governance by spirit and its consequent desire for esteem and aversion to shame, is ranked as the second-best kind of soul, though this should strike us as surprising since the timocratic figure would seem to be duplicitous, intellectually passive, and at the mercy of the fortuitous opinions of others. This timocrat's position thus raises problems concerning the intrinsic value of the spirited part of the soul, problems that are best solved by comparing the auxiliary to the timocrat, both of whom represent different forms of second-best morality. A lengthy discussion of the early education's effect on the spirited part shows how the auxiliary represents the best kind of moral agent that the second-best nature (silver-souled individuals) can develop into. This is because the early education ensures that the auxiliary and the philosopher share the same basic structure of soul, with reason being in control of each, though the auxiliary's natural deficiencies create some limitations in terms of his or her moral self-sufficiency. The timocrat by contrast represents the second-best kind of moral agent that the best nature (gold-souled individuals) can develop into. The timocrat is morally inferior to the auxiliary and seems to embody Homeric shame-culture. Plato is critical of this approach to morality, but the timocrat justifiably occupies the second position in the hierarchy on account of his or her concern for the opinions of others. CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us Digg Reddit Technorati What's this?
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