Socratic reductionism in ethics

European Journal of Philosophy 28 (4):970-985 (2020)
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In this paper, I clarify and defend a provocative hypothesis offered by Bernard Williams, namely, that modern people are much more likely to speak in terms of master-concepts like “good” or “right,” and correspondingly less likely to think and speak in the pluralistic terms favored by certain Ancient societies. By conducting a close reading of the Platonic dialogues Charmides and Laches, I show that the figure of Socrates plays a key historical role in this conceptual shift. Once we understand that our narrow, reductionist focus on “thin” ethical concepts is a contingent historical development, we are, I claim, in a much better position to evaluate it.

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Nick Smyth
Fordham University

References found in this work

On What Matters: Two-Volume Set.Derek Parfit - 2011 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Sources of the self: the making of the modern identity.Charles Taylor - 1989 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
On Virtue Ethics.Rosalind Hursthouse - 1999 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Famine, Affluence, and Morality.Peter Singer - 1972 - Oxford University Press USA.
Famine, affluence, and morality.Peter Singer - 1972 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (3):229-243.

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