Happiness and virtue in socrates' moral theory

Topoi 4 (1):3-22 (1985)
In Section IV above we start with texts whose prima facie import speaks so strongly for the Identity Thesis that any interpretation which stops short of it looks like a shabby, timorous, thesis-saving move. What else could Socrates mean when he declares with such conviction that ‘no evil’ can come to a good man (T19), that his prosecutors ‘could not harm’ him (T16(a)), that if a man has not been made more unjust he has not been harmed (T20), that ‘all of happiness is in culture and justice’ (T16(a)), that living well is ‘the same’ as living justly (T15)? But then doubts begin to creep in. Recalling that inflation of the quantifier is normal and innocuous in common speech (“that job means everything to him, he'll do anything to get it, will stick at nothing ”) we ask if there is really no chance at all that ‘no evil’ in T19, ‘not harmed’ in T20 might be meant in the same way? The shift from ‘no harm’ at T16(a) to ‘no great harm’ at T16(b), once noticed, strengthens the doubt. It gets further impetus in T21(b) when to explain how ‘all of happiness is in culture and justice’ he depicts a relation (that recurs more elaborately in T22) which, though still enormously strong, is not quite as strong as would be required by identity. The doubt seeps into T15 when we note that current usage did allow just that relation as a respectable use of ‘the same’. At that point we begin to wonder if resort to the Identity Thesis might not be just a first approximation to a subtler, more finely nuanced, doctrine which would give Socrates as sound a foundation for what we know he wants to maintain at all costs - the Sovereignty of Virtue - without obliterating the eudaemonic value of everything else in his world. We cast about for a credible model of such a relation of virtue to happiness and hit on that multicomponent pattern sketched on p. 9 above. We ascertain that this will afford a comprehensively coherent eudaemonist theory of rational action, while its rival would not, and will fit perfectly a flock of texts in Section V which the latter will not fit at all. Are we not entitled to conclude that this is our best guide to the true relation of virtue to happiness in Socrates' thought - the one for which he would have declared if he had formulated explicitly those two alternative theses and made a reasoned choice between them?
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/BF00138646
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history
Request removal from index
Download options
Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 26,627
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
Two Conceptions of Happiness.Richard Kraut - 1979 - Philosophical Review 88 (2):167-197.
Consequences and Character in Sophocles' Philoctetes.Martha Nussbaum - 1976 - Philosophy and Literature 1 (1):25-53.
Aristotle: The Nicomachean Ethics.David Ross - 1956 - Philosophy 31 (116):77-77.
Socratic Virtue and Happiness.Donald Zeyl - 1982 - Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 64 (3):225-238.

View all 6 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

130 ( #36,193 of 2,157,997 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

6 ( #54,308 of 2,157,997 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.

Other forums