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
For a man whose behavior was not rule-governed in any way would have ceased to participate as an intelligible agent in human society. This is brought out not only by the content of the Gorgias but also by its form. Even Callicles and Socrates share certain concepts, and the dialogue form brings out the way in which it is this sharing which enables Socrates to bring home to Callicles the internal incoherence of Callicles’ view. This suggests that badness consists in a breach with a form of life in which certain goods can be attained, for to share concepts is always to share a form of life to some degree.
Gorgias is not entirely consistent on this point; he appears to suggest that an orator will on occasion need to be a just man, but is vague as to how he may become just. Rhetoric itself he presents as a morally neutral technique which can be used for either right or wrong purposes: to blame a teacher of rhetoric for its misuse by his pupils would be as silly as to blame a teacher of boxing for the uses to which pupils may put their craft afterwards. Plato: the Gorgias 19 The idea that techniques of persuasion are morally neutral is a recurrent one in human society.
Everything therefore turns for Plato on the possibility of establishing, first, that there are Forms and that knowledge of them has the role which he claims, and second, that only a minority are capable of this knowledge. The latter is merely asserted and never argued for. The former depends upon arguments about which Plato himself, as we shall see, came to have serious doubts. But behind all Plato’s explicit statements there lies a further assumption which must now be brought into the open. Plato: the republic 33 We speak of justification in at least two radically different types of context.
A short history of ethics : a history of moral philosophy from the Homeric Age to the twentieth century by Alasdair C MacIntyre