By Alasdair C MacIntyre
Read Online or Download A short history of ethics : a history of moral philosophy from the Homeric Age to the twentieth century PDF
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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
Now, to attempt to define moral terms by reference to how people in general define them presupposes likewise that if one is not to be involved in such a regress, one already grasps the moral concepts possessed by people in general. And it is this that traps Polus. His successor in the dialogue, Callicles, is not prepared to be trapped. He grasps that what betraved both Polus and Gorgias was their insufficiently systematic redefinition of moral terms. For Callicles the supreme good is power to satisfy all desires.
And this, as Aristotle points out, is contrary to what ordinary men take to be an obvious fact of moral experience. We can put the best possible face upon the Socratic view by considering the plausibility of the thesis that a man’s moral beliefs are evidenced in his actions. If a man says that he believes that he ought to do something, and when occasion arises neither performs the action in question nor exhibits regret or remorse, we shall certinly conclude that he did not really believe what he said.
15 The point I have tried to make is that only those demands and decisions are open to us A short history of ethics 24 which there are concepts available to express, and that therefore the investigation of what concepts we either must or may use is crucial. Thrasymachus’ own elucidation of the concept of justice is as follows. He does not believe that “just” means “What is to the interest of the stronger”; but he does believe that, as a matter of historical fact, rulers and ruling classes invented the concept and the standards of justice for their own purposes, and that it is in fact more profitable to do what is unjust rather than just.