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Goodness and Justice: Plato, Aristotle and the Moderns



Goodness and Justice: Plato, Aristotle and the Moderns

Gerasimos Santas

ISBN: 978-0-631-22886-8 October 2001 Wiley-Blackwell 312 Pages

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This volume explores Plato and Aristotle's theories about good things, goodness, and the best life for human beings, and draws comparisons between ancient and modern theories of good and justice.

Part I: Introduction.

1 The Role of the Good in the Ancients and the Moderns.

2 Science and Ultimate Good.

3 Disputes and Questions about Good.

4 The Aims and Limits of this Study.


Part II: The Socratic Good of Knowledge.


1 All Goods and their Socratic Rankings.

2 The Dispute with Gorgias: Is Rhetoric the Greatest Good?.

3 The Dispute with Polus about Power, Desire, and Good.

4 The Dispute with Polus about Justice and Happiness.

5 The Dispute with Callicles about Good and Pleasure.

6 Conditional and Unconditional Goods.

7 Socrates and Kant: Wisdom or the Good Will?.

8 The Conditional Value of all Goods on Virtue in the Meno.

9 Socrates and G.E. Moore on the Value of Knowledge.

10 Goods, Wisdom, and Happiness.


Part III: The Good of Platonic Social Justice.

1 The Great Questions of the Republic.

2 The Functional Perfectionist Theory of Good.

3 The Application of the Functional Theory of Good to the City.

4 The Definitions of the Social Virtues.

5 The Role and Scope of Platonic Social Justice.

6 The Good of Platonic Social Justice.

7 The Application of Platonic Social Justice to Gender.

8 Conclusion.


Part IV: The Good of Justice in Our Souls.

1 The Isomorphism between Social and Psychic Justice.

2 Plato's Pioneering Analysis of the Psyche.

3 Psychic Justice and the Good of It.

4 Plato and Hume on Reason or Passion as the Rule of Life.

5 The Defence of Psychic Justice as Analogous to Health.

6 The Criticism of the Democratic Individual.

7 Which is Prior, Social or Psychic Justice?.

8 The Structure of Plato's Ethical Theory.


Part V: Plato's Metaphysical Theory of the Form of the Good.

1 Opinion, Knowledge, and Platonic Forms.

2 The Imperfections of the Sensible World.

3 Forms as the Best Objects of their Kind to Know.

4 Forms as the Best Objects of their Kind and the Form of the Good as their Essence.

5 Function, Form, and Goodness.


Part VI: Aristotle's Criticism of Plato's Form of the Good: The Breakup of Goodness.

1 Aristotle's Arguments from Priority.

2 Breaking up Goodness: Aristotle's Argument from Homonymy.

3 Aristotle's Argument from Final and Instrumental Goods.

4 The Attack on the Ideality of the Form of the Platonic Good.

5 The Attack on the Practicability and Usefulness of Plato's Good.

6 Putting the Fragments of Goodness Back Together: Focal Meaning.


Part VII: The Good of Desire, the Good of Function, and the Good of Pleasure.

1 The Concept of the Good.

2 Different Orectic Conceptions of the Good.

3 Aristotle's Functional Perfectionist Theory of Good.

4 Objections to Aristotle's Functional Theory of Good.

5 Orectic, Hedonic, and Perfectionist Good.


Part VIII: The Good of Character and the Good of Justice.

1 Is Aristotle's Ethical Theory Circular?.

2 Did Aristotle have a Virtue Ethics?.

3 Aristotle's General Analysis of Virtue and Functional Good.

4 Can Moral Virtue be Explicated by Functioning Well?.

5 States of Character and Practical Wisdom.

6 Aristotle's Analysis of Justice: Not a Virtue Ethics.

7 Paucity of Practical Content: Justice and the other Virtues.

8 Summary and Conclusion.




"Santas's book is a major contribution to the study of ancient Greek ethics. His discussion of the theoretical structure of Platonic and Aristotelian ethics and the comparisons he draws between the ethical views of the ancient Greek philosophers and those of the moderns, especially of John Rawls, have no equal in the existing literature. This is essential reading for anyone interested in Greek ethics or ethical theory in general."
Georgios Anagnostopoulos, University of California at San Diego <!--end-->

"One of the very greatest Socrates scholars of the twentieth century – here in finer form than ever – now brings us the fruits of decades of reading and teaching the ethics and social philosophy of Plato and Aristotle viewed in the light of John Rawls's theory of justice. The two chapters on Justice in the Republic are not only refreshing but also as illuminating as anything ever written on that topic. For everyone, from the greatest scholar to the beginning student, this book is a lesson both in how to do philosophy and how to read texts." Terry Penner, University of Wisconsin

"This wonderful book on the fundamental concept of goodness is the harvest of a lifetime's reflection on ancient and modern ethics. Its bounty includes the isolation of two theories of good in Plato's Republic – a functional theory and a metaphysical theory – an account of the Form of the Good that rescues the pinnacle of Plato's philosophy from the charge of vacuity, and a discussion of Aristotle's rejection of the metaphysical theory and his embrace of the functional. It is a virtual commentary on both the Republic and the Nicomachean Ethics. Truly a masterwork." David Keyt, University of Washington

"This is the most insightful overarching analysis of the good in Plato and Aristotle of recent decades. Santas offers a comprehensive framework for the classification, and detailed discussion, of Plato's and Aristotle's theories of good, with valuable comparisons to positions in the history of philosophy and contemporary debates. A very wise investment for moral and ancient philosophers." Theodore Scaltsas, University of Edinburgh

"Acute, close analysis characterizes Santas's book throughout...beautifully clear, a joy to read." MF Burnyeat, TLS, 14th June 2002

"... This book offers a capacious, clear and careful exploration of the centrality of concepts of the good to these two ancient philosophers (Plato, Aristotle), showing how ethics and politics drive epistemology and metaphysics and ... comparing the resulting structures with those of John Rawls and other modern theorists. The result is an impressive achievement..." Polis, Vol. 20, 2003

  • Discusses three major theories of good: perfectionist formal or functional good, hedonic good, and good as desire satisfaction.

  • Draws comparisons between Plato's and Aristotle's theories of good and justice and the theories of the moderns.

  • Devotes considerable attention to hedonic theories of the good.