By Alasdair C MacIntyre
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Extra resources for A short history of ethics : a history of moral philosophy from the Homeric Age to the twentieth century
Socrates then develops his own positive view, and in so doing, gains certain permanent ground in moral philosophy. Callicles’ ideal is of a good which consists in the pursuit of one’s desires without limit. Socrates had already suggested that limitless desire is unsatisfiable desire; now he argues that the concept of good is necessarily bound up with the concept of observing a limit. And anything that is to count as a “way of living” will necessarily have some order or form, by which we can distinguish it from other ways of living.
And anything that is to count as a “way of living” will necessarily have some order or form, by which we can distinguish it from other ways of living. So any good which we desire can only be specified by specifying the rules which would govern the behavior which would be or procure that particular good. Toward the close of the Gorgias there are two other important moments. One is when Socrates attacks bitterly the line of Athenian statesmen from Miltiades to Pericles whose expansionist policies taught the Athenians to have desires without teaching them the connection between the goods they might desire and the rule-governed order within which alone goods can be realized.
Thus different elucidations of the concepts of responsibility and voluntary actions are presupposed by different moral attitudes to the standing of the techniques of persuasion. The philosophical task of elucidation cannot therefore be morally irrelevant. And one of the more obscurantist features of a sophist like Gorgias–and indeed of his later successors among the electioneering politicians of lib-eral democracy, the advertising executives, and other open and hidden persuaders–is the willingness to assume a whole philosophical psychology.