Combining Philosophers

Ideas for Ralph Cudworth, Socrates and Thomas Jefferson

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8 ideas

22. Metaethics / A. Ethics Foundations / 2. Source of Ethics / j. Ethics by convention
Socrates conservatively assumed that Athenian conventions were natural and true [Taylor,R on Socrates]
     Full Idea: Socrates' moral philosophy was essentially conservative. He assumed that the principles the Athenians honoured were true and natural, so there was little possibility of conflict between nature and convention in his thinking.
     From: comment on Socrates (reports of career [c.420 BCE]) by Richard Taylor - Virtue Ethics: an Introduction Ch.8
     A reaction: Taylor contrasts Socrates with Callicles, who claims that conventions oppose nature. This fits with Nietzsche's discontent with Socrates, as the person who endorses conventional good and evil, thus constraining the possibilities of human nature.
22. Metaethics / B. Value / 1. Nature of Value / c. Objective value
Keeping promises and contracts is an obligation of natural justice [Cudworth]
     Full Idea: To keep faith and perform covenants is that which natural justice obligeth to absolutely.
     From: Ralph Cudworth (On Eternal and Immutable Morality [1688], Ch.II.4)
     A reaction: A nice example of an absolute moral intuition, but one which can clearly be challenged. Covenants (contracts) wouldn't work unless everyone showed intense commitment to keeping them, even beyond the grave, and we all benefit from good contracts.
22. Metaethics / B. Value / 2. Values / b. Successful function
A well-made dung basket is fine, and a badly-made gold shield is base, because of function [Socrates, by Xenophon]
     Full Idea: A dung-basket is fine, and a golden shield contemptible, if the one is finely and the other badly constructed for carrying out its function.
     From: report of Socrates (reports of career [c.420 BCE]) by Xenophon - Memorabilia of Socrates 3.8.6
     A reaction: This is the basis of a key idea in Aristotle, that virtue (or excellence) arises directly from function. I think it is the most important idea in virtue theory, and seems to have struck most Greeks as being self-evident.
22. Metaethics / B. Value / 2. Values / e. Death
If death is like a night of dreamless sleep, such nights are very pleasant [Socrates]
     Full Idea: If death is like a night of dreamless sleep it is an advantage, for such nights are very pleasant, and eternity would seem like a single night.
     From: Socrates (reports of last days [c.399 BCE]), quoted by Plato - The Apology 40d
     A reaction: Dreamless sleep is only pleasant if being awake is unpleasant. Very quiet days are only pleasant if the active days are horrible. A desire for a totally quiet life is absurd.
Men fear death as a great evil when it may be a great blessing [Socrates]
     Full Idea: No one knows whether death may not be the greatest of all blessings for a man, yet men fear it as if they knew that it is the greatest of evils.
     From: Socrates (reports of last days [c.399 BCE]), quoted by Plato - The Apology 29a
     A reaction: As a neutral observer, I see little sign of it being a blessing, except as a relief from misery. It seem wrong to view such a natural thing as evil, but it is the thing most of us least desire.
22. Metaethics / B. Value / 2. Values / h. Fine deeds
Things are both good and fine by the same standard [Socrates, by Xenophon]
     Full Idea: Things are always both good and fine by the same standard.
     From: report of Socrates (reports of career [c.420 BCE]) by Xenophon - Memorabilia of Socrates 3.8.5
     A reaction: This begs many questions, but perhaps it leads to what we call intuitionism, which is an instant ability is perceive a fine action (even in an enemy). This leads to the rather decadent view that the aim of life is the production of beauty.
22. Metaethics / C. The Good / 1. Goodness / e. Good as knowledge
The only good is knowledge, and the only evil is ignorance [Socrates, by Diog. Laertius]
     Full Idea: There is only one good, namely knowledge, and there is only one evil, namely ignorance.
     From: report of Socrates (reports of career [c.420 BCE]) by Diogenes Laertius - Lives of Eminent Philosophers 02.4.14
     A reaction: Ignorance of how to commit evil sounds quite good.
22. Metaethics / C. The Good / 2. Happiness / b. Eudaimonia
Socrates was the first to put 'eudaimonia' at the centre of ethics [Socrates, by Vlastos]
     Full Idea: Socrates' true place in the development of Greek thought is that he is the first to establish the eudaimonist foundation of ethical theory, which became the foundation of the schools which sprang up around him.
     From: report of Socrates (reports of career [c.420 BCE]) by Gregory Vlastos - Socrates: Ironist and Moral Philosopher p.10
     A reaction: I suspect that he was the first to fully articulate a widely held Greek belief. The only ethical question that they asked was about the nature of a good human life.