Plato 's Views On The Virtue Of The Virtues Essay

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“As far as I am concerned, the result is that I know nothing, for when I don 't know what justice is, I 'll hardly know whether it is a kind of virtue or not, or whether a person who has it is happy or unhappy” (Republic 354c)

Plato presents Socrates as believing in the unity of the virtues, skeptical of those who, like Meno, wish to treat the virtues as distinct objects of inquiry in dialogues such as Laches, Protagoras, Meno, the Republic, and Euthyphro. These dialogues provide good reason to deny that Plato’s Socrates believed in the numerical identity of the virtues. I shall argue that in the various virtues is one essence (or ‘virtue’), as revealed in a conceptual search for definitional clarity and a metaphysical appeal to Form that encompasses innumerous virtues.


For Socrates, an adequate definition will reveal the common quality that belongs to both all and only; and necessarily and sufficiently, instances of the virtue that is being defined. In Euthyphro, Socrates addresses these definitional issues by criticizing the paradox presented in the dialogue as follows: “And so Euthyphro, when you’re asked what the pious is, it looks as though you don’t want to reveal its being to me, but rather to tell me one of its affections—that this happens to the pious, that its loved by all the gods” (Euthyphro 11a). The term ‘being’ here I will interpret as essence, the more commonly utilized semantic in translations of Plato (Ross 2006). An appropriate
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