September 19

Monday, September 19, 2022

Doing What You Want: Plato's Early Moral Psychology

We will examine another section of the Gorgias, the discussion between Socrates and Polus. Socrates presents a variation on means-ends analysis that distinguishes between “what we want” and “what we see fit to do”. We will try to interpret this distinction, and make explicit the psychological theories of motivation and action that Socrates seems to be suggesting, comparing them with some contemporary approaches, and seeing how Socrates argues, based on this moral psychology, that virtue consists in knowledge of what's good for oneself and that no one does what's bad for themselves willingly.

Before Class

  • Try to explain the distinction between “doing what you want” and “doing what you see fit,” and the claim that what we want is “the good.” Is this another candidate for a “final end,” like Aristotle’s eudaimonia?  How is this different from saying the final end is eudaimonia?
  • How does Socrates make a case for the conclusions that virtue is knowledge of the good and that no one does what’s bad for themselves willingly?

After Class