This is the opposite of justice and suggests what we will find in the form of human society: the struggle for power will have been eliminated and a new, uncontaminated ordering principle will have taken its place. In other words, whatever ordering principle remains after we have eliminated the struggle for power will be true justice and tell us what justice really is. When we perform the conceptual experiment of eliminating all the sources of the struggle for power, we are forced to imagine a kind of society in which the rulers live simply and have families in common, so no one can suspect them of greed or nepotism.
Rulers are selected on merit, for their wisdom and virtue, by an apolitical institution — namely, the education system. The principle of merit dictates that everyone in the population, whatever the circumstances of their birth, has an equal chance in the education system, and the system must discover and enhance their best talent. When they leave there must be meaningful work for them to do — work that gives them a sense of inner worth so they will not seek "that good opinion they lack of themselves" from others.
Empty people have a terrible need to feel larger than life: they seek to be applauded and worshipped and this is the root of the lust for power. Finally, there must be no extremes of rich and poor. The citizens must believe in the "myth of the metals" — that is, have the proper mores. They must not have commercial values worship the successful entrepreneur , militarist values worship the man on horseback , or populist values admire whoever can attract the applause of the mob.
Rather, they must believe that wisdom and virtue are the mark of a ruler and that all social roles should go to those who have the appropriate competence and virtues. We now realize we have the ordering principle we were looking for, the criterion of justice that orders society without defect. It is a full appreciation of the notion of merit: no racism, no sexism, no aristocracy of birth, no rich and poor, no human life wasted, no lack of a sense of self-worth.
Has Plato found a non-partisan test of goodness, one that confers objective status on his ideal society? That depends on whether the criterion "eliminate all competitions that confer power" is both impartial and sufficiently informative.
Few would want an unmitigated struggle for power that would plunge us into an anarchic state of nature. However, many would want to retain competitions for power or wealth as long as these are governed by rules. Democrats will want to use elections to select the government unless Plato can give better arguments against this than are found in The Republic. If they want to play his game, they will argue that elections are not ideal but the closest possible approach to perfection possible in the physical world.
Free-marketers will argue that capitalism is the best possible approach to a just allocation of resources between the industrious and the lazy. Those who are committed to the totality of humane ideals will note that humanism includes the creation of beauty, delight in diversity, and tolerance among those who differ. The criterion of eliminating the struggle for power is too narrow to address these great goods. Plato treats them as devoid of intrinsic value: he merely assesses them as means, either productive or counterproductive, to other goods.
He censors the arts and forbids foreign travel because he believes artistic freedom and alien influences will corrupt the masses.
Much can be said for and against Plato on these issues but the point is this: the criterion of goodness he finds in the "form" of human society has been shown to be partisan. This means no one will profit from adding to their arguments a tag such as: "And besides this, my views are in accord with the form. The positing of a moral reality is seen to be futile.
Plato has not solved a dilemma that afflicts all attempts to establish a higher court of appeal that will tell us whose ideals have objective status. To be non-partisan the court must be chosen according to a criterion broad enough to include both the humane and anti-humane. But in that case how could its decisions favor the humane over the anti-humane? Either it is non-partisan and helpless, or it can hand down decisions only because of its bias. Moore — dragged moral properties down out of the heavens.
Like Plato, he believed the property of goodness, or moral perfection, was non-natural and should not be confused with the natural properties we see around us, such as the colour yellow. However, goodness did not belong to "forms" that transcended normal human experience, but rather to certain states of affairs we experience every day if we are lucky — such as friendship and beautiful objects.
Moore gives us directions as to how to "cognize" which states of affairs have the property of goodness: we are to contemplate them in isolation from everything else. This will winnow out things that have intrinsic value from things valued merely as means. If you do this with money, you immediately perceive that it has value only in relation to the things it can buy. If you do it with the pleasures of friendship, or the contemplation of beautiful objects, you find that they and nothing but they are intrinsically good. It is immediately apparent that Moore's method of "cognizing" what things are really good is hopelessly subjective: the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche just needs to say that contemplation of beauty is valuable only if the people in question can actually appreciate beauty supermen , and friendship is valuable only between creatures worthy of regard supermen and not when herd men the rest of us are tasteless enough to enjoy the company of one another.
So once again the positing of real moral entities is useless.
Worse, Moore's method introduces a confusion because "morally good" is not the name of a property but a label we paste on human behavior. The whole notion of natural states of affairs — those belonging to the physical world — having non-natural properties is suspect. No one would think it sensible to attribute natural properties to a non-natural entity, to say something like "God is yellow".
Moore gives a criterion for distinguishing natural properties from non-natural properties. He says that stripping a natural thing of one of its natural properties does violence to it.
Strip a lampshade of yellow, for example, and you have altered its whole material structure. Now, rather than reflecting the wavelength of yellow light, it reflects, say, the wavelength of red light. He contrasts this with the pleasure of friendship, which you can strip of its goodness and leave untouched. Well, so you can, but isn't that a reason for saying goodness is not an attribute of the object at all but a label human beings paste on some human behavior — one that reflects their assessment of the behaviour's moral rectitude?
If people assess differently, what changes is not the object assessed but the people: they are revealed to have traded in their old moral principles for new ones. How we judge what is good is one of our properties, not a property of things outside us. We will address what "morally right" means in the next chapter.
Editorial Reviews. Review. "Flynn is one of the most interesting and independent thinkers of his. "Valuable presents perennial intellectual troublemakers, such as what it is to be morally good, is there any point in religion, and how to resist recent attempts.
Today moral realism is making what I hope will be its last stand. The Cornell School of Philosophy asserts that human behavior has moral properties — or at least human beings do — but, contrary to Moore, its proponents say these are perfectly natural properties — that is, they are moral facts about human actors to which we must appeal in order to explain their behavior.
Nicholas Sturgeon born asserts that morality was a cause of the abolition of slavery. He is quite correct. The British Crown used the Royal Navy at great expense to suppress the slave trade, and no national interest of Britain dictated this sacrifice. He asserts that Hitler's morality — or moral depravity — was a cause of his behavior. Who would deny that? If Hitler had not firmly believed in a moral crusade to exterminate the Jews, it is doubtful the Holocaust would have been as horrific as it was.
Who would deny that if people are really committed to their moral principles and therefore act on them, these principles influence their behavior? However, these "moral facts" Sturgeon cites seem to me devoid of moral significance. They are simply psychological traits like any other psychological trait. If, for example, someone is really committed to getting into medical school, he or she will study hard. The fact that moral principles are one of the traits influencing human behavior needs emphasizing.
Title Author. Add to Basket Add to Wishlist. Description of this Book Jim Flynn is on a mission to change how we think about the modern world, our place in it, and the moral choices we make.
Religion and Science: A Beautiful Friendship? Award-winning publishers of intelligent, thought-provoking non-fiction. Shipping cost extra. Elbow Room. The Metaphysics of Modern Existence. Marc Lange - - Philosophy of Science 63 2 For the next forty years I searched for something that would elevate humane ideals into principles everyone ought to respect, whether inclined to or not.
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