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Morality and The Good Life (review)

From: Journal of the History of Philosophy
Volume 18, Number 3, July 1980
pp. 338-339 | 10.1353/hph.2008.0353

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338 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY must become wise and thus useful. Wisdom yields utility, and both are the causes of ~tks "If you become wise, my boy," Socrates pleads with Lysis, "all will be q~0,ot to you, and to you all will be o~ for you will be useful and good" (210dl-3). In this first encounter Socrates simply maintains that when one is wise one is also friend and akin to all men. In the final discussion (221e3ff.) Plato proves that the t6 o~. is that which is loved. Therefore o~ and ~ikog in the personal sense and o~. and q~(.~.ov in the neuter are considered by Plato interchangeable in both sections of the dialogue. While at the beginning Socrates exhorts Lysis to become wise in order to enjoy friendship, in the final argument Plato exhorts his interlocutors to become philosophers by attending to that which is akin to their nature, namely the good. Hence o~ bridges the gap between the first and last part of the dialogue and affords the definition of friendship. The philosophers are the true friends. The efficient and final cause of friendship, its condition, is the desire to achieve that which is one's own but of which one has been potentially deprived. Friendship is the relation between the philosophers and the good to which they are akin. Space prevents me from elaborating on these crucial aspects of Lualdi's interpretation. Suffice it to say that her reading of 221e3 and 222a is plausible. The implications she draws from both passages are unwarranted. That friendship is the means for rising to the transcendence of the Beautiful and the Good is not even suggested by the text. The vision of the idea of the Good may be the road the philosopher must take in the Republic and m the Symposium, but certainly not in the Lysis. What one finds here is at most language and metaphors vaguely remimscent of the language of Plato's mature doctrines: ~ctOof)otcL the neCoxov ~t)~ov, the description of the phi- losopher as intermediate between the wholly wise and the wholly ignorant, may be absorbed in the technical language of the later works. Plato's Socratic dialogues are just as important without trying to make them so by including in them what Plato may have meant but did not say. With all of this, Lualdi's Lysts is a serious scholarly exegesis which will provoke much discus- sion on this too long forgotten dialogue. L. M. PALMER University of Delaware Roger J. Sullivan. Morali~. and The Good Life. Memphis: Memphis State University l~'ess, 1977. Pp. xi + 208. $9.50. This short commentary on the Nicomachean Ethics is intended for the use of undergraduates and others studying Aristotle's moral philosophy for the first time. It is organized by topics, beginning (after an introductory chapter) with Aristotle's views on human agency and the nature of action, and proceeding in order through his theories of practical reasoning and choice, excel- lence of character, and weakness of wilt, to his conception of the good life in Books 1 and t0 of the Nicomachean Ethics. For the most part the text consists of unembellished summaries of Aris- totelian d~stinctions, definitions, theses, and arguments. These are accompanied by extensive ref- erences to Aristotle's texts in footnotes at the end of each chapter; the notes contain also brief discussions of scholarly disputes, with references to a fair number of recent and current books, articles, and scholarly commentaries on the Ethws. As an introductory guide to Aristotle's moral philosophy this book has more defects than virt- ues. Because Sullivan limits himself mostly to dry and blank summary of the contents of the Nicomachean Ethics, the student will not find here much guidance on the most important matters on which he is likely to need assistance. Sullivan almost never says anything helpful about why the problems Aristotle discusses presented themselves to him in the form in which we find them in his texts, or what his philosophical motivations and presuppositions were (and what can be said in explanation and defense of them/, or even how to construe Aristotle's theories...

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