In the Gorgias, Plato has Polus ask Socrates if he would rather suffer injustice than perform it. Socrates’ response is justly famous, affirming a view that Polus himself finds incredible, and one that even contemporary readers find difficult to credit: “for my part, I would prefer neither, but if it had to be one or the other, I would choose to suffer rather than do what is unjust” (Gorgias 469c1-2). In this paper, we take up the part of Socrates’ response that Polus never engages and that has also been completely neglected by contemporary scholars, namely, Socrates’ explicit aversion to being a victim of injustice. We show that this same aversion—though one not nearly as strong as his aversion to doing injustice—appears in several texts, and we argue that the best explanation of such an aversion derives from two important features of Socratic philosophy, both of which have only recently been recognized in Socratic scholarship: (i) his virtue intellectualism, which conceives of virtue as a kind of craft that can be achieved in different degrees, and (ii) his conception of moral psychology, which allows for non-rational influences on how we perform the cognitive functions required for proper deliberation.
The Journal of Ethics – Springer Journals
Published: Dec 18, 2017
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