Deficient virtue in the Phaedo

Classical Quarterly 70 (1):119-130 (2020)
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Plato seems to have been pessimistic about how most people stand with regard to virtue. However, unlike the Stoics, he did not conclude that most people are vicious. Rather, as we know from discussions across several dialogues, he countenanced decent ethical conditions that fall short of genuine virtue, which he limited to the philosopher. Despite Plato's obvious interest in this issue, commentators rarely follow his lead by investigating in detail such conditions in the dialogues. When scholars do investigate what kind of virtue, if any, Plato thinks is open to non-philosophers, they typically look to the Republic. But in the Republic Plato sets out an ideal city; therefore, the virtue available to non-philosophers there is likely different from what he thinks is available to them in the real world. If we want to determine Plato's thoughts about the virtue of actual non-philosophers, we must look elsewhere. In this paper, I set my sights on the Phaedo.

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Doug Reed
University of Rhode Island


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