CPHL 101 – Jan 31, 2011
The priority of morality
Socrates claims that morality is really parasitic on morality. Even a gang of thieves or pirates have to be
at least somewhat moral in their treatment of each other if they want to achieve their immoral aims. If
they were completely immoral – if they couldn’t rely at all on each other, if they were always stealing from
each other and killing each other – they couldn’t carry out their projects.
But immorality will have the same effect within the individual soul that it has within a community: it will
lead to disorder and disintegration, and so it will prevent the individual from functioning properly.
Therefore, immorality can’t be a virtue of the soul or mind. Rather, it must be morality that is the virtue
or “good state” of the mind.
This sub-conclusion plays a role in the final argument of this chapter:
1. Everything that has a function has a virtue – a “good state” that enables it to perform its
2. The function of the mind or soul is to enable us to live: to make plans and choices, for
3. There is some virtue or good state of the mind that enables it to perform this function.
But (by our earlier argument)
4. The good state of the mind must be morality (and not immorality).
5. What enables us to live well is morality (and not immorality).
Note that S has still not explained what morality is, and it’s not clear that he’s really answered
Thrasymachus’s challenge. Glaucon and Adeimantus will now restate T’s position and demand a better
* * *