Chapter

Imperatives in Greek Ethics

Nicholas White

in Individual and Conflict in Greek Ethics

Published in print June 2002 | ISBN: 9780198250593
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598661 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0198250592.003.0003
 Imperatives in Greek Ethics

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A common theme in the historiography of Greek ethics says that modern ethics is characterized by imperative notions such as ‘duty’—and with a Judeo‐Christian notion of imperatives or commands issued by god—whereas ancient ethics supposedly deals mainly with ‘attractive notions such as ‘good’ and ‘virtue’. This thought is often juxtaposed with the idea that imperative notions betoken a conflict between one's duty and one's good, because an imperative seems to be required only to command people to do what they do not wish to do, which is felt to be inappropriate to the supposed eudaimonism of Greek ethics. In fact Greek ethics makes substantial use of imperative notions, and does not attempt to show that attractive notions are more basic or preferable in ethics.

Keywords: Christianity; duty; ethics of duty; ethics of virtue; eudaimonism; god; imperative; moral law; repulsive

Chapter.  22070 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

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