Socratic Ethics and Moral Psychology

Daniel Devereux

in The Oxford Handbook of Plato

Published in print August 2008 | ISBN: 9780195182903
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

 Socratic Ethics and Moral Psychology

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Plato's dialogues form the basis of Socratic Ethics and Moral Psychology. Among Plato's thirty-five dialogues there is a group of eleven or twelve that share certain features setting them apart from the rest. In these dialogues, which are considerably shorter than the others, Socrates always has the role of questioner. The questions he discusses are mostly about specific virtues and how they are related to each other: for example, piety is discussed in the Euthyphro, courage in the Laches, temperance in the Charmides, and justice and temperance in the Gorgias. A major theme of Socratic dialogues is Socrates' opposition to the “sophists,” a varied lot with different interests and claims to fame who shared certain characteristics that justified their common designation. Socrates debates the issue, if virtue is an art or skill that involves knowing what is truly good and evil, the virtuous person should be able to “size up” a situation and determine, as to what sort of action is called for to resolve a particular situation.

Keywords: ethics; psychology; moral psychology; dialogues; Socratic dialogue; sophists; virtue; skill

Article.  14721 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Classical Philosophy ; Moral Philosophy

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