UBC Theses and Dissertations
The relationship of virtue of happiness in Socrates’ moral theory Harland, Leslie A.
This thesis examines the relationship of virtue to happiness in Socrates 'moral theory. The focus of my enquiry is a debate between Gregory Vlastos and Terence Irwin in which Vlastos claims that Socrates holds component view of the relationship of virtue to happiness, and Irwin claims that Socrates holds an instrumentalist view. I begin the thesis with an enquiry into what counts as Socrates’ moral theory. I conclude that, in spite of the seemingly negative function of the elenctic method, Socrates has a positive moral theory which can be found in the early Platonic dialogues. I then present Socrates' major theses. With respect to happiness, Socrates is a eudaemonist — that is, he holds that happiness is the ultimate end of all rational acts. With respect to virtue, Socrates holds the principle of the Sovereignty of Virtue — that is, when considering two alternate courses of action, one virtuous and the other either vicious or less virtuous, it is considerations of virtue and nothing else that should decide one's actions. With respect to the relationship of virtue to happiness, Socrates holds the Sufficiency Thesis — that is, virtue is both necessary and sufficient for happiness. The remainder of the thesis examines and critiques three diver-gent interpretations of the Sufficiency Thesis. First, Socrates could hold that virtue is necessary and sufficient for virtue because virtue is instrumental toward happiness. This is Irwin's position. Second, Socrates could hold that virtue is necessary and sufficient for happiness because virtue is the major component of happiness, and any other components of happiness are components of happiness only if they occur in conjunction with virtue. This is Vlastos' position. Third, Socrates could hold that virtue is necessary and sufficient for happiness because virtue and happiness are one and the same form of living described from the vantage points of different criteria. This is my position. I close the thesis with an evaluation of the Socratic relationship of virtue to happiness from a modern perspective. Although there awesome differences between contemporary conceptions of the relationship of virtue to happiness and that of Socrates, the third interpretation of the Socrates' Sufficiency thesis (outlined in the preceding paragraph) is consistent with modern thought.
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