Tags

, , , , ,

It would seem that, if we regard the Good predominantly in its aspect as Ideal or τέλοϛ, Eros might well be understood as simply the impulse of man’s higher nature towards the good and virtue (or, in the language of the doctrine of pre-existence and reminiscence, as the natural attraction of man’s higher nature towards the Ideal which he beheld in the state of pre-existence). Plato, as we have seen, would not accept a merely relativistic ethic: there are absolute standards and norms, absolute ideals. There is thus an ideal of justice, and ideal of temperance, an ideal of courage, and these ideals are real and absolute, since they do not vary but are the unchanging standards of conduct. They are not “things” for they are ideal; yet they are not merely subjective, because they “rule,” as it were, man’s acts. But human life is not lived out atomistically, apart from Society and the State, nor is man a being entirely apart from nature; and so we can arrive at the apprehension of an all-embracing Ideal and τέλοϛ, to which all particular Ideals are subordinate. This universal Ideal is the Good. It is apprehended by means of dialectic, i.e. discursively; but in man’s higher nature there is an attraction towards the truly good and beautiful. If man mistakenly takes sensible beauty and good, e.g. the beauty of physical objects, as his true good, then the impulse of attraction of Eros is directed towards these inferior goods, and we have the earthly and sensual man. A man may, however, be brought to see that the soul is higher and better than the body, and that beauty of soul is of more value than beauty of body. Similarly, he may be brought to see the beauty in the formal sciences and the beauty of the Ideals: the power of Eros then attracts him “towards the wide ocean of intellectual beauty” and “the sight of the lovely and majestic forms which it contains.” Finally, he may come to apprehend how all the particular ideals are subordinate to one universal Ideal or τέλοϛ, the Good-in-itself, and so to enjoy “the science” of this universal beauty and good. The rational soul is akin to the Ideal, and so is able to contemplate the Ideal and to delight in its contemplation once the sensual appetite has been restrained. “There is none so worthless whom Love cannot impel, as it were by divine inspiration, towards virtue.” The true life for man is thus the philosophic life or the life of wisdom, since it is only the philosopher who attains true universal science and apprehends the rational character of Reality. In the Timaeus the Demiurge is depicted as forming the world according to the Ideal or Exemplary Pattern, and as endeavouring to make it as much like the Ideal as the refractory matter at his disposal will permit. It is for the philosopher to apprehend the Ideal and endeavour to model his own life and that of others according tot he Pattern. Hence the place accorded to the Philosopher-King in the Republic.

Frederick Copleston, S.J. A History of Philosophy, Volume I: Greece and Rome-From the Pre-Socratics to Plotinus, pages 198-199.

Advertisements