Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Plato: Temperance, Courage, Wisdom Yield Justice

PLATO'S VIEWS ON VIRTUE APPEAR to have evolved. Initially, he seems to have adopted Socrates's view that virtue was knowledge.  So it appears in the following dialogues: Laches, Charmides, Euthyphro, Euthydemus, and the Protagoras.  But the Socratic reductionist formula (virtue=knowledge) appears to have been abandoned by Plato and replaced with a four-fold formula which would yield the classic cardinal virtues of wisdom, fortitude, temperance and justice (sophia, andreia, sophrosyne, and dikaiosyne, respectively) 22. We find the virtues treated thus in Plato's Republic, specifically in sections 427d through 445e.

Plato's synthesis is gained by his reflection on the topography of the soul, a soul which is the city writ small.  So the city (polis) reflects the soul (psyche) as the soul reflects the city.  They are analogues in Platonic thought as expressed in the Republic.

Each city--and consequently each soul--must have three classes effectively to function as a community: craftsmen (those who produce services or goods).  In the soul, the analogue of city's craftsmen is the virtue of temperance.  There is a subordination or discipline of self for the purpose of producing the goods or delivering the services to the city.  A similar subordination or restraint of the passions, of the appetites is found in the virtue of temperance.  But temperance suffers from a certain timidity.  More is required than mere businessmen, craftsmen, tradesmen for a city effectively to function.  Similarly, a soul requires more than temperance.

Hence the need for the next class: the warriors.  The warriors in a city assume the disciplinary or enforcing occupations--the police, the military.  They order or supervise the city, have a rugged strong frame.  These are the analogue to the virtue of courage.  While warriors do no lack temperance (just like craftsmen have courage), their predominant virtue is courage.

The warriors, on the other hand, have no governing virtue.  They are merely auxiliaries.  Their irascibility must be tempered by some extrinsic measure, and hence the need for some class that is able to establish the form of order, the end of the citizenry.  What are the goals in war?  What are the arrangements for peace.  The warrior class is not fit for these sorts of questions.  There must, therefore, be a guardian class.  These guardians in the city are the analogue for the virtue of wisdom.  When the temperance of the craftsmen and the courage of the warrior are well-ordered by the guardians of the city, one arrives at a complete and full justice.

The soul has has thee parts: reason (logistikon), emotion (thymos), and desire (epithymia) with three corresponding virtues, being, respectively, wisdom, courage, and temperance.

Wisdom is found wherever reason knows and chooses the good; courage is found wherever the emotions overcome obstacles to the good; and temperance is found wherever desire for pleasure is so controlled as to lead to the good rather than away from it.

Houser, 10-11.

Where does justice fit in?  Justice is "ontologically homeless."  It is the "harmony produced when each of the three parts functions well," and in unison.

To accommodate his theory, Plato had to expand upon and in fact amend the Socratic reduction.
Plato emended Socrates' thesis that wisdom is a necessary and sufficient condition for virtue, by substituting the combination of wisdom, courage, and temperance for Socrates' single virtue of wisdom. Taken together, these three virtues are the necessary and sufficient condition for justice. Taken together, these three virtues are the necessary and sufficient condition for justice: 'That which preserves and fosters this inner harmony is called a just and find action' ((W·C·T) ⊃ J); and 'an action which destroys this harmony is unjust' (˜(W·C·T) ⊃ ˜J).
Houser, 11 (quoting, Republic 445c).

Justice is therefor a reduction of the three other virtues of temperance, courage, and wisdom.  Plato's contribution was to show that interconnectedness of virtue.  By expanding the Socratic formula of wisdom = virtue to the formula that justice is a harmonization arising from well-ordered virtues of courage, temperance, and wisdom, Plato developed the idea of virtue, of arete.


Corresponding to virtue was its opposite: vice. Though there is but one kind of virtue--that which yields justice--the imbalance that can occur as a result of disorder--whether in the soul or in the polis--is literally infinite.  There are "unlimited forms of vice," but only four are worthy of being mentioned, says Plato.  Republic 445c.

The justice of the aristocrat can yield to honor, and so the aristocrat--that man governed by excellence--may corrupt into a timocrat--that man governed by honor.  A timocrat "loves the honor that accompanies good action more than the goodness that such action produces." Houser, 11.  The wrong focus is bound to create disharmony, and though the virtues remain, they are disordered and lose their inner life, their inner harmony.

A similar corruption occur with the oligarch.  Here, courage is foregone or deprecated, while temperance runs amok.  Wealth is this man's preoccupation, and as a result, the virtues of courage, of wisdom, and hence justice suffer.

When temperance yields to an overabundant sense of freedom and equality, one has the democrat.  Here justice seems to be the desire, and yet a justice without courage, without temperance, without wisdom.  Impossibly, the democrat's justice is "but a pale imitation of true justice, for its claim to the name of virtue is that some genuine goods, notably equality and freedom, are still prized, though they are attained in more and more unjust ways."  Houser, 12.

The last devolution or corruption is the tyrant.  Here, the mind is enslaved to power without order, to arbitrary impulse, and so all vestiges, all pretense to the virtues--to courage, temperance, wisdom and their harmonious product of justice--are gone.  (Republic 543a-592b).

Plato's theory of the four virtues is one of harmony, proportion, balance.  Perfection is achieved in the aristocratic soul, where courage, temperance, wisdom harmoniously interplay and produce their desirable fruit: justice.  "This harmony is produced through functional unity, not as Socrates thought, through ontological unity."  Houser, 13.

Plato's doctrine can be summed up as follows: following Socrates, Plato held that whoever truly has one virtue has all the virtues, and whoever lacks on virtue lacks all true virtue. But he departed from his teacher in recognizing four virtues, not just one. Because thee virtues exist on their own, they can be gained and lost one by one. Until all virtues are present together in the soul of the truly just person, however, they are only images of true virtues and therefore really are vices.
Houser, 13.

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