Neutralism in book i of the Republic

George Rudebusch

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Egoism, Altruism and Neutralism Defined Some ethical theories are based upon a descriptive account of what is intrinsically desirable for human beings, taken to be an objective good. Call any such theory perfectionism. Egoism and altruism are species of perfectionism, each making the good relative to the agent, either himself or his others. An example of an egoist perfectionist is the Callicles featured in Plato's Gorgias. For he defines the good in such terms: ‘Here is what is fine and just by nature … that he who would live rightly should allow his appetites to get as big as possible and … satisfy each appetite in turn with what it desires' (491E–492A). Perhaps another example of an egoist perfectionist is Raskolnikov in Dostoyevski's Crime and Punishment. In contrast to Raskolnikov's egoism, Dostoyevski's character Sophie seems to exemplify altruism, willing to degrade herself for the sake of others. Both altruist and egoist make the good relative to the agent, either the agent's self or the agent's others. In contrast to agent-relative accounts, the utilitarian John Stuart Mill is an agent-neutral perfectionist: what matters is only the amount of good life, not whose good life it is. Such an account of the good differs from egoism and altruism in not making the good relative to the agent. NON-PHILOSOPHERS, PHILOSOPHERS AND THE WISE DEFINED In the Apology Socrates distinguishes three levels of attainment of wisdom ‘of the excellence proper to a human being and citizen' (τῆςτоιαύτης άρετῆς, τῆς άνθρωπίνης τε καί πоλιτκῆς, 20B4–5).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPursuing the Good
Subtitle of host publicationEthics and Metaphysics in Plato's Republic
PublisherEdinburgh University Press
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9780748631889
ISBN (Print)9780748628117
StatePublished - Jan 1 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


Dive into the research topics of 'Neutralism in book i of the Republic'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this