This essay is an analysis of the central arguments in Plato’s Crito. The dialogue shows, in a variety of ways, that the opinion of another person can have practical relevance in one’s deliberations about what to do – e.g. as an argument, as a piece of expert advice, as a threat. Especially important among these forms of practical relevance is the relevance of authoritative commands. In the dialogue, the Laws of Athens argue that Socrates must accept his sentence of death, because he must regard the court’s verdict as a command from a practical authority – the city. The Laws’ arguments rely on special features of authority-reasons that many commentators have overlooked. This article explains why the Law’s arguments are unsuccessful. Finally, it is argued that Socrates’ description of ‘the many’ suggests that the city lacks the deliberative capacity necessary for possessing practical authority.
In The Value of Living Well, Mark LeBar develops a position that he calls “virtue eudaimonism” (ve). ve is both a eudaimonistic theory of practical reasoning and a constructivist account of the metaphysics of value. In this essay, I will explain the core of LeBar’s view and focus on two issues, one concerning ve’s eudaimonism and the other concerning ve’s constructivism. I will argue that, as it stands, ve does not adequately address the charge of egoism, once that charge has been formulated in the strongest way. I will also argue that a substantive constructivism like ve must have considerably less explanatory power than any (successful) constructivism that appeals to a formal characterization of agency. Although my remarks are largely critical, I offer them in a spirit of sympathetic engagement with LeBar’s impressive book.
An influential strand of neo-Aristotelianism, represented by writers such as Philippa Foot, holds that moral virtue is a form of natural goodness in human beings, analogous to deep roots in oak trees or keen vision in hawks. Critics, however, have argued that such a view cannot get off the ground, because the neo-Aristotelian account of natural normativity is untenable in light of a Darwinian account of living things. This criticism has been developed most fully by William Fitzpatrick in his book Teleology and the Norms of Nature. In this paper, I defend the neo-Aristotelian account of natural normativity, focusing on Fitzpatrick’s arguments. I argue that a natural goodness view is not impugned by an evolutionary account. Nor can neo-Aristotelian life form judgments be replaced by an evolutionary view of living things.