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Title: Plato's Theories of Vice
Authors: Liu, Wenjin
Advisors: Lorenz, Hendrik
Contributors: Philosophy Department
Keywords: Ignorance
Subjects: Philosophy
Issue Date: 2023
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: In this dissertation, I argue that the Socratic dialogues and the Republic are home to two different theories of human vice. In the Socratic dialogues, vice is ignorance. But ignorance is not a mere lack of knowledge, as many scholars assume. Instead, it is a substantive, structural psychic flaw: the soul’s domination by inferior elements that are by nature fit to be ruled instead of ruling. The inferior elements at issue are appearances—representations of how things strike one to be from certain perspectives. On this picture, particular defects that are often labeled as epistemic vices and moral vices in contemporary discussions, such as closed-mindedness and cowardice, are forms of ignorance. By contrast, in the Republic, Plato does not identify human vice with ignorance. Instead, he operates with what I call the functional model of human vice: it is a psychic state, because of which the soul performs its function—living a reason-guided life—badly. The psychic state in question consists in corrupt characters, i.e., deep-seated misalignments among soul parts, because of which a human soul fails to live a reason-guided life. Particular defects, for example, cowardice and closed-mindedness, are aspects of corrupt characters. Ignorance, as the vice of the rational soul part, is a particular defect that is necessary and sufficient for human vice. More specifically, it is a state because of which the rational soul part performs its function badly. One becomes vicious as a result of bad habituation, which amounts to coming to adopt a way of living that inappropriately strengthens non-rational parts. Despite those similarities, cases of becoming vicious are not entirely homogenous. In general, the worse community one belongs to, the less autonomy one tends to have over the development of her character.
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Philosophy

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