By Tutuska, John M.
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Extra resources for Aristotle's ethical imprecision: Philosophic method in the Nicomachean Ethics
Plane (from which we get our word planet for those heavenly bodies that appear to wander) literally means wandering, roaming, and can also, by extension, mean irregularity or inconsistency. The fact that both words Aristotle chooses here originally refer to forms of movement suggests that the literal sense is important for him as a backdrop for the extended senses of the terms. Presumably, then, the kalon and just involve disagreement and inconsistency as in some sense not standing still or wandering about.
This makes us wonder whether his earlier claim about the pious having a self-same eidos in all action (6d) is not another such attempt on his part to dialectically mirror Euthyphro. If Euthyphro were to have the sort of precise knowledge that he claims to, he would seem to need something just like this self-same eidos. Socrates thus leads Euthyphro back to see the presuppositions of his own views, or, at least, he shows them to the reader. Note that in the Republic, as will be considered at length below, Socrates explicitly denies the possibility of such purity ofeidei in our actions (479a—e).
Socrates' argument seems meant to uncover the hidden beliefs of the sophists and thereby answer the question that was raised very early on in the dialogue regarding the subject-matter about which the sophists claim to make one wise (312e-313c). Furthermore, I note that whereas Nussbaum portrays Socrates as one committed to the art that would measure pleasures in order to "save our lives" (365d-e; Fragility of Goodness, 99), Socrates ends the dialogue by telling us exactly what it is he will do "for the sake of [his] own life as a whole" (36 Id), and it is not to calculate pleasures but to engage in philosophic discussion regarding things such as virtue, to persist in the serpentine, seemingly hopeless, philosophic inquiry that Protagoras abandons (36le).