Limits on the Just

  • Kimon Lycos


The parallel Socrates employs between virtue and craft aims to show that if virtue is a human quality productive of excellence, then the relation between the ends virtue aims at and the excellence of the actions that constitute its exercise must be ‘internal’. The goal of justice relates to just conduct the way that the ‘product’ of craft relates to the excellence of the activities that constitute the skill. The goodness of just actions must reside in the fact that they bring about what justice aims at, not in the fact that justice is thought desirable or useful on other grounds. This leaves Socrates with the large problem of explaining not only what are the specific aims of justice, but also, why they are necessarily good and beneficial in themselves. This problem does not arise with ‘products’ of ordinary skills. The value of such products can be determined by reference to our needs, to our wants and desires, and even by reference to their usefulness in helping produce the ‘products’ of further skills. Is Socrates prepared to accept that the value of the goals of justice is to be similarly determined? It would seem that such a view would render justice an instrumental good—a good in the service of other goods.


Good Thing Human Capacity Invariant Effect Specific Excellence Moral Doctrine 
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Copyright information

© Kimon Lycos 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kimon Lycos
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyAustralian National UniversityAustralia

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