Dr. Klaus Corcilius on ‘instrumentalization of virtue’ in Plato’s Republic

Dr. Klaus Corcilius
Dr. Klaus Corcilius

On 12 November 2007 Dr. Klaus Corcilius of Humboldt University presented a guest lecture on Plato’s Republic and the ‘instrumentalization of virtue’ at the European College of Liberal Arts (ECLA).

Instrumentalization is, simply put, to use a thing with an intrinsic end for a purpose extrinsic to itself (the example, for clarity, of using a saw to open a bottle, gave way to a complex discussion of virtue ethics in the Republic). Focusing on book six, Dr. Corcilius’ lecture investigated the instrumentalization of virtue in Platonic ethics and compared the definitions of virtue in books one and four with book six, exploring possible inconsistencies in Socrates’ argumentation. He offered an explanation for Socrates’ surprising assertion that, given the wrong context, the virtues can be destructive of themselves, or can be corrupted.

This speculative approach to ‘what Socrates meant’ concluded with a consideration of Plato’s ethical philosophy in the light of an Aristotelian critique. Dr. Corcilius left open for consideration whether virtues, being intrinsically good, may contain anything within themselves to preclude their own misuse. The lecture gave way to a stimulating discussion on the tension between the virtue of truth and the necessity to lie; the relationship of knowledge to the good; and the important distinction between being and acting.

Dr. Klaus Corcilius is Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter at Humboldt University in Berlin.  His current research interests focus on Aristotle and the Aristotelian tradition.  Dr. Corcilius recently published Beiträge zur Aristotelischen Handlungstheorie (Philosophie der Antike Band 24), co-edited with Professor Christof Rapp, who visited ECLA as a guest lecturer in December 2006.  Dr. Corcilius has translated Aristotle’s On the Soul and The Movement of Animals.

By Livia Marinescu (’08, Romania)

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