Plato represents, simply put, an ethic of highest ideals. He is the first ethicist among the early philosophers but had not yet developed a systematic approach. Rather, his writings are primarily in the form of dialog. Plato’s ethics take form in the struggle against the somewhat primitive natural ethics that were prominent during his time. He attempted to stem the damaging effects of the popular nature ethics on society and emphasized that the good of the state has primacy over the individual’s satisfaction of their own desires. Ethics, according to Plato, is a political science with an eye on the good of the state. It is also at its core a critical science. An individual does not become happy through the satisfaction of their own desires but through striving towards the good as a highest value and through his own virtues.
The starting point is Socrates’ “midwifery.” Starting with the question “What is truth? Is it merely that the spoken word is in accordance with reality or is there more?” Plato arrives at the “idea” of truth.
From the highest idea, the “highest good,” are derived from the cardinal virtues and other virtues.
Wisdom is the virtue of soul
Courage is the virtue of thinking
Prudence is the virtue of will
Justice is the virtue of desire
This ideology can best be illustrated with the famous Allegory of the Cave.