1st Aristotle Lecture

1)      Overview of Text

 What is the highest human good?

            Aristotle establishes certain criteria for determining the highest good attainable by human endeavor.        Happiness, it seems, best fullfills the criteria characteristic of the highest good.

What is happiness?

            happiness is a certain activity of the soul in conformity with complete virtue”(1102a5).

What is virtue?

Virtue is an excellence of the soul, “a characteristic involving choice, that consists in observing the mean relative to us, a mean defined by a rational principle, such as a man of practical wisdom would use to determine it”(1106b35).

 What is the mean?

It is the appropriate median between excess and deficiency regarding emotions and actions relative to the individual under his particular circumstances.

But, the content of the mean is determined by right reason (1138b20).

 What constitutes choice?

            fundamental principles of his decision theory in the first part of book III.

'What are the moral virtues?

The remainder of book III, IV and V describe the moral virtues in detail, detailing the mean states involved, and their characteristic passions and actions.

'What is right reason?'

Right reason, it turns out, is the result of deliberation in accordance with phronesis concerning properly cultivated desires.

 What are the intellectual virtues?

Phronesis, Sophia, Nous, Techne, Episteme

What is pleasure?

the lives of moral virtue and contemplation contain the pleasures most proper to man.

What is friendship?

friendship consists in the shared activity of noble action and thoughtful discussion.

'What is the best life?'

since wise contemplation is the best activity of the best part of human nature, the best life must involve theoria, and that life that limits its pursuit to merely human excellence is only happy in a secondary (though very significant) sense.

 

Overview of Book I

All human activity is aimed at some considered GOOD; there are sciences to determine and procure goods

·        Practical activity and productive endeavor

·        Intrinsic and Instrumental good

·        Being Good and Seeming Good (normative criteria)

Political Science is the master science, guiding all other endeavor

·        Socratic reduction of all ends to the ultimate pursuit of happiness…..(run on class)

·        Knowledge enables perfection; archer who knows his target is more able to hit it

Practical sciences have a different standard of clarity and precision, due to the changeability of the subject; i.e. human activity

·        Youth unsuited because: lack experience of praxis and ruled by passions (recite but do not appropriate); information without understanding

What is the Highest Good for persons?

            Criteria of the Highest Good à must be HAPPINESS

but…..WHAT is HAPPINESS?

            What do people think it is?

            Warm-Fuzzy Feeling

2)      THREE LIVES

·        Life of Pleasure

·        Political Life

·        Contemplative Life

Pythagoras' Cosmic Stadium: vendors, spectators and competitors

1)      Platonic Good

·        Multivocity of the Good

·        Not THE GOOD, but the Good for persons

·        See page on GOOD

2)      CRITERIA of the Highest Good

·        See page on Highest Good

How can we determine what happiness consists in?

·        External criteria?

·        Who is LIVING WELL? Depends on what you consider to be the ultimate goal of persons in this world;

·        Bill Gates?

·        Pope?

·        Donald Trump?

·        HOW DO I TEACH THIS CLASS WELL? What are my goals…..is it to increase attendence; is it to get good numbers on my student evaluation? Is it to get you to gain an understanding of ethical theory?

FUNCTION ARGUMENT

·        Knife analogy à what makes a good knife?; what qualities enable goodness?

·        Good as proper function; excellence as functioning well

·        Happiness is LIFE in accordance with VIRTUE

·                    Emphasis on a conception of human nature

·        Daoism and COOK TING: good life is acting in accordance with our essential nature

3)      'Life in accordance with virtue' captures the essential truth of the THREE LIVES (it includes thought and moral action, and it is pleasurable)

·        Good Life and Best life: Best life includes all goods and perfections; gender, poverty, externals, luck.

4)       How is Virtue Achieved?

·        The MENO Paradox (if I do not know what virtue is, I cannot learn it, if I do, I do not need to learn it)

Traditional Answers:     Education

                                    Habituation

                                    Divine ordination

                                    Luck

·        Children cannot be happy…..they are incapable of deliberate choice

5)      Priam's Problem: against the STOICS

·        Solon's Advice

·        Wisdom of Silenus

ETHICAL REALISM: much of our ethical life is beyond our control; must cultivate that which is under our control and hope for the best, and the benefit of good friends

PERFECTIONISM: goal is the perfect yourself; Scito te Ipsum

MORAL PARADIGM: Moral role models, the prudent person, the best life and its constituents

 

6)      Fate may diminish Happiness after death

·        Greek afterlife; no consolation in the grave

·        Achilles' Lament; shame in the Underworld, Kings will be Kings

·        Emphasis on the LIFE and the ACTION, not the intentions

·        Sculpting the GOOD LIFE as a monument to human excellence

7)      Praise for Virtue; Honour for the Activity of virtue….the highest honour for the life you make, not your intentions or struggles.

8)      Divisions of the Soul

·        Medieval and pencilled overheads

·        Excellences proper to each division

 

Book II

1)      How is VIRTUE acquired?

·        Moral virtue acquired by moral training (inculcation) and deliberate action (habituation)

·        Intellectual virtue acquired by moral experience (reflection thereon) and education (ethical study)

·        Persons have the capacity for virtue, by nature

2)      Habituation

·        Virtue is developed by virtuous actions, and impeded by vicious actions

3)      Pain and Pleasure

·        Pleasure and pain motivate action

·        Must learn to love and hate the proper things

4)      Activity and Capacity for Activity

·      Virtuous activity must not only be in accordance with what is appropriate, but the agent must:

1.      Realize the action is morally proper

2.      Choose the action because it is proper

3.      Act from a conducive moral disposition

·        Two analogies: sick person listens to the doctor but does not act; actor who recites eloquent poetry but does not understand the poetic appeal


5) WHAT is VIRTUE?  Genus

·        Either an emotion, a capacity or a state

·        Not an emotion or a mere capacity, so it must be a state

·        WHAT IS A STATE?!

6) WHAT is VIRTUE? Difference

·        Fixed STATE of the soul

·        Deliberate choice

·        Mean concerning actions and passions

·        Between excess and deficiency

·        Relative to the individual

·        Determined by right reasons

·        In accordance with judgement of the prudent person

Particular Virtues

VIRTUE

OBJECT

EXCESS VICE

DEFICIENT VICE

COURAGE

FEAR

RASHNESS

COWARDICE

MODERATION

DESIRE

INTEMPERENCE

COLD

GENEROSITY

PROPERTY

WASTEFUL

CHEAP

MAGNIFICENCE

WEALTH

EXTRAVAGANT

GREEDY

MAGNANIMITY

DIGNITY

PRETENTIOUS

MODEST

AMBITIOUS

HONOUR

GRASPING

APATHETIC

MILDNESS

ANGER

HOT-TEMPERED

UNMOVED

TRUTHFULNESS

REPUTATION

BRAGGART

SELF-DEPRECATIVE

WIT

HUMOUR

BUFFOON

BOOR

AMIABILITY

ACQUAINTENCE

OBSEQUIOUS

ILL-TEMPERED

SHAME

MORAL ERROR

SHAMELESS

BASHFUL

INDIGNATION

FORTUNE

ENVY

SPITE

 

The MEAN

1.      Status of the Mean state

·        Not average - rare

·        Not median - relative

·        Not mediocre - excellent

2.      Locating the Mean

·        Prudence

·        Experience

·        Proper upbringing

·        Fortunate circumstances

·        Good friends

·        AVOID Excesses : steer between Scylla and Charybdis

·        Err on the side of caution: straighten the board by overbending in the other direction

·        Copy moral role-models

 


 

 

INTRINSIC GOOD                INSTRUMENTAL GOOD

 

SUBJECT        Good for X as such                  Good for Y, which is good for X

 

 

Violin               proper resonance

 

hard wood contributes to resonance

 

perfect pitch                 +          perfect pitch contributes to harmonization

                       

 

Man                 happiness

 

wealth  enables generosity

 

courage                        +          courage as enabling virtuous activity

 

 

GOODS

 “All other goods [besides activity in conformity with virtue] are either necessary prerequisites for happiness, or are by nature co-workers with it and useful instruments for attaining it”(1099b27).

 

1.      Prerequisite: conditions for the possibility of happiness, their absence impedes supreme happiness, and may even impede the possibility of developing constituent goods.

a)      Goods of the Body: e.g. health, beauty

b)      Good Fortune: e.g. wealth, class

2.      Instrumental

a)      Material Goods: necessary equipment to enable a man to act when he determines it appropriate; e.g. wealth & property

b)      Social Goods: social conditions that enable and empower choice; e.g. marriage, children, friends, political power.

c)      Good Character: virtue

3.      Co-extensive: pleasure, honour, fame and victory

4.      Constitutive: virtuous activity, thought, perception

 


ARISTOTLE

Highest Good

(1) End-in-Itself: "the highest good must be something final <teleios>"1097a27, criteria one requires that the supreme good be sought as an end-in-itself, for its own sake.

(2) Self-sufficient: "the final and perfect good seems to be self-sufficent."1097b7, something which by itself renders things desirable and which has no deficiencies.

(3) Permanence: possessing the good with some continuity is superior to glimpses of good. Bk.I.10

(4) Degree of Dependence on External Goods: "the end is included among the goods of the soul and not among the external goods" 1098b19.

(5) Pleasant: "the highest good is some sort of pleasure"1153b12.

(6) Uniquely Human (between divine and brute): the good aimed at is a good attainable by men, not the 'absolute good' nor merely a good of the body.1097a1,1098b12

(7) Proper function: "goodness ... generally of anyone who fulfills some function or performs some action, are thought to reside in his proper function" 1197b25.

Happiness

(1)    "we always choose happiness as an end in itself and never for the sake of something else"1097b1.

(2)    "happiness is something final and self-sufficient" 1097b20.

(3)    "men who are supremely happy spend their lives in these <virtuous> activities most continuously, ... the happy man will have the attribute of permanence" 1100b16

(4) "happiness requires some external goods"1099a31

(5) "happiness is at once the best, noblest and most pleasant thing"1199a24

(6) "we can neither call a horse nor an ox nor any animal happy, for none of them is capable of acitivity of this kind <activity of the soul in conformity with virtue>" 1099b35, "happiness is one of the most divine things" 1199b14.

(7) "the proper function of man consists in an activity of the soul in conformity with a rational principle" 1098a6, happiness thus in 1102a5.

 

Contemplation;

(1)    "contemplation seems to be the only activity which is loved for its own sake." 1177b1

(2) "self-sufficiency will be found in the highest degree in the activity which is concerned with theoretical wisdom." 1177a27

(3) "able to study continuously more easily than to perform any other kind of action. 1177a22

(4) "has little need of external trimmings." 1178a24

(5) "activity in conformity with theoretical wisdom is the most pleasant." 1177a24

(6) "none other living beings can be happy because they all are completely denied the activity <of contemplation>" 1178b25, "activity of divinity which surpasses all others in bliss must be a contemplative activity." 1178b22

(7) "what is by nature proper to each thing will be at once best and most pleasant for it, thus a life guided by intelligence is best and most pleasant, inasmuch as intelligence, above all else, is man."1178a6.

2nd  Aristotle Lecture

MORAL CHOICE

Activity and Capacity for Activity

·      Virtuous activity must not only be in accordance with what is appropriate, but the agent must:

4.      Realize the action is morally proper

5.      Choose the action because it is proper

6.      Act from a conducive moral disposition

·        Two analogies: sick person listens to the doctor but does not act; actor who recites eloquent poetry but does not understand the poetic appeal

VOLUNTARY ACTION

·        Our actions are only praiseworthy if they are voluntary

·        INVOLUNTARY:       a) forced choice

                                                b) ignorant choice

·        Problem: Is a choice made under duress voluntary or involuntary?

·        E.g. tyrant with family hostages; cargo in the storm

·        Answer: Non-voluntary / Mixed: not blameworthy, but pitiable / pardonable

·        Problem: Are some actions so bad that even duress does not pardon them?

·        Answer: Yes, matricide for example.

·        FORCED: "cause is external and the agent contributes nothing to the decision"

·        Problem: Are actions compelled by overwhelming desire non-voluntary, and thus pardonable?

·        Answer: All actions aim at some good, so being compelled by the seeming good is either vicious or done in ignorance. It is the choice of the principle that matters….e.g. I choose to esteem victory, I take pleasure in it and feel compelled to pursue it.

·        IGNORANCE: pardonable if the error is recognized and regretted

·        DONE IN ignorance vs. CAUSED BY ignorance

·         DONE IN: pardonable, ignorant of particulars due to some impairment of judgement

·         E.g. drunk, deceived, mistaken

·         CAUSED BY: blameworthy, ignorant of the universal, out of bad character

·        E.g. vicious, criminal neglect, undue care

·        Are inclinations (desire, passion) involuntary?

·         No, otherwise children would never act voluntarily

·        No, both fine and shameful actions are compelled by inclination

QUESTIONS: Can we blame someone for being FAT?

                        Can I choose an action in a situation that is uncertain?

DECISION

Discursive Definition: Define CHOICE by what it is NOT.

Not merely VOLUNTARY

·         Children and animals are voluntary, but cannot choose

·        Spontaneous action is voluntary but not deliberate

Not DESIRE

·         Desire can oppose choice

·         Irrational creatures desire but do not choose

·         Desire is aimed at pleasure, choice is aimed at the good

Not WISH

·         May wish the impossible, but may not choose the impossible

·         Only choose within agency

·        Wish ends, choose means

Not OPINION

·         True or false, not good or bad

·         Opinions about anything, but only choose those things within our power to affect

·        May make a bad choice based on a true opinion and vice versa

DELIBERATION

No deliberation concerning the:             a) eternal

b) necessary

c) natural

d) accidental

e) random

Only deliberate about probable means to ends; thought is the cause of free choice.

DECISION is a deliberate desire to perform an action within one's power.

WISH

Problem: What is the object of intention or wish?

Dilemma: If the object is the GOOD, then an ignorant intent is not deliberate. If the object is the APPARENT GOOD, then nothing is wished by nature (ought to be pursued).

Answer: The virtuous person wishes what actually is Good, others pursue the apparent Good, but are mistaken.

      e.g. Honey tastes bitter to the feverish; violence seems appropriate to the victim of abuse

Virtue is the result of CHOICE, thus we are responsible  for our character and the limitations of our dispositions.

e.g. Climb the stairs à unable due to poor physical shape à responsibility for failure

often err due to confusion of pleasure with the good


VICE IS VOLUNTARY

·         Ignorance of the law is no excuse

·         Criminal negligence

·        Drunk driving

Vice is the result of intentional action, thus the agent is responsible to actions performed out of poor character

Vice results from many choices, and is corrected by many choices

·        Machiavelli's problem with the inflexibility of Virtue

Fat people are blameworthy, congenital blindness is not.

PROBLEM: If character determines how the GOOD appears, then we are not responsible for evil?

Answer: Formation of character is within our power

Follow-up problem: What about a young adult poorly raised? Racist?

 

DIVISIONS of the SOUL

DISCUSS THE FOLLOWING TABLE……

Divisions of the Soul

Faculties of the Soul

Two Divisions of the Virtues

Excellences of the Faculties

LOGOS

Reasoning

Intellectual

Theoretical

Wisdom

Calculative

Practical

Prudence

ALOGOS

Appetitive

Moral

Justice

Nutritive

-

-

Health

 

MORAL VIRTUES

1)      go over the table of Aristotelian virtues. Indicate:

·             external object: facet of human condition with respect to which a person may appropriately comport himself

·             internal object: psychological nature of human life that must be properly trained to respond to moral events

·             excess and deficiency

2)      Aristotle explains each virtues according to:

a)      external condition of human life

· e.g. social beings

b)      proper psychological dispostion

· need to belong and be well liked

c)      excess and deficiency

· social butterfly or wet-blanket

d)      moral perception: How does such a person act? How do you recognize the virtue?

· Treat others with a modicum of warmth and politeness

e)      Discursive clarification: what is the virtue state similar to?

· Friendship, justice

f)       Solve conceptual problems

· Can a person be brave is carrying out an evil intention?

3)      Get in groups and try explain the following virtues according to Aristotle's method:

·                 Tolerance

·                 Compassion / Kindness

·                 Trustworthy


INTELLECTUAL VIRTUES

 

 

1)      Differences between moral and intellectual virtue

a)      intellectual virtues do not admit of a mean; no excessive state

b)      intellectual virtue is acquired through education and experience; moral virtue through habituation and inculcation

c)      excellences of distinct faculties of the soul

 

2)      Problem: Knowing that virtue is a mean does not help in locating the mean in any specific circumstance.

·                Answer: Right reason determines the mean in actions and passions in each particular circumstance

·    Problem: What is right reason? In what does proper reasoning consist?

·                        Answer: Right reasoning is the expression of prudence, and excellence of the calculative faculty of the ruling element of the soul

 

Faculty of the Soul

Proper Object

Proper Excellence

Type of Truth

Natural Excellence

Speculative

Eternal structure of reality

WISDOM

Theoretical Knowledge

Intuition

Calculative

Contingent facts of everyday life

PRUDENCE

Practical Judgement

Cleverness

 

3)      FIVE WAYS OF KNOWING

 

WISDOM [sophia] : proper understanding of facts, ideas and their connection to first principles

            UNDERSTANDING [nous] : intuition of first principles of thought and perception

            KNOWLEDGE [episteme] : facts, deduced or induced truths

PRUDENCE [phronesis] : determination of the good in particular, moral judgement

            CRAFT [techne] : know-how, productive skill

 

4)      Discursive Clarification: What Prudence is not (but is regularly confused with)

·                 Political Wisdom: same excellence, applied to the polis, rather than the individual life

·                 Practical Comprehension: required for prudence, the ability to recognize morally significance options, situations, relevant considerations

·                 Good Sense / Consideration: different in scope, application of prudence to questions of fairness and equity

·                 Understanding: perception of moral particulars; e.g. 'too much'

·                 Good Deliberation: good as both efficient and properly directed; correctly choosing right means to right ends by proper considerations

·                 Cleverness:

 

5)      Problem: Prudence seems useless for the good life: If a person is morally good (properly inculcated), then she will act properly out of a fixed state of character without needing to know why; if a person is morally corrupt, then she will not act properly even if prudence directs her to the proper action.

·     Answer: Prudence is choiceworthy as an excellence of our highest faculty

·             Prudence is an expression of proper human functioning and therefore constituent to the well-lived life

·             But; does prudence make us better at achieving fine actions?

· Answer: Decision is properly motivated and comported by virtuous character, but exactly how to fulfill or achieve what virtue demands is determined by right reasoning.

·                     Cleverness is an excellence in determining efficient means to ends

·                     Prudence directs cleverness at good ends.

Explain chart showing connection between cleverness and prudence.

MORAL STRENGTH & WEAKNESS

 

BESTIAL

VICIOUS

WEAK

STRONG

VIRTUOUS

HEROIC

REASON

None

Erroneous

Correct

Correct

Correct

Unneeded

DESIRE

Corrupt

Corrupt

Corrupt

Corrupt

Fine

Fine

ACTION

Wrong

Wrong

Wrong

Right

Appropriate

Perfect

City Analogy: Law à Reason : People à Desire : Policies : Action

 

1)      Aristotle's Method:

a)      survey opinions

b)      subject them to reason to determine the truth

c)      deduce theory which explains phenomena and the propensity for certain errors

2)      Problem: Socratic Paradox: All evil is ignorance, so weak-will is illusory

·                Answer: Wherein lies the ignorance?

·                    Not lack of certainty concerning the particulars

·                    Not misunderstanding of universal

·                    For the morally weak, the error lies in the character, not in the reasoning.

 

What sort of ignorance is involved in weakness of will?

·                Distinction between having knowledge and using it

·                Plato's Aviary

·                Learning, Knowing and Speaking English

·                So, with the incontinent, flawed character impedes the proper use of knowledge

e.g. Finger in the icing

            Universal: It is morally wrong to put my finger in the icing and ruin the cake

            Universal: Sweet foods are pleasant

            Particular: This cake is sweet

The incontinent knows it is wrong, but flawed, intemperate character suppressed the moral universal and replaces it with the indulgent, lower universal, which together with the particular, induces action.

 

Simple incontinence versus derivative incontinence

 

3)      Problem: Sophistic Paradox: Incontinent fools are virtuous.

·                Answer: right action is accidental

 

4)      Beasts and Gods

·                Bestial condition is the result of caused beyond the persons control

·             Animal nature : extreme natural lust

·             Insanity : psychopath

·             Disease : Turetz syndrome

·             Coerced habits: Racism

·            E.g. Aristotle thinks that homosexual intercourse is vicious, but it may be bestial and therefore not blameworthy; it may be caused by diseased nature [unnatural disposition], or corrupted nurture (child molestation).

·    Bestial condition is pitiable, not blameworthy; though it might have to be forcibly suppressed

 

Retardation : not foolishness

Phobia : not cowardice

Mania: not intemperance

Overcoming a bestial nature is praiseworthy, but it is not a happy condition….

 

 

 

 

 

Experience à

                 Cleverness                     à

   [excellence in deliberation]               |

Teaching  à                                                             |

                                                                |à Phronesis [excellence in deliberating good ends]

                                                                |à Complete Virtue [appropriate response guided by right reason]

                                                                |

Proper Upbringing  à                                               |

                           Natural virtue à

        [appropriate emotional response to morally significant phenomena]

Voluntary Habituation  à

 

 

 

 

 

 

VICIOUS

WEAK

STRONG

VIRTUOUS

G

O

O

D

B

A

D

PASSION

ß

ß

ß

à

REASON

ß

à

à

à

ACTION

ß

ß

à

à

 

 

 

 

Problems with Virtue Ethics;

a)     virtue as a vacuous concept,

b)      circular justification,

c)      who decides what virtue is?

 

Concepts to remember about Aristotle;

i)                   Virtue is intrinsically Good

ii)                   Virtue is a mean (concerning actions and passions) between excess and deficiency

iii)                 Happiness is activity in accordance with virtue

iv)                 Ethical focus is on the character of the agent, not the action itself

v)                  Practical wisdom is the determining factor of good (appropriate) action

 

 

 

An ACCOUNT of a VIRTUE

Sketch an account of one of the following three non-Aristotelian virtues. Sketch the account according to the explanatory strategies learned in class. For example, justify the claim that the virtue is essential to full human flourishing by explaining the external condition of human life which renders it necessary, accounting for the proper psychological disposition the virtue is a perfection of, outlining the relevant vicious excess and deficiency, etc. You may also discuss why Aristotle does not include the virtue in his list, or explain behaviour indicative of a person possessing such a virtue.

A.     HOPE

B.     CLEANLINESS

C.     TRUSTWORTHINESS

D.     PATIENCE

E.      INTEGRITY

F.      COMPASSION

Explain the moral importance of the virtue in a well-lived life according to the Aristotelian explanatory method learned in class. Be sure to explain and support your claims. Your answer should indicate:

1.      external condition of human life (Why do we need the virtue to succeed in life? What is it about human life in the world that makes this virtue essential to flourishing?)

2.      proper psychological disposition (What element of human nature does the virtue develop and perfect? What emotion or disposition is the virtue the proper development of?)

3.      excess and deficiency (What are the related vices? How do these vices impede full flourishing?)

4.      Why do you think this virtue is NOT considered by Aristotle? (give a philosophical rather than historical or psychological answer)

5.      How would you recognize that someone possesses this virtue? How do they behave that characterizes the possession of this virtue?

Try to explain why the virtue is necessary for full human flourishing, and how lacking would impede your moral perfection.