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by: Elizabeth Kaur

PHILOLecture5 PHI 001

Elizabeth Kaur

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About this Document

Fifth Lecture - Continuation of slides provided from Lecture 4's "Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics"
Intro to Philosophy
George Mattey
Class Notes
philosophy, Introduction to Philosophy, Pleasure and pain, The Individual Virtues, Practical Reasoning, Justice, Virtue and Political Science, Virtue, political science, Sophists, Life of Study, Life of Action
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This 5 page Class Notes was uploaded by Elizabeth Kaur on Sunday January 31, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to PHI 001 at University of California - Davis taught by George Mattey in Winter 2016. Since its upload, it has received 19 views. For similar materials see Intro to Philosophy in PHIL-Philosophy at University of California - Davis.


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Date Created: 01/31/16
Lecture 5 - January 19, 2016 First Paper Topic will be released today Two weeks to write paper Citations Source will be onlineAristotle readings Cite onlyAristotle Don’t go to any other sources as far as citations are concerned Paper should be based on readings themselves ReconstructingAristotle’s argument for philosophical thesis Look at it in terms of premises and conclusions First thing, structure - how it is premises support conclusions Make a similar thesis toAristotle or reword it in your own way Continuation of “Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics” Pleasure and Pain • Pleasure and pain can be a help or a hindrance to virtue. – One finds it painful to abstain from excessive drinking. • Correct education will enable us to feel pleasure and pain appropriately for action. – The temperate person will feel pleasure in abstinence. • Because of the bad effect of pleasure and pain on human behavior, some have held that virtue is not being affected by them. Pleasure can stand in the way of virtue Some people get pleasure from excessive drinking • But the correct response is that the virtuous person is affected by pleasure and pain in the right way. The right way is to feel pleasure appropriately. If you act courageously, that will feel pleasurable. • “Virtue is about pleasures and pains.” -Aristotle This is what primarily motivates us to act the way we do. Character andAction • Virtuous actions are to be understood in terms of what a virtuous person would do. You can think of them as describing someone’s character Or expressing an evaluation of actions Ex.Ajust action is an action that a just person would carry out. •Ajust action, for example, is an action that would be carried out by a just person. • But virtuous character is the result of the performance of virtuous actions. Ex.Acourageous act is good because it’s done by a courageous person. But a person becomes a courageous person by doing courageous acts. Feed back mechanism • These actions put the person into the right state to perform other virtuous actions. • There are three conditions necessary for virtuous action: – Knowing that the action is virtuous, – Deciding to do the action because it is virtuous, – Making the decision on the basis of “a firm and unchanging state.” It can’t be connected in a transitory way with you. Ex. Cowardly, hit head on a rock, run into enemy grounds = not virtuous because something happened and it wasn’t “you” who was virtuous The Mean • Virtue is a state of a person, but what kind of state? • In nature, craft, and science, a good product is one that is not excessive in any way. • Because it is superior to these things, a virtuous state is one that produces moderate results • “It is a mean between two vices, one of excess and one of deficiency.” -Aristotle • In one sense, though, virtue is an extreme—an extreme of goodness of one’s state and one’s results. The Individual Virtues • Courage is the mean between feelings of fear and of confidence. Rashness is overconfidence Cowardice is over-fear • Temperance is the mean between pains and pleasures. • There are two virtues which are means between wastefulness and stinginess: – Generosity, where small matters are concerned (giving to charity), In between wastefulness and stinginess – Magnificence, where large matters are concerned (endowing an institute to study disease). Aristotle might think a philanthropist donating money to an institute is magnificence • Other virtues of character are described as means between extremes. • It remains to describe virtues of thought and justice as a virtue. Virtue and Practical Reason • Now that the virtues of character have been explained, we may turn to their role in human action. • The link is through decisions to act. • Decisions are the outcome of rational deliberation. • Rational deliberation is practical reasoning. – We deliberate about the practical means whereby we can bring about our ends. • The ends for which we act are what we think to be good for us. We pick what we think is good for us • Virtues of character allow a person to recognize what really is good. • The good is then adopted as the end whose means are the subjects of rational deliberation. Can VirtuousActs Be Praised? An action is voluntary to the extent that neither it nor its end is forced upon the agent. • Has to be voluntary • We praise or blame a person for acting only if the action is voluntary. • If the person has chosen the means by rational deliberation, then to that extent the action is voluntary. • If the end is determined by one’s virtuous character, it might seem to be involuntary. • But the virtuous character of the agent is acquired willingly, through cultivation of habit. • So, deliberative action from a virtuous character is voluntary, and virtuous acts can be praised. Justice Plato says justice is a harmonious part of the soul where the rational part of the soul brings all part of the soul into a balance. • If justice is a virtue of character, it is a state of a soul which aims at the mean between extremes. Averaging, bringing all into harmony • Just people are lawful and fair, so acting lawfully and fairly should promote some mean. An unjust person would be a lawbreaker and is unfair according to Plato • The extremes are: – What is good, without regard to the individual who is undertaking the act – What is bad without regard to the individual The idea is: Let’s say, Wealth is good for they individual, that external goods are a good thing to have. Is robbing a bank the right thing for me to do? I might become wealthy. But in that situation, it is not good. •Acting lawfully and fairly promotes the mean, which is what is good for the agent. – Wealth is unconditionally good, but it is not good for me if I gain it by theft. • Correctly established law will promote other virtues, so justice is the supreme virtue. Law, a just person respects and follows, if it is established correctly, will promote the other virtue of temperance, courage, etc. • Justice is also complete because, unlike the other virtues, it is directed toward other people. Says that justice is the supreme virtue because it promotes all the other virtues. Also says it is complete because it is not just about “me”, it’s not “individualistic”, it’s a social virtue Virtues of Thought • Having completed his discussion of the virtues of character,Aristotle turns to the virtues of thought. • There are two virtues of thought: – Prudence (rationally acquired true beliefs concerning contingent facts about what is good for us), reasoning about what we think is good for us promoting self well being practical reason – Wisdom (theoretical knowledge of necessary truths). theoretical reason • It may seem that prudence and wisdom are of no use to one who is already clever. • But the two virtues are productive: – Prudence elevates the natural virtue of cleverness to “full virtue,” by directing it to the good. You have to think about what it is that is good for you. You have to direct reasoning towards the good. Much of literature, film is about the very clever person who directs his actions towards the bad. That cleverness doesn’t give you prudence. – Wisdom produces happiness. • Socrates was correct in saying that all virtues require prudence, but wrong in saying they are all instances of prudence. Socrates says all virtues are prudence. Nothing more to virtue than knowing the right thing to do. Plato says instances of virtue are not prudence. ALife of Study or a Life ofAction? •Alife of study is superior to a life of action. -Aristotle says this • The reason for the superiority of study is that study is an end in itself, while action is aimed at a further end. The end product of study is a goal in itself; it’s an end in itself.Action is always directed towards something else. • Study is also the most characteristically human function, one not shared with animals. Study is the most human thing. -Aristotle. • On the other hand, it is shared with the divine beings, whose activity consists entirely of contemplation. • Since the life of the scholar is both the most human and partakes of the divine, it is the happiest life. • Persons of action can attain a secondary degree of happiness if they possess the virtues of character. • Because of the superiority of study to action, wisdom would be a virtue superior to prudence. Wisdom governs study. Prudence governs action. Study is a superior life. So the virtue that governs it, is the superior virtue. So wisdom is the superior virtue. Virtue and Political Science •Agood society will enact laws which promote the development of virtue in individuals. •As noted above, virtue is developed by habituation, and the process begins in the home. • The laws should promote the continuation of the process of habituation after the individual leaves the home. • If the laws are to be effective, they must be based on political science. • The Sophists teach only how to be successful politically, and so their teaching does not promote good legislation. If you had a politician and all they do is learn how to make effective speeches, they won’t do a good job when it comes to the actual law. • Political science will examine two things: – Existing political theory – The successes and failures of past and present political institutions


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