We will focus on the 5th (and 4th) Century BCE in Athens
Most of the writing in going to be Reflections (good faith)
Papers (3 x 750 words)
During this time, Greece had what we may consider to be the beginning of a democracy (and therefore politics). Before then, there were rulers.
What does politics look like when the individuals are part of the process?
Our traditions of self-rule date back to the time period that we will be focusing on.
- What does it mean to live in a community with one-another?
- What does it mean to be a (good) citizen?
One answer is “whatever makes people like you”. But there is a difference between what people think and the goodness of you.
We want to understand the thought process of Plato and Aristotle
Security is a big part of a community.
- Economic security
- Emotional security
Also has a sense of purpose.
There is intimacy.
Tomorrow we will be looking at the 3 basic roots of ancient Greek politics.
Democracy, Rhetoric, and Philosophy
Homer, Hesiod, Solon
Homer: was referred to as the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey. He probably wasn’t a real person. Troy and the battle of Troy did exist, however.
Odyssey and the island of the cyclopes:
- Cyclopes are living a non-Greek life. Displayed as a bad way to live.
- They live in a place where Pandora’s box has not been open, fire (progress) has not been given
- No governing body – no community. Each person has their own laws. The state of nature.
- They are missing a sense of identity – they are missing happiness.
- Care beyond the family does not exist
- They are static. There is no progress. This is a problem to the Greeks.
- Progress is a double-edged sword
- War is the natural result of the progress of civilization.
- With the Greeks, there isn’t a civilization to go back to. Now that we have society, we are stuck with it.
Hesiod: The common sense way that the Greeks govern. Was interested in how humanity falls short.
The human condition:
- The drive to disguise themselves brings about greatness
- Humans are half animal and half God.
- How can you move forward when you know that you are going to fail? You can’t win, but there can be local victories.
themis: something that holds together a body/community.
- Some kind of commitment to a collective enterprise holds it together.
What role does the themis play here?
- We need to organize ourselves as much as possible. We need to seek the common ground.
- Giving us the ability to have communities
The Greeks believed that left to their our devices (that is, no order), civilization would turn into chaos.
- There will been rich and poor people
- The rich will get greedy and the poor will rise up
- Then, the new power in place will turn into a tyrant and the cycle repeats
A community is built with work. Love is not found, it is made. Familial ties naturally fall apart.
Solon: One of the 7th sages of the ancient world. Some time in the 6th century. Laid down the framework for what would be the democracy. How can people live together in peace?
The way to deal with this problem, we need good government.
You need some common ground between the classes. Have them part of the same whole.
Solon had a land-reform policy.
Solon canceled all of the debts so that the poor aren’t enslaved to the rich. But he didn’t redistribute land as to not start a war.
The government’s role is to maintain some common ground.
- There were about 8,000 people who made important political decisions (to have a lot of people represented)
You could live in a city, but not be a citizen.
Not graded as a paper
Hit on one specific thing that you want to say about the idea of being a citizen.
- Have some structure to it
The main focus of the Greeks was community.
- What makes something a community and not just a group?
- They would answer with some common purpose (making life better for future generations)
Humans thrive in community
We are driven by curiosity and progress
- But that also leads to war
The role of government is to help mitigate some of these problems
- Conflict between classes
- The different classes don’t view themselves at part of the same community
- The government’s goal is to have each of the classes feel part of the same whole
Democracy and Rhetoric
The Greek’s solution to this was democracy
How the Greek democracy works:
- Main legislative body
- 10 meetings a year
- debated all of the issues of the city
- Can be attended by any citizen (a few thousand people would attend)
- Decided on majority rule
- Anyone can speak (chaos)
- Would set the agenda of the assembly
- Jury would decide after hearing both parties
- Chief magistrate
- Head of states
Athens is a shipping port so it attracts a lot of people. Young ambitious people would go there to make a name for themselves. Rule was not determined by families – that is, anyone who can make a nice speech can make it a long way.
- This creates a demand for those who claim to teach how to present
- Someone has to write the speeches in the court
Because of this, there was a rethinking of education (in middle or upper classes) in this time.
- You’d learn how to write, math, flute, wrestle
- Then there was a wholistic view of education. How to be seen as a good person/write speeches.
- You might think that governing should be handled by the experts, but that’s not how people from Athens think about it
- Politics does not require specialized knowledge
- Not just voting, but also making (serious) decisions
Should only specialized people work in policy? Should everyone have equal say?
- Having background in a particular thing may help you form policy, but it will affect all parts of the population in different ways.
Why do you teach morals if everything has it?
- “Intelligence is distributed equally, but people use it differently”
- Everyone can tell if two notes don’t go together, but it takes someone good with music can tell you why
- Everyone has access to the what, education can provide the why
- Everyone has thought on how the world should work (priorities), but they don’t know how to bring that out (they can learn this via education)
This kind of democracy is open and dangerous
- If you know how to speak, people will listen (even if you don’t know what your talking about or are doing this for selfish motives)
A good speech binds your will as if you are being physically moved. A good speech can be in favor of anything.
- You can be convinced of something if even you don’t think the thing is true
- You often are willing to suspend what you believe to hear someone else out
Socrates was executed for not believing in the gods of the city and corrupting the youth
- He stated that it didn’t matter because there were a ton of people that would take his place
- Plato, Socrates student, starts the first university in the world (The Academy)
Justice and Happiness
- What will be covered today (Lecture 4)
- Workshop on Thursday
Democracy was rare.
In Sparta, you had a leading class and the rest of the people were slaves
A citizen of Athens is one who engages in the government
- The government decides if they are going to war and what to spend money on
- Citizens had the responsibility
A new notion of a citizen
- Because this is new, the citizens needed to be taught what to do
There were traveling teachers to teach the skills necessary to be a citizen in this context. Teaching how to “play the game”.
- To speak and present well so to be taken seriously in this context
- This will make you a good citizen
- Only the rich kids could afford this teaching
Is being a good citizen defined as your ability to persuade.
- Lot of possibility of danger
- You learn to “wear the costume of what an Athenian should look like”. You convince people you are a good citizen.
Socrates thought that these Sophists aren’t concerned with how to be happy and how to be a good person. So he sought out how to teach this.
Socrates doesn’t claim to know anything. He didn’t want to give knowledge to people, he wanted to put the people in a position so that they can provide answers to their own questions.
- Giving people the tools to engage in their own development
Plato wrote in dialogue to teach people about how to go through this process.
- Laches shows this method well
Socrates’ method is via question and answer. He is looking for a definition of what started the dialogue.
- In Laches, he wanted to define courage. He kept on challenging the definition.
What is the point of this? What lessons are supposed to be taken away?
- Socrates does not expect that you will provide an adequate definition.
This is the philosophical method. We previously looked at the Sophist method.
- Sophist Method
- Concerned with attaining power and money
- Not concerned with truth or actually being a good citizen
- The aim is practical deliverables
- Philosophical Method
- Pursuit of truth
- Not great at coming to concrete conclusions
- We come to a better understand on why we don’t know things
- How to break down a given topic. Never provide definite answers and allow people to figure it out for themselves
- Have people look inward for answers
There is a way to ask questions that guide you. It forces you to reflect on your answer.
In the Republic, we will see a link between philosophy and medicine. “soul doctor”.
What does learning even look like?
- Getting better at a certain thing
- Learning comes from “shedding” your previous ideas about a certain thing
We can never know everything about courage.
The same thing with fish as a concept.
The philosophical method is about teaching humility.
- Understanding that your previous thoughts are wrong
- This method wants to awaken your curiosity
If you view your life in terms of goals that need to be completed, then this isn’t really love of life. That is discomfort with openness.
4 chief virtues of the Greek
The assembly would open with “does anyone have anything they would like to say?”
- Courage would be the thing that would bring people to say something in that instance
- Courage is also present in the battlefield
Laches isn’t wrong that courage has something to do with staying at your post in battle. Courage does have something to do with a sense of perseverance.
- It has to do with endurance of the mind. This courage isn’t just brash stupidity
- Bring a rough draft
- That is, something substantial on each part of the paper
Sophistic method and the philosophical method both have the same aim: education.
- Sophistic method teaches you a set of skills that are going to be useful for a specific context (5th century Athens)
- Appear in a certain way
- Persuade others
- Externally focused
- Things you can master
- Philosophical method
- Teaches a way of thinking
- Process that is aimed at understanding
Examples of taxonomy: we understand a lot more about taxonomy then we once did. But we can always learn more. This is a process (philosophical) that is never complete, but we always learn more.
We are also concerned with self-knowledge and self-understanding. What does the philosophical method have to do with learning about ourselves?
- Forces us to think about the way we think about things
The more you learn about cars (or something else), you’ll understand more about what you like and don’t like. Most likely, those things that you’ll learn can extend to other things as well.
You can learn about yourself by interacting with others.
In the philosophic method, it’s not about the answers/definitions to the questions, those are just a tool.
Philosophic method makes you feel vulnerable (opposite of the sophistic method).
- Often, the people that Socrates questions hold onto their beliefs
- In this vulnerability, there is opportunity of growth
Think about how this vulnerability connects to how to become a better citizen.
Anything that feels fear can be courageous.
Definitions are to get a nice neat way to describe a set of concrete examples.
- But definitions can be limiting and restrictive
- For example, once Rock wasn’t considered Music
- This is one of things the philosophic method aims to teach us
Plato said that if you have a democracy, you won’t have a community – you will have a mess.
- Plato cannot find the themus of the democracy (because there is none)
- Aristotle is going to push back on this
The Greek democracy is overthrown by the Aristocrat’s in 405. The democracy is reinstalled.
One cannot be a fully developed human being unless one is just.
- This is a hard stance to hold
How justice relates to happiness. For the Greeks, justice is the primary virtue. Zeus gave us justice.
Justice for the Greeks means the general idea of being a good person.
Do you only need to appear just?
- The only consequence is that you will be treated poorly. So if you convince people that you are just (while you are not), everything is good.
The Sophists say that you only need to appear a certain way.
- Do we not need to put in the effort to work on ourselves?
Plato wants to convince us that being a just person is worth it in itself. That is, is it better to be just even if you are treated that way.
- It’s a hard stance to defend because it’s possible to be a bad person and be happy.
An old man says that the key to being happy is to be a good person.
- He isn’t persuaded by his instincts when he was young
Socrates asks him “what does one need to be good/just?”
- The answer was not lying/paying your debts/etc.
But what makes these things just?
For the rest of the book, Socrates talks to younger people.
- This is because the young people are the one’s that are going to be influenced by this
- Younger people were more open
- As you become older, you become more moderate
- Changing things when you are old is a lot more work
The first definition is that Justice is helping friends and harming enemies.
- Socrates would say that this is too transactional
- Justice is subjective
- For example, if Odysseus killed the Cyclopes, under this definition that wouldn’t be unjust.
Socrates states that if we want Justice to be the primary virtue, we can’t have our definition to be subjective.
- It can’t just be following the rules (laws) and fulfilling contracts
- Justice is more all-encompassing
Thrasymachus states that a really strong unjust person is the happiest person. They don’t have to follow the rules and they won’t be punished.
- Thrasymachus believes that you should do this
Socrates states that it will catch up with you eventually.
Glaucon states that the only good thing about being just is the rewards (and lack of punishment).
- He challenges Socrates to explain how being just is worthy in itself (not just via the rewards)
- Being unjust and not getting caught is worth it?
- Is the only point of being just to be happy and to get something out of it? If so and you can be unjust while getting the same rewards, you should do it
- Even the gods can be bought off (so it doesn’t matter)
- Invisible rings
- A (just) Shepard finds an invisible ring and when invisible, the Shepard would be unjust
- The perfectly just vs the perfectly unjust person
- The perfectly just is someone who is just who doesn’t get any of the rewards. Every one thinks they’re terrible
- The perfectly unjust person acts unjustly but everyone thinks is great.
- Which life is more valuable? Which life would you want to lead? The answer is the unjust person.
Socrates must show that you won’t act in the way Glaucon thinks you would when given the invisible ring and that the perfectly just life is better.
A lot of people are successful, but not happy.
- What is that something more?
It’s not necessary to define both methods. You may want to bring up something in which they contrast.
You can bring in personal examples
- Pick one route (personal or political) and go into more depth
- Not both (routes) for each (positives and negatives)
- No introductions or conclusions are necessary
- The introduction is what you are focused on
- Example, you don’t need to mention the bad until you get there in the paper
- You can end it on a disadvantage. You can tie the dis and ad together. You can say “… but here is an disadvantage/advantage”.
- Don’t spend too much time on context
You do not need to quote anything.
You do not need to cite paraphrasing examples from the text.
What if you could have the gods and society think of you well without being just?
Should we be just even if we aren’t rewarded?
- Internal motivation instead of an external one
- Shows that we are more than beasts
In the Glauconian perspective, there is no trust/security
- If it works in someone’s favor to cheat you out of a contract, they will
- Glauconian thinks that those who act justly don’t know better
Humans can have things that they value unconditionally. We are above mere beasts. Therefore there is possible trust (and therefore progress)
When you learn something you are interested in, the why doesn’t really come up – you just do it.
When you learn something that you are supposed to, you don’t have much enjoyment out of it
- There might be relief once you’re done, but it’s a different enjoyment
Plato wants us to realize that:
- Human beings: we are more than just a beast
- It is possible to be driven than more than reward and punishment
- Community: we are more than just a protection pact
- Individual: it is possible to be at home with yourself
Plato states that we must consider Justice in terms of the city
- If we can see what Justice is on a community level, we can see what Justice means in this context
He paints a picture of what a basic community looks like
- Everyone has their own tasks – everyone is just being their selves
Why does Glaucon stop Socrates? What is problematic about the community that Socrates suggests?
- There is no ‘dressings or relishes’
- It doesn’t have temptation
- It doesn’t have things in which to have conflict
- It doesn’t have things that are unnecessary/no luxuries
- People aren’t as unjust if they can barely make ends meet
- Communities are inherently bloated
- There are too many people
- People don’t fit in
- War is natural when we have luxuries
- We also need to worry about conflict from within
Moral Education and Ideal Person
Plato believed that when one is born, they are filled with chaos and desires. Childhood is instilling order.
Plato also believes that once you are grown up, it’s hard to change how you are.
He thinks that we should be worried about the storytelling aspect of childhood
- If you tell people stories from a young age, you are introducing them to ways of thinking
- What stories are Plato worried about? What does he want to replace them with? Why? Is he proposing lying to children?
- To explain natural things
- Who we are. Provides things to look up to
- The stories need to teach them ideal lessons (like don’t fear death)
- Don’t show the bad of gods
- If you didn’t have representation of unjust behavior, can you act unjust?
- If the world is unjust, should you tell the citizens? If you don’t and they find out, they won’t trust you.
- How you present the world to a child makes a difference in how they are.
- Are false stories lies?
Personal Reflection #2
- Everyone has to have a place
- It’s common now to have multiple difference careers
- We also play different roles in our lives now
- Because Plato thinks that people inherently are unorganized, they need someone to bring order to them
- We need to mold people well
- Education should begin in a very young age (but it should look different at a young age)
- Good education doesn’t guarantee that the end result is a good person, but it does make a difference
- Needs to value the right kinds of things
Three things that push our actions
- Appetite is what you are inherently drawn towards or drawn away from.
- Spirit (with anger being the feeling that is most tied to spirit)
- Our rational mind
Proposed strategies of Plato:
- Rewrite all texts to represent the world as wonderful and the gods as perfect
- Should you, instead, show that those who are unjust get punished?
- Should you humanize those who do wrong?
- Should we not present things in a certain way? (aka censorship)
Aristotle says that people will have these emotions anyway and so a healthy way to handle these emotions is to have them represented in texts.
Can people change?
It’s human nature to be at war with yourself
For Plato, there are different types of education (ways
- Musical education helps with this
The guardians are the regulators.
- Helping people help themselves
- They have to do this in way that they don’t instill fear in the citizens
- They need to be above the citizens and they need to be on the same level
- They all need to be on the same ‘team’ (community)
Aristotle puts it there there are two cities – not one. Socrates proposes the solution of telling the people a myth that states that the gods made the rulers and the ruled differently. You also want the citizens to think that they don’t want the jobs of the guardians.
- Check on wealth with the guardians. They can’t own gold (they can’t accumulate wealth)
- The guardians have a lot of training and no leisure
People are able to do what they want to do within reason.
Who guards the guardians?
- We need to make it so that corruption doesn’t benefit them
Since the guardians are living different lives than the citizens, can they rule the other citizens fairly and correctly?
Do we have any myths like the myth of the metal?
- The American dream myth
- It plays an important role
Plato worries that people might chose what it easy for them/best financial opportunities, not what they are best at.
Notice that an important component in this conversation is that there is a way for everyone to fit into. There is a specific place by which you are most suited. Is this problematic?
- It’s problematic to go into college thinking that you need to figure out exactly what you want to do and if you don’t, you are a failure.
Glaucon states that guardians can’t be happy and Socrates states that he is looking for happy cities and not happy people.
- There has to be sacrifices
“You wouldn’t paint the entire statue purple”
- There needs to be balance. The purple needs to stand out
You don’t want everyone to do everything
Socrates thinks that the Greek democracy is too populated and has too much overlap
Three types of people.
- Someone making decisions
- Someone enforcing decisions
- The people
- People have isolated jobs
What about the other virtues?
Where is wisdom?
Where is courage?
Where is temperance/justice?
- The relation of the classes
- The bronze souls not wanting more
- How the different parts are related
- Each part recognizing the authority of the other parts
- Minding your own business / stay in your lane
- Everyone does their own job and doesn’t do anyone else’s job
The three parts of the soul relate to the three types of people in this city.
Plato worries most that not everyone has a place in society
- And with the division of classes, people don’t have roles
Democracy was the solution to this.
- In order to be somebody, you must work with others and be liked by others
Myths of the Greek democracy
- Everyone can participate
- Farmers away from the city center can’t
- Anyone can make it
- Mostly those who can afford a teacher
- The best decisions come out of this
- It didn’t stop tyrants from ruling
Plato sees this and wants people to want to be just for its own right
- This is through education
Plato argues that your health depends on you being a just person.
Plato thinks that when our mind is aligned with itself (the 3 parts), we are happy. Otherwise, we are sad.
- The only reason that you would steal something is if you are not only. The only reason that people do bad things is that they aren’t aligned. Things aren’t working mentally.
- They aren’t at home with themselves
There need to be people who make decisions because the people can’t for themselves.
Not everyone can do every job. But people aren’t born with a destiny.
- If people have a place, they are happier. They feel like they are contributing. How do you get people to this point?
Ancient India used a variation of the myth of the metals in its cast system.
Conclusion on the Republic
Being just is inherently good. You need to be good to be happy
The various parts of the individual and the community work in harmony when everyone is just.
Plato thinks that this harmony takes work so they naturally fall apart. Unicity is produced, not found.
Workshop on Thursday
Everyone comes from different professions
- Which means that people are coming from different perspectives
For Plato, love is not just a feeling, it is an activity.
You also can’t convince someone of love, when they don’t love.
Plato thinks that love makes us want to be better.
There are two ways to learn something:
- Develop a motive to learn it
- Get excited about it
Unity as the structure and unity as a feeling.
Everyone’s path to unity is different. The greatest that can be done is to get people excited about being unified.
Love is about the relation, not the feeling.
Self-love is secondary for Plato
- People often say that we can’t love one another if we don’t love ourselves, but the Greeks don’t believe this
- They think that the true self-love comes after the fact
True love, argued the Athenian, were between men and boys. Greece was a society built on mentorship.
Plato states that love is more of a partnership – they people are on the same level.
- Parent-child relationships are hierarchical so this isn’t the love that Plato focuses on
- Love is only good
- Love is tied with morality
- Love allows us to sacrifice ourselves for others
- Self-sacrificial actions in particular
Love is a great motivator.
- It can lead us to do things that are problematic/foolish
- Makes a distinction between Earthly love and Heavenly love
- Heavenly love is only between men
- He says that being infatuated with someone isn’t the deep connection. This type of love gets us in trouble more
- Simply put: bad love vs good love
Eryximachus (a doctor)
- Love is everywhere in the universe
- Being healthy/unhealthy is connected with love
- The state of your soul determines how well you love and vice versa
- “bad love” and “good love” are connected in some way
- Zeus thought we were too ambitious so we were split in half
- Implies that every other love is a mistake
- Love is when you find your other half
- In love, once you find your other half, it’s over
There is something right about this to an extent. We can’t fall in love with just anyone.
Plato finds issue with the possession attitude towards love
When we love other people, what are we loving?
When we love other people, we love what is good and beautiful about them(?)
- Love is very selective
- Love is the youngest of the gods
- Love is everything that’s good – love is beautiful
- Is love a desire… Can you obtain it?
- If it’s a desire, then it isn’t good/beautiful. It’s the desire to have the good and beautiful
What is universal love?
- You befriend someone because you recognize they possess something that is good/beautiful.
- You love these traits independent of them
During the infatuation stage of a relationship, one looks past the shortcomings and believes that the individual is fully good and beautiful.
If we move beyond the loving of individuals and embrace a universal love (a love of the good and beautiful), then our relationships would become less personal.
That is, if a friend stops displaying their beautiful qualities temporarily, we would stop seeing them as beautiful and thus stop loving them.
This view doesn’t take loyalty into consideration
A parent loving a child.
The child can be very annoying, but the parent still loves them. Why?
Should you throw the ladder away?
“I also like how these individuals express these good and beautiful things”
Plato says that this doesn’t matter – you only like the good and beautiful
The person is a vessel for the good and the beautiful
If you are focused on the individuals, you can forget about others.
You also can fail to recognize the good and beautiful
Is it possible to do both at the same time?
This relates to the first question
If I climb up the ladder, can I go back?
Is throwing out the ladder a good thing?
- We have a deep love for particular individuals, which shuts us off from appreciating others
- Even if we don’t see what is good and beautiful in people, doesn’t mean it’s not there.
- They are human so they must be good and beautiful in some respect
- Even if we can’t see these things, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist
- The only bad people in the world are just those who don’t know better
- Because everything that exists partakes in the good
- Everyone is always changing
- He would disagree with the “this type of person works well with this person”
- If you aspire to love universally, who can you see these traits in other people? (Often, the goodness is in the context of the individual).
- There are near-infinite different ways of expressing these traits. We go looking for these traits
- Love is a desire that can never be satisfied
- When we say “I love you”, we mean “I love the way you express the good and the beautiful”
- This also is a recognition of a certain type of relationship
- We desire to possess the good and beautiful
- You can’t possess the good and beautiful, you can possess these things only imperfectly
- In this process, we die. To possess something that is infinite, we must reproduce (either mentally or physically).
When we love another person, we want to be better (not just for them, but just to be better)
In this headspace, you aren’t thinking in the Glacion way
You aren’t weighing what’s best
You never think “is it worth it to partake in beautiful things”?
The ugliness is only temporary
The Science of Human Nature
Context for Aristotle
Plato believes in the idea of the Greek community – we thrive with one another. This ideal state isn’t something that can be achieved.
- Even if we can’t achieve this, working towards this is better than not.
- Just because we can’t be perfect at something, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for it
Socrates doesn’t tell anyone how to do philosophy. That’s where Aristotle comes in.
Aristotle was not a citizen of Athens.
- He was not involved in politics at all
Aristotle enrolled in Plato’s academy for about 20 years.
- He was not selected as the replacement for Plato
- He then went to study plants
He questions if the statement that we thrive in groups is false.
- The community may not serve us right – it may not be functional
Nicomachean Ethics - Aristotle
We need to figure out what the human good is
- Different kinds of things have different ideas of good
What sets humans apart is we are able to reason
- But humans also share similarities with plants and animals
A dog won’t change that much in different circumstances.
Happiness is the human good
- It’s a kind of happiness that comes with good actions – a virtuous life
- Different kind of happiness from pleasure
- If you work to better yourself, happiness with come
- It’s going to be harder for some to be happy
- It’s partly luck (good support system, have enough to eat, etc.)
You can’t try to be happy. Instead, you should focus on what’s good for you and then you’ll become happy.
- When we want to be happy, we want to be content and not be bothered.
He thinks that you cannot be happy if you are doing menial tasks for physical labor. Therefore, he thinks that there should be a class of people that do these tasks so the rest of the people can enjoy leisure.
The political art
- The community and those who live in the community
- Community is people living among one another for the sake of happiness
To be in a state of happiness, you must not lack anything
There are different ideas of happiness:
- An oak tree can be happy
- Dogs can be happy
- The kinds of things that make a dog happy, don’t make humans happy
Humans path to happiness involve reason (we are more than just animals).
- This can be directed at many things: pleasure, money, status, etc.
- The issue is you will never have enough (they take what they have for granted)
- There is no going back. Once you experience something great, you don’t find as much pleasure from the previous things.
We should aspire to be better.
- Bad qualities make it more uncomfortable to exist
Aristotle does think that there are qualities that help you better navigate yourself
- Examples are wealth, status, attractiveness, etc.
- Plato and Socrates wouldn’t agree with this
- If you come from a different background, you are locked out of happiness
How important is community in compared to excellence?
- There are different ways to approach school, for example.
- The end goal is self-actualization and flourishing
God is happy because he is in control over everything.
Why do you not become more courageous if you read about people being courageous? But you can learn about insects by reading about them?
In all qualities, the ideal amount is between the extremes. Too much of anything is bad.
Pick a virtue and relate it to a modern day example
Happiness, Aristotle argues, is being content with oneself – not desiring anything.
He says that we aren’t just interested in happiness, we are interested in human happiness.
- Squirrel happiness is different from human happiness
- We can do different kinds of things
We are different because we can reason and communicate.
Everyone has actions and thoughts that they don’t feel at home with
- “I am this way and I wish I wasn’t this way”
We cannot control our happiness entirely, it is partly luck.
The human being is limited. If you try to take on too much, you’ll fail at everything.
In order to be virtuous, we must have leisure time. That is, time that you’re not doing necessary tasks (bringing car to mechanic, eating, etc.).
- Leisure is for self development
- Also, this should be enjoyable.
- But you still need time for rest
- You need the means and the time for self-development
He thinks those with the most leisure (the very wealthy) struggle because they can’t manage it well.
Aristotle’s virtues. Pick one and understand why it’s important. Put it in a contemporary context.
- Understand where Aristotle is coming from (What Aristotle has to say about this virtue)
- How has the meaning of this virtue changed? (What we have to say about this virtue)
A Portrait of Virtue
Why do we need to be virtuous to be happy?
- We can feel at home with ourselves
- There is different fear levels between seeing a bug and a home evasion
We know something is a virtue with it becomes part of us.
- Consider study habits. If you have to force yourself to study, then you don’t have good study habits because it’s not part of your nature (yet).
Aristotle wants to give an example of a virtuous person to give you the motivation to be virtuous.
Virtue for Aristotle is excellence
- Two ways to be excellent: via intellect and character
- The happiness life is doing philosophy all the time
- He thinks that character transformation is weird
- Equipment (luck of your upbringing)
- Virtues (which is also conditional on luck)
The end of leisure (that’s not rest) is excellence.
- That’s why acquiring material things beyond what is necessary isn’t good – it’s taking away from time that you could have leisure.
Each virtue is a response to something that every human being experiences.
What is temperance?
- The mean between two extremes
- If you find too much enjoyment in eating food, then you are imbalanced
- If you find more enjoyment in food than you do with friendships, then something is off
- Temperance is all about self-control
Fear is a constant human experience so we need to learn how to manage it in a way that is helpful. Same thing with temperance (our animal desires).
People with more attachments to their money are more rude than those who are wasteful with their money.
Virtue on mildness and anger:
- The worst person is the bitter person. Why is this true?
It’s not courageous if you already know how things are going to turn out
Magnificence is the monetary version of excellence
What’s wrong with the people pleaser
- Friendliness should be an ends in itself. People pleasures are more concerned with the end.
Being a friend to oneself is essential to be virtuous
Magnanimity: Having good self-worth when you deserve it
- You need to be great already to have this virtue
- Socrates would not have this virtue because he would have been considered too humble
- Wrapped up with how the community views you
- It’s not outward facing. But it does rely on how people view you
By Aristotle’s standards, Socrates would not be considered great. Socrates was short, annoying, and not attractive. But could he still be great and virtuous?
- It’s important. He spends two books talking about it
- You can bear loss well if you have friends
Three different types of friendships
- Friendship of pleasure
Do we have more access to pleasures in today’s society?
- For example, music and food
Aristotle views generosity as goodness with people that you know
- Today, we mean people that we don’t know as well
Aristotle would say that we attribute malice to people too often.
- Also, people who fail to get angry when they rightfully should does not have self-respect
Why are your closest friendships not necessarily virtue friendships?
Many people can go through their entire lives without having virtue friends
- Virtue friendships is about the other person, not yourself
- Virtue friendships require an acceptance of growth
Good people are the only people that can be virtue friends
Friendship is very important
- One of the most important
- Friendship is between equals
It’s possible to exist without a virtue friendship
Aristotle says that the virtuous person must be a friend to themselves
What does he mean by that?
- The virtues you afford to your friends are beneficial to yourself
Aristotle believes that learning and thinking is happiness.
What makes a community instead of just people living near each other?
The first problem that a community has is who is ruling and who is a citizen (those you partake in rule)?
Should laborers be citizens?
- They wouldn’t have the leisure time to be well-informed
Next problem is inequality
- How do you resolve the problem that the rich and poor don’t think they are on the same team
- Aristotle thinks that you should have both of them rule together
You can know a lot about corn production, but know little about farmers. In the same way, architects aren’t the best house builders.
If officials are never at their home (and are always in DC), then how do they know about living?
Some people are better equipped to be rulers (those with the necessary leisure to do so).
The wealthy think they are better whereas the poor think that the wealthy are greedy.
- The poor think that because there are more of them, they deserve more
Even the smartest people in the world in a room won’t know how people live.
Aristotle says that a Monarchy doesn’t work (there is no community)
Aristotle says that the middle class should have power in ruling.
- They are a middle ground (recall moderation virtue) between too poor and too rich
The middle class people always want to be the upper class (selfish)
This directly contradicts Plato’s view of what an ideal society looks like
- Plato thought that the rulers should be excluded from society
Polity - The perfect (attainable) society as proposed by Aristotle
- Not ‘perfect’ as Plato proposed
- Have the ruling class undesirable
- Aristotle thinks that this isn’t a community
- Have everyone work together in the government
- Everyone thinks they are a part
Oligarchy and democracy scale
- Even a oligarchic system satisfies the many
- One example is if they have the people vote, but don’t have good options
Aristotle thinks that the ideal system falls in the middle of these two.
- The many needs the ability to check the decisions made by others (not necessarily make those decisions)
Optimize community and happiness (the goal)
The ruling element would be the middle class
- Issues include: the middle class might only be in name (that is, they may want more) and they would have a bias towards the status quo.
Today, we are still are trying to focus on the middle class.
- You don’t see politicians that focus on the upper or lower class
The community exists to make people happy.
- Therefore it should provide the opportunity for leisure
- But it’s not possible for everyone to be at leisure
- What is necessary must be provided by work – therefore it must be provided by those who have no leisure
- Distribution of leisure is a matter of luck and circumstance
Aristotle thinks that there is nothing to be done about this (it will always be the case).
- We can make it look nicer, however
- And we should shrive for this ideal
Some people were just born to do the work (and therefore they should).
Is this still the case today?
- Yes, but it doesn’t have to be (to the same amount)
- However, there wasn’t much social mobility in Athens
- We are producing more luxury items now
Which problems are we creating ourselves?
In Greece at the time, there several small communities who had an alliance.
- These types of communities don’t exist in the same way anymore
- We all live in states (which are much larger than what the Greeks thought was too large)
- Mutual protection pact
- Community plays a different role in our lives
For the Greeks, the community is political
In Greece, one would only be a part of a small number of communities
The way that the Greeks thought about identity and community resulted in a lot
of people being excluded.
An empire grows too much to realize what it is
- You have to stop growing to start developing. That is, you need to enforce limits and not experience everything to understand yourself
- More choice is not always good
The model of the ideal government system proposed by Aristotle is overly complicated
- Plato’s was simple (which is the issue)
Even if the way that we do politics is differently, we still talk about politics in the same way.