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Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics > Book Ten ...and the Ethics as a whole

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message 1: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4509 comments Some notes for the first part of Book 10:

10.1 Pleasure and pain: what is said about them, and more importantly, how people seek or avoid them. Words about feelings are less believable than deeds when words are discordant with what is perceived.

10.2 Eudoxus said that pleasure is naturally choice worthy because it is what we all desire for itself. Plato rebutted this argument by showing that pleasure plus intelligence is even more desirable, so pleasure alone is not the most desirable in itself. It appears therefore that pleasure is a good, but not The Good.

10.3 Pleasure is a quality and admits of greater and lesser degrees. This suggests that it is something that comes and goes, like things in motion, but that is not the case.

10.4 Aristotle compares pleasure to seeing -- it doesn't come into being; you just open your eyes and you see, assuming your visual faculties are in good shape. Pleasure seems to be a by-product of a person who is "working in connection with those things and by means of those capacities that satisfy him most." Pleasure accompanies the fulfillment of living. Whether we choose fulfillment for the sake of pleasure or pleasure for the sake of fulfillment is impossible to answer because the two cannot be separated.

10.5 Pleasures differ in kind because they relate to the fulfillment of different kinds of activities. Pleasure also promotes skill in those activities, but because pleasures differ in kind they can conflict with each other. Therefore Aristotle sets a sort of hierarchy of pleasures -- sight surpasses touch in purity, for example. And the pleasure of thinking surpasses these.

What is good and choice worthy among pleasures shows itself to a serious person in good condition. But when there are multiple virtuous pleasures in competition, which one governs?

10.6 Aristotle now returns to the subject of happiness, since that is what all human activity aims at. Aristotle reiterates that happiness is not a characteristic or condition, as virtue is, but an activity. Furthermore, happiness is an activity that is chosen for its own sake, and it is sufficient unto itself.

Curiously, Aristotle notes that playing is also an activity that is chosen for itself. How does happiness, as an activity, differ from playing? A. says that playing is not choice worthy for serious and free people... unless the playing is so that one might be serious. Is it possible to play at virtue? Can philosophy be a kind of "play"?


message 2: by Ian (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments Cphe wrote: "" You could argue that true pleasure would require all the senses..."

Aristotle generally recognizes a hierarchy of the senses, with sight being the highest (noblest), and touch as the lowest (common to all animals).

I doubt that he would classify something that bundled them altogether as necessary for "true pleasure." Instead ---

But now I'm about to anticipate Aristotle's exposition of the "highest good" for human beings, producing true happiness, and I'd rather let people discover that on their own (assuming that it wasn't brought out in the introductions of translations they were reading, of course).


message 3: by Christopher (new)

Christopher (Donut) | 531 comments A. may prefer sight as a source of knowledge, over touch, hearing, smell.

(I myself am only starting Book Ten, but I'm glad the end is in sight)


Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 304 comments Finished book 9, will start on book 10 soon--I too am glad the end is in sight. I've enjoyed the challenge though


message 5: by Ignacio (last edited Mar 14, 2018 03:10PM) (new)

Ignacio | 139 comments Cphe wrote: "Not so much a book read, as a book studied I felt."

Yes, it felt more like a graduate seminar than a reading group... but I'm okay with that. I feel a sense of accomplishment having finished this book, and it's been very nice to read it with others. I also feel there is much that I don't "get," even upon rereading ... it's one of those books one can keep rereading....

Ironically, getting used to how complicated it is makes me realize why some people like Aristotle so much (or why he endures, at least): he shows the many facets to every (ethical) judgment and refrains from giving simple answers--or he gives answers, only to reframe or relativize them later ...


message 6: by Ignacio (last edited Mar 14, 2018 03:11PM) (new)

Ignacio | 139 comments Other thoughts: reading his discussion of the intellectual or contemplative life as the highest good, as the divine in us, I almost felt like I was reading Spinoza.

As a lover of learning, I can certainly relate to that. But I wonder if all philosophers don't ultimately say--well, the intellectual life is the best, haha. Well, except maybe Nietzsche...

Also, it seemed to come out of nowhere, or at least very suddenly. He's talking about friendship, pleasure and pain, happiness, then all of a sudden: by the way, the contemplative life is the best...

And, if I understand the ending correctly, he is saying: but (alas!) we still need to live in the world, we need the other virtues so we can live with others as part of a political community, and (as he said before), even the most virtuous and happy person needs (true) friends


message 7: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4509 comments Ignacio wrote: "And, if I understand the ending correctly, he is saying: but (alas!) we still need to live in the world, we need the other virtues so we can live with others as part of a political community, and (as he said before), even the most virtuous and happy person needs (true) friends "

This reminds me very much of the the myth of the cave in Plato's Republic. After ascending into the pure light of being, the prisoners must return to the world of shadows, the real world. It sounds quite like the contemplative realizing that he still has a body, and without the city he will have to grow his own food and provide for his own defense, etc., leaving no leisure time in which to contemplate the eternal. So it's back to human virtue, and, alas, politics.


message 8: by David (new)

David | 2695 comments I wonder what Aristotle would say about reading as an activity for happiness? I suppose it might depend on what one is reading, i.e., The National Enquirer or Aristotle.


message 9: by Tamara (last edited Mar 15, 2018 10:21PM) (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1598 comments David wrote: "I wonder what Aristotle would say about reading as an activity for happiness? I suppose it might depend on what one is reading, i.e., The National Enquirer or Aristotle."

Hopefully those aren't our only two choices :)


message 10: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4509 comments David wrote: "I wonder what Aristotle would say about reading as an activity for happiness? I suppose it might depend on what one is reading, i.e., The National Enquirer or Aristotle."

Serious conversation is one facet of complete happiness, and I think of reading as a kind of conversation. I bet Aristotle would approve of what we do here in the group, both the conversation and reading, especially when we're reading Aristotle. :>) I do wonder if he would have the patience for us though...


message 11: by Ian (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments Aristotle returned to Athens in 335 BCE, and was lecturing there until shortly before his death in 322 BCE, at the age of about 62. The bulk of his writings, if they are indeed lecture notes of some kind, have to be fitted into that framework, although he had very obviously been amassing information and working out theories, for decades beforehand.

Sixty-something was a reasonable age at the time, but his rival, Isocrates (NOT Socrates) had died some years earlier at an alleged age of nearly 100 (436-338 B.C.E.)

And HE reportedly starved himself to death because his great hopes for the unification of Greece by Philip of Macedon (father of Alexander the Great) followed by a war of liberation against the Persians, had not been completely fulfilled.

He was obviously just a little impatient....

He also seemed to have missed that Macedonia's ascension was destroying the independence of the Greek city-states, which, by the way, was the institution presumed as normal in Aristotle's "Ethics" and "Politics," and with it the role of rhetoric, the study and practice of which was Isocrates' specialty. The basic material is covered pretty well in his Wikipedia article.

Isocrates was, as it happens, totally opposed to even studying most of what Aristotle was teaching about, such as plants and animals, astronomy, physics, metaphysics, and all that stuff, which he seems to have regarded as just rigamarole to impress the gullible masses (!). Only human affairs were worth his attention, and he linked himself to a tradition supposed to have been founded by Socrates, who, despite Plato to the contrary, wasn't interested in anything else.


message 12: by David (new)

David | 2695 comments Thomas wrote: "I do wonder if he would have the patience for us though... "

Turnabout seems fair play. I have often wondered at our patience for him these last 11 weeks. Although speaking for myself, I enjoyed reading him when I was able to find the time to apply myself to it and I will be going over this work again hope to dip into some others.


message 13: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4509 comments Some final notes for the conclusion of the Ethics:

10.7 Complete happiness is activity in accord with the highest virtue: intellect. This activity is contemplation, which is the final end of the highest part of the soul. Aristotle suggests that the contemplative life accords with a human being insofar as something divine is present in him, and this divine part surpasses the compound (implying that in some way the divine part is separable from the rest of the soul.)

Therefore, "one should not follow those who advise us to think human thoughts, because we are human, and mortal thoughts, because we are mortal, but as far as possible one ought to be immortal and to do all things with a view toward living in accord with the most powerful thing in oneself."

10.8 Aristotle summarizes human virtue (the part separable from the divine) and admits that insofar as one is a human in society, one chooses things having to do with human virtue. (An interesting side-note at 1178b8 shows how non-Homeric Aristotle's conception of divinity is: the gods hold no interest in human virtue at all.)

10.9 It is not sufficient to know what virtue is, but to have it and use it, and to educate others in virtue. But educating and improving the character of the young is difficult when speeches are insufficient and the young only pursue the pleasures they are comfortable with. Laws are necessary to enforce habituation to virtue, at least for the majority who are not naturally disposed to be virtuous. In the place of public laws, however, good parenting may suffice.

However, it seems that "one who wants to become skillful and to contemplate...must go on to what is universal." This turns out to be lawmaking. But doesn't this contradict what he says about virtue not conforming to knowledge and specific rules? Or do the laws only direct how the young should be educated, not what is and is not virtuous... And what sort of education would that be? Would it look something like the system in Plato's Republic (Book 3)?

(This serves as Aristotle's bridge to the Politics.)


message 14: by David (last edited Mar 17, 2018 07:51PM) (new)

David | 2695 comments Thomas wrote: "However, it seems that "one who wants to become skillful and to contemplate...must go on to what is universal." This turns out to be lawmaking. But doesn't this contradict what he says about virtue not conforming to knowledge and specific rules?"

1. I think Aristotle is advocating the "universal", aka, the common, aka, science as necessary to master any subject, but if you want to specifically master the making of men, you must study the science of legislating, i.e., politics.
[1180b]. . .None the less, it will perhaps be [20] agreed that if a man does wish to become master of an art or science he must go to the universal, and come to know it as well as possible; for, as we have said, it is with this that the sciences are concerned. And surely he who wants to make men, whether many or few, better by his [25] care must try to become capable of legislating,
2. Additionally it seems Aristotle is advocating the universal, or the common experience, i.e, the objective, over the subjective and the anecdotal for addressing virtue issues for populations and:
[1180b]. . .not but what some particular detail may perhaps be well looked after by an unscientific person, if he has studied accurately in the light of experience what happens in each case, just as some people seem to be their own best doctors, though they could give no help to any one else.



message 15: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4509 comments David wrote: "Additionally it seems Aristotle is advocating the universal, or the common experience, i.e, the objective, over the subjective and the anecdotal for addressing virtue issues for populations and:
[1180b]. . .not but what some particular detail may perhaps be well looked after ."


It would be interesting to see what Aristotle thinks of universal law and how it should be applied in specific cases. It isn't easy in any case, but I think it would be especially difficult for Aristotle if he is consistent in his view that virtue is not knowledge, i.e., not science.

One of the things I really like about Aristotle's ethics is that up to this point he has avoided rules for virtue. Laws are simply too general in most cases to direct human excellence. Virtue to some extent is activity in the spirit of goodness rather than prescribed action. I fear that he is going to abandon that in the Politics. Perhaps it is too much to hope that the public in general will act in the spirit of goodness?


message 16: by David (new)

David | 2695 comments Thomas wrote: "It isn't easy in any case, but I think it would be especially difficult for Aristotle if he is consistent in his view that virtue is not knowledge, i.e., not science.

One of the things I really like about Aristotle's ethics is that up to this point he has avoided rules for virtue."


I am not so sure about that. Thus his "general outline" approach which seems to be a universal starting point to virtue. He seems to be saying that if virtue is not knowledge then knowledge is a necessary but not sufficient component of virtue. He clearly advocates experience as a necessary component of virtue, and experience is just firsthand knowledge of something. He also seems to be advocating here at the end that we study all the laws and constitutions that came before us, i.e., gain knowledge of them, to legislate, i.e., make the right laws that go deeper into his general outline, to encourage the right virtues to "make men" leading to a guide the state toward eudaimonia. I have the sense that Aristotle would approve of things like "sin taxes" and universally banning smoking in public, regulating food and drugs, etc., as laws that encourage or discourage men to be more virtuous.


message 17: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4509 comments David wrote: "He seems to be saying that if virtue is not knowledge then knowledge is a necessary but not sufficient component of virtue. He clearly advocates experience as a necessary component of virtue, and experience is just firsthand knowledge of something."

I think he is right when he says that virtue is not knowledge, but I don't understand how he can then at the end suggest that laws can instill virtue. It follows from what he says about habituation that laws may be useful in education, but it doesn't follow that the ones properly educated will be prudent when prudence does not conform to law. There is no rule or law that can prescribe how to act virtuously in every specific situation, so the lawmaker is not helpful to the prudent man. The lawmaker might be helpful to the imprudent man, however.

Keeping in mind the historical and social context, I think Aristotle may be describing (and advocating) different sets of ethics for different sets of people. There is virtue and prudence for free men of means, and there are laws for the rest.


message 18: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1729 comments Virtue is a habit. Laws promote virtue by promoting virtuous habits. They are neither necessary nor sufficient for true virtue, but they promote and encourage it.


message 19: by Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (last edited Mar 19, 2018 09:10AM) (new)

Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 304 comments Whew--finally finished up this morning. What a project that was.

There was a line in Chapter 6 that jumped out at me:

Consequently, happiness does not consist in amusement. In fact, it would be strange if our end were amusement, and if we were to labor and suffer hardships all our life long merely to amuse ourselves.

Also, thinking about what Roger said just above, that Laws "are neither necessary nor sufficient for true virtue, but they promote and encourage it," I'm not sure. It may just be semantics, but I tend to think that Laws tend to promote the interests of those in power. So, for instance, depending whose interests are in ascendency, you either get the Bill of Rights, or Citizens United.

But, if you look at a specific law that is intended to promote virtuous action--for instance, The Good Samaritan law--that on the individual level, the fear of the penalty is just as likely to cause resentment as encouragement. But Laws that promote virtuous habits, it seems to me, do make it possible and easier for those elements of society who are trying to live their lives to according to the kind of virtues A describes to actually maneuver through their day.


message 20: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4509 comments Roger wrote: "Virtue is a habit. Laws promote virtue by promoting virtuous habits. They are neither necessary nor sufficient for true virtue, but they promote and encourage it."

I think it's true that laws encourage habits, but I don't think virtue consists in habit. Hippocrates Apostle translated hexis as habit, and I'm convinced that is incorrect and misleading. It confused me to no end the first time I read the Ethics because hexis is at the heart of virtue. Translating it as "habit" leads to the idea that virtue is a kind of automatic function that does not require thinking. I was much relieved to read the introduction to Joe Sachs's translation where he explains how this mistranslation came to be. Here it is in part:

Are you thinking that no matter how we analyze the effects of habituation, we will never get around the fact that Aristotle plainly says that virtues are habits? The reply to that difficulty is that he doesn't say that at all. He says that moral virtue is a hexis. Hippocrates Apostle, and others, translate hexis as habit, but that is not at all what it means. The trouble, as so often in these matters, is the intrusion of Latin. The Latin habitus is a perfectly good translation of the Greek hexis, but if that detour gets us to habit in English we have lost our way. In fact, a hexis is pretty much the opposite of a habit.

Sachs's introduction serves as the entry for Aristotle's Ethics in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, so the rest of it can be accessed here:

https://www.iep.utm.edu/aris-eth/


message 21: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4509 comments Bryan wrote: "It may just be semantics, but I tend to think that Laws tend to promote the interests of those in power. "

That's another reason why virtue must be based on something more than habituation, if we admit that virtue is free and intelligent action. Virtue is the product of individual deliberation and free choice, not a matter of blindly following laws crafted by those in power. And if it happens that those in power are virtuous lawmakers, then the the virtuous man may very well follow the law, but only after a process of reasoned deliberation fitting his own virtue.

Congratulations on finishing the book! And thanks for participating in the discussion. I think everyone here should get some sort of merit badge. : -)


Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 304 comments I thought a little more about this--given a relatively virtuous set of laws, it's possible that someone who was wavering about doing the right thing could use the corpus of laws as backup for doing what he may have felt impelled to do but was unsure or afraid of doing. In that way it could encourage virtue, and then, perhaps, once the wavering person gained the experience of the virtuous action and its concomitant consequences, he could then make clearer choices in the future.


message 23: by David (new)

David | 2695 comments Byran wrote: "I tend to think that Laws tend to promote the interests of those in power."

This reminds me of Republic, I, 338b-c where Thrasymachus' claims that justice is nothing other than the advantage of the stronger, which turned out to have some problems.

I have my doubts about the claim that laws promote virtuous habits. We seem to rely on most laws as as a means of reckoning and basis for assessing penalties, pecuniary or otherwise than for their effectiveness as deterrents and guidelines of virtue.

I don't see virtues as habits either, although if you have a habit that happens to be virtuous, you are ahead in the game by avoiding having to learn some things the hard way. But I think Aristotle is telling us that virtues are mindful actions rather than mindless habits. Hexis seems more like a healthy mindset that forms the basis for desiring to mindfully make the most context appropriate choices and take the most, context appropriate, actions, i.e., choices and actions that are neither wrong in all situations, nor too extreme or deficient for a given situation.


message 24: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Ian wrote: "Aristotle generally recognizes a hierarchy of the senses, with sight being the highest (noblest), and touch as the lowest (common to all animals)...."

And yet how much humankind has and is coming to recognize (acknowledge?) the importance of touch -- in healing, in human relationships, for good and for not good -- in the millennia since our immortal predecessor put vast swathes of his intellect to paper.


message 25: by Ian (last edited Mar 20, 2018 07:58AM) (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments Lily wrote: "Ian wrote: "Aristotle generally recognizes a hierarchy of the senses, with sight being the highest (noblest), and touch as the lowest (common to all animals)...."

And yet how much humankind has an..."


All true.

But Aristotle was working out a system in which the highest capacity of human beings -- their true goal and state of happiness -- was intellectual contemplation of the world, without direct involvement in it, to which sight was the most obvious analogy. (A statement I avoided making in my previous comment, because not many of us seemed to have reached that point, and Aristotle deserves the chance to make his own presentation of it.)

One way to present this idea to his students was to divide things into "base" and "noble," which, given their (probably exclusively) upper-class backgrounds, would fit well in their existing mind-sets.

By the way, some commentators have pointed out that Aristotle's presentation of such contemplation as god-like was flying in the face of traditional Greek wariness of trying to emulate the gods (thereby bringing down their disfavor). He may have needed help from such an analogy to get his point across.


message 26: by Christopher (new)

Christopher (Donut) | 531 comments Ian wrote: "..."

This is a great note, Ian.

As I read, though, I wonder if the 'self-sufficiency' of the god-like contemplative life means that 'friendship' is still questionable.

The gods, and certainly God, do not need friends, but somehow the god-like man does need friends.

(I am finishing book nine, so I may be in the wrong thread)

I think A. was saying that contemplating virtuous friends aids in our perception, our self-perception, as good and virtuous.


message 27: by David (new)

David | 2695 comments Christopher wrote: I think A. was saying that contemplating virtuous friends aids in our perception, our self-perception, as good and virtuous."

Gods and virtuous friends serve as role models. A Greek version of WWJD?


message 28: by David (new)

David | 2695 comments Lily wrote: "Ian wrote: "Aristotle generally recognizes a hierarchy of the senses, with sight being the highest (noblest), and touch as the lowest (common to all animals)...."

And yet how much humankind has and is coming to recognize (acknowledge?) the importance of touch..."


I remember seeing a TV show where George Washington was brought to modern times. When he was shown our money, he was a little miffed that Lincoln was pictured on the $5 dollar bill and he was on the lowly $1. Someone explained that $1s were much more common and used by more people than $5s. Then they had trouble explaining pennies and quarters.

You can always rank things, but sometimes you have to work harder to remember they are all pretty good.


message 29: by Ian (last edited Mar 23, 2018 11:20PM) (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments David wrote: "Lily wrote: "Ian wrote: "Aristotle generally recognizes a hierarchy of the senses, with sight being the highest (noblest), and touch as the lowest (common to all animals)...."

Then they had trouble explaining pennies and quarters..."


Sounds like a potentially interesting, as well as amusing, show.

Alas, I probably wouldn't have appreciated it, being a bit literal-minded when it come to historical probability being applied to humor....

Washington was probably already familiar with the penny (popular name) = cent (official name) idea, even though it doesn't represent a rate of exchange, as it was first issued in 1793. And he certainly knew about the quarter-dollar, too. Although the *Washington* profile goes back only to 1932, the coin itself was introduced in 1796, and he died in 1799.

(There are some interesting facts about both coins in their Wikipedia articles, from which I have drawn the dates -- they are not something I ever wanted to commit to memory.)


message 30: by Thomas (last edited Mar 20, 2018 08:35PM) (new)

Thomas | 4509 comments David wrote: "

But I think Aristotle is telling us that virtues are mindful actions rather than mindless habits. Hexis seems more like a healthy mindset that forms the basis for desiring to mindfully make the most context appropriate choices and take the most, context appropriate, actions, i.e., choices and actions that are neither wrong in all situations, nor too extreme or deficient for a given situation.


"Mindset" is an excellent translation, now that I think about it. Hexis is a kind of readiness, or more literally, the way one holds oneself in readiness. It isn't action itself, but isn't passive either.


message 31: by Christopher (new)

Christopher (Donut) | 531 comments I'd like to hear more about Latin "habitus" being a perfectly good translation for hexis, but English "habit" being wrong.

What does "habitus" mean in Latin?


message 32: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4509 comments We have reached the end of Aristotle's Ethics and Everyman has posted the Interim read, so I want to thank everyone who participated in this discussion. Of course the threads will remain open until the gates of GR come crumbling down, so please feel free to continue posting if you're still reading, or re-reading, or re-re-reading.

I've read the Ethics a few times now, and I think I learned more this time through than at any other time. If one of the things friends do is push each other to be better readers and thinkers, we've got a good thing going here. Cheers, everyone.


message 33: by Ian (last edited Mar 23, 2018 11:22PM) (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments Christopher wrote: "I'd like to hear more about Latin "habitus" being a perfectly good translation for hexis, but English "habit" being wrong.

What does "habitus" mean in Latin?"


Good question -- along with the unspoken corollary of what it means in ordinary English use. Unfortunately, the answers aren't nearly as short as I would like.

The long-standard Lewis & Short Latin/English Dictionary (available for iOS as an app, and possibly for Android, and as part of some websites) gives the basic meaning as "the condition or state of a thing," with a set of more precise or specialized meanings sorted as to when they first appeared in use. E.g., 'habitus' as clothing is Augustan or later -- which particular meaning survives in specialized uses in English, such as "a monk's habit."

Our "habit," in the familiar meaning of "an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary," or as "a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up" doesn't fit well when it comes to Aristotle's idea of virtuous behavior, which seems to require some amount of reflection, instead of an automatic response or "conditioned reflex."

The first definition is from the Merriam-Webster Unabridged on-line dictionary: it offers a lot more, some of which do fit somewhat better with habitus/hexis, and the quotation is from its meaning # 7. The word has been around in English since the thirteenth century, and, as is the fate of words, has been used a lot of ways over time, which lexicographers then have to tease apart and separate, as represented by M-W.

The second definition is from the handy Oxford Dictionary of English app -- not to be confused with the great "Oxford English Dictionary," which is behind a pay-wall -- which gives it as the primary modern meaning right up front, without first going into all the other, somewhat confusing, usages.

(I have to wonder whether Aristotle would accept an immediate proper response in an emergency, without stopping to think about it, as virtuous -- for example, in coming to aid of an endangered fellow-citizen. That question was sometimes debated by the ancient Rabbis in terms of the importance of intentionality in properly obeying a commandment, so not in an Aristotelian context.)


message 34: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4509 comments Ian wrote: "I have to wonder whether Aristotle would accept an immediate proper response in an emergency, without stopping to think about it, as virtuous -- for example, in coming to aid of endangered fellow-citizen. ."

This is a great example because it employs both aspects of Aristotelian virtue. Virtue of character would prompt the citizen to stop and lend aid. This aspect does seem to be automatic and a product of proper upbringing. (And yet there are laws that command citizens to stop at the scene of an accident, so I guess the ancient Rabbis' question is still in play.)

But it isn't enough to stop if one doesn't know what to do. Virtue of intellect (phronesis, "practical judgment" or "prudence") tells the person what to do, or in Aristotle's terms, lets the person see the right means to the right end in the particular circumstances.

These virtues go hand in hand, but they are distinct functions. Virtue of character is admirable but useless without intellectual virtue. (Stopping at the accident only to panic or make the situation worse by doing the wrong thing is far from the "excellence" of virtue.) And intellectual virtue without virtue of character is what Aristotle calls mere "cleverness." (The doctor who can help but doesn't stop because he's late for his tee time is equally useless.) Both aspects of virtue are necessary components of the whole.


message 35: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Thomas wrote: "10.4 Aristotle compares pleasure to seeing -- it doesn't come into being; you just open your eyes and you see, assuming your visual faculties are in good shape..."

Not sure where this post will go, even if I'll hit the "post" button. But I have been musing about how Aristotle might have written N.E. if he had known some of the things we do today about the structures of various parts of the brain, how they intercommunicate, which ones can react most rapidly in the face of an emergency, their relationships to reactions to the external world (instantaneous in some cases, followed by modulation from the frontal cortex), the relative sizes and attributes of the areas focused on sight versus audio stimulation, versus touch, taste, smell... I am reminded of the opening scenes in the recent version of Cosmos which depicts the evolution of that sense organ that detects light and how that opens up the perception of the universe by the organism with that particular eye/vision. Also, of the recent discovery of some very unusual "eyes" that apparently uniquely adapted for life in (deep?) ocean conditions. Or of the various sensory capabilities among animals, including the two foci eyes of some birds of prey.

Irrelevant to this discussion? Probably. Still, am going to be bold enough to share these ramblings. I thank Thomas and those of you who have persisted through these weeks. I have been encountering Aristotle in another discussion group, a series exploring Christian ethics, so have been grateful for the postings here. Nonetheless, as for so many of our WC discussions, I have found it impossible to "keep up," and can only hope life accords the chance to return to this material again -- as much as I understand the reaction I am hearing from some of you at being glad to be reaching the end of trucking through dear Aristotle ('s lecture notes?).


message 36: by Ashley (new)

Ashley Adams | 328 comments Ignacio wrote: "Also, it seemed to come out of nowhere, or at least very suddenly. He's talking about friendship, pleasure and pain, happiness, then all of a sudden: by the way, the contemplative life is the best..."

It did seem to come out of nowhere. Haha, I actually got a twist-ending after all!


message 37: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1729 comments Don't children become virtuous by being required by their parents to perform virtuous actions? Only later, as they gain understanding, do they come to know why they are virtuous and do them voluntarily.


message 38: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4509 comments Lily wrote: "Not sure where this post will go, even if I'll hit the "post" button. But I have been musing about how Aristotle might have written N.E. if he had known some of the things we do today about the structures of various parts of the brain, how they intercommunicate,"

I'm glad you did hit the post button! It's a fascinating question that for me goes to the heart of Aristotle, and why we should still read him. He was certainly interested in the mechanisms of life and spent most of his working life observing them. I'm sure he would have been thrilled to learn all these things about the brain, but I don't think it would have changed his view of nature or the human mind and soul, because the mechanisms still don't fully explain these things. We can explain in enormous detail how eyes and nerves function physically, but we still can't describe what perception is, not in those terms anyway. If I did not have the experience of perception, all the mechanistic explanations in the world could not tell me what it's like to perceive something.

Mechanistic, Cartesian explanations often seem to me like explaining fatherhood in terms of chromosomes and genetics. They tell us everything about the physical interactions of fluids and molecules and how one thing bumps against another, but they say nothing about what it means to be a father, literally, what is the being of a father. It's something that goes beyond physical presence. Unfortunately it's much more difficult to analyze and describe the being of a father or mother than it is to do his or her blood work. But I think that's what Aristotle does, or tries to do.

Thanks for hanging in there. We can discuss this further when we get to Aristotle's De Anima! :-)


message 39: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4509 comments Ashley wrote: "It did seem to come out of nowhere. Haha, I actually got a twist-ending after all! "

Told ya so... and if you liked the Ethics, you're going to love the Metaphysics.


message 40: by Thomas (last edited Mar 21, 2018 10:18PM) (new)

Thomas | 4509 comments Roger wrote: "Don't children become virtuous by being required by their parents to perform virtuous actions? Only later, as they gain understanding, do they come to know why they are virtuous and do them volunta..."

In most cases, I think this is what happens. But I can imagine a scenario where a child is brought up with the virtues of character, to be disciplined and moderate and courageous, etc., only to discover that the end for which he has been raised does not comport with his sense of the good and the beautiful. Maybe young Montague has been taught to believe the Capulets are all scoundrels and unworthy of his attention, until one day a carefully reasoned argument sways his opinion.


message 41: by Donna (new)

Donna Thomas wrote: "Roger wrote: "Don't children become virtuous by being required by their parents to perform virtuous actions? Only later, as they gain understanding, do they come to know why they are virtuous and d..."

I'm not quite sure that Romeo was swayed by a carefully reasoned argument. :-)


message 42: by Christopher (new)

Christopher (Donut) | 531 comments David wrote: "Gods and virtuous friends serve as role models. A Greek version of WWJD? ..."

What would Hercules do?

(Sorry my timing is off)


message 43: by David (new)

David | 2695 comments Donna wrote: "I'm not quite sure that Romeo was swayed by a carefully reasoned argument. :-)"

I would say that what swayed Romeo was neither careful, nor reasoned. Nevertheless, a young girl has often been the inspiration for a young man to pursue improvement, the least of which is a renewed interest in personal hygiene and excessive use of cologne before a first date.


message 44: by Lily (last edited Mar 23, 2018 05:15PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments David wrote: "...the least of which is a renewed interest in personal hygiene..."

{Grin} Not always "the least"?!?

(At least, if it has a lasting effect....)


message 45: by Dave (new)

Dave Redford | 145 comments Thomas wrote: "I've read the Ethics a few times now, and I think I learned more this time through than at any other time. If one of the things friends do is push each other to be better readers and thinkers, we've got a good thing going here. Cheers, everyone"

Cheers, Thomas. I wholeheartedly agree, and likewise got much more out of reading Aristotle's Ethics this time than I ever did previously, specifically a better understanding of how Aristotle sees our intellect and habits interacting when we try to act virtuously. I even feel like I have a very slight grasp on what "hexis" means. Thanks again for all your efforts in leading these discussions.


message 46: by Lily (last edited Mar 26, 2018 03:13PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments @43Thomas wrote: "...He was certainly interested in the mechanisms of life and spent most of his working life observing them. I'm sure he would have been thrilled to learn all these things about the brain, but I don't think it would have changed his view of nature or the human mind and soul, because the mechanisms still don't fully explain these things. ..."

Thx for your encouragement, Thomas. But it is clear my ramblings didn't express themselves clearly. I wasn't trying to explore mechanistic explanations, but rather fascination with the things that Aristotle "got right" in the sense that their truth has stood up across time, but also the things that were "not so right" based on what we have come to learn, ala Hume style of the importance of observation, but things we may still give credence today because they have been passed to us by a man whose words we give credence both for their ongoing validity but also because sometimes we have been willing to extend a venerability not fully sustained by subsequent observation of "truth" or application of logic.

(I think also of the scholastic scholars, like Thomas Aquinas, who used their considerable skills and intellect to bend the words of the ancients to messages quite different about man and his relationships both to others and to that beyond the specific other, whether the political structures of man or the universe itself or any divinity which may or may not exist.)


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