Unformatted text preview: Self and Virtue in Greek Philosophy Ancient Athens Socrates Socrates What is courage? Socrates What is courage? Laches (1): "he is a man of courage who does not run away, but remains at his post and fights against the enemy" Laches's 1st Definition Courage Too narrow? Too broad? Standing, fighting, not running away Socrates But this is too narrow: other kinds of courage Examples? Too Narrow-- and too broad There are other kinds of courage But also, it is too broad: fighting isn't always courageous Courage Fighting and not running away Better Definitions Laches (2): "a sort of endurance of the soul" Better Definitions Laches (2): "a sort of endurance of the soul" This is unclear What sort of endurance? Better Definitions Laches (2): "a sort of endurance of the soul" What sort of endurance? Laches (3): "a wise endurance of the soul" Laches's 3rd Definition Courage Too narrow? Too broad? Wise endurance of the soul Laches's 3rd Definition Laches (3): "a wise endurance of the soul" But this is too broad. Foolish endurance often seems braver than wise endurance. Too Narrow-- and too broad Courage Foolish endurance against great odds Wise persistence Wise endurance of the soul Nicias's Definition Nicias: "the knowledge of that which inspires fear or confidence" Courage is knowing what to fear and what not to fear Nicias's Definition Courage Too narrow? Too broad? Knowing what to fear and what not to fear Nicias's Definition Nicias: "The knowledge of that which inspires fear or confidence" Socrates: Too narrow-- What about the courage of animals? Nicias's Definition Nicias: "The knowledge of that which inspires fear or confidence" Socrates: Too narrow-- What about the courage of animals? Nicias: Courage is more than fearlessness. Nicias's Definition Nicias: "The knowledge of that which inspires fear or confidence" Socrates: Too narrow-- What about the courage of animals? Nicias: Courage is more than fearlessness. Word to the wise: Faced with a counterexample, draw a distinction! Socrates's Objection Then courage = all of virtue. Hope and fear are directed at future But there is no division between Knowledge of past Knowledge of present Knowledge of future Socrates's Objection So, courage = knowledge of grounds of fear and confidence = knowing what to fear and what not to fear = knowing what's better than what = knowing what to do and what not to do = knowledge of good and evil = virtue as a whole Socrates's Objection Courage Knowing what to fear and what not to fear = knowing good and evil Too broad Unity of the virtues Unity of the virtues: courage, piety, wisdom, self-control, justice, etc., are the same Virtue = knowledge of good and evil = knowledge of right and wrong = knowing what to seek and what to avoid = knowing what to do and what not to do Unity of the virtues Courage = wisdom = piety = generosity = temperance = prudence = justice Knowledge of good and evil Unity of the virtues? Courage Wisdom Piety Generosity Temperance Prudence Justice Socratic Definition of Virtue Virtue Too narrow? Too broad? Knowledge of good and evil Virtue = knowledge Socrates must say this is neither too broad nor too narrow So, you can't be virtuous without knowing good and evil-- without knowing what to do and what not to do, without knowing right from wrong Also, you can't know good and evil without being virtuous Puzzle: Weakness of will Knowing good and evil => virtue? Weakness of will (akrasia) = giving in to temptation = knowing the better and doing the worse = knowing what you ought to do and not doing it Paul on Weakness of Will Paul: "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.... I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do." (Romans 7:15, 18-19, RSV) Weakness of Will Virtue Knowing good and evil
Weakness of Will: Knowing but not doing Weakness of Will: Example
I know I should exercise But I don't want to So, I don't Knowing the better Doing the worse Socrates: no weakness of will Socrates: weakness of will is impossible. Virtue = knowledge of good and evil But weakness of will involves knowing good and not doing it Socrates would have to say that's virtuous -- virtue depends only on knowing But plainly it's not: it's not virtuous to do evil Examples? Socrates: no weakness of will Say John displays weakness of will Weakness of will involves knowing good and not doing it He knows he should exercise, but doesn't Socrates: no weakness of will Virtue = knowing what to do and what not to do He knows what to do But he doesn't do it So, John is virtuous? That's absurd Socrates holds that weakness of will is impossible John must not really know what to do Plato Plato: weakness is possible <== ? ==>
"Consider a case of conflict, in which the person who has willpower resists his desires and the person who is weak of will gives in to them. A person in such a situation seems to be at war with himself." Plato: weakness is possible Conflict --> different parts "There must, then, be different parts of the soul (aspects of the personality, parts of the self) that are fighting each other." I should do a I want to do a (or, at least, I want to want to do a) I don't want to do a Plato's Divided Soul Rational element (reason): thinks Appetitive element (desire): wants Spirited element (will): feels Soul as Chariot "Of the nature of the soul, though her true form be ever a theme of large and more than mortal discourse, let me speak briefly, and in a figure. And let the figure be composite- a pair of winged horses and a charioteer. Now the winged horses and the charioteers of the gods are all of them noble and of noble descent, but those of other races are mixed; the human charioteer drives his in a pair; and one of them is noble and of noble breed, and the other is ignoble and of ignoble breed; and the driving of them of necessity gives a great deal of trouble to him." Plato's Soul Kinds of Conflict Conflict: parts of the soul pull in different directions Rational vs. appetitive element: Reason vs. desire Appetitive vs. spirited element: Desire vs. emotion Rational vs. spirited element: Reason vs. emotion Kinds of Conflict
Reason Desire Emotion Virtue as Rational Control Resolution: Control by the rational part of the soul. Virtue: Subjecting the horses, especially the ignoble, rebellious horse, to the firm control of the driver. Each must play its proper role. The rational element must dominate the others for a person to be virtuous and happy. Rationality and Balance Virtue as Balance Each part of the soul has a role to play, a function Virtue = each part playing its proper role Weakness of will = knowing proper roles, but not being strong enough to force the elements into them Plato's Definition Virtue Too narrow? Too broad? Parts of soul playing their proper roles Augustine's Criticisms Plato: conflict --> different parts But Reasons can conflict Desires can conflict Emotions can conflict Are there thousands of parts? Can desires conflict? Can desires conflict? Good: I want to study, but I also want to help the poor Bad: I want to steal this BMW, but I also want to steal that Porsche Can feelings conflict? Can feelings conflict? Catullus: Odi et amo. Quare id faciam, fortasse requiris? Nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior. I hate and I love. Why, you may ask? I do not know, but I feel it, and I am in torment. Can rational conclusions conflict? Can rational conclusions conflict? `This sentence is false' It must be false: If it were true, it would be false, since that's what it says It must be true: If it were false, then what it says would be true Generally: antinomies (Abelard's Yes and No; Peter of Lombard's Sentences) Augustine's analysis Weakness of will is conflict between higher and lowerorder willings: Willing to do what you don't will to will to do I choose not to exercise: I will that I not exercise But I wish I wanted to exercise: I will that I will that I exercise Augustine's analysis First-order desires: I want to do A E.g.: I want to study I want to do not-A E.g.: I want to goof off So far, this looks symmetrical Augustine's analysis First-order desires: I want to do A E.g.: I want to study I want to do not-A E.g.: I want to goof off Second-order desires: I want to want to do A E.g., I want to want to study I don't want to want to do not-A E.g., I don't want to want to goof off Augustine's analysis First-order desires: I want to do A E.g.: I want to study I want to do not-A E.g.: I want to goof off Second-order desires: I want to want to do A E.g., I want to want to study I don't want to want to do not-A E.g., I don't want to want to goof off Weakness of will = acting in accord with that desire (that you want not to have) Temptation = having a desire you want not to have Aristotle Aristotle: Goods Instrumental goods: desired for the sake of something else Intrinsic goods: desired for their own sake Happiness One thing is always desired for its own sake, never for the sake of something else Happiness One thing is always desired for its own sake, never for the sake of something else: happiness Happiness One thing is always desired for its own sake, never for the sake of something else: happiness Happiness (eudaimonia) = living well = flourishing What does that require? Happiness One thing is always desired for its own sake, never for the sake of something else: happiness Happiness (eudaimonia) = living well = flourishing What does that require? Prosperity and luck, love, friends--many things external to us--but also something internal Living well What is it to live well? Analogies: A good knife cuts well A good eye sees well A good teacher teaches well Living well A good person fulfills his/her function well Function What is the function of a human being? Function What is the function of a human being? A thing's function stems from what is special about it: what distinguishes it from other things Knives cut: sharpness --> cutting Eyes see: ability to see --> seeing Teachers teach: ability to teach --> teaching Our Function What is special about people? Our Function What is special about people? We act according to rational plans Virtue Our function is rational activity A good person succeeds at rational activity Virtue Virtue = excellence Two kinds Excellence in rationality: intellectual virtue Excellence in activity: moral virtue Intellectual and Moral Virtue Virtue = excellence in function = Excellence in rational activity Rational Activity Intellectual virtue Moral virtue Becoming virtuous Intellectual virtue can be taught Moral virtue can't be Moral virtue isn't just knowing, but doing Weakness of will One may have intellectual virtue without moral virtue One may know what to do but not do it A weak-willed person lacks the ability to do the right thing, even when he/ she knows what it is How can we develop willpower? How to become good? It requires developing habits We become good by doing good things What should I do? An act is right if it is something a virtuous person would tend to do What should I do? Aristotle's answer depends on the answer to: What kind of person should I be? Aristotle's Definition Right action Too narrow? Too broad? What a virtuous person would do Practical Wisdom A good person consistently does the right thing at the right time, in the right way, and for the right reason. There is no rule for becoming good, or for distinguishing good from bad, right from wrong. Practical wisdom: ability to draw the right distinctions and tell right from wrong. Intuitionism Pluralism: Goods differ in kind Conflict: They sometimes conflict Complexity: There are no exact rules for deciding the outcomes of these conflicts Moral Rules At best, practical rules are fainthearted: ceteris paribus, other things being equal Finding balance among competing goods requires judgment-- practical wisdom Virtue as a Mean Moral virtues are means between extremes Virtues constrain desires But we may constrain too little or too much We must give in to desire in the right circumstances, in the right way, for the right reason, etc. Practical wisdom allows us to find the mean Moral Virtue Giving to others: Stingy Generous Extravagant Virtues and Vices
Drive Fear Pleasure Material goods Self-esteem Anger Sociability Boasting Humor Drive for honor Spending Too little cowardly self-indulgent stingy vain short-tempered obsequious boastful clownish ambitious grudging Just right courageous self-controlled generous high-minded gentle friendly truthful witty ? magnificent Too much rash insensitive extravagant small-minded apathetic grouchy self-deprecating boring unambitious vulgar ...
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- Fall '08