• Leontiskos
    2k
    My objection to Aristotle’s concept of happiness as eudaemonia, and this whose ethical theories are influenced by it, is that it conflates the hedonic and the cognitive aspects of experiencing. As a result, it fetishizes intent over sense-making. One can allegedly ‘want’ suffering , pain or misery instead of pleasure and happiness. We make decision all the time between short term reward and long term benefit, between the thrill of the moment and an ‘eventual good.’ But in doing so, we are not dealing with different forms of the hedonic, but different ways of making sense of the situations that will produce happiness. In other words, it is the cognitive aspect of goal-seeking that is involved when we choose none route to happiness over another. Choosing the longer term benefit over the immediate reward requires construing this far off reward within the immediate situation.Joshs

    The more you talk about Aristotle the more convinced I am that you have never read him. Perhaps you should try to produce texts which you believe support your claims. Aristotle's account of pleasure is rather complicated, and his theory of practical reason is not "hedonic." It would be almost as odd to say that Plato is "hedonic."
  • Joshs
    5.4k


    ↪Joshs You're still not addressing how Aristotelianism fetishizes intent over sense-making. OK, then.javra

    What I mean by fetishizing intent is the assumption that intent can be ethically incorrect, that one can want what one shouldn’t, in addition to success or failure at intelligible sense-making.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2.3k


    Aristotle allows that bad fortune can make people miserable. This is actually an argument in favor of the virtues, and ultimately for the life of contemplation, in that other goods are less stable. One can always experience bad fortune, e.g. the rock star whose next album flops and then realizes they've saved none of their great wealth and are essentially broke. They were dependent on good fortune that was ultimately largely outside their control for their happiness.

    Some people might indeed be made quite content through luck or good fortune, but this is of course the least stable sort of happiness since it isn't sustained internally. It's also a state of less freedom since the person is dependent on extrinsic goods. Whereas happiness of the ascetic who is serenely content with much or little is not subject to the same contingency.

    Later thinkers like Boethius would however argue that true flourishing essentially comes from knowing and actualizing the Good, and view the happiness that comes from good fortune as a mere counterfeit good. Happiness steming from this sort of self-determining drive towards the Good would be best in part because it seems immune to the vicissitudes of fortune. The further one ascends towards the center from which all things come (the Good, God) the less one is cast about by the whims of Fortune.

    This is Aristotle merged with Neoplatonism (and less explicitly, Christianity). Boethius for his part wrote his great work on moral philosophy (the Consolation) while awaiting his execution for cracking down on corruption too hard, having seen a tremendous fall from grace after essentially being the deputy of what remained of the Western Roman Empire. It's actually this text of late antiquity that forms the basis of medieval ethics. Aristotle was largely lost, while Boethius' text was the most copied work outside the Bible for an 800 year span.

    By this view the martyr saint seems to be the paradigmatic case of happiness precisely because of their absolute freedom (at least at the over of their own persons) to embrace the Good.
  • javra
    2.5k
    What I mean by fetishizing intent is the assumption that intent can be ethically incorrect, that one can want what one shouldn’t, in addition to success or failure at intelligible sense-making.Joshs

    So ... a mass-murdering and torturing rapist's intent to torture, rape and murder as many as possible cannot be ethically incorrect. He cannot thereby want what he shouldn't. (This irrespective of the success or failure that he might have in respect to this personal "intelligible sense-making" he engages in.)

    Is this what you're claiming?

    Because to me this kind'a speaks to that whole bemoaning of modern-day ethical standards as being in a state of decadence, demise, or however one ought best term this. And to the totalitarianisms at home and abroad that are fastly catching sway as a likewise detrimental counteraction to the post-modern ethical mindset just affirmed.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    So ... a mass-murdering and torturing rapist's intent to torture, rape and murder as many as possible cannot be ethically incorrect. He cannot thereby want what he shouldn't.javra

    A central claim in that previous thread was that a serial killer need not be acting immorally:

    For example, I was recently having a discussion with Joshs over his idea that all blame/culpability should be eradicated from society (link). This is a common contemporary trope, "Blame/culpability is bad, therefore we should go to the extreme of getting rid of it altogether."Leontiskos

    Because to me this kind'a speaks to that whole bemoaning of modern-day ethical standards as being in a state of decadence, demise, or however one ought best term this.javra

    Yep. :up:
  • T Clark
    13.3k
    this starts with an idea.Bob Ross

    Again, I think the idea comes second, after the fact.

    Moral realism is usually a three-pronged thesis (at a minimum):

    1. Moral judgments are truth-apt.
    2. Moral judgments express something objective.
    3. There is at least one true moral judgment.

    Prong 2 is the most important one: moral objectivism. I can’t tell if you hold there are moral facts or not.
    Bob Ross

    I vote no on all three. So, for me there are no moral facts.

    Engaging in fun is arguably an essential aspect of becoming happy, but it is not an element of being virtuous. I am not acting, in any meaningful sense, virtuous by intending to merely do something I enjoy doing.Bob Ross

    Fun and play are not exactly the same thing, although play is often fun. Play is inseparably tied up with creativity and creativity is, if not inseparable from, at least strongly connected to doing good work. Here's the last stanza of Robert Frost's "Two Tramps in Mud Time" that says it just right:

    But yield who will to their separation,
    My object in living is to unite
    My avocation and my vocation
    As my two eyes make one in sight.
    Only where love and need are one,
    And the work is play for mortal stakes,
    Is the deed ever really done
    For Heaven and the future's sakes.
    Robert Frost - Two Tramps in Mud Time
  • javra
    2.5k
    Thanks. Glad to see we're in agreement.

    Myself, I do strongly take to heart this blatant aspect of current reality as we know it, which I'll here emphasize by restating:

    And to the totalitarianisms at home and abroad that are fastly catching sway as a likewise detrimental counteraction to the post-modern ethical mindset just affirmed.javra

    I like the value structures of democracy and dislike the authoritarianism I see spreading in the USA and in many another country worldwide. And, in case this needs to be at least pragmatically addressed, the "no moral facts (of ethical rights and wrongs)" approach to ethics doesn't have a chance in withstanding the oncoming slippery-slopes toward what could well become a global fascism.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    12.8k


    That's a very good op Bob. If I remember correctly, "good" for Aristotle is a principle of utility, what is often translated as "that for the sake of which". From this perspective, an action is designated as needed, for the sake of an end, "that for the sake of which", and this is the good. So the action itself is "good" because it is the means to a further good, which is the end. However, an end turns out to be the means to a further end, and we must designate an ultimate end to avoid infinite regress, something desired for itself alone, and that is happiness.
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    Design and purpose are inextricably linked, and can be used to two ways: the intentionality of an agent and the expression thereof in something, or the function something. I mean it in the latter sense when it comes to humans.

    That my eye was not designed by an agent, does not entail it does not have the function, developed through evolution, of seeing. In that sense, it is designed for seeing. If you wish to use "design" in the former sense strictly, then I would just say that one should size up to their nature, and their nature dictates their functions.
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k
    I don't see any connection between these two worldviews and Aristotle's.
  • frank
    14.9k
    I don't see any connection between these two worldviews and Aristotle's.Bob Ross

    The conflict between them is whether knowledge of the good is innate or learned. I think Aristotle was a little of both.
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    Again, I think the idea comes second, after the fact.

    This is impossible: society is based off of social constructs, which are ideas people have had—ideas through action (at a minimum). Human beings develop their living structures on ideas, even if they are not entirely able to explicate it to people through language what those ideas are, and so the idea which is embodied in the society must come first.

    According to your logic, rights came before the idea of rights; which makes no sense. People started formulating an idea of a ‘right’ and started implementing it into society (largely because they were fed up with being mistreated).
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    I believe, if I am understanding you correctly, Aristotle would say it is always learned; because virtuous activity is never on accident. Aristotle thought that we are morally responsible for our rationally deliberate actions; and those are never innate.
  • frank
    14.9k
    Responsibility is a separate issue from knowledge of the good.
  • T Clark
    13.3k
    This is impossible: society is based off of social constructs, which are ideas people have had—ideas through action (at a minimum). Human beings develop their living structures on ideas, even if they are not entirely able to explicate it to people through language what those ideas are, and so the idea which is embodied in the society must come first.Bob Ross

    Again, I don't agree. We can leave it at that. I don't think we'll get any further here. Maybe in a separate thread sometime.

    According to your logic, rights came before the idea of rights; which makes no sense.Bob Ross

    Sure it does.
    Feudal lords - "Hey, king!! Stop overtaxing us and throwing us in jail!!
    Fighting takes place.
    King - "Oh... ok then. We'll lay off on the tariffs and dungeons. We'll write that down if you insist."
    Feudal lord #1 (whispering to the other lords) - "Hey, this is great. The king has promised us... what has he promised us? What do we call them?"
    Feudal lord #2 - "We can call them "rights." All in favor..."
    Feudal lords - "Aye"
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    12.8k
    Design and purpose are inextricably linked, and can be used to two ways: the intentionality of an agent and the expression thereof in something, or the function something. I mean it in the latter sense when it comes to humans.

    That my eye was not designed by an agent, does not entail it does not have the function, developed through evolution, of seeing. In that sense, it is designed for seeing. If you wish to use "design" in the former sense strictly, then I would just say that one should size up to their nature, and their nature dictates their functions.
    Bob Ross

    I think it would be better to say that your eyes have purpose, the purpose of seeing, but they were not designed by an agent. This demonstrates something very interesting about intention. Intention creates things, but not necessarily by design. So for example, abstract art is created intentionally, but the artist doesn't necessarily follow a design, and does not know what the outcome will be prior to the act of creation.

    This sheds light on the nature of accidents. Accidents are created by intentional acts, but they are outside any design, and are not actually intended. Further, many intentional acts have no real end in mind, as when you kind of "go with the flow". In a party, you follow the party, and this may become what is known as "herd mentality". It is very clear that the ideas of intention and purpose cover a lot more area than simply design.
  • J
    236
    It sounds like you're asking Pat if he wants to be happy at the cost of naivete, and he says no. Naivete is for him a very pronounced form of unhappiness.

    Of course, in our culture "happiness" has become much more psychological than eudamonia. For example, lots of people will skip the "happiness pills," but it's not because they don't want to be happy, it's because they don't think the pills produce happiness. They don't think psychological ease is happiness. Pat seems to fall easily within this group.
    Leontiskos

    We seem to be inquiring into, and differing about, the meaning of the term "happiness" here. As you know, Sally Haslanger (and others, I'm sure) has suggested a useful way of schematizing possible approaches to this kind of inquiry. Here’s a quick summary, with liberal unattributed quotes from Haslanger.

    When asking about the meaning of F, we can broadly take three approaches:

    Conceptual analysis elucidates “our” concept (that is, the concept as employed within a certain group of language users) by exploring what we we take F-ness to be. It is, more or less, a priori, or at least armchair; the assumption is that the analyst is already in a position to know how the relevant community uses the term. A more genealogical approach here would include considering the variety of understandings and uses of F-ness over time, and among different individuals.

    Descriptive analysis elucidates the empirical kinds into which “our” paradigm cases of F-ness fall, in an attempt to derive a definition of F-ness through examples. For this, we usually have to do some research, especially if the question of “natural kinds” is involved. (To jump ahead a little bit, a descriptive analysis of “happiness” would probably include paradigm cases like “contentment,” “satisfaction,” “fulfillment,” “pleasure,” “sense of meaningfulness to others,” etc.)

    Ameliorative analysis elucidates, more or less, what F should mean, what it ought to mean in order to best serve our philosophical needs – even, perhaps, our moral needs. It’s a normative approach, and usually results in recommendations to precisify a term, or to reorganize a series of related terms in a new way, so as to add perspicacity to what they can say.

    Very rough and ready, but let’s see how it applies when F = “happiness”. Back to your original statement: “In our culture ‛happiness’ has become much more psychological than eudaemonia. For example, lots of people will skip the ‛happiness pills,’ but it's not because they don't want to be happy, it's because they don't think the pills produce happiness. They don't think psychological ease is happiness.”

    This, on Haslanger’s view, reports a confusion of approaches. The statement begins by offering a (partial) descriptive analysis of “happiness”: “in our culture” the word is used to pick out certain psychological states (probably including the ones I listed above). You’re not saying that this is what the concept in fact entails – that would be a conceptual analysis – nor are you recommending (or not) using the word “happiness” in this way – that would be an ameliorative analysis. You’re simply pointing to an empirical fact about language users right now.

    But next you say that many people will skip “happiness pills” -- that is, refuse to be made allegedly happy by some reliable means – because they don’t believe such means do produce happiness. So the people in question have performed (in some loose sense) a conceptual analysis of the term “happiness” -- they know what it means to them – and are disputing whether “happy-pill happiness” is in fact covered by the definition of happiness, properly understood. And of course by bringing in a judgment like “properly understood,” we reach ameliorative analysis; the pill-skippers may want us to reform our thinking on the matter and stop using the term “happiness” in this inferior way.

    In conclusion, “They don’t think psychological ease is happiness.” But we’re entitled to ask, given the blurring of approaches used so far, in which sense do they disagree with this? Are they saying that they don’t believe psychological ease is enumerated among happy states by language users in our culture? (descriptive approach) This would mean that a person who says “I feel happy because I’m at ease” is using the language incorrectly, and others would have trouble understanding why he would say this. Or are the deniers saying that, upon analysis, happiness can’t be reduced to psychological ease? (conceptual approach) This would mean that the person who declares “I feel happy because I’m at ease” is not wrong about language use; this is in fact how people talk; they’re wrong per se, about the concept of happiness, and this can be demonstrated analytically. Or, lastly, are the deniers saying that one shouldn’t equate psychological ease with happiness? (ameliorative approach) – that there are good reasons for recommending a different use of the term and/or understanding of the concept. This would mean that “I feel happy because I’m at ease” can be both coherent and true, but on the recommended revision that would no longer be the case.

    I’ll stop with a bit of generalization. I think the discussion on this thread, and throughout much of moral philosophy, is largely ameliorative, and rightly so. What we have here are competing recommendations for how a cloudy term like happiness might be better understood and used. Indeed, one recommendation is to abandon entirely its common usages in philosophy and substitute eudaemonia. The reason for this recommendation is important: It’s because “happiness” in English is found philosophically wanting. It doesn’t seem up to the job that we’ve asked it to do. Using it, we’re led into contradictions and unlikelihoods. Eudaemonia, in contrast, offers much more clarification – the claim is that it better captures a coherent moral stance, fits better into a larger metaphysics, and great philosophers like Aristotle are brought in to testify to this.

    I say this is the right approach, but with a caveat. We need to keep Haslanger’s analysis in mind, and be very careful when we seem to say that English users “don’t know what happiness is,” or that someone “really wants to be happy” even if we can’t find any examples on the ground of how to use “happy” in this way. The language, and the way people use it, is what it is. Speakers aren’t (usually) making mistakes. My character Pat doesn’t want to be happy, on either a descriptive or a conceptual understanding of the term. At best, you might convince them that they ought to ameliorate what “happiness” means (call it “happiness*”) in order to include the kinds of things they do want – but then you can’t also say that they really wanted “happiness” all along. Competent English users would begin scratching their heads. The whole point of ameliorative analysis is to show that “happiness” and “happiness*” are not the same thing, and that one is preferable to the other -- if not morally, then at the least in terms of philosophical usefulness and insight.
  • Leontiskos
    2k


    Instead of trying to respond to the different arguments you give, I am going to opt for instead pointing out that I do not take Haslanger to be an authority. She may be an authority for you, but she is not for me, and I don’t find her approach promising. For example, I don’t know why we should accept her dichotomy of how terms are used, why we should take it to be exhaustive, why we should frame the whole question in terms of her taxonomy, etc. At first glance it would seem that she is trying to create a taxonomy of term use in order to answer a contentious societal question about the terms ‘race’ and ‘gender,’ and as I have said recently, I think that trying to set out out general principles on the basis of a controversy is a fundamental philosophical mistake (see <penultimate paragraph>). Haslanger's taxonomy might be more useful in that limited context.

    I would opine that when someone wants to leverage a non-mutual authority on a philosophy forum what they need to do is argue that authority’s arguments rather than appeal to their authority. If you can find a way to give in your own words a “Haslangerian” critique then that would be an appropriate way to bring her into the conversation, but at the moment you are imposing her as an authority. Note too how crucially important her taxonomy is. A metaphysical taxonomy of all the mutually exclusive ways of using terms would be more or less on par with divine revelation, and to put forward such a taxonomy on the basis of authority would require a very powerful authority indeed. My favorite philosophers never even attempted such a feat (i.e. Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas...).

    The thread is about Aristotle and I think it is much better to begin with Aristotle. I think he touches on the same sorts of questions in a more natural way. Let me quote the larger context of what I already quoted in EN I.4, although it is also important to read the first three chapters:

    Since—to resume—all knowledge and all purpose aims at some good, what is this which we say is the aim of Politics; or, in other words, what is the highest of all realizable goods?

    As to its name, I suppose nearly all men are agreed; for the masses and the men of culture alike declare that it is happiness, and hold that to “live well” or to “do well” is the same as to be “happy.”

    But they differ as to what this happiness is, and the masses do not give the same account of it as the philosophers.

    The former take it to be something palpable and plain, as pleasure or wealth or fame; one man holds it to be this, and another that, and often the same man is of different minds at different times,—after sickness it is health, and in poverty it is wealth; while when they are impressed with the consciousness of their ignorance, they admire most those who say grand things that are above their comprehension.

    Some philosophers, on the other hand, have thought that, beside these several good things, there is an “absolute” good which is the cause of their goodness.

    As it would hardly be worth while to review all the opinions that have been held, we will confine ourselves to those which are most popular, or which seem to have some foundation in reason.
    Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, I.4

    EN I.5 directly follows by raising epistemic considerations, not entirely unlike those that you raise via Haslanger. Chapter 6 then begins considering the concrete views of what happiness is.

    Indeed, one recommendation is to abandon entirely its common usages in philosophy and substitute eudaemonia. The reason for this recommendation is important: It’s because “happiness” in English is found philosophically wanting. It doesn’t seem up to the job that we’ve asked it to do.J

    I think you are overstating this case. “Eudaimonia” is usually translated into English as “happiness,” and there is a reason for that. Let me quote Jonathan Barnes’ introduction to the Nicomachean Ethics (Penguin) for some similarities and differences:

    This natural feeling of dissatisfaction with the chief thesis of the Ethics may be mitigated by a nicer attention to the Greek word eudaimonia. The standard translation, 'happiness', is by no means wholly absurd: it makes sense in most contexts of its occurrence, and it receives some degree of support on general semantic grounds. Yet it is far from adequate as a precise rendering of Aristotle's term. That is quickly shown in an abstract way: happiness, as the term is used in ordinary English, is a sort of mental or emotional state or condition; to call a man happy is (to put it very vaguely indeed) to say something about his general state of mind. Eudaimonia, on the other hand, is not simply a mental state: after setting out his analysis of eudamonia, Aristotle remarks: 'Our definition is also supported by the belief that the happy man lives and fares well; because what we have described [i.e. eudamonia is virtually a kind of good life or prosperity' (1098b21-2). To call a man eudaimon is to say something about how he lives and what he does. The notion of eudaimonia is closely tied, in a way in which the notion of happiness is not, to success: the eudaimon is someone who makes a success of his life and actions, who realizes his aims and ambitions as a man, who fulfils himself. — Jonathan Barnes, Introduction to the Nicomachean Ethics, xxxi-xxxii

    I would say that Haslanger’s strongly analytic approach is inappropriate because there is a complex relation here between analysis and synthesis. Happiness is “living well or doing well,” but there is an epistemic quest built into the term insofar as “often the same person actually changes his opinion [about happiness].” Happiness simultaneously represents a unity and a multiplicity. Everyone aims for happiness, and yet they disagree as to what happiness is, or how happiness is achieved, and they at times change their minds.

    What is at stake is not Haslanger’s terminological dispute, but rather that, “But when it comes to saying in what happiness consists, opinions differ, and the account given by the generality of mankind is not at all like that of the wise.” It is an argument over man's final end, not an argument over words. The idea is that everyone wants happiness and yet they disagree as to what happiness consists in. It is important to handle the subtle distinction between happiness per se and what happiness consists in, and not to mistake disagreements over the latter for disagreements over the former. Aristotle is already talking about happiness per se long before he introduces the actual word, namely by talking about man’s last end (and this is why it is crucial to read the chapters that precede I.4). Aquinas follows Aristotle very closely in his own treatment (link).

    Well, so far as the name goes, there is pretty general agreement. ‘It is happiness,’ say both ordinary and cultured people; and they identify happiness with living well or doing well. — Nicomachean Ethics, I.4 (tr. Thomson)

    Now is Aristotle saying, < ∀x(Human(x) → DesiresHappiness(x)) >? He probably does believe this, but he doesn’t commit himself to the claim. Why not? Presumably because trying to place the inductive conclusion beyond dispute is beside the point. If someone wants to dispute the universality of the claim then Aristotle would presumably say, “My book is not for you. Have a nice day.” There is really no point in arguing with them. (I think Aristotle would be much more interested in observing people who do not seek happiness in their actions. I don’t think there are such people, and I suppose one could argue that this is because they destroyed themselves in their quest to live and do poorly, but that strikes me as farfetched.)

    But we could still ask whether such a person is saying something true. Do they want to live well and do well, or not? Probably they do and they are just confused or contrarian. The question is whether they want to be happy; it is not a semantic quibble about whether they are willing to adopt this or that word.

    Speakers aren’t (usually) making mistakes. My character Pat doesn’t want to be happy, on either a descriptive or a conceptual understanding of the term.J

    It seems to me that the first problem here is a conflation between real people and fictitious characters, and we’ve been over that before. Fictitious characters are not infallible about their desires. And even if your fictional characters are based on real people, they remain somewhat fictitious insofar as they are not present and available for dialogue. It becomes a kind of argument from authority by proxy, where you speak for someone who is not present and who I am not allowed to contradict.

    The second problem is that your claims about your fictitious characters seem incorrect, and that is what I argued in my reply. For example, your fictitious Pat said, “I wouldn't trade one minute of my unhappiness for a fool's paradise of Smiley Faces.” I said:

    It sounds like you're asking Pat if he wants to be happy at the cost of naivete, and he says no. Naivete is for him a very pronounced form of unhappiness.Leontiskos

    Pat has obviously interpreted your question about happiness as a question about “a fool’s paradise of Smiley Faces.” He says he doesn’t want that fool’s paradise. Does it follow that he doesn’t want to live well or do well? Surely not. Like Aristotle, he doesn’t think that happiness consists in what others say it consists in.

    Now I think there are people who despair of happiness and no longer really seek it, but it does not follow that they do not desire it, and even then they still seek out some small measure of it. I think the more central objection is really the objection that the idea of happiness (or also goodness) is equivocal to the point of uselessness, or as Aristotle says:

    However, in the case of human beings at any rate, they show no little divergence. The same things delight one set of people and annoy another; what is painful and detestable to some is pleasurable and likeable to others. — Nicomachean Ethics, 1176a10, tr. Thompson

    -

    Let me comment on just one part of your Haslanger section:

    “in our culture” the word is used to pick out certain psychological statesJ
    Are they saying that they don’t believe psychological ease is enumerated among happy states by language users in our culture?J

    A large part of the problem is that you are preferring a secondary definition of happiness. Merriam-Webster gives:

    • 1a. A state of well-being and contentment: joy
    • 1b. A pleasurable or satisfying experience

    Contrary to your claim, eudamonia is not eclipsed in English. In fact something close is still the primary definition of happiness, where wellbeing is involved (1a). There is a more transient and superficial sense (1b) but it is not primary. Long-term, sustainable happiness is still part of the English lexicon. If you wish to talk about happiness as something in the same genus as, “a fool's paradise of Smiley Faces,” then you are preferring an English sense that is both contrary to Aristotle’s term and also is not the primary English sense. This seems to be a quibble over words rather than a substantial objection. In any case, the Aristotelian context of the OP suffices for determining something like 1a rather than something like 1b. It should not be hard to understand what Aristotle means by ‘happiness,’ and his usage is not at all foreign to English speakers.
  • J
    236


    Gosh, I seem to have riled you re Haslanger, which was certainly not my intention. I said this about her: "Sally Haslanger (and others, I'm sure) has suggested a useful way of schematizing possible approaches to this kind of inquiry." I don't think it's fair to say that "suggested a useful way" involving "possible approaches" equates to "imposing her as an authority" or claiming that she's given a "metaphysical taxonomy of all the mutually exclusive ways of using terms" in a way that's "more or less on par with divine revelation."

    I'd hoped my use of Haslanger would be helpful in teasing out some of the intricacies of "What is F?" questions. I'm sorry it wasn't, for you.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    - I was just trying to explain why I am not interested in donning her hermeneutic given the circumstances. Setting the taxonomic terms of a discussion is not an innocuous or insignificant move. I can understand assessing a claim in terms of a well-known Kantian taxonomy or a commonly accepted taxonomy such as SEP charts, but it seems to me that when you claim that we have run afoul of Sally Haslanger's taxonomy the correct response is, "Who? :chin:"

    That approach in general strikes me as a faux pas, but it becomes tricky when you assume that your taxonomic move is innocuous or unobjectionable and launch into a long post on the basis of that presupposition. I did begin responding to the individual arguments of your post, but after tripping over Haslanger's taxonomy enough times I began wondering why I should labor under a strange taxonomy that had been forced upon me. Ergo: I don't accept that taxonomy. You assumed I would, but you know what they say about what happens when we "assume."
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    I think it is a valid question, but Aristotle is on to something. The reason humans want to be happy is because it is the most intrinsically (positively) valuable "thing"...Aristotle just never quite mentions this and starts instead with his idea that what is good is a thing fulfilling its nature.Bob Ross

    Does he, though? In the very first sentences of the Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle defines good in terms of what is aimed at.
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    What you just described is the idea of over-taxation and its mitigation/eradication being manifested into society through action; which is impossible under your view, since ideas come after what happens.

    What you are forgetting or misunderstanding is that action is the manifestation of ideas; and I think you may be thinking of an "idea" as something sans action.
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    Accidents are never intentional; but evolution doesn't operate on accidents.

    Saying it is "intentional", "purposeful", etc. is tricky with non-agency; and I understand why people oppose it. It is usually associated with an agent of some sort; but, in that case, I just call it "function".
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k
    Aristotle never defines good in his ethics: he just uses it and the reader has to tease out what he means by it based off of what he says.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2.3k


    I'm not sure how helpful this is if the question is the adequacy of Aristotle's moral philosophy. The Ethics and Politics make it fairly clear what is meant by "happiness." Aristotle himself calls a life spent pursuing mere pleasure "slavish," and a life "for grazing beasts," just a few pages into the Ethics, so the distinction between "flourishing" and something like Huxley's "utopia" in A Brave New World comes into stark relief quite quickly.

    To your earlier question re your second example, "vice" has taken on a particular sort of connotation in English were it is either associated particularly with evil or with things like smoking, drinking, prostitution, gambling, etc. Aristotle's use doesn't have this connotation. The virtues are "excellences," and vices are simply the opposite.

    So with the person who has overwhelming issues with anxiety, we would say that have a "vice" in the sense that their anxiety keeps them from "living a good life," "acting virtuously," and perhaps even "doing the right thing." A vice is a sort of habit. The idea that vices like cowardice or gluttony could be ameliorated with training á la cognitive behavioral therapy is right in line with Aristotle's philosophy.

    Personally, I don't think Aristotle's philosophy is totally adequate. Alsdair MacIntyre advances the "Aristotlean Tradition," as opposed to Aristotle because there are problems extending Aristotle's common good outside the limits of the polis. For my part, I think Aristotle only obliquely gets at why self-determining happiness is superior to mere "good fortune." The connection between happiness and the good (and then the Good and freedom) becomes tenuous in places, in part because Aristotle advances "common sense" arguments based on utility instead of his deeper arguments (which come around in Book X of the Ethics and other places).

    Plato does a better job highlighting how the search for knowledge and the pursuit of the Good are what allow a person to transcend what they already are, which means that these serve as the engine of self-determination and freedom. I think later thinkers do a better job refining Aristotle and keeping this thread in Plato from being submerged, but unfortunately these authors have become unpalatable in contemporary secular philosophy due to how their thinking on this is colored by the language of Christian theology.

    Hegel is part of this tradition and can offer us a better reason for dismissing the solution of something like Huxley's A Brave New World or even similar, less offensive "utopias" (e.g. human society in Dan Simon's Ilium and Olympos). There is an epistemic element to freedom, best covered in the Phenomenology, that requires the unification of subject and object (Absolute Knowing). Lessss opaquely there is also the demand that the fulfillment of freedom requires that freedom itself becomes the object and content of the (collective) will—"the free will that wills itself."

    Anything less is ultimately contingent and arbitrary, and so unstable.
  • T Clark
    13.3k
    What you are forgetting or misunderstanding is that action is the manifestation of ideas; and I think you may be thinking of an "idea" as something sans action.Bob Ross

    I don't agree, but we've probably taken this as far as we can.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    Aristotle never defines good in his ethicsBob Ross

    The very first sentence of the Nicomachean Ethics: (or the second, depending on your translation)

    ...and so it has been well said that the good is that at which everything aims.Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, First sentence
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    I'm not sure how helpful this is if the question is the adequacy of Aristotle's moral philosophy. The Ethics and Politics make it fairly clear what is meant by "happiness."Count Timothy von Icarus

    Right. The objection seems to be, "Someone could say that they do not desire happiness so long as they use the word 'happiness' in a way that is not in accord with what Aristotle means; therefore it is false that everyone desires happiness." This sort of objection would only make sense in a non-Aristotelian context. But this thread is literally about Aristotle and among other things Aristotle's approach to happiness and our final end.

    (@J)
  • javra
    2.5k
    I'm not sure how helpful this is if the question is the adequacy of Aristotle's moral philosophy. The Ethics and Politics make it fairly clear what is meant by "happiness." — Count Timothy von Icarus


    Right. The objection seems to be, "Someone could say that they do not desire happiness so long as they use the word 'happiness' in a way that is not in accord with what Aristotle means; therefore it is false that everyone desires happiness." This sort of objection would only make sense in a non-Aristotelian context. But this thread is literally about Aristotle and among other things Aristotle's approach to happiness and our final end.
    Leontiskos

    I second (or maybe, third) that. Brings to mind a poem that seems to me to illustrate the case:

    A SAIL

    White is the sail and lonely
    On the misty infinite blue,
    Flying from what in the homeland?
    Seeking for what in the new?

    The waves romp, and the winds whistle,
    And the mast leans and creeks;
    Alas! He flies not from fortune,
    And no good fortune he seeks.

    Beneath him the stream, luminous, azure,
    Above him the sun’s golden breast;
    But he, a rebel, invites the storms,
    As though in the storms were rest.
    — Poem by Mikhail Lermontov - translation by Max Eastman

    I find the poem to be fairly easy to emotively comprehend, despite the possible variations in interpretation. The personally held good aimed at here can then be said to be, to paraphrase, “the uncertainty of the storms, or of the strife, that calls out to one as though in them one finds one’s further development and, hence, one's possible future flourishing as a being, i.e. eudemonia, or being in accord with the highest virtue” - this rather than seeking a certain good fortune or the like. In the case as illustrated, one could then say that one’s intent is not that of obtaining happiness in the sense of easygoing joy or some such but, instead, the obtainment of one’s further possible flourishing despite the uncertain risks – such that were this actively held intent to pursue the uncertainty of the “storms” to become obstructed, only then would the individual addressed experience suffering. And, then, such that approaching such storms would then be in line with Aristotelian notions of happiness - this while shunning happiness in the sense of easygoing joy and so forth.

    At any rate, I’m in agreement.
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