For much of the twentieth century it was common to contrast the characteristic forms and preoccupations of modern ethical theory with those of the ancient world. However, the last few decades have seen a growing recognition that contemporary moral philosophy now has much in common with its ancient incarnation, in areas as diverse as virtue ethics and ethical epistemology. Christopher Gill has assembled an international team to conduct a fascinating exploration of the relationship between the two fields, (...) exploring key issues in ancient ethics in a way that highlights their conceptual significance for the study of ethics more generally. Virtue, Norms, and Objectivity will be as interesting and relevant to modern moral philosophers, therefore, as it will be to specialists in ancient thought. (shrink)
I review this fine collection of articles on ancient ethics ranging from the Presocratics to Sextus Empiricus. Eight of the nine chapters are published here for the first time. Contributors include Charles H. Kahn on "Pre-Platonic Ethics," C. C. W. Taylor on "Platonic Ethics," Stephen Everson on "Aristotle on Nature and Value," John McDowell on "Some Issues in Aristotle's Moral Psychology," David Sedley on "The Inferential Foundations of Epicurean Ethics," T. H. Irwin on "Socratic Paradox and Stoic Theory," Julia (...) Annas on "Doing Without Objective Values: Ancient and Modern Strategies," and Susan Sauvé Meyer on "Moral Responsibility: Aristotle and After." There is also an introductory essay by the editor, Stephen Everson. I summarize and then critique each chapter in this rather lengthy review. (shrink)
Leading figures in ancient philosophy present nineteen original papers on three key themes in the work of Richard Sorabji. The papers dealing with Metaphysics range from Democritus to Numenius on basic questions about the structure and nature of reality: necessitation, properties, and time. The section on Soul includes one paper on the individuation of souls in Plato and five papers on Aristotle's and Aristotelian theories of cognition, with a special emphasis on perception. The section devoted to Ethics concentrates upon (...) Stoicism and the complex views the Stoics held on such topics as motivation, akrasia, oikeitsis, and the emotions. It also includes one paper on the influence of Greek ethics in Modern Philosophy. The volume also contains a fascinating "intellectual autobiography" by Sorabji himself, and a full Bibliography of his works. (shrink)
Drawing on a small sample of writings from distinguished philosophers and poets living in the Middle East in the period from the eighth to the first century BCE, it is shown that a variety of business practices provided familiar examples of how people ought to act and live, morally speaking, to enjoy the best sort of life and to be the best sort of person. The writings reveal that we share a common heritage and humanity with people living 20 to (...) 28 hundred years ago, and that some of the observations are as important and useful today as they were when they were originally made. (shrink)
Examines prudential and moral reasoning in ancient and modern ethics. Ancient ethical theories' task of articulating the agent's overall goal; Structural differences between ancient eudaemonist theories and modern theories; Virtue as a complex intellectual kind of understanding.
What is the good life? Posing this question today would likely elicit very different answers. Some might say that the good life means doing good—improving one’s community and the lives of others. Others might respond that it means doing well—cultivating one’s own abilities in a meaningful way. But for Aristotle these two distinct ideas—doing good and doing well—were one and the same and could be realized in a single life. In Confronting Aristotle’s Ethics, Eugene Garver examines how we can draw (...) this conclusion from Aristotle's works, while also studying how this conception of the good life relates to contemporary ideas ofmorality. The key to Aristotle’s views on ethics, argues Garver, lies in the Metaphysics or, more specifically, in his thoughts on activities, actions, and capacities . For Aristotle, Garver shows, it is only possible to be truly active when acting for the common good, and it is only possible to be truly happy when active to the extent of one’s own powers. But does this mean we should aspire to Aristotle’s impossibly demanding vision of the good life? In a word, no. Garver stresses the enormous gap between life in Aristotle’s time and ours. As a result, this book will be a welcome rumination on not only Aristotle, but the relationship between the individual and society in everyday life. (shrink)
This collection of essays provides a sophisticated and accessible introduction to the moral theories of the ancient world. It covers the ethical theories of all the major philosophers and schools from the earliest times to the Hellenistic philosophers. A substantial introduction considers the question of what is distinctive about ancient ethics.
There is now a renewed concern for moral psychology among moral philosophers. Moreover, contemporary philosophers interested in virtue, moral responsibility and moral progress regularly refer to Plato and Aristotle, the two founding fathers of ancient ethics. The book contains eleven chapters by distinguished scholars which showcase current research in Greek ethics. Four deal with Plato, focusing on the Protagoras, Euthydemus, Symposium and Republic, and discussing matters of literary presentation alongside the philosophical content. The four chapters on Aristotle address problems (...) such as the doctrine of the mean, the status of rules, equity and the tension between altruism and egoism in Aristotelian eudaimonism. A contrast to classical Greek ethics is presented by two chapters reconstructing Epicurus' views on the emotions and moral responsibility as well as on moral development. The final chapter on personal identity in Empedocles shows that the concern for moral progress is already palpable in Presocratic philosophy. (shrink)
The principle of non-injury toward all living beings (ahimsā) in India was originally a rule restraining human interaction with the natural environment. I compare two discourses on the relationship between humans and the natural environment in ancient India: the discourse of the priestly sacrificial cult and the discourse of the renunciants. In the sacrificial cult, all living beings were conceptualized as food. The renunciants opposed this conception and favored the ethics of non-injury toward all beings (plants, animals, etc.), which (...) meant that no living being should be food for another. The first represented an ethics modeled on the power that the eater has over the eaten while the second attempted to overturn this food chain ethics. The ethics of non-injury ascribed ultimate value to every individual living being. As a critique of the individualistic ethics of noninjury, a holistic ethics was developed that prescribed the unselfish performance of one’s duties for the sake of the functioning of the natural system. Vegetarianismbecame a popular adaptation of the ethics of non-injury. These dramatic changes in ethics in ancient India are suggestive for the possibility of dramatic changes in environmental ethics today. (shrink)
The four principles approach to biomedical ethics (4PBE) has, since the 1970s, been increasingly developed as a universal bioethics method. Despite its wide acceptance and popularity, the 4PBE has received many challenges to its cross-cultural plausibility. This paper first specifies the principles and characteristics of ancient Chinese medical ethics (ACME), then makes a comparison between ACME and the 4PBE with a view to testing out the 4PBE's cross-cultural plausibility when applied to one particular but very extensive and prominent cultural (...) context. The result shows that the concepts of respect for autonomy, non-maleficence, beneficence and justice are clearly identifiable in ACME. Yet, being influenced by certain socio-cultural factors, those applying the 4PBE in Chinese society may tend to adopt a "beneficence-oriented", rather than an "autonomy-oriented" approach, which, in general, is dissimilar to the practice of contemporary Western bioethics, where "autonomy often triumphs". (shrink)
A new collection of thirteen essays, covering the reception of Aristotle's ethics from the ancient world to the twentieth century. Provides both a history of reception and conceptual analysis for each figure or school.
Virtue ethics has been charged with being unable to provide solutions to practical moral issues. In response, the defenders of virtue ethics argue that normative virtue ethics exists. The debate is significant on its own, yet both sides of the controversy approach the issue from the assumption that moral philosophy has to tell us what we should do. In this essay, I would like to examine the question regarding the practicality of virtue ethics in a different way. Virtue ethics is (...) an ancient approach shared by both ancient Greek philosophers and classic Chinese Confucians, and indeed, ancient Greeks call ethics practical science. How, then, do the ancients themselves view the issue of practicality? This essay shows that there is a notion of practicality which is prominent in both ancient Greek and ancient Chinese virtue ethics but is neglected in todayâs ethics. According to this notion, ethics is to transform oneâs life. The essay also raises a prospect of the revival of this notion. (shrink)
This work is a critical examination of Maat, the moral ideal in ancient Egypt. It seeks to present Maat in the language of modern moral discourse while at the same time preserving and building on its distinctiveness as a moral ideal capable of inspiring and maintaining ethical philosophic reflection. The effort here is one of both interpretation and transmission of an ethical tradition, a project in which tradition is seen not simply as a precondition and process in which one (...) comes, but also as an ongoing product of one's efforts to understand it. Locating himself within the tradition, the author seeks to test the conceptual elasticity of its major categories and contentions and to establish its capacity for critical moral discourse. (shrink)
What follows is a dialogue, in the Platonic sense, concerning the justifications for "business ethics" as a vehicle for asking questions about the values of modern business organisations. The protagonists are the authors, Gordon Pearson – a pragmatist and sceptic where business ethics is concerned – and Martin Parker – a sociologist and idealist who wishes to be able to ask ethical questions of business. By the end of the dialogue we come to no agreement on the necessity or justification (...) for business ethics, but on the way discuss the uses of philosophy, the meanings of integrity and trust, McDonald''s, a hypothetical torture manufacturer and various other matters. (shrink)
The ancient lawgiver Solon of Athens left norms of proper conduct that carry important ethical implications for all manner of human affairs, including commercial activities and the pursuit of wealth. In his extant poetry, he emphasizes the strong connections between individual virtue and its consequences in the social and political sphere. In considering the proper means of obtaining material wealth, he describes multiple ways to earn a living and connects them to proper intellectual and ethical dispositions through a concept (...) of justice. This focus on virtue establishes a long-range ethics that is based on a principle of justice, demands rational intellectual activity, and carries implications for everyone’s self-interest. Solon’s concern for matters of virtue, the proper means of attaining wealth, and the need for long-range awareness of consequences offers a valuable point of historical focus for our own examinations of business ethics today. (shrink)
The purpose of Sheffield’s careful study is to increase scholarly appreciation of the Symposium as a ‘substantive work in Platonic ethics’ (3). Among the book’s highlights are a persuasive response to Vlastos’ criticism of Plato on love for individuals, an eminently reasonable assessment of the evidence for and against the presence of tripartite psychology in the Symposium, and a delightful interpretation of Alcibiades’ speech at the dialogue’s end—one that reveals elements of satyr play and corroborates rather than undermines Diotima’s account (...) of erôs. My review focuses on Sheffield’s account of Socrates’ speech. She devotes four of seven chapters to it. After summarizing her main argument, I raise two concerns: one about her account of immortality, the other about her interpretation of Plato as a rational eudaimonist. (shrink)
Ethical issues are of foremost importance in modern bio-medical science. Ethical guidelines and socio-cultural public awareness exist for modern samples, whereas for ancient mummy studies both are de facto lacking. This is particularly striking considering the fact that examinations are done without informed consent or that the investigations are invasive due to technological aspects and that it affects personality traits. The aim of this study is to show the pro and contra arguments of ancient mummy research from an (...) ethical point of view with a particular focus on the various stakeholders involved in this research. Relevant stakeholders in addition to the examined individual are, for example, a particular researcher, and the science community in general, likely descendents of the mummy or any future generation. Our broad discussion of the moral dilemma of mummy research should help to extract relevant decision-making criteria for any such study in future. We specifically do not make any recommendations about how to rate these decision-factors, since this is highly dependent on temporal and cultural affiliations of the involved researcher. The sustainability of modern mummy research is dependent on ethical orientation, which can only be given and eventually settled in an interdisciplinary approach such as the one we attempt to present here. (shrink)
Humoralism, the view that the human body is composed of a limited number of elementary fluids, is one of the most characteristic aspects of ancient medicine. The psychological dimension of humoral theory in the ancient world has thus far received a relatively small amount of scholarly attention. Medical psychology in the ancient world can only be correctly understood by relating it to psychological thought in other fields, such as ethics and rhetoric. The concept that ties these various (...) domains together is character (êthos), which involves a view of human beings focused on clearly distinguishable psychological types that can be recognized on the basis of external signs. Psychological ideas based on humoral theory remained influential well into the early modern period. Yet, in 17th-century medicine and philosophy, humoral physiology and psychology started to lose ground to other theoretical perspectives on the mind and its relation to the body. This decline of humoralist medical psychology can be related to a broader reorientation of psychological thought in which the traditional concept of character lost its central position. Instead of the focus on types and stable character traits, a perspective emerged that was primarily concerned with individuality and transient passions. (shrink)
The papers in this collection on Aristotle’s Eudemian Ethics by Charles, Rowe, McCabe, Whiting, and Buddensiek, offer new readings of Aristotle on the voluntary, friendship, and good fortune in the EE, by treating the EE on its own terms.
This book is a study of ancient views about 'moral luck'. It examines the fundamental ethical problem that many of the valued constituents of a well-lived life are vulnerable to factors outside a person's control, and asks how this affects our appraisal of persons and their lives. The Greeks made a profound contribution to these questions, yet neither the problems nor the Greek views of them have received the attention they deserve. This book thus recovers a central dimension of (...) Greek thought and addresses major issues in contemporary ethical theory. One of its most original aspects is its interrelated treatment of both literary and philosophical texts. The Fragility of Goodness has proven to be important reading for philosophers and classicists, and its non-technical style makes it accessible to any educated person interested in the difficult problems it tackles. This new edition features an entirely new preface by Martha Nussbaum. (shrink)
Ancient ethical theories, based on the notions of virtue and happiness, have struck many as an attractive alternative to modern theories. But we cannot find out whether this is true until we understand ancient ethics--and to do this we need to examine the basic structure of ancient ethical theory, not just the details of one or two theories. In this book, Annas brings together the results of a wide-ranging study of ancient ethical philosophy and presents it (...) in a way that is easily accessible to anyone with an interest in ancient or modern ethics. She examines the fundamental notions of happiness and virtue, the role of nature in ethical justification and the relation between concern for self and concern for others. Her careful examination of the ancient debates and arguments shows that many widespread assumptions about ancient ethics are quite mistaken. Ancient ethical theories are not egoistic, and do not depend for their acceptance on metaphysical theories of a teleological kind. Most centrally, they are recognizably theories of morality, and the ancient disputes about the place of virtue in happiness can be seen as akin to modern disputes about the demands of morality. (shrink)
This is an engaging and accessible introduction to the 'Nicomachean Ethics', Aristotle's great masterpiece of moral philosophy. Michael Pakaluk offers a thorough and lucid examination of the entire work, uncovering Aristotle's motivations and basic views while paying careful attention to his arguments. The chapter on friendship captures Aristotle's doctrine with clarity and insight, and Pakaluk gives original and compelling interpretations of the Function Argument, the Doctrine of the Mean, courage and other character virtues, Akrasia, and the two treatments of pleasure. (...) There is also a useful section on how to read an Aristotelian text. This book will be invaluable for all student readers encountering one of the most important and influential works of Western philosophy. (shrink)
In this incisive study Sarah Broadie gives an argued account of the main topics of Aristotle's ethics: eudaimonia, virtue, voluntary agency, practical reason, akrasia, pleasure, and the ethical status of theoria. She explores the sense of "eudaimonia," probes Aristotle's division of the soul and its virtues, and traces the ambiguities in "voluntary." Fresh light is shed on his comparison of practical wisdom with other kinds of knowledge, and a realistic account is developed of Aristototelian deliberation. The concept of pleasure as (...) value-judgment is expounded, and the problem of akrasia is argued to be less of a problem to Aristotle than to his modern interpreters. Showing that the theoretic ideal of Nicomachean Ethics X is in step with the earlier emphasis on practice, as well as with the doctrine of the Eudemian Ethics, this work makes a major contribution towards the understanding of Aristotle's ethics. (shrink)
Arthur W. H. Adkins's writings have sparked debates among a wide range of scholars over the nature of ancient Greek ethics and its relevance to modern times. Demonstrating the breadth of his influence, the essays in this volume reveal how leading classicists, philosophers, legal theorists, and scholars of religion have incorporated Adkins's thought into their own diverse research. The timely subjects addressed by the contributors include the relation between literature and moral understanding, moral and nonmoral values, and the contemporary (...) meaning of ancient Greek ethics. The volume also includes an essay from the late Adkins himself illustrating his methodology in an analysis of the "Speech of Lysias" in Plato's Phaedrus . The Greeks and Us will interest all those concerned with how ancient moral values do or do not differ from our own. Contributors include Arthur W. H. Adkins, Stephanie Nelson, Martha C. Nussbaum, Paul Schollmeier, James Boyd White, Bernard Williams, and Lee Yearley. Commentaries by Wendy Doniger, Charles M. Gray, David Grene, Robert B. Louden, Richard Posner, and Candace Vogler. (shrink)
Frisbee Sheffield argues that the Symposium has been unduly marginalized by philosophers. Although the topic, eros, and the setting at a symposium have seemed anomalous, she demonstrates that both are intimately related to Plato's preoccupation with the nature of the good life, with virtue, and how it is acquired and transmitted. For Plato, analyzing our desires is a way of reflecting on the kind of people we will turn out to be and on our chances of leading a worthwhile and (...) happy life. In its focus on the question why he considered desires to be amenable to this type of reflection, this book explores Plato's ethics of desire. (shrink)
This book defends the consistency, plausibility, and interest of the brand of Ancient Skepticism described in the writings of Sextus Empiricus (c. 150 AD), both through detailed exegesis of the original texts, and through sustained engagement with an array of modern critics.
The central subject of Aristotle's ethics is happiness or living well. Most people in his day (as in ours), eager to enjoy life, impressed by worldly success, and fearful of serious loss, believed that happiness depends mainly on fortune in achieving prosperity and avoiding adversity. Aristotle, however, argues that virtuous conduct is the governing factor in living well and attaining happiness. While admitting that neither the blessings not the afflictions of fortune are unimportant, he maintains that the virtuous find life (...) more satisfying than other people do and, with only modest good fortune, they lead happy, enjoyable lives. Combining philological precision with philosophical analysis, the author reconstructs Aristotle's defense of these bold claims. By examining how Aristotle develops his position in response to the prevailing hopes and anxieties of his age, the author shows why Aristotle considers happiness important for ethics and why he thinks it necessary to revise popular and traditional views. Paying close attention throughout to the internalist dimension of Aristotle's approach - his emphasis on how the virtuous view their own lives and actions - the author advances new interpretations of Aristotle's accounts of several major virtues, including temperance, courage, liberality, and 'greatness of soul'. This work sets Aristotle in the broader cultural context of his time, tracing his attemps to accommodate and amend rival views. The author examines literary and historical sources as well as philosophical texts, showing the inherited values and traditional ideals that inform Aristotle's discussions and provide some of the basis for his conclusions. Presupposing no knowledge of Greek or specialized philosophical terminology, the book is designed to be accessible to all students of philosophy or classical antiquity. All quotations from ancient texts are translated. (shrink)
The Epicurean philosophical system has enjoyed much recent scrutiny, but the question of its philosophical ancestry remains largely neglected. It has often been thought that Epicurus owed only his physical theory of atomism to the fifth-century BC philosopher Democritus, but this study finds that there is much in his ethical thought which can be traced to Democritus. It also finds important influences on Epicurus in Democritus' fourth-century followers such as Anaxarchus and Pyrrho, and in Epicurus' disagreements with his own Democritean (...) teacher Nausiphanes. The result is not only a fascinating reconstruction of a lost tradition, but also an important contribution to the philosophical interpretation of Epicureanism, bearing especially on its ideal of tranquillity and on the relation of ethics to physics. (shrink)
After 25 centuries, Aristotle's influence on our society's moral thinking remains profound and he continues to be a very important contributor to contemporary debates in philosophical ethics. This collection showcases some of the best new writing on the Aristotelian notion of virtue of character, which remains central to much of the most interesting work in ethical theory.
The question addressed by this book is what, if anything, stoic ethics would be like today if stoicism had had a continuous history to the present day as a plausible and coherent set of philosophical commitments and methods. The book answers that question by arguing that most of the ancient doctrines of Stoic ethics remain defensible today, at least when ancient Stoicism's cosmological commitments are replaced by modern scientific ones.
The sixteen essays written in honour of Jonathan Barnes for this volume reflect the impressive scope of his contributions to philosophy. Six are on knowledge, five on logic and metaphysics, five on ethics. The volume ranges widely over ancient philosophy, while also finding room for two contemporary papers on truth and vagueness. Aristotle is prominent in eight of the essays; Plato, Sextus Empiricus, the Stoics, the Epicureans, and ancient Greek medical writers are also discussed. The contributors include some (...) of the most distinguished scholars of our time. (shrink)
This book is the first detailed study of the plays of Sophocles through examination of a single ethical principle--the traditional Greek popular moral code of "helping friends and harming enemies." Five of the extant plays are discussed in detail from both a dramatic and an ethical standpoint, and the author concludes that ethical themes are not only integral to each drama, but are subjected to an implicit critique through the tragic consequences to which they give rise. Greek scholars and students (...) of Greek drama and Greek thought will welcome this book, which is presented in such a way as to be accessible to specialists and nonspecialists alike. No knowledge of Greek is required. (shrink)
Machine generated contents note: Introduction; 1. Against the Strawsonian interpretation: the negative argument; 2. Aristotle on ethical ascription: the positive argument; 3. The definitions of violence; 4. Coercion as justification and excuse 1: the Ethica Eudemia; 5. Coercion as justification and excuse 2: the Ethica Nicomachea; 6. Factual error and the source of blame; 7. The pain condition.
Early Syriac Christianity presents two notable paradigms for understanding liturgy as a means for the ethical formation of the congregation. Ephrem the Syrian (d. 373) in his hymns for the Nativity vigil, and Jacob of Sarug (d. 521) in his verse homilies, each addressed their congregations in ways that utilized ritual participation in the liturgy for ethical and moral cultivation. Ephrem sought to instill his congregation with a biblical and theological understanding of the Nativity that would yield ethical enactment in (...) the world. Jacob worked to use the experience of liturgical participation to mold the Christian’s moral disposition. For both, God’s salvation enabled the healing of the human condition in its various dimensions: physical, social, ecclesial. Liturgy as disciplined ritual activity provided the tools by which their congregations could learn, experience, and enact that healing. (shrink)
I review Gabriel Richardson Lear's excellent essay on Aristotle’s conception of the human good. She solves some long-standing problems in the interpretation of Aristotle’s ethics by drawing on resources in his natural philosophy and Plato’s conception of love. Her interpretation is a compelling and, to my mind, largely true account of Aristotle’s view. In this review, I summarize the book's main argument and then explain two fundamental points on which I have concerns.
This book reconstructs in detail the older Stoic theory of the psychology of action, discussing it in relation to Aristotelian, Epicurean, Platonic, and some of the more influential modern theories. Important Greek terms are transliterated and explained; no knowledge of Greek is required.