Die ethischen Herausforderungen der Gegenwart haben die Grenzen der gegenwärtig dominierenden Regel- und Prinzipienethik gezeigt, weshalb Ansätze zu einer Ethik der Tugenden und des guten Lebens international wieder an Bedeutung gewonnen haben. Dadurch erlebt auch die Frage eine Renaissance, welche Rolle der Reflexion auf die menschliche Natur für die Ethik zukommt. Der Band vereinigt unter diesen Themenstellungen philosophiehistorische Untersuchungen namhafter amerikanischer, britischer und deutscher Forscher zur antiken und mittelalterlichen Tugend- und Glücksethik mit Beiträgen zur zeitgenössischen Ethikdebatte.
This essay on “The Status of Health in Plato’s Theory of Goods” discusses how health figures as a “good” in the framework of Plato’s general theory of human goods. It starts with meta-ethical distinctions regarding how things can be classified as “good,” including the conceptual distinctions between intrinsic, final, and constitutive goods. I then discuss passages in Plato that shed light on the function of health as an “instrumental good” that contributes to an undisturbed mode of existence free to pursue (...) truly valuable goals. Against Stoicising interpretations, I show that Plato maintains that health, as an instrumental good, makes a difference with respect to the quality of a virtuous person’s life. I then turn to the famous classification of goods introduced at the beginning of Republic II. The main concern there is the controversial status of justice as a good, but the division also mentions health as a good worthy to be pursued in its own right and not just on account of its causal consequences. Since this classification and how it is used create serious problems for the interpretation, I first try to work out a solution, focusing on the status of justice as an intrinsic, final and constitutive good. In my concluding segment, I then explain on what basis Plato can classify health as not only an instrumental, but also a (weak) constitutive good. This requires a discussion of how Plato views the relation of the body to the human ‘self.’ My answer credits him with a more differentiated understanding of this relation than is usually assumed. (shrink)
Plato’s Lysis shows Socrates in conversation with two boys he has met at a wrestling school, Lysis and Menexenus. Their debate revolves around the notion of philia, seeking to pin down the nature of this relation, who or what takes part in it, and what causes it. The word philiahas usually been translated as “friendship” but has a wider application in this dialogue, as it encompasses a variety of friendly and loving attitudes toward both people and things. The kinds of (...) interpersonal philia evoked include erotic attachments, kinship relations, utility-based relations, and playful companionship. Roughly two-thirds into the dialogue, the focus turns to a more general theory of desiderative attachments and the question of their ultimate telos and cause. The conversation ends, at least on the face of it, in an impasse, an aporia, when the interlocutors find themselves thrown back to the point from where they started, and no attempt to answer the question of what philia is or what motivates it has stuck. The Lysis nevertheless offers many incentives for further discussion and has elicited radically different responses from its interpreters as to what its real message is. For instance, does it promote a form of utilitarian egoism according to which human attachment can never, or should never, be altruistically motivated? Or does it hint at a very different concept of interpersonal love based on the idea that friendship, as it were, completes us since it connects us with those that share the same values? Does this dialogue stay within the familiar ambit of Socratic ethics, centered around the question of what it takes to achieve happiness (eudaimonia) in a human life, without a concern for metaphysical questions? Or, quite the contrary, does its discussion of the highest object of love (to proton philon) point forward to the metaphysical program of Plato’s so-called middle-period dialogues and especially to the notions of the form of the good or the form of the beautiful, notions which are at the center of the Republic and the Symposium? These questions and others will continue to be debated about this puzzling dialogue. The essays assembled in the present volume address many of these topics. (shrink)
The Philebus describes the “good” that enables human eudaimonia as a “mixture” in which cognitive states have to be combined with certain types of pleasure. This essay investigates how the various senses of falsehood that Plato distinguishes are applied to the question of the hedonic “ingredients” of the good. It argues that his theory allows for the inclusion of certain virtuous pleasures that are deficient with respect to truth: either qua “mixed pleasures” lacking in truth on account of the compresence (...) of their opposite, pain, or because they are based on mistaken anticipations arising in the pursuit of virtuous and reasonable goals. (shrink)
This essay addresses the role of aporetic thinking and aporetic dialogue in the early “Socratic” dialogues of Plato. It aims to provide a new angle on why and how puzzlement induced by Socrates should benefit his interlocutors but often fails to do so. After discussing criteria for what is to count as an aporetic dialogue, the essay explains how and why Socrates’ aporia-inducing conversations point to a conception of virtue as grounded in a form of self-transparent wisdom. In combination with (...) a knowledge criterion that requires the ability to articulate and successfully defend one’s views under critical examination, this conception of virtue entails that failure under Socratic examination is an indication of not just intellectual but also ethical deficits. I then show (against a still prevailing view among scholars) that at least the grown-ups among Socrates’ interlocutors in these dialogues fail to realize that their aporia is a proof of ignorance. Laches, for instance, thinks that his failure under Socratic examination has been caused by his inexperience with debates, while Meno blames it on Socrates’ alleged trickery. In the Euthydemus, Plato aims to blunt the charge of sophistry by contrasting “sophistic” trickery with Socrates’ philosophical exhortation. Yet, as I argue, the most important difference between sophistic and Socratic examination lies in the underlying ethos, not in the argumentative techniques, as these are partly similar. The final section of the essay analyses the intellectual and ethical benefits of aporia-inducing discourse for those who do fully acknowledge their ignorance and follow the urge to overcome ignorance. (shrink)
This study analyses the theoretical connections between the conception of happiness, the theory of the good, and an ethical-practical conception of human nature in Aristotle's Ethics and his late-Hellenistic followers. The further development of Aristotelian views in the late Hellenistic context is a long-neglected field of research. The Aristotelian view is further developed systematically in the final chapterthrough an exploration of the relationship between prudential and moral rationality.
This essay offers an analysis and interpretation of the rarely commented-on chapter I.12 of the Nicomachean Ethics. Aristotle’s goal in this chapter is to prove that human happiness belongs to the class of prized goods, also characterized as divine goods, whereas virtue ranks lower, being a merely praiseworthy good. It is not easy to see why this chapter is placed at the end of Aristotle’s general discussion of the highest human good in Book I or why he included it at (...) all. My goal is to show that it does make a contribution to the architecture of the Nicomachean Ethics as a whole by helping to prepare the ground for one of the main argumentative strategies in the treatise X.6–8 on scientific contemplation as the key component of supreme happiness. To this end, I analyze each step of the argumentation in I.12, drawing also on relevant material from other Aristotelian texts, and then demonstrate the connection with some of the arguments in X.6–8. (shrink)
Starting from an abstract sketch of scenarios for philosophical reception stimulated by disagreement and school rivalry, part one of this chapter highlights the case of an older, marginalized position that tries to reinsert itself into the debate through radical modernization of its terminology and argumentative strategies and thereby triggers various forms of orthodox response. Part two discusses examples for this scenario extracted from some of the remains of the Peripatetic ethical literature of the late Hellenistic era (Critolaus, Arius Didymus). Challenging (...) the traditional picture of contamination and decline in the development of the Peripatetic school, the chapter demonstrates how the reception of Stoic concepts and strategies by Peripatetic modernizers and the subsequent more orthodox approaches created an intellectually fruitful dynamic exemplifying different styles of reception. (shrink)
In the Lysis, Socrates claims to be looking for an account of what kind of quality in another person or object stimulates friendship or love (philia). He goes through a series of proposals, refuting each in turn. In the end, he throws us back to the point from where the arguments started, declaring an aporetic outcome. What is the purpose of this apparently futile and circular inquiry? Most interpreters try to reconstruct a theory of friendship or love from the arguments (...) of this dialogue. Against such a doctrinal reading, this essay defends an “aporetic reading” of the dialogue and connects it to its protreptic function. Starting with a preliminary discussion of what defines an aporetic dialogue and what distinguishes indirect protreptic from explicit protreptic discourse, the essay then analyzes the aporetic method of the Lysis, distinguishing it from aporetic discourse in some of his earlier dialogues. Finally, it analyzes how, and for what kind of audience, the Lysisfunctions as an indirect protreptic. This includes a comparison with the protreptic use of aporetic argumentation in the Euthydemus. (shrink)
Die ethischen Herausforderungen der Gegenwart haben die Grenzen der gegenwärtig dominierenden Regel- und Prinzipienethik gezeigt, weshalb Ansätze zu einer Ethik der Tugenden und des guten Lebens international wieder an Bedeutung gewonnen haben. Dadurch erlebt auch die Frage eine Renaissance, welche Rolle der Reflexion auf die menschliche Natur für die Ethik zukommt. Der Band vereint philosophiehistorische Untersuchungen namhafter amerikanischer, britischer und deutscher Forscher zur antiken und mittelalterlichen Tugend- und Glücksethik mit Beiträgen zur zeitgenössischen Ethikdebatte.