Situationist social psychologists tell us that information about people’s distinctive character traits, opinions, attitudes, values, or past behavior is not as useful for determining what they will do as is information about the details of their situations.1 One would expect, they say, that the possessor of a given character trait (such as helpfulness) would behave consistently (helpfully) across situations that are similar in calling for the relevant (helping) behavior, but under experimental conditions, people’s behavior is not found to be cross-situationally (...) consistent (the likelihood that a person who has behaved helpfully on one occasion will behave helpfully on the next is hardly above chance).2 Instead, across a range of situations, the person’s behavior tends to converge on the behavioral norm for those situations. So situationists reason that people’s situations, rather than their characters, are the explanatorily powerful factors in determining why different people behave differently. They add that if behavior does not covary with character traits, then ordinary people, “folk psychologists” who try to explain and predict.. (shrink)
Rachana Kamtekar offers a new understanding of Plato's account of the soul and its impact on our living well or badly, virtuously or viciously. She argues that throughout the dialogues Plato maintains that human beings have a natural desire for our own good, and that actions and conditions contrary to this desire are involuntary.
Plato's Republic has proven to be of astounding influence and importance. Justly celebrated as Plato's central text, it brings together all of his prior works, unifying them into a comprehensive vision that is at once theological, philosophical, political, and moral. These essays provide a a state-of-the-art research picture of the most interesting aspects of the Republic, and address questions that continue to puzzle and provoke, such as: Does Plato succeed in his argument that the life of justice is the most (...) attractive one? Is his tripartite analysis of the soul coherent and plausible? Why does Plato seem to have to force his philosopher-guardians to rule when they know this is something they ought to do? What is the point of the strange and complicated closing Myth of Er? This volume will be essential to those looking for thoughtful and detailed excursions into the problems posed by Plato's text and ideas. (shrink)
Plato’s Socrates famously claims that we want (bou9lesqai) the good, rather than what we think good (Gorgias 468bd). My paper seeks to answer some basic questions about this well-known but little-understood claim: what does the claim mean, and what is its philosophical motivation and significance? How does the claim relate to Socrates’ claim that we desire (e7piqumei=n)1 things that we think are good, which..
James Warren, Facing Death, Epicurus and his Critics. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2004. Pp. viii, 240. ISBN 0-19-925289-0. $45.00. Reviewed by Thornton Lockwood, Sacred Heart University Word count: 2152 words ------------------------------- To modern ears, the word Epicurean indicates an interest in fine dining. But at least throughout the early modern period up until the 19th century, Epicureanism was known less for its relation to food preparation and more so, if not scandalously so, for its doctrine about the annihilation of the human (...) soul at death, its denial of human immortality, and its attempt to justify the claim that death should not be feared since "Death is nothing to us". Epicureans -- like many ancient schools of thought -- sought to establish an objective "morality of happiness" or rational teaching about right conduct which allowed its practitioners to arrive at a kind of well-being. Epicureans identified such well-being or happiness with "freedom from disturbance" taraci/a ), and insofar as the fear of death undermined such contentedness in life, they presented arguments against the claim that death was a bad thing. Put more concisely, Epicureans believe that, "if we think about death correctly, we think about living a good life correctly, and vice versa". But whereas other ancient thinkers -- most famously Socrates and his students -- had sought to cure the fear of death by positing an immortal soul which philosophy was to prepare for life after the death of one's body, Epicureans took the opposite route and argued that in part it was the longing for an impossible immortality that contributed to the fearfulness of death. JW has done both classicists and philosophers the service of presenting a detailed analysis of the philosophical arguments which Epicureanism -- as found principally in the sayings and correspondence of Epicurus, Lucretius' De Rerum Natura, and Philodemus' De Morte -- presented about facing death. As the book's title accurately reflects, the presentation of the arguments is organized in large part as a response to the criticisms which both ancient and modern thinkers such as Cicero, Thomas Nagel and Bernard Williams have made against the Epicurean belief about death. JW is principally concerned with the accurate presentation and fair evaluation of philosophical arguments. Much of his analysis will appeal to philosophers interested in the problem of death or the cogency of ancient ethical thought, but, as he also notes, questions about death and how to live a good life are hardly the problem only of philosophical specialists. "If any questions are worth pursuing, these are". Insofar as JW's task requires careful scrutiny of ancient texts, he also sheds light on the proper understanding of difficult Epicurean texts, especially in those cases where different passages from different Epicurean authors appear to be in tension.[] For the aid of philosophers coming to Epicurus without the skills of classicists, JW translates all Greek and Latin texts into English; at the same time, all translations are accompanied by the passage in its original language. The citations and corresponding bibliography are extensive, covering not only the relevant works of contemporary philosophers such as Nagel, Williams, Feldman, and Parfit, but also the philological works of classicists writing on Epicureanism in English, French, Italian, and German. The volume concludes with a helpful index locorum. The Epicurean belief that "death is nothing to us" is meant to correct the mistaken beliefs which people have that generate a fear of death. But as JW acutely notes, precisely what is fearful about death is ambiguous. On his analysis, it could include at least four analytically distinct fears: 1) the fear of being dead ; 2) the fear that one will die ; 3) the fear of premature death ; and 4) the fear of the process of dying. JW claims that "there is no single Epicurean 'argument against death'. Rather, they had an armoury of arguments which could be deployed against the various different kinds of fear of death". Thus, JW organizes his book into chapters which consider the "armoury"of arguments made against each of these four fears. After an initial introductory chapter which analytically distinguishes the different fears of death, JW next devotes chapters to: the argument that, since humans are without perception of death and the process of death, neither should be feared ; the "symmetry argument" which seeks to prove that apprehension about the coming end of life is as irrational as apprehension that one's life did not begin earlier ; and the Epicurean analysis of what constitutes "completeness" in life. In these first four chapters, JW lays out all the arguments which the Epicurean makes against each of the four fears, considers counterarguments which have been made by ancient and modern authors, and then evaluates the overall strengths and weaknesses of each argument. A fifth chapter considers a slightly different argument, namely one which alleges that either the historical fact that Epicurus wrote a will or the Epicurean attitude towards suicide generate inconsistencies between Epicurean theories and actual Epicurean practice. Finally, a sixth chapter summarizes and evaluates as a whole the Epicurean project to rid humans of their fear of death. Although all of JW's analyses are thorough and detailed, let me focus upon his evaluation of some of the more central -- and more difficult to justify -- claims which Epicureans make to give a sense of JW's argumentation. With respect to the fear of being dead or not existing, Epicureans claim that since the atoms which make up a person dissipate upon death, then there is no person who could perceive any postmortem harm, and thus there is nothing to fear about death itself. Philosophers like Thomas Nagel have raised against this argument examples which appear to justify the belief that postmortem non-perceived harms are something in fact that should be feared.[] For instance, there seems to be something fearful about the death of an individual who does not get the chance to see his or her children grow up, but such a scenario seems to be an example of something which "harms" that individual even though the individual is dead and incapable of feeling or perceiving anything. The case is related to the problem of dying before one's life is "complete," but a merit of JW's analyses of the different fears of death is that it shows that the Epicurean has two distinct arguments against the claim that such a scenario is fearful, one of which concerns the question of fearing something which happens after one's death, the other which concerns the question of fearing that one's life ends before it is complete. With respect to the first question, JW suggests that the source behind our intuition that premature death could be an unperceived harm is a "comparative" evaluation with a non-tragic death. For instance, it is not implausible to say that a child raised in a less developed country has been "harmed" in comparison to a child growing up in a country with adequate access to schooling and health care.[] Even if the child raised in the less developed country never perceives the harm, in comparison to the life she or he might have lived elsewhere such lowered access to resources seems to be a "harm". But, although the case of children being raised with different levels of access to resources may have a place within the question of global justice, the case of such "unperceived" comparative posthumous harms fails as a counter argument to the Epicurean position. In the original example, it was thought that dying before seeing one's children grow up is an unperceived harm because we know of other individuals who have had that opportunity, and comparatively the former individual seems to be "harmed." One of the main problems with such a counter argument, according to JW, is that it ends up proving too much. Since one could imagine for almost every death a comparative case which was better, the counter argument makes almost every conceivable death a "harm" to the individual who died. In JW's words, "given the thought that death may rob us of goods we would have experience were we to die later, it is difficult to resist the thought that any death will fit this description". But the force of the counter argument is supposed to seize upon the case of a "tragic death" where someone is prematurely struck down before life is complete. If all deaths are tragic, none is. If the claim that death is to be feared because of unperceived harms in the case of comparative loss is unpersuasive, what about the claim that death is to be feared instead because it sometimes strikes before one has arrived at completeness or fullness in life? Solon famously claimed that we must "look to the end" and call no man happy until his life is complete; Aristotle picks up on Solon's remarks in part because eudaemonists have traditionally placed special emphasis on "completeness" as a criterion of a life well-lived. Should not all fear death because death can strike prematurely, before one has reached the various goals and stages of a life well-lived? JW persuasively argues that Epicureans were concerned with addressing the fear of premature death but that they countered such a fear on the basis of their understanding of completeness and pleasure. A complete life is a good life, but for the Epicureans, the good is pleasure and the highest pl. (shrink)
Contrary to the Aristotelian interpretation of Empedocles' views about cognition, according to which all cognition, like perception, is due to the compositional likeness between subject and object of cognition, this paper argues that when Empedocles says that we know one thing 'by' another (e.g. earth by earth or love by love), he is characterizing analogical reasoning, an intellectual activity quite different from perception (which is explained by the fit between effluences and pores). The paper also explores the idea that strife (...) and love describe, in addition to physical separation and composition, the mental activities of analyzing and composing. (shrink)
The article resonates Plato's ideas on education and art. In the Apology, Socrates describes his life's mission of practicing philosophy as aimed at getting the Athenians to care for virtue; in the Gorgias, Plato claims that happiness depends entirely on education and justice; in the Protagoras and the Meno, he puzzles about whether virtue is teachable or how else it might be acquired; in the Phaedrus, he explains that teaching and persuading require knowledge of the soul and its powers, which (...) requires knowledge of what objects the soul may act on and be acted on by which, in turn, requires knowledge of nature. The article also looks at musical and gymnastic education's effects on the soul using images from metallurgy and dyeing wool, saying that prerational souls are “most malleable and take on any pattern one wishes to impress on them.”. (shrink)
There is a mystery right at the heart of Plato ’s famous doctrine of the three parts of the soul, as this doctrine is presented in the Republic, Phaedrus and Timaeus: just what is a soul ‘part’? Republic IV tells us a way to distinguish soul parts, namely by the Principle of Opposites : since ‘the same thing will not do or undergo opposites in the same respect, in relation to the same thing, at the same time’, whenever we find (...) a thing that does or undergoes opposites in the same respect, in relation to the same thing, at the same time, we must partition it in such a way that each of the parts does or undergoes only one of the opposites in question. But this raises more questions than it answers: are these parts themselves simple? is the Principle of Opposites the only way to determine parts? what is there to being a soul-part other than being distinguished by the Principle of Opposites —is it to desire and pursue one of the characteristic pleasures identified at Republic 580d-81c, namely, the pleasures of truth for the reasoning part of the soul, of honour and victory for the spirited part, and of food-sex-drink, and as a means to these, money, for the appetitive part? (shrink)
Plato's Euthyrphro, Apology, andCrito portray Socrates' words and deeds during his trial for disbelieving in the Gods of Athens and corrupting the Athenian youth, and constitute a defense of the man Socrates and of his way of life, the philosophic life. The twelve essays in the volume, written by leading classical philosophers, investigate various aspects of these works of Plato, including the significance of Plato's characters, Socrates's revolutionary religious ideas, and the relationship between historical events and Plato's texts.
Readers of Sex and Social Justice will find in its essays fresh insights and powerful arguments on such varied topics as pornography, prostitution, gay rights, the tensions between feminist imperatives and respect for cultural and religious differences, the importance to feminism of considering how desires adjust to socially formed expectations, the relationship between narrative, mercy and justice, Kenneth Dover’s memoirs, and Richard Posner’s economic and evolutionary account of sexual behaviour. In her discussions of these highly charged topics, Nussbaum never gives (...) in to the temptation of uncomprehending moral condemnation, but instead approaches the issues with an enviable command of the facts, a sympathetic understanding, and a will to uncover and reason through the best arguments on all sides. Women and Human Development: The Capabilities Approach is an ambitious work of political philosophy that aims to guide constitutional design and social policy. Its four chapters present the capabilities approach in detail, argue for its universal status, and apply it to issues in religion and the family. (shrink)
From Socrates’ claim in the Apology that a good person cannot be harmed to Plato’s characterizations of virtue as godlikeness in later dialogues like the Theaetetus and Timaeus, Platonic virtue seems to be an ideal of invulnerability. One might conclude that Plato would not count as virtues some of the qualities of character that we count as virtues, such as a compassionate disposition or disposition to pity, insofar as such qualities require their possessor to be vulnerable in ways that the (...) gods are not, or insofar as Platonic justice excludes compassion. I argue that while compassion is indeed not a virtue for Plato, the reason is neither that pity is incompatible with godlikeness, for Plato’s gods do pity human beings, nor that justice rules out compassion, for Platonic justice includes pity for the wrongdoer. (shrink)
rally best suited’. One would ordinarily suppose social justice to concern not only the allocation of duties but also the distribution of benefits. I argue that this expectation is fulfilled not by Plato’s conception of social justice, but by the normative basis for it, Plato’s requirement of aiming at the happiness of all the citizens. I argue that Plato treats social justice as a necessary but not sufficient means to happiness that guarantees only the production of the greatest goods; ensuring (...) that these goods are distributed so as to maximize the happiness of the whole city.. (shrink)
Why did Plato conceive of the ideal community as a friendship? To answer this question, my dissertation begins by locating Plato's view of the role of friendship in politics within the context of contemporary Athenian ideological uses of the notion of friendship. With this background, it presents an interpretation of civic friendship in the Republic as an objectively specifiable relationship of mutual benefit and recognition. Against the view that Plato introduces the idea of friendship to provide virtuous people with a (...) motivation for acting altruistically, I argue that friendship, like other rational pursuits, must bring about the agent's own benefit. Plato uses the idea that rational people will desire beneficial friendships to motivate their self-improvement in virtue and wisdom. Thus wisdom, the knowledge of how to benefit others, be benefited oneself, and recognize it--rather than altruism--is the basis of friendship. However, because Plato claims a city-wide friendship for his ideal community, it is necessary to examine how people who are not wise can participate in civic friendship: how they can be benefited, so as to justify the city's claim to be a friendship, and how they can recognize these benefits, so as to be motivated to cooperate in the city's arrangements. The dissertation shows how one group of people who lack wisdom, the auxiliaries in the ideal city, can be truly benefited and recognize their benefit as such, and discusses tensions in Plato's account of recognized benefit to another group, the producers. (shrink)
This special volume of Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy presents sixteen specially written essays on virtue and happiness, and the treatment of these topics by thinkers from the fifth century BC to the third century AD. It is published in honour of Julia Annas--one of the leading scholars in the field.
Barbara Koziak’s wide-ranging Retrieving Political Emotion: Thumos, Aristotle, and Gender criticizes political theory for sidelining emotion and develops an account of political emotion based on Aristotle’s treatment of thumos. Koziak hopes her project will be of particular interest to feminist political theorists—both women and emotion having been badly served by history and often on the basis of a supposed link between being female and being emotional. For, contrary to the scholarly opinion that thumos is the particular trait of spiritedness, Koziak (...) argues that in Aristotle, it is the capacity for emotion in general which, in Aristotle’s psychology, is responsive to reason. What are the consequences of this conception of emotion for politics? Aristotle directs us to educate, rather than ignore or repress, the emotions—not only the aggressive emotions already cultivated by institutions such as the military or the disagreeable emotions of “managed despair, imaginative fear, bourgeois anger, and sexual dread” employed in welfare reform rhetoric, but also pity, sympathy, generosity, and friendship. We may also follow Aristotle in evaluating social arrangements in terms of the emotions they support or hinder: for example, Aristotle argues for private property on the grounds that one needs to have something of one’s own to give away in order to practice generosity, and, as a moral virtue, generosity has a necessary emotional content ; again, he argues against big economic disparities because they create “unfortunate emotions, specifically the emotions of arrogance, malice, envy, and contempt”. An Aristotelian conception of emotion also helps us to acknowledge the emotional “labor”, usually performed by women, which holds society together. Finally, the insights of care feminism can be incorporated into and justified by an Aristotelian framework. Although Koziak’s work opens up many avenues for discussion, I will here concentrate on three: the complaints about political theory’s marginalization of emotion that motivate her book, her interpretation of thumos in Plato, and her appropriation of an Aristotelian conception of the emotions for contemporary purposes. (shrink)