In search of good -- A Socratic question -- Flourishing and well-being -- Mind and value -- Utilitarianism -- Rawls and the priority of the right -- Right, wrong, should -- The elimination of moral rightness -- Rules and good -- Categorical imperatives -- Conflicting interests -- Whose good? The egoist's answer -- Whose good? The utilitarian's answer - Self-denial, self-love, universal concern -- Pain, self-love, and altruism -- Agent-neutrality and agent-relativity -- Good, conation, and pleasure -- "Good" and "good (...) for" -- "Good for" and advantage -- "Good that" and "Bad that" -- Pleasure and advantage -- Good for S that P -- The "for" of "good for" -- Plants, animals, humans -- Ross on human nature -- The perspectival reading of "good for" -- The conative approach to well-being -- Abstracting from the content of desires and plans -- The faulty mechanisms of desire formation -- Infants and adults -- The conation of an ideal self -- The appeal of the conative theory -- Conation hybridized -- Strict hedonism -- Hedonism diluted -- Prolegomenon to flourishing -- Development and flourishing: the general theory -- Development and flourishing: the human case -- More examples of what is good -- Appealing to nature -- Sensory un-flourishing -- Affective flourishing and un-flourishing -- Hobbes on tranquility and restlessness -- Flourishing and un-flourishing as a social being -- Cognitive flourishing and un-flourishing -- Sexual flourishing and un-flourishing -- Too much and too little -- Comparing lives and stages of life -- Adding goods: Rawls's principle of inclusiveness -- Art, science, and culture -- Self-sacrifice -- The vanity of fame -- The vanity of wealth -- Making others worse-off -- Virtues and flourishing -- The good of autonomy -- What is good and why -- The sovereignty of good -- The importance of what is good for us -- Good's insufficiency -- Promises -- Retribution -- Cosmic justice -- Social justice -- Pure antipaternalism -- Moral space and giving aid -- Slavery -- Torture -- Moral rightness revisited -- Lying -- Honoring the dead -- Meaningless goals and symbolic value -- Good-independent realms of value -- Good thieves and good human beings -- Final thoughts. (shrink)
Are there things we should value because they are, quite simply, good? Richard Kraut argues that there are not. Goodness, he holds, is not a reason-giving property - in fact, there may be no such thing. It is an illusory and insidious category of practical thought.
This book offers a systematic overview of Aristotle's conception of well-being, virtue and justice in the Nicomachean Ethics, and then explores the major themes of Politics: civic-mindedness, slavery, family, property, the common good, class conflict, the limited wisdom of the multitude, and the radically egalitarian institutions of the ideal society.
When wc compare contemporary moral philosophy with thc wcll-known moral systems of earlier centuries, wc should bc struck by thc fact that a certain assumption about human well being that is now widely taken for granted was universally rcjcctcd in thc past. The contemporary moral climate prcdisposcs us to bc pluralistic about thc human good, whcrcas earlier systems of ethics embraced a conception of wcll being that wc would now call narrow and restrictive. One way to convey thc sort of (...) contrast I have in mind is to note that according to Plato and Aristotle, there is one kind of lifc, that of thc philosopher, that rcprcscnts thc summit of human tlourishing, and all other lives arc worth leading to thc cxtcnt that they approximate this ideal. Certain other ethical theories of thc past were in a way more narrow than this, for whereas Plato and Aristotle maintained that many things are in thcmsclvcs worthwhile, others argued that there is only one intrinsic g00d—plcasurc according to thc Epicurcans, virtue according to thc Stoics. By contrast, it is now widely assumed that all such approaches arc too exclusive, that not only arc there many typcs of intrinsic goods but there is no cnc specific kind of lifc—whcthcr it is that of a philosopher or a poet or anyone clsc—that is thc single human ideal} Even hedonism, a conception of thc good that had a powerful influence in thc modern period, has few contemporary proponents. A consensus has arisen in our time that there is no single ultimate cud that provides thc measure by which thc worth of all other goods must bc assessed. (shrink)
I argue that the many similarities between what aristotle says about "eudaimonia" and what we say about happiness justify the traditional translation of "eudaimonia" as "happiness." it is not widely realized that "eudaimonia" involves a psychological state much like the one we call "happiness." nor is it generally recognized that both "eudaimonia" and "happiness" involve a standard for evaluating lives. For aristotle, The standard is objective and inflexible; for us, It is subjective and flexible. Thus, When we call someone happy (...) and aristotle says he is not "eudaimon", We are not using two different concepts, But rather two different ways of evaluating lives. (shrink)
The ethics of Aristotle , and virtue ethics in general, have enjoyed a resurgence of interest over the past few decades. Aristotelian themes, with such issues as the importance of friendship and emotions in a good life, the role of moral perception in wise choice, the nature of happiness and its constitution, moral education and habituation, are finding an important place in contemporary moral debates. Taken together, the essays in this volume provide a close analysis of central arguments in Aristotle's (...) Nicomachean Ethics and show the enduring interest of the questions Aristotle raises. (shrink)
_The Blackwell Guide to Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics_ illuminates Aristotle’s ethics for both academics and students new to the work, with sixteen newly commissioned essays by distinguished international scholars. The structure of the book mirrors the organization of the Nichomachean Ethics itself. Discusses the human good, the general nature of virtue, the distinctive characteristics of particular virtues, voluntariness, self-control, and pleasure.
Aristotle conceives of ethical theory as a field distinct from the theoretical sciences. Its methodology must match its subject matter—good action—and must respect the fact that in this field many generalizations hold only for the most part. We study ethics in order to improve our lives, and therefore its principal concern is the nature of human well-being. Aristotle follows Socrates and Plato in taking the virtues to be central to a well-lived life. Like Plato, he regards the ethical virtues (justice, (...) courage, temperance and so on) as complex rational, emotional and social skills. But he rejects Plato's idea that a training in the sciences and metaphysics is a necessary prerequisite for a full understanding of our good. What we need, in order to live well, is a proper appreciation of the way in which such goods as friendship, pleasure, virtue, honor and wealth fit together as a whole. In order to apply that general understanding to particular cases, we must acquire, through proper upbringing and habits, the ability to see, on each occasion, which course of action is best supported by reasons. Therefore practical wisdom, as he conceives it, cannot be acquired solely by learning general rules. We must also acquire, through practice, those deliberative, emotional, and social skills that enable us to put our general understanding of well-being into practice in ways that are suitable to each occasion. (shrink)
A large number of prominent philosophers have in recent years advocated the thesis that the modern nation-state should adopt a stance of neutrality toward questions about the nature of the human good. The government, according to this way of thinking, has two proper goals, neither of which require it to make assumptions about what the constituents of a flourishing life are. First, the state must protect people against the invasion of their rights and uphold those principles of justice without which (...) there can be no stable and lasting social order. This goal is accomplished through a guarantee of basic civil liberties and the enforcement of a criminal code that prohibits murder, theft, fraud, and other widely recognized harms. Second, the state should promote the general welfare of the citizens by providing them with or helping them acquire the resources they need in order to lead lives of their own choosing. There are certain all-purpose means that people need in order to accomplish their goals—money, health, opportunities for employment—and it is legitimate for the state to pursue policies that enable citizens to acquire these goods. It may build roads, raise an army, regulate the economy, insure standards of safety, and supervise any other projects that give people the basic wherewithal they need to pursue their own ends. (shrink)
Plato stands as the fount of our philosophical tradition, being the first Western thinker to produce a body of writing that touches upon a wide range of topics still discussed by philosophers today. In a sense he invented philosophy as a distinct subject, for although many of these topics were discussed by his intellectual predecessors and contemporaries, he was the first to bring them together by giving them a unitary treatment. This volume contains fourteen essays discussing Plato's views about knowledge, (...) reality, mathematics, politics, ethics, love, poetry, and religion. There are also analyses of the intellectual and social background of his thought, the development of his philosophy throughout his career, the range of alternative approaches to his work, and the stylometry of his writing. (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.
This fresh outlook on Socrates' political philosophy in Plato's early dialogues argues that it is both more subtle and less authoritarian than has been supposed. Focusing on the Crito, Richard Kraut shows that Plato explains Socrates' refusal to escape from jail and his acceptance of the death penalty as arising not from a philosophy that requires blind obedience to every legal command but from a highly balanced compromise between the state and the citizen. In addition, Professor Kraut contends that our (...) contemporary notions of civil disobedience and generalization arguments are not present in this dialogue. (shrink)
Bringing between two covers the most influential and accessible articles on Plato's Republic, this collection illuminates what is widely held to be the most important work of Western philosophy and political theory. It will be valuable not only to philosophers, but to political theorists, historians, classicists, literary scholars, and interested general readers.
Aristotle's doctrine that human beings are political animals is, in part, an empirical thesis, and posits an inclination to enter into cooperative relationships, even apart from the instrumental benefits of doing so. Aristotle's insight is that human cooperation rests on a non-rational propensity to trust even strangers, when conditions are favorable. Turning to broader questions about the role of nature in human development, I situate Aristotle's attitude towards our natural propensities between two extremes: he rejects both the view that we (...) must bow to whatever nature dictates, and also the view that nature is generally or always to be suppressed or overcome. This middle position requires that Aristotle hold nature and goodness apart, so that the latter can serve as a standard for evaluating the former. He holds that nature does not treat all human beings alike: just as some are handicapped in their development by a deficiency in their natural abilities or propensities, others are extraordinarily fortunate and have so powerful a disposition to act well that they easily acquire good habits and skills of practical reasoning. Further, he recognizes that sociable inclinations and natural virtues have to compete in the human soul with other natural forces that make ethical life extraordinarily difficult. That is why things so often go so badly for us: we need not only to subdue the external environment, but to overcome certain inner natural obstacles as well. Even so, for Aristotle ethical life is not generally alienated from nature, as it is for other philosophers. Footnotesa I am grateful to David Keyt and Fred Miller, and to the other contributors to this volume, for their helpful comments on the previous draft of this paper. (shrink)
My aim is to show how Aristotle's theory of friendship supports his thesis that happiness requires virtuous activity. Ethical behavior is valuable, according to the Nicomachean Ethics, not solely because it uses reason, but also because it is the expression of a loving attitude towards other persons. By emphasizing this aspect of virtuous activity, I defend Aristotle against the charge that his high estimation for pure intellectual activity commits him to an unethical doctrine. I also argue that his theory of (...) love helps explain why he considers the political life second only to the philosophical life. (shrink)
In Welfare, Happiness, and Ethics, L. W. Sumner argues that theories of well-being must not pick out some kinds of human lives as richer in prudential valuethan others. I argue that we should reject this methodological stricture, but should embrace his insight that many kinds of lives are good for people to live. I also reject his claim that a theory of well-being would fail if it took the form of a list of things that are good for us. Nonetheless, (...) I argue, if we construct such a list in a way that caters to the diversity of good human lives, we will be led to the conclusion that they are united by their relationship to the flourishing of our natural capacities. I distinguish between bottom-up and top-down strategies for defending this Aristotelian conception of well-being, and argue in favor of a bottom-up approach. (shrink)