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University of Guelph
Political Science
POLS 2000
Scott Brandon

POLS 2000 – Week 8 Lecture – October 24 2013 Aristotle • Born 384 BC 1. Nicomachean Ethics a. Eudaimonia = Happiness = Living Well, human flourishing b. The word happiness may not be accurate but is accepted 2. Politics a. Book 1: Slavery • Defends naturalism o That nature serves as the standard o Takes a teleological approach (that everything that exists in the world is designed by nature to fulfill its natural function  Ex: the eye = purpose = to see well  Main Example Used byAristotle  acorn and the oak tree • The acorn or nature is designed to become an oak tree only, it wont become some other tree • Everything has a function • Nature (Phusis)/Convention (Nomos)  for the ancients it was Phusis that was important What does this have to do with Ethics? Book 1 Nicomachean – Eudaimonia • Wants to work out a proper definition of what happiness is • He says that every art aims at some good • “Good is that at which all things aim” • Starts off by saying there are many arts and thus many ends o If we take the practice of medicine the purpose is to heal, o If something is the means for something else it cant be the highest thing o Is anything in the world good for its own sake, that ppl do something for this thing without another purpose? o Aristotle says that the answer to this is eudaimonia  That the end purpose can be  pleasure, wealth, health, power  He looks at these popular choices at the time, simply because he wants to refute them o Wealth  Money making  Cant be the highest good because money is for the sake of something else, the sake of what you can buy  it is a means of a particular ends such as buying things  Some people can be ruined by their wealth in a number of ways (being killed) o Pleasure  it is a life for beasts, because dogs and stuff find pleasure in things it cant possible the highest thing in life if even beasts can feel it o To Be Honoured  Only taken up by those who are “sophisticated” 1. Is it the highest thing to be honoured in political life? a. No because the person could be hounoured for the wrong reasons in political life b. That the individual who generates respect could be someone who is a celebrity, no great amount of virtue (Lindsey Lohan) 2. Honour depends on the individual who bestows honour on you, then that person could take it away, if they could take it away it cant be that great a thing if it is at the mercy of someone else 3. Honor is the means to virtue, ppl seek honour to convince themselves of their goodness a. They will seek to be honoured by the community only for their goodness  thus being the sake for something else, that it has an end purpose b. Ex: Shoemaker fulfills his her function well then that becomes their virtue, makes good shoes c. What is distinctive about human beings? Logos = speech/reason  ones virtue becomes their purpose d. Ethics is about human beings performing well their distinctive function Virtue is acquired through habit • Doing something over and over until you have that habit or purpose • Virtue he says is a state consisting of a mean, relative to us, defined by reference to Reason. ie, to the reason which the prudent person would define it. o Doctrine of the Mean  when an individual wants to know what the virtuous action is this is how they would determine it.  Example: COURAGE  a virtue is the middle point, a mean, between what is in excess and what is in deficiency  between two extremes. Courage deficiency would be being cowardly, and in excess would be rash/reckless  What does this definition/example mean  a virtue is a state because it is connected with a choice. It involves choosing the midpoint defined by reason meaning that the purpose of the virtue is not based on our emotions or anything else but only our reason.  Purpose of the doctrine is to explain what “right action consists in” or choosing the midpoint of the virtue, to provide us with precise rules of conduct • He also says this about ethics  don’t expect more from ethics to resemble mathematichs or the certainty of it, you will not find in ethics, but does it matter? Should everything be certain or else we disregard it? Aristotle says no that we cannot live if we discarded them, we would not have any guidance • 12 Virtues  they are ones that he could have observed from his community, he is adamant that we are not born virtuous, they are not God given, we do not acquire them through nature, it is ultimately from habituation. • Habits alone don’t speak to the complexities of real life situations where yu are forced to make a choice. Aristotle would say all you can go on is practical reason, that that will give you the right action o Adultery/Murder Awould not say you can do adultery/murder in a right way, but that all of it is wrong, that it does not have any sort of mean or purpose Book 3 – Notion of Responsibility - Aristotle uses strange examples to say that in order to be held accountable for your actions is only if you did them purposely - Mixed actions: when an action is done purposely but for an ulterior reason such as when someone is coerced to rob a bank or have his family killed - Igno
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