Raphael, The School of Athens, 1509. Detail of Plato and Aristotle. What we are seeing is
a debate between student and teacher.
The gesture represented by Plato pointing upwards because he is known as the author of
the “Theory of Forms”.
o Work of philosophy is to discover those.
General themes= what you would consider being the soul would be corrupted by the
embodiment (rational part of the soul). Rational part needs to out rule the other parts of
In general, Plato describes justice as: Everyone performs their own rule and if they all do,
that will contribute to the well being of the city. Three parts: WORKING CLASS class of
craftsman, (people that do things) guardians (split into two), Idea of justice is that of
harmony, measure or ratio. Greek term=logos Danger to the city is that it is not organized
Committing injustice is fun, having it done to you is not.
It is worse to suffer, it is self interest that governs this.
o Origin of justice is just done out of sense of gain.
Republic, Book II
Plato / Socrates wants to combat a common view of justice: that “the best is to do
injustice without paying the penalty; the worst is to suffer it without being able to take
That if possible, a person would act unjustly if he knew that he would not be caught.
Ring of Gyges
Glaucon tells the story of the ring of Gyges to demonstrate this point:
It is human to have the “desire to outdo others” for one’s own gain.
“Nature is forced by law into the perversion of treating fairness with respect.” (359c) Justice is just the interest of the self/benefits/rewards/costs. Only do good, so that you as
a person can feel better due to the fact that you are rewarded.
The origin of Law and Justice (PLATO DOES NOT AGREE)
To do injustice is good, but to suffer injustice is bad.
In fact, to suffer unjustice is worse than the benefits of doing injustice.
Thus law begins when people agree to “neither do injustice nor suffer it”(359A)
Thus justice is a mean or a middle ground, between these two extremes.
*What is Plato’s main idea in regards to justice?*Be careful on this question Plato looks at a
common accountive justice that he wants to reject, this view is offensive to him in a lot of
different ways. (we only know what he doesn’t agree upon)
Plato seeks to define justice as measure, ratio or harmony.
Socrates argues that the aim of the rulers should be to establish that “no citizen should
what belongs to another or be deprived of what is his own.”
He was previously established that each member of the city must practice the occupation
for which he (or she) is best suited. In Plato’s city there are
o Those who are producers and who are occupied by crafts (or better skills) such as
shoemaking or farming
o Those who watch over the city(guardians), who are divided between the
auxiliaries or soldiers and the rulers
From these two premises, it follows that justice would each person practicing
Plato seeks to establish that the city and the soul have the same tripartite division (435e)
Class in the city Function
Producers Money making, working
Auxiliaires Keeping order
Ruler/philosopher/ king Deliberation, contemplation. At one point Plato talks about artists and how they have no special belonging(actions of rulers,
Like the city, each part of the soul will only do one thing(436b)
First, Socrates establishes that there are appetites such as hunger, thirst, etc, (437c)
But since each part of the soul can do only one thing, Socrates argues that the soul cannot
just be appetitive, for sometimes despite thirst or hunger, we decide not to eat or drink
(439). Instead, we make a decision about indulging through rational calculation, which
shows that we also have a rational part of the soul (439d)
This leads to a question about the spirited soul (affect/emotion)
The first suggestion is that the spirit is part of the appertite. However, Socrates argues
that spirit reproaches the appetites:
“When appetite forces someone contrary to rational calculation, he reproaches himself
and gets angry with that in him that’s doing the forcing (Basically gets mad at the
appetites) so that of the two functions that are fighting a civil war, so to speak, spirit
allies itself with reason.” (440b-c)
Part of the soul Class in the city Function
Appetite Producers Money making
Spirited Auxiliaries Keeping order
Rationality Rulers/philosopher king Delibertaion and
Keeping them in order will establish harmony in both the individual and the city (441d)
This is justice. Moderation is to the individual what justice is to the city.
The city is just because each part is doing its own work and so would the individual.
Spirit used correctly is courage(442ff) reason used correctly is wisdom and moderation
balances between the appetite, reason and spirit.
The appetite is dominated by insatiable desire (which, of course, isn’t a virtue at all) The spirits virtue, like that of the auxiliary is courage.
The rational part’s virtue, like that of the philosopher king, is wisdom.
Justice: is harmony between the parts, with each doing what is its own.(443d)
Injustice: “must be a kind of civil war between the three parts, a meddling and doing of
another’s work, a rebellion by some part against the whole soul in order to rule it
Parts of Parts of the Functions/purposes Virtues
the soul city
Appetite Workers Making money Desire
Spirited Warriors/ Keeping order Courage
Rationality Philosopher/ Deliberation/contemplation/ruling Wisdom
King(s) the city to make it just
This is justice in a city, which is moderation to the soul
Plato gives an argument that the good life is one in which a person cultivates his or her
use of “divine reason.”
This is because divine reason allows for the contemplation of divine things and the order
or harmony of the cosmos.
People were frustrated that Plato thought that men and woman could do the same thing
He provides another myth/anology stating that we could consider the human being as
having three parts. One is a “multiform” beast having many parts (multiple heads, some
gentle, some vicious), the other a “noble lion” the other a human being.
Note the equivalence with the parts of the soul in Book IV: the appetite=beast,
lion=spirited part, human being= reason The unjust person
According to Socrates, the unjust person behaves in a way that is like (588e-589a):
First , feeding the savage parts of the multiform besast and the lion
Second, starving the hyman being
Third letting the parts bite, harm and kill each other
The just person
First insures that word and deed maximize the control of the human part(589a)
Second, feeds and domesticates the multi-headed beast, ensuring the growth of the gentle
heads rather than the savage ones (589b)
Third, makes the lion his ally, to care for the other parts(589b)
o Now, this isn’t just an argument for cultivating the good life of “divine reason”.
o Plato also provides a proof for keeping manual workers and other from ruling
o That is: to be ruled is not unjust
First, the best part(reason)of the manual worker is weak, meaning that the worker is ruled
by the multiform beast. (590c)
It is best to be ruled by divine reason.
If a person is not ruled by divine reason, it is best for that person to be ruled by a person
who is ruled by divine reason (590d).
Thus the philosopher king ought to rule.
When reading Aristotle, keep in mind for the 1 Supreme Good. LAST PARA ON PG
23**(spend some time puzzling out what that proof is about... (end up either on a test or final
When reading, you’ll note that the book is broken up to a regular translation book, it’s advisable
to take notes section by section.
Three kinds of lives, different kinds of goods, 2 methods.
Aristotle was a student of Plato, and teacher of Alexander the Great. Founded a school called the Lyceum, and it was also referred to as the peripatetic school
(refers to walking around).
Wrote dialogues, but now are all currently lost. All we have left are contemporaries
talking about how lovely he is.
1.1 The highest good
The purpose of the Nicomachean Ethics is to discover the supreme good. He is going to
conclude that the supreme Good is happiness in conformity with virtue.
Every art, investigation or practice aims at some Good, and the purpose of the Ethics is to
discover the supreme Good at which all things aim.
That is, the Good is some kind of goal. There are many different pursuits toward some
kind of good; for example, the good and goal of medicine is health.
Goals can also be organized hierarchically, that is some goals subordinate to others, and
those to something else, until they are subordinated to a supreme good.
So, a person does homework to get good grades, because good grades get the person into
grad school, and grad school will allow her to get a Ph.D., and so on.
Aristotle offers another proof for the existence of the Supreme Good. He uses infinite
regress argument to show how the position that there is not a supreme good is absurd
o First he hypothesizes that all aims lead to a supreme good. How?
o Let’s assume that this isn’t true. Then, every action attempts to accomplish a good
and then a further good, without end.
o If this assumption is true, then desire would be “empty and futile”.(23)
o That is absurd; therefore, there must indeed be a supreme good.
1.2 Political Science
Political science is the “ruling” science. Though Aristotle is thinking more of what we
mean by philosophy.
It prescribes what ought to be studied
Honoured capacities, generalship, household management, rhetoric- are subordinate to
It legislates what is to be done and what is to be avoided.
It aims for the good of the city (24). 1.3 Method
This chapter warns against expecting to high of degree of exactitude in political science,
because it discusses generalities.
Aristotle argues that a youth is not a suitable student of politics, as he “lacks experience
of the actions in life with political science argues from and about” (25)
In addition, youths are guided by feelings, while study should be guided by reason:
“if... we are guided by reason in forming our desires and in acting, then this knowledge
will be of great benefit” (25)
1.4 Common beliefs are inadequate
Most people agree that happiness is the highest good, but they do not agree on what
He examines the “three most favoured lives” (26).
The life of gratification: the many view happiness as pleasure and gratification.
The life of honour: cultivated people in politics view happiness as honour. Honour
depends on the fact that other people honour a person of honour, so that it is easy to take
away, when the good should be something that is “hard to take from us” (27)
In addition, virtue at the outset seems problematic. It seems to be something that
somebody can possess while asleep and bad things happen to virtuous people.
There is the life of study or contemplation which is the highest form of life.
Finally, he mentions one more form of life, that one doesn’t choose for itself: the life of
money-making only aims for money because money is useful to acquire other things, so
it isn’t really a supreme good.
1.5 Characteristics of the Good
“Happiness more than anything else seems unconditionally complete, since we always
choose it because of itself, never because of something else” (28).
He notes that happiness being the final and self- sufficient end appears as truism (self
evident truth) However, he still thinks that this must be clarified
The highest good can be identified if we know the function or purpose of a human being
(or what is unique to a human being). (29)
The highest form is going to be the active exercise of the rational faculty. The mere act of living appears to be shared even by plants, whereas we are looking for
the function peculiar to man; we must therefore set aside the vital activity of nutrition and
Next in the scale will come some form of sentient life; but this too appears to be shared
by horses, oxenm and animals generally.
There remains therefore what may be called the practical life of the rational part of man.
(this part has two divisions, one rational as obedient to principles, the other as possessing
principle and exercising intelligence.”
We can organize goods according to their importance: external goods (which happiness
seems tto require as instrunments) goods of the body, and goods of the soul. The question
is how do we talk of a good of the soul?
There is a big difference whether the Good is conceived as a disposition or an action. A
person can possess a disposition without doing anything with it. So a virtuous person can
be virtuous and be asleep; the the virtue is useless (analogy with the Olympics). So virtue
must be realized in action: activity in conformity with virtue.
Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics, Book II
1. Life of honour: honour isn’t, it’s given by others.
2. Life of gratification: pleasure is comparable to animals. Sex and food.
3. Life of money making: money is only a mean. You never reach a goal by just saving
Three lives you wouldn’t want to have, they do not lead to virtue.
What he does want to look for is being able to explain activity in conformity with virtue.
2.1 Acquiring virtue of Character
o For Aristotle, there are two kinds of virtues. o Virtues of thought or intellectual virtues. These are the product of teaching.
o Virtues of Character or moral virtues. These are produced through habit (ethos).
This chapter aims to establish that moral virtues are produced through habit and are
not natural properties.
o First, this argument is supported by the fact that no natural property can be altered
by habit. (Put aside the Aristotelian science for a moment).
o Thus because it is nature of a stone to fall, no matter how many times you throw it
in the air, you cannot train it not to fall, just fire cannot be trained to move
o Additionally, Aristotle also distinguishes between the potential (capacity) and the
o Potential is the capacity to do something, but it is not yet realized the actual is the
realization in activity. Natural faculties are first given to us as potential: that is we
have the capacity to see before seeing, we do not acquire sight by first seeing.
o Habit is first actual; that is, virtue is only acquired through activity or practice.
o Virtues are destroyed by deficiency and excess, just like strength and health or
courage. A deficiency of courage is cowardice; the excess of courgage is rashness
o Thus virtue is a mean between two extremes.
o Courage= virtue Cowardice= deficiency Rashness= excess
Aristotle suggests that there is a similarity between the arts/crafts and virtue, as the both involve
activity. The principle difference is that with a craft, we can evaluate the result by evaluating the
object, whereas we need different criteria for virtuous action. EX) building a house.
Three rules (criteria) to help us determine if someone is acting virtuously...
1. Know what a virtuous action is
2. Decision, action is done for its own sake.
3. Cannot waiver
An agent can fulfill one or more of the three qualifications to be responsible for an act: 1) she
acts with knowledge 2) deliberately choose the act, and 3) the act must come from a state or
With the arts, only knowledge is necessary to carry the act out, while for virtue, knowledge
isn’t nearly as important; virtue is only acquired through activity. Now it could object that knowledge is important, but Aristotle’s point is that the end of virtue is activity and not
2.2 Virtue is a mean
Is virtue then 1) a feeling, 2) a capacity, or 3) a state or disposition?
Virtues are not feelings because we are not praised or blamed for emotions in themselves,
just how we react to them (38).
Virtues is not capacity, because that just means that it is possible to virtuous, and doesn’t
imply a choice. (39)
Therefore, virtue arises through the acts we are inclined toward doing.
Virtue is a mean or intermediate
Virtue is a mean between two vices (39)
Aristotle gives a mathematical example. The mean would be equally distant from the two
vices, like 10-6= 4 and 6-2=4.
Nevertheless this isn’t a perfect model, because the mean has figured out in relation to us.
The mean is to “feel these feelings at the right time, about the right things, towards the
right people for the right end, and in the right way” (40).
See? Simple. Note that not all actions admit of a mean, such as malice, shamelessness,
In conclusion, we should not confuse the mean with average behaviour, for the mean is
harder to hit than the extremes.
Aristotle proposes three rules:
1. When aiming at the mean, avoid the extreme farthest from it.
2. Know thyself: observe the errors to which you are prone.
3. Guard against pleasure and what is pleasant, because people have a tendency toward
pleasure: “for when pleasure is on her trial, we are not impartial judges.”
Book two: Defining the good life Book three: Arguments against fearing death
Book four: Arguments against defining life by sexual pursuits.
Defines life as: being free from pain, enjoy a moderate amount of pleasure, BUT certain
pleasures should be watched out for.
The good life is described by freedom from disturbance.
He says that the greatest joy is to possess, “a quiet sanctuary, stoufly fortified by the
teaching of the wise.” (43)
This life has few needs. First, “a body free from pain” and a release from worry and fear.
(And note: the worries and fears involved in the pursuit of pleasure.)
The good life, then, for Lucretius, is not a life of luxury. He argues that the things
Romans considered to be luxuries (banquets, ostentatious displays of riches) and not
necessary to well-being.
Because: Nature does not miss these things when they are not present.
“if our bodies are not profited by treasures or titles or the majesty of kinship, we must go
on to admit that neither are our minds.”
Royalty, treasures, or titles do not ease the mind concerning:
o “The terrors of superstition”
o The fear of death (43)
“They stalk unabashed among princes and potentates”(44).
Only the use of reason and understanding the workings of nature can eliminate these
Lucretius argues that “death is nothing to us and no concerns of ours, since the nature of
the mind is now held to be mortal.”(45)
Mind is mortal because it, like all things, is only made up of component atoms that
compose bodies, decompose, and recompose.
Thus, we should not fear death.
First, the fear of death has disastrous effect on human life.
The fear of death “harasses conscience” Destroys friendships and other relationships (noting how people will betray country and
family to avoid death)
And “destroys all moral responsibility” (45)
“So long as the object of our craving is unattained, it seems more precious than anything
besides... so an unquenchable thirst for life keeps us always on the gasp”(48)
Second, since the mind is mortal, death is nothing, it just stops self-consiousness.
Even if all the atoms that compose us were to reunite, the chain of identity is broken (45).
We fear death because it is impossible for us to mourn our own death.
We visualize our dying as something we can experience but since it denies existence to
the self, we cannot experience death.
Worrying about death only creates anguish for the living.
For those who fear dying as a loss of a pleasant life: how do you not expect for it to
eventually go wrong in life. If life has been good, death does not deprive you of that.
For those who fear it because they have not accomplished everything: “you are always
pining for what is not and unappreciative of the things at hand, and your life has slipped
away unfulfilled and unprized.”
Look back at the eternity that passed before we were born, and mark how utterly it counts
to us as nothing. This is a mirror that Nature holds up to us, in which we may see the time
that shall be after we are dead...” (47)
Is it anything other than the “soundest sleep”?
Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about sex (but we’re afraid to ask)
Note that Lucretius’ audience is other men (Which is why he talks about woman as
objects of affection, although he could also be misogynist)
Though he does note that sexual pleasure is shared by both partners, which doesn’t seem
to be an accepted view in his times.
He gives a materialistic account of the origins of love: not even necessarily the desire to
reproduce, but “tyrannical lust” that is part of growing up.
“This is the origin of the thing called love- that drop of Venus” honey that first drips into
our heart, to be followed by icy heartache” (49)
This is the one thing of which the more we have, the more our breasts burn with the
evillust of having. So he ar