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COMPLETE Philosophy of the Person II Notes [VERSION 3 - Part 2] -- got 92% on the final

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PHIL 1071
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Boston College PL071-17/18 Spring 2014 Philosophy of the Person II Dr. McGill Exam 2 Review Questions 1. What is the highest good, for Aristotle? Explain how Aristotle understands that good, and how he thinks we achieve it. What is Aristotle’s conception of moral virtue? How does Aristotle think people acquire virtuous character? Why does he think a person of good character can be relied upon to do the right thing in every situation? • Aristotle was a student of Plato who opened up the first real school, the academy • Aristotle was influenced by Plato but had his own ideas • His ideas are idealized in one of his best known works, Nicomachean Ethics which begins with a discussion of eudaimonia, which he defines as happiness and flourishing the highest good. • It then turns to the examination of the nature of arête= virtue, excellence • Tries to evaluate what character traits humans need in order to live life at its best. • Unlike Mill and Kant,Aristotle does not propose a moral rule o Claims we cant codify virtue in a system of action-guiding rules o Circumstances of life are too complex and variable. Rather, we should analyze the notion of a good or virtuous character.Aperson of good character will act and respond correctly. • Question: What is “The Good”? o We can list many things, but what is the HIGHEST good? • 3 requirements for the highest good o finality: it is desirable for itself, an ultimate good, never a means to some other good o self sufficiency: once one has it, one will not desire anything else; by itself, it makes life desirable o maximum desirability: nothing else could be added to it to make it more desirable • What satisfies these requirements? o Eudaimonia (happiness, well-living) o Why? No one tries to live well for the sake of some further goal. Living well is the ultimate goal. All subordinate goals- health, wealth, power- are all desired because they promote well being. • In what does happiness consist? o Knowing that happiness is the highest good is only useful if we know how to get it. Approach: the good a human being must have something to do with being human. What sets humanity apart form other species? We can reason • Aristotle’s Tri-partite analysis of the soul: o Vegetative/nutritive soul: vegetative activity. Growth, nutrition, reproduction (plants also) o Sensitive/locomotive soul: behavioral activity- perception, locomotion (animals too) o Rational soul: rational activity- speaking, thinking UNIQUE TO HUMANS • Question: in what does human happiness consist? o It must have something to do with being a human o Our capacity to guide ourselves by reason is unique o Happiness must be the highest realization of our unique rational abilities • The function argument: o X’s function= what only X can do or what X can do best o X’s virtue= whatever enables X to perform its function well o If a kind of thing has a function, then the good for that kind of thing would be to perform that function well. The function of human beings is rational activity. SO the good for human beings will reside in the performance of rational activity. • Human Function= rational activity • Human good= performing rational activity well • Human Virtue= that which enables us to perform well • Human happiness= highest realization of our unique rational abilities. Using our reason in accordance with virtue. What is virtue? o The human soul 1. Rational Part 2. Non-rational part (vegetative/sensitive) o Rational part: 1. Contemplative (theoretical reason) 2. Deliberation (practical reason) o Non-rational part  1. Responsive to reason (emotive part) 2. Nonresponsive to reason (e.g. function of my spleen) • 2 types of rational virtues: o virtues of the intellect  sophia= theoretical wisdom • applies to the theoretical part of the rational part  phronesis= practical wisdom • applies to the practical part of the rational part o moral virtue= virtue of character  applies to the emotive part of the non-rational part capable of following reason • Moral Virtue: o A certain state of character. Character= the way one characteristically responds to one’s experiences o Ahabit of feeling o Atendency to have proper emotional reactions to situations o Amean between extreme states, which are vices  Don’t desire anything too much or too little  Don’t react too strongly or not strongly enough  Have the proper emotional reaction and act accordingly  Realize which extreme you tend towards and balance yourself o Vice(excess) virtue (mean)* Vice(deficiency) o Foolhardiness courage cowardice o Self-indulgence temperance abstinence o Irascibility patience lack of spirit o Obsequiousness friendly cantankerousness  You want the mean between the extremes • Moral Virtue requires intellectual virtue of intelligence  Intelligence= ability to judge what is right and wrong to do in a given situation  Virtue= complex set of rational, emotional and social skills • Moral virtue is a developed capacity of character o Acquired by emotional upbringing and training o In childhood, must develop the proper habits o This will train the emotions to react properly o Moral virtue is fully developed only when it is combined with practical wisdom  The truly virtuous person does not contend with internal pressures to act otherwise  He does not long to do something that he regards as shameful  He is not distressed at having to give up a pleasure that he realizes he should forego. • Relationship between virtue and happiness o Happiness is a virtuous activity o The happy person possesses the virtues of a human being and is putting them to use o Living well consists of doing something not just being in a certain state or condition o It consists in those activities that actualize the virtues of the rational part of the soul • But, virtue is not sufficient for happiness o One must also possess such external goods as friends, wealth and power o Virtuous activity will be diminished or defective if one lacks an adequate supply of other goods  Someone who is friendless, childless, powerless, weak and ugly will simply not be able to find many opportunities for virtuous activity  E.g. generosity requires having resources to share  To some extent, living well requires good fortune Yet, happiness does not come by chance  We need some good luck, good parents, and good fellow citizens who help us become virtuous  But we share as much of the responsibility for acquiring and exercising the virtues • In order to achieve happiness, you need o Virtue of character o The activity of virtue o Acomplete life or time span in which to act • The highest good= happiness, living well • Happiness= performing rational activities in accordance with virtue • Moral virtue= tendency to have proper emotional reactions • Proper emotional reactions= a mean between two extremes • Happiness requires acting in accordance with virtue o Virtue + external goods + time • Aristotle does not provide a set of action guiding rules o The good person is a good deliberator= good at determining the intermediate point o Aperson of good character has the emotional and rational skills to see what is best o Ethics cannot be reduced to a decision procedure o But, certain emotions (spite, shamelessness, envy) and actions (adultery, theft, murder) are always wrong, regardless of circumstances 2. What does Sartre mean when he says that, for human beings, "Existence precedes essence"? How does that make humans different, for example, from a paper knife or other man-made object? How does Sartre describe the human condition? What does he mean when he says that "man is condemned to be free"? What sorts of ways of explaining who we are does Sartre find to be "cowardly"? What does Sartre mean when he describes existentialism as a kind of "humanism"?  Jean paul Sartre is a french philosopher/ existentialist  Central claim: existence precedes essence o We have no predetermined nature or essence o We are radically free to act o We create our own human nature through free choice o We create our values through free choices o Existence essence through the act of free self-creation o We chose the kind of life we want to live and who we will be  In contract to the traditional view that essence precedes existence o We have a given nature that determines what we are and what our ultimate purpose or value is o We are analogous to artifacts, made with preexisting idea or concept of what we will be and what we will be good for o Our nature and our value come from the outside o Essence existence (through the act of making or creating) o There was this essence that was manifested in me as a human being  Existentialism: existence precedes essence o There is no God- there is no meaning of life o There is no external source of value o We have no pre-determined essence or nature o We create our own essence by our free actions o Existence essence through act of free self creation  The Human Condition: o Facticity (Throwness)  We find ourselves in a world not of our own making and indifferent to our concerns  We are thrown into a world we don’t control and didn’t choose o Radical Freedom  Nothing outside of us can determine what we are and what we are good for  We must do it ourselves from the inside  Living in bad faith (mauvais foi) • Attempt to live as if you aren’t free • Attempt to live as if you are determined by your nature o Anxiety:  No external source of value  Nothing to tell me what is right or wrong or what is the good life o We are responsible for choosing our nature and values  We must face the awesome responsibility of choosing human nature and values for all men  Options are restricted but we are free to put these elements together into a unified whole  We are condemned to be free o Once you stop living in bad faith and realize how free you are, you realize it is a terrible burden  For Sartre, the human condition is: o Forlornness at the loss of external values or determinants of our nature; realization that there is no God o Anquish at the awareness of our own freedome, and the responsibility to create human nature ourselves o Despair of self-reliance and our lack of control over the circumstances  “Life has no meaning a priori. Before you live it, life is nothing, but it is for you to give it a meaning.  Value is nothing other than this meaning which you choose.”  Existentialism is often associated with: o Recognition of the absurdity of life o Recognition of the meaningless of life o Recognition of the insignificance of man  So why do anything? o Because you are what you make yourself o Meaning comes from within  So there is no right or wrong? o Nothing but what we decide is right or wrong o Sartre instates that existentialism is a tough optimism o We are ultimately responsible for who we are o This allows for hope o Change is always possible o You can become what you want to become o But still insist that there is no external source of meaning- doesn’t mean that our own individual lives can’t be meaningful  The Myth of Sisyphus o Sisyphus gives fire to humans o Condemned by the Gods to push stone up to the top of the mountain for eternity o “The Gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of the mountain, whence the stone would fall back on its own weight…” o Metaphor for the human condition o There is no greater meaning or purpose  Analogy to the human condition: o Like Sisyphus, we find that our activities lead to nowhere o There are no external values to live up to, no external viewpoint from which our life is viewed as valuable o Life is a series of meaningless actions culminating in death, with no possibility of external justification o Yes, Camus says, “one must imagine Sisyphus happy”  Traditional view of happiness o Humans have a nature or essence o Happiness is determined by that nature or essence o Happiness is to live in a certain way according to that nature o These are external standards to which we can aspire  The problem for existentialism o How can man be happy in a world devoid of external significance and meaning? o How can man be happy if he has no nature or essence to satisfy?  The solution o Loss of external value allows us to get value from within ourselves o the despair we feel at the loss of our external sources of value are the necessary price of a greater value and happiness from within o this value is greater because it cannot be taken away by external forces o this happiness is not available to uncontrollable contingencies  question: how ought we act towards others? o We are all condemned to be free o The only thing that could guide our actions is to respect other people’s freedom-respect the human condition  Cowardly: those that hide from total freedom, those living in bad faith (relying on religion or claiming who they are because of a predetermined destined, those who do not have the courage to except that we are responsible for who we become) 3. According to Susan Wolf, what is required for a life to count as “meaningful”? (In other words, what conditions must that life satisfy?) If life itself has no meaning, does Wolf think is it possible to have a meaningful life?  Susan wolf questions the meaning of life o Question is a bit unclear/obscure o Words have meanings-they stand for things o Footprints o But life doesn’t have meaning in these sense  If by meaning you mean purpose then: o If there is a god theres a chance that life has a purpose and so a meaning (God’s plan) o If there is no god, then life has no point, purpose, or meaning  Regardless of whether life as a whole has a meaning, our lives can be meaningful o There may be no meaning to life o But we can still find a meaning in life o Approach this question by examining meaningless lives  Paradigms of meaningless lives: o The blob  lives life in hazy passivity, achieving nothing. Not unpleasant, but unconnected, going nowhere meaningless, whole life becomes defined by this o The useless  lives a life full of silly, decadent, useless activity meaningless  Idle rich (paris Hilton)  The corporate executive overly driven, workaholic, greedy  Pig farmer buys more land to have more land so he can make more money so he can buy more land… and on and on  Super busy doing things that aren’t terribly important o Bankrupt lives engaged in a useful project that ultimately fails  Ex: working whole live on finding a cure for cancer. Month before you are about to publish your most important discovery that could lead to a revolution in the field, somebody else publishes the same results. Spent your whole life making this discovery turns out to be nothing because someone else already achieved the same thing  More out of your control o What can we learn from all three cases?  A meaningful life will be actively engaged (unlike blob), at least somewhat successful (unlike bankrupt) and in a project that has some positive value (unlike useless)  Active engagement: this is more than mere activity • The projects must engage the person • She must embrace them, be proud of them, consider them to be significant (as opposed to dissatisfied housewife)  In projects of positive value: • Projects are understood broadly to include, e.g. relationships • Must have more than merely subjective value  Why should we want to live meaningful lives? Why should we care if we are engaged in projects of positive value? As long as you are engaged by your activities, why should you care that they are objectively worthy? • Because interest in living a meaningful life is an appropriate response to a fundamental truth  Fundamental truth: o Each of us is a tiny speck in a vast and value-filled universe o We are but tiny parts of a vast universe containing countless perspectives equal to our own o Being engaged with projects that aren’t merely about YOU acknowledges your insignificance, the “mereness” of your subjective position o There are some things that are just better than others- there are non-subjective values o So why should your own happiness be the only thing that matters?  Wolf agrees with the existentialist: o There is no meaning or purpose in life in general o Each of us is a tiny speck in a vast, purposeless universe o Each of us is insignificant relative to the whole  Wolf disagrees with the existentialist: o There are objective values o Some things are just more valuable than others o This is independent of any particular person’s perspective  Response to our relative insignificance: o Belief that life is absurd  Wolf’s response: create meaning by living in a way that acknowledges our insignificance, our “mereness” o When you focus attention on things that have value independent of you, you acknowledge your place in the world o Failure to want a meaningful life constitutes a failure to acknowledge the truth of your insignificance 4. What is the central moral principle espoused by Socrates in the Crito? Explain how Socrates defends his principle. How does he use the principle to argue that it would be wrong for him to escape from prison? Does Socrates think that one is ever justified in breaking the law? Why or why not? Do you agree? Why or why not?  Setting: after trial depicted in the apology (where the most serious charge brought up against Socrates was corrupting the youth; he was convicted and sentenced to death) o Socrates is in prison awaiting execution o His friend Crito has bribed the guard, encourages Socrates to escape to Thessalay  Crito’s reasons that Socrates should escape: o Crito would lose his friend (bad argument) o Socrates’friends will appear in bad light if they don’t help him (eh argument) o Practical matters can easily be settled-i.e. places to go, transportation, bribed guards (bad argument) o He would leave his sons without a father, wife without a husband Socrates has obligations to his family (rejects this argument his kids have a mother, they live in Athens a community that can help to bring up his children) o By remaining in prison, Socrates would collaborate in his own death “state assisted suicide”- has the chance to leave and he’s not o Voluntary acceptance of his own death is wrong and shameful (in contrast with being right and honorable) o Socrates was wronged by the city and so he has no obligation to accept his penalty. If he stays he would be aiding his enemies in wronging him unjustly, acting unjustly himself  Socrates takes this seriously. Bulk of dialogue spent discussing this  Argument #2: Socrates’friends will appear in bad light o Socrates on The Many vs. The Expert o His reputation and his friends’ reputations don’t matter. It’s what you think about yourself that’s more important o The Many can’t do the greatest harm (making one foolish) or the greatest good(making one wise) o The opinion of the expert is what matters o Question: who is the expert regarding whether Socrates should escape?  Socrates’Central moral principle: One must never commit injustice o Recall from the republic:  Justice is the virtue of the soul  The just soul is balanced with the 3 parts in harmony.Ajust soul is a well ordered soul  We are better when we are just  Socrates is not against injustice because it harms others  Every act of injustice harms the wrongdoer himself  The consequences of bad actions may or may not harm  By doing wrong, the soul is corrupted  It is not possible to live well if you are doing wrong o Argument for the Central Moral Principle:  1. What is worthwhile is not life, but a GOOD life • recall from apology; the virtuous life is the happy life
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