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Introduction to Ethics Complete Notes [VERSION 2] -- 90% on final

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Boston University
CAS PH 150

ARISTOTLE-NICOMACHEAN ETHICS Aristotle-> 2400 years ago. -Contributed in every field possible. Philosopher and scientist. At age of 17 went to athens to study with Plato, attented his lectured for 20 years. •Become tutor to Alexander the Great, founded Lyceum. •Nicomachean etichs was one of the lectures he taught in the school • He wrote 100s of books, but most are lost. When he died, his documents remained under the care of his successor, but there are controversies about his documents, left somewhere and then bought by a rich person. A gap of a couple of hundred years that didn’t know what happened to these books. Scholars don’t know what the status of these books are. •Nicomachean ethics is condensed, compact arguments, technical terms. Some think that these are not his books, but just his notes. Nicomachean Ethics •As a whole is designed to present his ethical theory, his account of what the good life is for human beings. How we come to understand and justify our claims about values. •The first book lays the groundwork. Gives the basic principles. A sketch of the theory. •4 main points of the first books: a. Every action that a person performs aims to a good and the good is either final or instrumental. b. If there is no final good , than every activity is going to be futile and pointless. (empty and vain). cThe final good is eudaimonia (happiness). d. We can figure out the nature of eudaimonia by figuring out the function of human beings. A. Section 1 : first lines, we think about anything ppl do there is always some good they are seeking. His claim is that whatever I do, there should be some point to it, what I am seeking. There is some goal. Moreover, the goal you're seeking should be good. The human being has some goal and they think of their thing as smth that is good(valuable, pleasurable, worthwhile). •Smth good for me or for others? He is saying that ultimately we're seeking our own happiness. •Section 2: sometimes what we wish from some other things… Sometimes when I perform the action, I either want the action, or smth that is a step toward. Ex: there's food, and my goal is to feed my self. The action is eating food. But other actions are part of longer arranged plans. If we go to dentist, we don’t want the dentist to drill the tooth, but it's a step toward the healing of myself. If you are doing a depressing job, but your choosing the sake of money. •Final: smth you chose for its own sake--> valued or sought for its own sake •Instrumental: smth that causes pain, not because the activity itself is valued, but it's valued for the sake of smth else. A. If there smth not valued for its own sake, all activity is pointless. A lot of what ppl do, I don’t really want to do that stuff, I just want what comes from that. If nothing comes of it, and you don’t have the thing that comes from it, things would look vain. What he wonders is what whould happen if every valuable thing, were really just sought as a mean to smth else. Suppose that everything achievable …. For if we do …empty and futile…the best good. --> many of the things that we do, we only do them because they lead to smth else. Ex: building a ship, we do it because we need it to move people. If everything were like that, we get an infinite regress of desire. Suppose, we aask a question: Why are you doing A? I am Aing in order to achieve B. Why do you want B? I want B in order to get C. etc etc etc…. Ex: why are working at your job? Money, Why do you want money? To pay rent, why? To get a place to live etc etc…until you go to fundamental reasons. • If human actions have this structure, it goes on infinitely. If there is never a point where you say: I want Z, for its own sake. Then everything would be just pointless. • He thinks that actions end when we seek happiness. • Happiness is smth that humans want intrinsticly. You are pursuing these things for happiness. • What about other people's happiness? My happiness includes sometimes other's happiness. Health is included in my happiness. • What would happen if a person is completely content, who has completely satisfied everything? According to schopenhauer happiness is not achievable. As a species we tend to progress. • If happiness is so relative, can we consider it as a final end? • What if we study for exam and we seek good mark A. There is luckily a final point, and that final point is happiness. What is happiness? Eudaimonia --> Aristotle says that happiness is not pleasure. "Neither oax nor horse nor animal can be happy, they can be pleased…" there is difference btw happiness and pleasure. Even a human child can't be happy, he may be pleased. It's affected (262) by the death "affects the dead person's happiness. Ex: Hitler's mom's life was less happy because Hitler became fascist. Aristotle has in mind smth that can occur in loss of someone. Eudaimonia-favored by the gods. B. Section 5: "could happiness be pleasure?" a good life cant be one of pleasure, it would be a life of a beast. Humans are capable of smth more than that. Some other would want a life of honor and fame, but no that can't be right, it's too superficial, depends on what other people think about you. Another way it could be a life of contemplation, devoted to intellection, study. What about wealth? Could the wealthiest life be the best life? No , because money is just instrumentally good. We value what we can do with money, not money itself. Section 7: we better come up with some method of finding out what happiness is. Maybe if we find out what human beings do, what capacities we have, we can figure out what happiness is. "what's the good of each action or craft?" "Shortly, the good is that for the sake of which the thing is done, exa: medical is health etc" there is smth that they after when they are doing something "so, if there is some end of everything achievable in action, the good will be in end" … The point of individual actions we can think about a goal of everything that we do. In this way we can find what happiness is. • Happiness is self-sufficient --> "we regard smth as self-sufficient when in all is life- worthy" --> if life has just happiness it makes it worth living. For everything other than happiness you would need to know more. • What it is that would make a human life to want it and chose it? "just as a flute player or an artist, the good and the well is thought to resign in the function, the same is for human being if he has a function" What we are doing is that we need the function of smth we do. We can think about what a good ship would be if it functions well. = we can figure out what a good human life is by knowing human function. "just as you can look at particular human practice, so too you can look at living things" Like a human heart, designed to circulate blood. Or human eyes, designed to see. • If we look at a plant or a tree, we know their function to grow. The function of a bird Is to fly, we know that a good bird will be one which is capable of flying. We can do that for human beings too. Just as we can look at objects and organs, and think of whether it is good, we can look to a human life and find if it well fulfilling. His argument: 1. A good X is an X that fulfills its function well. • How would we do that for human beings? How do we figure out what smth's function is? 1. We can determine the function of X by thinking about what distiguishes X from other things. 2. What distinguishes human beings from other living things is rational activity. • Pg.260: given the second claim that we have to compare living things, human beings live, they try to survive, but that is shared with all the other living beings. That 's not distinctive. People are capable of some self- conscious rational activity that no other living things can do. We have more advanced mental capacity, be more reflective on my thoughts, reasons. Aristotle's function argument: 1. A good X is an X which fulfills its proper function. Ex; a knife 2. We determine X's function by thinking about what distinguishes it. 3. What's distinctive of human beings is our capacity of rational activity. Ex: human beings are capable of doing more than other intelligent animals, desires, develop theories. 4. Putting 2 and 3 together: the function of human beings is rational activity. 5. Conclusion: putting 1 and 4 together, therefore a good human being is one that engages in rational activity. How is this related to the big picture? We get some clues what happiness for human beings is. A happy human life is going to require this rational activity. Why rational activity? Questions/critics: why think that human beings have a function? It confronts the evolutionary theory. But in ethics you can't have the precision as in science. Whereas anyone with sufficient education can understand a math proof, he doesn't think It will be true for ethical proofs. • Why not start at a particular level? What distinguishes people from each other? What level of specificity to employ? • If what's good is what's distinctive of X, then how can there be a bad X? • Is this type of functional goodness equivalent to moral goodness? BOOK 2 Rational Activity: • Topics: virtues, tie virtues to rational activity. • 4 main points: a. What is a virtue? b. How do virtues manifest themselves? c.How are virtues acquired? d. What is it to act virtuously? A. Different kinds of virtues. "there's these thing we think as virtues of character, generosity, temperance and moderation…" we need to think about them, what these traits of character that we label as good are. • Aristotle says that virtues are states of character. If sm is generous, or kind we seem to saying smth about the person's character. • Section 6: Virtues that are concerned with choice and action, and that make a person choose/ act well. When sm is generous is because he acts like that. • We can distinguish virtues from feelings and emotions. In part 5, "feelings are things like appetite, fear, love hate…, in general what implies pleasure and pain" Virtues aren't feelings, rather "are a kind of state that determines how these feelings are going to be manifested". Feelings seem appropriate in certain circumstances. Virtues determine how you stand with relation to these feelings. Ex: anger, we stay negatively to smth which causes us anger. Question when feelings are warranted and how much should you have them? • Vices make you have the wrong feelings. He thinks you are a bad person if you are vicious person. • How do identify what the right thing is? Pg.269. "virtue…lying in a mean…determined by a rational principle…" • Virtue is lying in a mean/intermediate. Choosing the right thing is choosing the one in the mean. "equidistant from excess and defect". Ex: we can be afraid or be confident of have appetite, both too much and too little and in both cases not well….virtue is a state that decides consisting in a mean… we can define excesses and deficiencies and we can find the virtues at the center point. • Ex: Chart Excess Mean Deficiency Emotion/feeling cowardice courage rashness Fear irascibility mildness Inirascibility Anger buffoonh Wittiness boorish Humor Vanity Magnanimity pusillanimity Honor boastfulness Truthfulness Self-effacing Self-regard • Virtue is characteristic of this person which determines how a person acts in accord to their emotions. • Answer to A: a character trait that motivates us to aim at or choose the mean. • Honore de balzack " Xha gorioi" ekstremet kthehen ne pasione. Book 6: He offers definitions and the definition shows complexities that are to be defined. He talks about practical wisdom (prudence). Sect. 5 : "you're prudent if you are able to deliberate finally…what's sorts of things provide living well in general" (phranesis) • Doesn’t deliberate one thing, but much more general : living well in general. • "prudence is grasping truth, involving reason…human beings" it doesn’t consist following rules • When you learn to ride a bike, you try and get better, it looks like knowledge not related to knowledge of principles (like laws of physics). You have to apply skills. • Prudent person doesn’t have the knowledge that mathematicians have, rather he has skills at living. He is the person who can do that in respect to life in general. • Practical wisdom is that knowledge of skills, and he makes an analogy: Section 8 "practical wisdom is not scientific knowledge, it concerns the ultimate particular..for understanding is about the first term. Not the perception of special objects…" • Prudence is about practical things. The prudent person might be the one who knows how to help, the right things to say. Is about particular, not a knowledge how to help ppl in general, they know in particular cases what the right thing to do is. Scientific knowledge is knowledge of generality, it has principles, formulas that you apply. • Prudent person identifies the right actions in particular circumstances. What we can say about the mean point is the point that the prudent feels. The midpoint is chosen by the prudent person. It is not supposed to be the 50th percentile, but the point chosen by the prudent. • Phranesis: capacity to identify the correct action or to have the correct emotion in a particular circumstance. • A prudent person is supposed to have life experience. It would be acquired in a progressive way throughout the life. You have to expose yourself to situations to see the way you act. • What would the prudent person be? How would we identify him? • If we were to identify him, what we should do is look for a person who has all of the virtues and has them all completely. When we identify a person living well it wont be enough to identify the corageous person if he is not witty or if they have anger in appropriate circumstances, if sm only has one virtue, then this is not the prudent person. What you need to do is identify the person who has all of the virtue, the right emotional responses in right circumstances and this would be the prudent person. • What if we have different opinions of what a prudent person is like? If a person lacks one virtue, then he is not fully prudent. • The mean of the virtues will be shifted varying from the circumstances of the actions. We have to take in account the reason for the action, not the place, time and number of people. • The objectivity doesn’t consist in finding a only-way formula, we can argue about this. But there is a rational process of each action. This objectivity available in ethics that is not the same in science, not arbitrary and neither scientific objectivity. • We have some idea of what It is to be prudent and then we have also some idea that with any kind of emotion we can have some character trait that enables us figure out the correct action. These terms interact with each other. What it is to have all virtues-->being prudent.. What is being prudent--> have all virtues. Is it always so?? • How do we get prudence? • If you don’t learn to read corageous by reading a book, or by studying theory, then how we do it? Book 2, Section 1,2 • Virtue arises from heaven.. Pg 266: we become builders by building…we become just by doing just action….brave by doing courageous actions. • If you are not coregous we don’t know what courage is. Acquiring a virtue is like acquiring a skill. You have to practice them • Strength arises from eating a lot and with much hard labor. And most strongest is capable….bravery or courage, habituation and disdain from situations…threatening situations. • That is why soldiers are trained by other soldiers, because you need to be guided from someone else to learn the virtues and what to do in a situation. • Emphasizes that it's gonna be crucial to pay attention to the way people are raised. What you are doing when you train a child, is that you are trying to install these things in this person. He is concerned wit the way we bring people up. If you don’t, than we end up destroying that person. • Part 2 book 2: acting out of the coordance of virtue, than it destroys him. It will instill vice instead of virtue. • You wont really know what a corageous person is if you don’t possess those virtues. A person brought up wrongly wont be able to understand the Aristotelian theory. • What it is to act virtuously? • We know what it is to be a virtuous person, but what would it be to act virtously? What if you see what is the right thing but you just don’t do it? • There is distinction btwn being able to identify the right and actually performing the right action. • Book 2 section 4: "it's possible to produce an apparently virtuous action randomly" ex: suppose we have two people, a cowardly and a corageous soldiers and the right thing to do is to stand against the enemies. They both do that, but the cowardly person only does it because he is confused in some way, he does that by accident. Although they're both doing the right thing, the accident one is different. Ex: suppose we have two people making comments on another person. One is praising and one is insulting. They're doing the same things but in different intention. There is an distinction, one is doing right thing, one is doing the wrong thing. Actions that look the same from outside, might be done for different reasons and might have a different ethical status. • Pg. 268- distinction btwn acts that are in accordance with virtues and acts done from virtue. "it doesn’t suffice th….the agent might be in the right state, he must decide on them, for themselves…firm and unchanging state"- we can draw distincition btwn genuinly virtous acts by asking three questions: 1. She has to know that this is the virtuous thing to do. (knowledge) 2. Must choose the act because it's right/virtous = > not for some other reason (like praise or reward) 3. Must spring from a virtue -> you don’t count as performing a good action, unless what causes you to do that action is a virtue. Suppose despite being a coward we know what the right thing to do is, we choose to do the right thing so we fullfil the first 2 ones, but we don’t fulfill it because I don’t have the virtue of courage. • To be at the height, you have to be a person who has all kinds of control of other emotions. • The perfectly virtuously act comes from the perfectly virtuously agent. • He doesn’t think that it's gonna be possible for people to be perfectly virtuous. Noone except for a divine being will have this character. They can just be better. • You can have the virtue to some extend to act virtously but it's not a clear end. • What the happy life is? Virtues How do all these pieces come together? • What the good life for a human being is? 1. Some things that we desire, isnt desired for its own sake but it is for something else. 2. Unless there is something that we desire for its own sake, then all of our desire would be futile. 3. This thing is eudaimonia (constitutes a good human life). What is it? 4. Its not honor, pleasure, wealth. 5. Aristotle function argument : the function of human being . We can figure out what a good thing is by figuring out what its function is 6. The function of human being is rational activity. That introduces what rational activity is supposed to be. 7. The life of virtue is the life of rationality. What it is to live a life in accordance with reason, it is to live a life of virtues. * Desired for its own sake = euidamonia = life of rational activity= virtuous life By understanding the whole list of virtues we should understand happiness. BOOK 10 • He starts with what euidamonia and why the above equation is true. • In two parts: section 1-5 is focused on pleasure, 6-7-8 analysis of happiness and how distinguishes from pleasure • Section 3: asks a peculiar question whether pleasure is a state or an activity? • "somethings are processes or activities and some things are states" • Process/activity vs state --> "pleasure can't be a process, it's a state. Quickness and slowness…" for everything that you are doing (activity) you can talk bout whether it is going quickly or slowly. But for pleasure you cant say that. it is a state of being that you occupy, rather than a thing you do. • "pleasure seems to be just a state rather than a process" - Happiness though is going to be an activity rather than a state. • Ex: imagine a sensation of pleasure after eating a meal, or a physical pleasure. These are states. • Happiness is different, if you ask someone if they're happy, the way I answer, it wouldn’t be charting how many pleasures and pains I have and the state I am right now. Happiness is a continuous activity. Ex: if you run you can be very happy. But you cant describe it as smth pleasant. Happiness accompanies activity rather than the state you are. You can have different sensations and still be happy. Ex: if you are hanging out with friends, that doesn’t only count pleasures, but with the kind of activity, like conversation or watching a movie, or reading. • Section 6-7-8: "Happiness is not a state, as we've seen way back in book 1 that happiness is chosen for its own sake" -> everything else like health money, honor, pleasure we only want them to go to happiness. Nothing else is like that, except happiness. Every particular thing that we choose other than happiness is a mean to and step to happiness. • Happiness is choiceworthy for its own sake. • Pg 354 " Eudaimon life is a life in accord with virtue" why is that? a. "a final good, chosen for its own sake"- virtue seems to be the same kind of thing, virtue is activity seems to be something chosen for its own sake. b. The only thing that happiness could turn out to be is virtuous activity, since it chosen for its own sake. So they coincide. The happiest life would be the one completely virtuous, where you have to the fullest extend every virtue. c.Since only one thing should be for its own sake, then happiness and virtue are the same thing. d. If happiness is in accord with virtue, then it will be in accord with the supreme virtue… e. Happiness isnt necessarily the easiest, less painful life. • No one is going to be completely happy • His theory is that this life is unaccessible to people. • Wealth is going to be a prerequisite of virtue • Working for money makes people vicous. • To go further up to the completely virtous life, you should be lucky to be born in a completed family of wealth and virtues. ******************************************************************************* Section 7: if happiness is in accord with virtue, it should be in accord with the supreme virtue,… if these things come in degrees, they go parallely 355: the best thing is understanding, ruler and leader… --> what's the most virtuous thing? The natural ruler of us, the thing by which we direct our life. That seems to be understanding. "Hence, complete happiness will be the activity of understanding" The happiest activity would be engaged with highest virtue, so it would be to be engaged in the activity of understanding. Understanding is a continuous activity. Pg 355: understanding is the thing that you can do most independently and has no goal appart from itself. We study for the sake of studying. Happiness seems to be found in leisure. Understanding would be the most complete form of happiness. "Hence the human complete…." "But such a life would be superior for humans, it would fit the gods" The best life would be to try to understand the world. but he says that it is not possible, because you have to do a lot of things (eat, drink, interact with people). It wouldn’t be possible to attain complete happiness because you cant do that for your whole life. But we have to strive for that in our whole life. • Lived after Aristotle 341-271 BCE. He produced a huge number of books, 41 vast books. Almost everything is lost. • Epicurus is trying to develop an ethical theory concerned with producing pain and maximizing pleasure. The way is by doing two things: by attaining knowledge and reorienting our desires. • If I attain a knowledge and reshape our live accordingly. • He's agreeing with Aristotle that there is a higher good, Epicurus says it is pleasure, Aristotle says it's eudaimonia. • Epicurus in this letter says that his philosophy is designed to produce a piece of soul- one must practice the things that produce happiness. His teachings are going to provide a path to happiness. If we follow him, we will attain it. • 7 main points: 1. Pleasure/absence of pain is the only intrinsic good- the only thing that we seek for its own sake. • Distinction btw smth valuable that you desire for smth else and something that you want for its own sake. Ex: Medicine- value because it produces health, money etc. But both of them think that there is one thing is desirable for its own sake. 1. Pleasure is the starting goal…..our starting point for every choice and avoidance…. • We can see that this Is true, because if we look at our choices, what we do is a though about how much pleasure it will bring us. 1. Not every pleasure should be sought- not every pleasure is worth pursuing. • Ex: doctrine nr 8: No p leasure is a bad thing in itself, but the things which produce certain pleasures bring troubles bigger than the pleasures. - they have too many negative consequences. • "Every pleasure is a good thing, but not everyone is to be chosen"- it matters what is going to be in the long term, how long will it last. • Although pleasure is valuable, there are many pleasures that are not worth getting into trouble for. There are different kinds of things that produce pleasure, that people living well typically avoid: • Ex: taking heroine, traveling to dangerous regions. 1. We need pleasure only when we are in pain. Necessary connection between pleasure and pain, where it turns out that pleasure is necessarily accompanied by pain, because it depends on the lack of pain. --> Pleasure is necessary accompanied by pain, because pleasure depends on there being an unfulfilled lack of that's experienced as painful. " we need pleasure only when we're in pain, and not in pain we don’t need
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