Up@dawn 2.0

Friday, September 22, 2017

Quizzes Sep 25/26 & 27/28

Sep 25/26. The Man Who Asked Questions, LH 1; Plato, DR 11. And recommended-LISTEN Angie Hobbs on Plato on Erotic Love (PB); WATCH: Know ThyselfDiotima's Ladder: From Lust to MoralityPlato (SoL) Post your alternative quiz questions and discussion questions on the 2d half of the chapter.

LH
1. What kind of conversation did Socrates consider a success?

2. What was wisdom, for Socrates?

3. With what Platonic theory does the parable of the cave connect?

DR
4. In Plato's Symposium, what does Socrates say Diotima taught him about love?

5. When did Plato say humanity would see better days?

6. What nagged Plato about the academic way of life?

7. What three classes did Plato propose for his ideal republic? 

8. What analogy does Socrates/Plato drawn between the parts of the city and the parts of the soul?

9. What must happen in order to bring about Plato's ideal city?

DQ
  • Is talking better than writing? (LH 4)
  • Where do you imagine you would be in the social hierarchy, if you lived in Plato's ideal republic? (LH 6)
  • Do you think Socrates did in fact "corrupt the youth"? (LH 7)
  • Do humans ever achieve or encounter perfection in any respect?
  • Do you agree with Socrates/Plato about the ladder of love?
  • Is there an important difference between practical and theoretical knowledge? Is knowledge for its own sake as valuable as knowing "how to"?
  • Does human nature mirror society, and vice versa? Can we learn how to manage one by imitating the other?
  • Was Plato right to suggest that the fate of Socrates was like that of the escaped cavedweller in his Republic? (199)


Sep 27/28. True Happiness, LH 2. EXAM TODAY, no quiz... but these are the questions to add to the study guide:

1. What did Aristotle mean by "one swallow doesn't make a summer"?

2. What does eudaimonia mean?

3. How can we increase our chance of eudaimonia?

4. Eudaimonia can only be achieved in relation to what?

5. What is "truth by authority"?

6. How is authority hostile to the spirit of philosophy?



DQ
  • What's the difference, for you, between pleasure and happiness? 
  • If you were depicted in Raphael's School of Athens whose side would you be on, Plato's or Aristotle's? Or would you be in a posture more like Diogenes's?
  • Do you agree with Aristotle that tragic events occurring after your death, like your child's tragic illness, can still impact your happiness?
  • Are you happy? Are you a hedonist?
  • Do you believe anything strictly on the basis of authority, whether that of a person, an institution, or a tradition? Why or why not?





Russell: IN the corpus of Aristotle's works, three treatises on ethics have a place, but tow of these are now generally held to be by disciples. the third, the Nicomachean Ethics, remains for the most part unquestioned as to authenticity, but even in this book there is a portion (Books V, VI, and VII) which is held by many to have been incorporated from one of the works of disciples. I shall, however, ignore this controversial question, and treat the book as a whole and as Aristotle's. The views of Aristotle on ethics represent, in the main, the prevailing opinions of educated and experienced men of his day. They are not, like Plato's, impregnated with mystical religion; nor do they -172- countenance such unorthodox theories as are to be found in the Republic concerning property and the family. Those who neither fall below nor rise above the level of decent, well-behaved citizens will find in the Ethics a systematic account of the principles by which they hold that their conduct shold be regulated. Those who demand anything more will be disappointed. The book appeals to the respectable middle-aged, and has been used by them, especially since the seveteenth century, to repress the ardours and enthusiasms of the young. But to a man with any depth of feeling it cannot but be repulsive. The good, we are told, is happiness, which is an activity of the soul. Aristotle says that Plato was right in dividing the soul into tow parts, one rational, the other irrational. The irrational part itself he divides into the vegetative (which is found even in plants) and the appetitive (which is found in all animals). the appetitive part may be in some degree rational, when the goods that it seeks are such as reason approves of. This is essential to the account of virtue, for reason alone, in Aristotle, is purely contemplative, and does not, without the help of appetite, lead to any practical activity. There are tow kinds of virtues, intellectual and moral, corresponding to the two parts of the soul. Intellectual virtues result from teaching, moral virtues from habit. It is the business of the legislator to make the citizens good by forming good habits. We become just by performing just acts, and similarly as regards other virtues. By being compelled to acquire good habits, we shall in time, Aristotle thinks, come to find pleasure in performing good actions. One is reminded of Hamlet's speech to his mother: Assume a virtue if you have it not. That monster, custom, who all sense doth eat, Of habits devil, is angel, yet in this, That to the use of actions fair and good He likewise gives a frock or livery That aptly is put on. We now come to the famous doctrine of the golden mean. Every virtue is a mean between two extremes, each of which is a vice. This is proved by an examination of the various virtues. Courage is a mean between cowardice and rashness; liberality, between prodigality and -173- meanness; proper pride, between vanity and humility; ready wit, between buffoonery and boorishness; modesty, between bashfulness and shamelessness. Some virtues do not seem to fit into this scheme; for instance, truthfulness. Aristotle says that this is a mean between boastfulness and mock-modesty (1108a), but this only applies to truthfulness about oneself. I do not see how truthfulness in any wider sense can be fitted into the scheme. There was once a mayor who had adopted Aristotle's doctrine; at the end of his term of office he made a speech saying that he had endeavoured to steer the narrow line between partiality on the one hand and impartiality on the other. The view of truthfulness as a mean seems scarcely less absurd. Aristotle's opinions on moral questions are always such as were conventional in his day. One some points they differ from those of our time, chiefly where some form of aristocracy comes in. We think that human beings, at least in ethical theory, all have equal rights, and that justice involves equality; Aristotle thinks that justice involves, not equality, but right proportion, which is only sometimes equality...
IEP: Aristotle is a towering figure in ancient Greek philosophy, making contributions to logic, metaphysics, mathematics, physics, biology, botany, ethics, politics, agriculture, medicine, dance and theatre. He was a student of Plato who in turn studied under Socrates. He was more empirically-minded than Plato or Socrates and is famous for rejecting Plato's theory of forms.
As a prolific writer and polymath, Aristotle radically transformed most, if not all, areas of knowledge he touched. It is no wonder that Aquinas referred to him simply as "The Philosopher." In his lifetime, Aristotle wrote as many as 200 treatises, of which only 31 survive. Unfortunately for us, these works are in the form of lecture notes and draft manuscripts never intended for general readership, so they do not demonstrate his reputed polished prose style which attracted many great followers, including the Roman Cicero. Aristotle was the first to classify areas of human knowledge into distinct disciplines such as mathematics, biology, and ethics. Some of these classifications are still used today.
As the father of the field of logic, he was the first to develop a formalized system for reasoning. Aristotle observed that the validity of any argument can be determined by its structure rather than its content. A classic example of a valid argument is his syllogism: All men are mortal; Socrates is a man; therefore, Socrates is mortal. Given the structure of this argument, as long as the premises are true, then the conclusion is also guaranteed to be true. Aristotle’s brand of logic dominated this area of thought until the rise of modern propositional logic and predicate logic 2000 years later.
Aristotle’s emphasis on good reasoning combined with his belief in the scientific method forms the backdrop for most of his work. For example, in his work in ethics and politics, Aristotle identifies the highest good with intellectual virtue; that is, a moral person is one who cultivates certain virtues based on reasoning. And in his work on psychology and the soul, Aristotle distinguishes sense perception from reason, which unifies and interprets the sense perceptions and is the source of all knowledge.
Aristotle famously rejected Plato’s theory of forms, which states that properties such as beauty are abstract universal entities that exist independent of the objects themselves. Instead, he argued that forms are intrinsic to the objects and cannot exist apart from them, and so must be studied in relation to them. However, in discussing art, Aristotle seems to reject this, and instead argues for idealized universal form which artists attempt to capture in their work.

Aristotle was the founder of the Lyceum, a school of learning based in Athens, Greece; and he was an inspiration for the Peripatetics, his followers from the Lyceum... IEP

“One swallow does not make a summer,
neither does one fine day; 
similarly one day or brief time of happiness does not make a person entirely happy.” 

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” 

“What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies.” 

“Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow ripening fruit.” 

“Anybody can become angry — that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody's power and is not easy.” 

“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” 

“Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives - choice, not chance, determines your destiny.” 

“Those who educate children well are more to be honored than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those the art of living well.”

“The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living differ from the dead.” 

More quotes attributed to Aristotle...
Old posts-Aristotle, HP 159-184 (Ch XIX-XX); PG 38-58

1. What does Russell think Aristotle's influence on Alexander was?

2. Why does Russell call Aristotle's doctrine optimistic and teleological?

3. What is "the good," for Aristotle?

4. Aristotle mainly agrees with those who define "virtue" how?

PG
5. Progress in philosophy consists partly in bringing what to light?

6. "Platonism" is often expressed in what assertion?

7. What is the Sublime Braid?

8. What kind of piety results from coming to understand our real place in the larger scheme? 

DQ

  • If Aristotle's metaphysics is Plato diluted by common sense, what's common about it? 162
  • Does each of us have an "essence"? 164
  • What do you think of Aristotle's God? 167f.
  • Is happiness the only thing in the world that's intrinsically good, for its own sake?
  • What do you think of Aristotle's doctrine of the golden mean? 173f.
  • What do you think of the relativism debate between Boghossian and Fish, and specifically Fish's statement that philosophical conclusions "do not travel"?
  • Is mathetmatics the uniquely "right form" for explaining the world? 50  
  • Post your DQs please
==
1. Complete the statement, identify the source, and explain the meaning of "One swallow..."

2. What was Aristotle's word for happiness, success, or flourishing?

3. Did Aristotle think we could learn to live a good life? Did he think it virtuous for individuals to focus exclusively on the pursuit of their own self-interest?*

4. In the Raphael painting School of Athens, what does Aristotle's body language imply about his philosophy (and Plato's)? 

5. What did Aristotle think we could do to increase our chance of flourishing or succeeding as human beings?

6. What reliance, ironically invoked by some Aristotelian scholars for centuries after his death,  is contrary to the spirit of philosophy?

DQs:


  • What do you think Aristotle's body language in School of Athens means? Which side of the painting, his or Plato's, would you be on?
  • Why didn't Aristotle think children could be fully happy, fully "eudaimon"? Who are the happiest young and old people you know? Are their forms of happiness different? 
  • What's been the happiest moment of your life, so far? Or the least happy? At the time, would you have said that your life was happy? 
  • What's your idea of "the good life"? Do you consider other people's well-being to be any concern of yours? Is it a neglect of human potential to live merely for material values?
  • What is "the right kind of character"? What does it mean to you to "become a better person"? Is that something you actively strive for? Do you think everyone can, and should? 
  • Do you recall a time in childhood when you asked, a parent, a Sunday School teacher, or some other adult the question "Who or what made God?" Did you receive a satisfactory response (from your present point of view)? Was the response an appeal to authority  - the authority of the Bible or some other sacred text, the interpreters of your faith, or of your parents?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015 - Aristotle & God

We have Aristotle on two tracks (the Little History and Philosophy Bites) today in CoPhi. God's* on 3d (pinch-hitting for Lucius Outlaw and last year's America the Philosophical* discussion of the historical role of African-Americans in philosophy, if you're interested).

(*The God, or a god? An important distinction, as Bill Murray noted in Groundhog Day: scroll down...)

Aristotle‘s in the Pythons' philosopher's song too, though he's even more sober than his Ionian predecessors. He rejected his teacher Plato’s metaphysics, returned to the cave of the phenomenal world to take a closer look, avoided universalizing abstractions and CAPS (preferring forms in things to transcendent and remote FORMS "above"), and inspired the name of our annualSpring speaker series in the philosophy department at MTSU, the Lyceum.

(We actually now also have a *Fall Lyceum at MTSU, inaugurated last year by Carlin Romano.)

The best quick & graphic way of illustrating the difference between Plato and his student Aristotle, I’ve found, is by pondering Raphael’s famous painting School of Athens [annotated]. Pay close attention to the hands. "On the other side [of Plato] stands Aristotle, the man of science and common sense, who points earthward in contrast with Plato's gesture toward the heavens. In Aristotle's arms Raphael put Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics..."

A new history of western philosophy takes that painting to heart. The Cave and the Light: Plato Versus Aristotle, and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization, by Arthur Herman, traces its implications for centuries of philosophers who lined up to squeeze into the School behind either Plato or Aristotle.
They began as student and master. They ended as rivals. Plato is supposed to have said, “Aristotle kicked me,as foals do their mothers when they are born.”All the evidence, however, suggests the crucial break between them came after Plato's death. Aristotle entered Plato's Academy in Athens at age seventeen, probably in 367 BCE. When he left, he was in his forties...
Why they broke is a fascinating story reflected in centuries of divergent influence. If I were going to have to line up in that painting I'd have to pick Aristotle's side.

"How Aristotle Invented Science"-a slight overstatement, but not compared to Plato the armchair philosopher.

Aristotle was more eloquently poetic than scientific, though, when he said one swallow doesn't make a summer, and a few moments of pleasure don't add up to a happy life. Nor does a "happy childhood." We must be in it for the long haul, and must see our good as coordinate with that of others including those who'll succeed us after we're gone. It's all about eudaimonia ("you die" is a helpful mnemonic, aggressive and hostile though it sounds, and though it really means you live.)

It's probably for his ethics that Aristotle is most widely renowned, but Bertrand Russell for one was unimpressed. "There is in Aristotle an almost complete absence of what may be called benevolence or philanthropy. The sufferings of mankind, in so far as he is aware of them, do not move him emotionally." (Hold that thought, when we talk about the problem of evil.)

(Yesterday was the anniversary of Russell's death, btw. Strange occasion to mark, I suppose, but any excuse to check out Maria Popova's brainpickings is worthwhile.)


Aristotle was a naturalist, noticing our continuity with the rest of nature. Like trees and plants we flourish when well-nurtured. Unlike them, we must take charge of our own nurture in order to reach our potential and achieve The Good Life in tandem with our peers.


It's so ironic that the middle ages made Aristotle "The Philosopher," i.e. the unquestioned Authority. That was indeed "against the spirit of philosophy."

Terence Irwin's podcast interview is compelling listening, for those unaccustomed to a Yorkshire accent (or whatever it is). He makes the same point I just did about coordinating the personal and the public good, and "identifying one's own interest with other people's interest" etc.

He also helpfully corrects overly-simple reductions of Aristotle's ethics to a dogged middle-of-the-roadism. Avoiding extremes doesn't mean choosing the blandest, milk-toastiest possibility. No, hisGolden Mean means doing the right thing at the right time for the right reason etc., and that could very well turn out to be something exciting. Or scary. (Like going after ISIS? What would Aristotle say?)

Don't confuse the ethical Golden Mean with the geometrical Golden Ratio. "The golden ratio, also known as the divine proportion, golden mean, or golden section, is a number often encountered when taking the ratios of distances..."

Aristotle's version of God, on the other hand, may just be too bland for your taste. It's not a he or she, or really even an it as we typically understand things.

To Aristotle, God is the first of all substances, the necessary first source of movement who is himself unmoved. God is a being with everlasting life, and perfect blessedness, engaged in never-ending contemplation. IEPThis is a remote and impersonal God, who won't intervene in our affairs and could really care less about them.

The God implied in the Hebrew Bible book of Ecclesiastes seems fairly indifferent to human suffering & flourishing too, and unpromising with respect to the old dream of Sunday School heaven and immortality. Jennifer Hecht glosses it smartly in Doubt:

Koheleth brushed aside the dream of an afterlife with a simple appeal to reason--Who knows this?--and the conclusion that humans have nothing above the beasts in this regard...But it doesn't follow that simple happiness is unavailable in this life. The recipe's pretty simple too.

Love your spouse. Get some work to do, do it with all your might; enjoy the simple pleasures of food, drink, and love. Everything else is vanity. But, it's a form of vanity we can live with. The search for true love, solid friendship, good work, and daily delight might just be enough. Enjoy your life. A person could do worse. The search for happiness on this orb is anything but a "dismal" undertaking, as someone sadly suggested. You could ask Aristotle. It's the end and aim of life.

Not everyone agrees with Aristotle about that, of course. For some, the end and aim is to serve and glorify God (and maybe reap the reward of that elusive afterlife after all). Their god knows and cares about human striving, and presumably abhors gratuitous suffering.

But there's the rub that's rubbed raw in our Philosophy: The Basics reading today: the perennial problem of evil or suffering, or the worry that our world is too full of woe to lay at the figurative feet of an omni-being. And even if we think we can disarm some of the problem by deploying the timeworn Free Will Defense, we leave "natural" evil (killer storms, quakes, disease) unaccounted for.
We also read today of David Hume's posthumous objections to weakly-analogical Paley-ish Design Arguments. Human artifacts are one thing, the products of complex time-borne natural phenomena seem to be something very different.

But natural selection, the "blind" and unpremeditated evolutionary process whereby organisms thrive when they develop adaptations suitable to the conditions of their environment, can be considered a form of Design without a Designer. We should ask and try to answer: Is there an important difference between intelligent design and natural complexity?

Must there have been a universal First Cause? But what caused the cause? That question is neck-and-neck with the problem of evil, in turning out many a young non-theist. J.S. Mill and Bertrand Russell, for instance.

[T]the argument that there must be a First Cause is one that cannot have any validity. I may say that when I was a young man and was debating these questions very seriously in my mind, I for a long time accepted the argument of the First Cause, until one day, at the age of eighteen, I read John Stuart Mill's Autobiography, and I there found this sentence: "My father taught me that the question 'Who made me?' cannot be answered, since it immediately suggests the further question `Who made god?'" That very simple sentence showed me, as I still think, the fallacy in the argument of the First Cause. If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause. If there can be anything without a cause, it may just as well be the world as God, so that there cannot be any validity in that argument. Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not A Christian
I think I've heard just about every imaginable response to this question, through the years in my classrooms, but I'll ask it again:

If you believe in God, how do you attempt to reconcile or understand the full extent of human suffering? (Think of particular instances such as the "agony of a young child dying of an incurable disease," or an innocent gunshot or terror victim, or someone killed in a storm and their survivors.) Do you see it as part of a divine plan we just have to trust, or a deep mystery we shouldn't think too much about? Or do you believe in a God who is less than omnipotent and is just doing the best He/She/It can to bring about a harmonious and just Creation?

If you don't believe in God, is that in whole or in part because of the Problem of Evil? Or something else?

Or maybe you're like Charlie Brown's antagonist Lucy, who once responded to his Socratic query about the meaning of it all that "I just don't think about things I don't think about." Didn't seem to make her any happier, not thinking. Did it?


Walk Magazine (@WalkMagazine)
'You get close quickly when you walk side by side' says Clare Balding - we could not agree more! #walking ow.ly/He3Jg

Aristotle would like this:
In a hut in southern Germany and an apartment in New York City, about ninety years ago, two philosophers tried to sort out a family of ancient problems concerning experience, knowledge, and our place in the world. Working independently, they developed a similar idea and used it as a launching pad for more.
The way to make progress on those problems, they thought, is to treat our practical engagement with the environment as primary. “In our dealings we come across equipment for writing, sewing, working, transportation, measurement.” We encounter ordinary objects “as things of doing, suffering, contact, possession and use.” When we engage with such things, they are “not thereby objects for knowing the ‘world’ theoretically; they are simply what gets used, what gets produced, and so on.” “They are things had before they are things cognized.” The move to understand things theoretically only comes about when there is some interruption or “deficiency” in our ordinary dealings. A common error in philosophy, however, has been a kind of “intellectualism,” treating all our contact with the world in terms of concepts and representations, assuming that “knowledge is the only mode of experience that grasps things.” The irony is that such intellectualism makes knowledge itself impossible to understand. If we forget that knowledge is derivative from more basic kinds of engagement with the world, we end up “making knowledge, conceived as ubiquitous, itself inexplicable.”
These are central themes also in Hubert Dreyfus and Charles Taylor’s new book,Retrieving Realism. As Dreyfus and Taylor see it, philosophical work in the modern period (in the philosopher’s sense of “modern,” which starts around 1600) has been plagued by a mediational view of how we relate to the world. “Only through” intermediaries can we have contact with things outside us. A few hundred years ago the mediators were supposed to be image-like sensations or ideas. Now they are often sentences, or internal representations of the kind envisaged in artificial intelligence and cognitive science. The mediational approach, for Dreyfus and Taylor, is one that people adopt without entirely realizing it. Working within it, however, leads to many errors and misguided debates. It leads to a dualistic sorting of the world’s contents into mental and physical, and with this comes an acute problem of how the two sides could be related. But from the early twentieth century, a better view has slowly developed, according to Dreyfus and Taylor, especially through the work of Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. They show us how to have a theory of contact with the world without mediators, through a “reembedding of thought and knowledge in the bodily and social-cultural contexts in which it takes place.”
Compact and engaging, Retrieving Realism is more approachable than its weighty subject matter might predict. The book begins from an assertion of the “embedding” of thought and knowledge in its bodily and practical contexts, and then argues against a range of views that try to insist that our contact with the world must somehow run through representations, language, or concepts. Instead, our basic contact with the world involves a kind of “absorbed coping.” The authors are not entirely hostile to the idea of representation of the world in our minds and in language, but those phenomena are secondary. Recognizing this, for Dreyfus and Taylor, enables us to recover from the morass of mediationism the idea that we live in, and can know about, a world that exists independently of us. That is the realism that is being “retrieved.”
The point that not everything we do makes use of theories and concepts might seem obvious—clearly we also eat and drink and walk on things. But Dreyfus and Taylor think that philosophy constantly invents new ways to falsely intellectualize our relationship to things that we do. Philosophy itself does not subside once we see these issues clearly; philosophy has tasks beyond merely diagnosing errors. We have to work out how to negotiate differences between cultures and between different methods of knowing the world. This work will go better when those differences are understood against a common background of dealing with the world that we all, as humans, engage in.
• • •
The early twentieth century was indeed a time when the philosophical landscape shifted, but Dreyfus and Taylor give a one-sided account of the events of this period. The two figures at work in my opening vignette were Heidegger, in the hut, and John Dewey, in New York. Heidegger’s Being and Time was published in 1927. A few years earlier, Dewey published Experience and Nature, revising it in 1929. This was not Dewey’s first book, as in Heidegger’s case, but the fourteenth of (too) many, containing ideas that had developed from Dewey’s first years as an “idealist” philosopher, through the classic debates over pragmatism in the first years of the new century, to this mature position... (continues)

Progress, Plato, Aristotle


More Platonic reflections from Rebecca Newberger Goldstein in CoPhi today, and Russell on Aristotle.

Goldstein continues her reply to the philosophy jeerers and their slight that philosophy bakes no bread and gets us nowhere. She might have recalled William James's opening salvo in Pragmatism acknowledging the former but entirely repudiating the latter.

Believing in philosophy myself devoutly, and believing also that a kind of new dawn is breaking upon us philosophers, I feel impelled, per fas aut nefas, to try to impart to you some news of the situation.

Philosophy is at once the most sublime and the most trivial of human pursuits. It works in the minutest crannies and it opens out the widest vistas. It 'bakes no bread,' as has been said, but it can inspire our souls with courage; and repugnant as its manners, its doubting and challenging, its quibbling and dialectics, often are to common people, no one of us can get along without the far-flashing beams of light it sends over the world's perspectives. These illuminations at least, and the contrast-effects of darkness and mystery that accompany them, give to what it says an interest that is much more than professional.

In fact, philosophy constantly progresses in this way, by illuminating the "covert presumptions" that lie buried beneath our awareness. Facing, discussing, and sometimes revising or rejecting our various unexamined convictions can be the epitome, and always is the requisite condition, of progress at the level of reflective thought. What is truth, beauty, or goodness? You may think you know, but we need to talk about it.

The path of progress for Plato is dialogic, argumentative, and collaborative, like much scientific discourse; but unlike most scientific results, those of philosophy register most powerfully in personal terms, and are revealed in the progressive personal transformations of individuals rather than in "paradigm shifts" impacting whole disciplines and epochs.

What is Platonism? It's an unfamiliar idea about ideas, that when they embody truth they do so by subsisting in an abstract realm beyond the reach of everyday sense (and common sense). "A Platonist asserts that the abstract is as real as the concrete, the general as realized as the particular." Or moreso. A Platonist is the diametric opposite of a Pragmatist.

And, a Platonist asserts the eternal intertwining of goodness, beauty, and truth: a Sublime Braid that cashes out for Plato's Socrates as humility and piety of a secular sort, a "strengthened kinship with the cosmos" through an uplifted infatuation with wisdom and "love for that which isn't oneself."

Aristotle's student Alexander, "arrogrant, drunken, cruel, vindictive, and grossly superstitious," was evidently not a good philosopher. Russell doubts he learned much from his tutor, but he did us the service of keeping Hellenic civilization alive long enough to produce a big chunk of our curriculum.

Aristotle was optimistic and teleological (or purpose-driven), convinced that "the universe and everything in it is developing towards something continually better." Coulda fooled us, or most of us. (But Goldstein's husband Steve Pinker, with his Better Angels, might offer qualified agreement.)

Aristotle's "good," unlike Plato's remote and abstract Form, is immanent and practically universal. It's that activity of the virtuous soul called eudaimonia, flourishing, or happiness. Everybody wants some, for its own sake. Aristotle's god is another story.

And what is virtue? It's any action that tends to produce happiness (but don't confuse happiness with fleeting pleasure. One swallow does not make a summer.

Some more possible points for discussion today: If Aristotle's metaphysics is Plato diluted by common sense, what's so common about it? Does each of us have an "essence"? What do you think of Aristotle's airy and impersonal God? Is happiness the only thing in the world that's intrinsically good, for its own sake? Is Aristotle's golden mean really golden, or is it vapid, formulaidc, and equivocal? Is it true what Fish said to Boghossian, that philosophical conclusions "do not travel"? What can that possibly mean, from a peripatetic or pragmatic point of view?

Today is the anniversary of the Battle of Marathon, "regarded as the kicking-off point for the rise of Classical Greece and the birth of Western civilization" (if you want to call it that). We're debating, at this late date, the deplorability of racists and other haters? People who casually fling the ugly word that rhymes with stitch, and worse, are offended by that perfectly apt and descriptive word? That's deplorable.

Why is it so hard to live in the present? Past and future do seem more safe, sane, and secure. But here and now is where it's always happening, and here and now is where we store our past and hatch our possible futures. Here's where the progress has to happen.
==
Weekend update. Highlights: the veggie chimichanga at Guac, Meryl Streep as a really good bad singer, one last Sounds game, honey (etc.) from the Green Door csa, wonderful songs at summer's end (loving the new WMOT roots music!), and Sunday brunch at home. Especially that. No time for Titans. Life is good.

Monday, September 9, 2013
Aristotle to Outlaw
We have Aristotle on two tracks (the Little History and Philosophy Bites) today in CoPhi, and on the third a "Woody Allen-ish" philosopher from New York (Canada originally), Lou Marinoff. He's featured in today's reading from America the Philosophical, as is local star Lucius Outlaw.


Aristotle‘s in the Pythons' philosopher's song too, though he's even more sober than his Ionian predecessors. He rejected his teacher Plato’s metaphysics, returned to the cave of the phenomenal world to take a closer look, avoided universalizing abstractions and CAPS (preferring forms in things to transcendent and remote FORMS "above"), and inspired the name of our annual Spring speaker series in the philosophy department at MTSU, the Lyceum.

Our first-ever Fall Lyceum is coming up on November 8, with Carlin Romano coming to explain why America really is a vibrantly philosophical civilization if you look in the right places. Watch for details.)

The best quick & graphic way of illustrating the difference between Plato and his student Aristotle, I’ve found, is by pondering Raphael’s famous painting School of Athens [annotated]. Pay close attention to the hands.

Aristotle said one swallow doesn't make a summer, and a few moments of pleasure don't add up to a happy life. Nor does a "happy childhood." We must be in it for the long haul, and must see our good as coordinate with that of others including those who'll succeed us after we're gone. It's all about eudaimonia ("you die" is a helpful mnemonic, aggressive and hostile though it sounds, and though it really means you live.)

Aristotle was a naturalist, noticing our continuity with the rest of nature. Like trees and plants we flourish when well-nurtured. Unlike them, we must take charge of our own nurture in order to reach our potential.

It's so ironic that the middle ages made Aristotle "The Philosopher," i.e. the unquestioned Authority. That was indeed "against the spirit of philosophy."

Terence Irwin's podcast interview is compelling listening, for those unaccustomed to a Yorkshire accent (or whatever it is). He makes the same point I just did about coordinating the personal and the public good, and "identifying one's own interest with other people's interest" etc.

He also helpfully corrects overly-simple reductions of Aristotle's ethics to a dogged middle-of-the-roadism. Avoiding extremes doesn't mean choosing the blandest, milk-toastiest possibility. It means doing the right thing at the right time for the right reason etc., and that could very well turn out to be something exciting. Or scary. (Like bombing Syria? What would Aristotle say?)

I used Lou Marinoff's Plato, Not Prozac in Intro (before it was CoPhi) some years ago. Was a bit tempted to experiment with hanging out a shingle and seeing whether the market could bear my therapeutic presence. One of these days, maybe.

Best intro to him might be this Times feature from awhile back.

...philosophical counselors disagree on everything from the best name -- philosophical practice? public philosophy? -- to whether they should be trying to cure people, empower them or guide them to self-understanding...

Marinoff and other practitioners hold that we all have a philosophy of life, whether we know it or not, and that we can benefit from identifying that philosophy, making sure it helps us rather than hinders us -- defining success, say, in a way we might actually achieve it -- and then strengthening it through dialogue with the great thinkers.

Sounds reasonable enough, doesn't it? But when professions and income levels collide, controversy ensues.

Lucius Outlaw was a pioneering African-American philosopher who studied at Fisk. He's at Vanderbilt now (where he's said some terrific things about teaching, learning, and love). I'm not quite sure why Carlin Romano's chosen to shine such a spotlight on him (I'll put it on my list of questions for Carlin when he comes, in November.)

The most prominent African-American philosopher in America is Cornel West, "in a league of his own" in Outlaw's own words. Here he is in London last year with our first podcast interviewee, MM McCabe (Socrates), and then in the public sphere of NYC, in a taxi, in and on "the examined life."


Kwame Anthony Appiah, London-born Ghanaian-raised, Cambridge-educated, and Princeton-based, is another African-heritage philosopher in America we should all know. His Cosmopolitanism, discussed here, would be required reading in every school, if I were philospher-king. He too was featured in The Examined Life, articulating why it's not only okay for people to be different but actually imperative. And healthy.

See also his wonderful talk on "Ethics in a World of Strangers."

There have been important African-American philosophers all along, including (notably) W.E.B. DuBois and (arguably) Booker T. Washington. And then there's Hubert Harrison.

Hubert Harrison, the “Black Socrates,” defies the stereotype of unblinking theism among African-Americans. He also admired Paine, noted errors in the Bible, and embraced Agnosticism (“such an agnostic as Huxley was”). He said he had no intention of bowing down to a lily-white god or worshipping a Jim Crow Jesus. He was more than a little literal when he also embraced Nietzsche’s repudiation of “slave ethics.” Admitting that reason alone did not meet his every need, he still preferred “to go to the grave with my eyes open.” That’s a really good personal credo, “eyes open.” Mind too. JMH

One more thing. The Bible book of Ecclesiastes came up in discussion on the CoPhi site, over the weekend. I broke my vow of staying entirely off the Internet during the Sabbath to post my own two cents. Seems crucial, from an Aristotelian or Marinoffian or just plain life perspective, to try and get clear on just what the author was trying to say. Surely not that you have to die and be one of the proud, the few, the "elect," to be happy. I prefer Jennifer Hecht's gloss:

Koheleth brushed aside the dream of an afterlife with a simple appeal to reason--Who knows this?--and the conclusion that humans have nothing above the beasts in this regard...

But it doesn't follow that simple happiness is unavailable in this life. The recipe's pretty simple.

Love your spouse. Get some work to do, do it with all your might; enjoy the simple pleasures of food, drink, and love. Everything else is vanity.

But, it's a form of vanity we can live with. The search for true love, solid friendship, good work, and daily delight might just be enough. Enjoy your life. A person could do worse. The search for happiness on this orb is anything but a "dismal" undertaking, as someone sadly suggested. You could ask Aristotle. It's the end and aim of life.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

#10
Group Nature vs. Nurture
 Austyn O. , Nathan G.

We volunteer to present first on our topic of Nature vs. Nurture

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Study Guide for Exam One

Here are all seven quizzes to use as a study guide for next weeks exam: 


Quiz 1
     1. What approach to the story of philosophy does Anthony Gottlieb say he aims to take in The Dream of Reason?

2. When was western science created?

3. How did William James define philosophy?

4. What's distinctive about philosophical thinking?

5. What is the sequel to The Dream of Reason?
     
     Quiz two
     1. What were Aristotle's followers called?

2. Who said his mind only worked with his legs?

3. Whose mentor called walking "gymnastics for the mind"?

4. Who had a "Sand-walk"?

5. How much does the average American walk?

6. Name a city with a "Philosophers' Walk".

Quiz Three
1.Who labelled the early 6th & 5th century philosophers "PreSocratics," and what did they invent?

2. Aristotle said the Milesians were the first what?

3. Why does Gottlieb say Thales was not simply silly to suggest that H2O is the origin and essence of everything? OR, What must we do in order to refute him?

4. What essential facet of scientific thinking did Anaximander's work exemplify?

5. What famous poetic image do we associate with Pythagoras?

6. What was a good Pythagorean supposed to study?

7. What did Bertrand Russell, echoing Pythagoras and Plato, consider the mind's "highest good"?

8. How does Gottlieb think Aristotle was unfair to the Pythagoreans in his interpretation of their claim that numbers are the principles of all things?

Quiz Four
 1.How does Gottlieb think Heraclitus would reply to Aristotle's complaint about his ambiguous syntax?

2. Why did Heraclitus compare us all to beasts, drunkards, sleepers, and children? What did he say we fail to grasp?

3. What did fire symbolize, for Heraclitus?

4. Who were Parmenides' famous teacher and student?

5. What was Parmenides' surprising claim (aside from the idea that everything is eternal)?

6. How did Parmenides say language and thought connect to the world?

7. What was Zeno trying to discredit, with his famous paradoxes of motion?

8. What did Aristotle say Zeno invented, and how did his aim differ from Socrates'?

9. How does Gottlieb solve the Achilles paradox?

     Quiz Five
1. What was Empedocles' legendary "Faustian end"?

2. What did Empedocles identify as the universal elements whose interplay accounts for all phenomena including sexual attraction?  And, which of "our" elements does Gottlieb compare them to?

3. What fundamental principles of modern biology did Empedocles anticipate?

4. What was Empedocles' favorite scientific interest?

5. What did Anaxagoras bring to Athens, and what was his nickname?

6. Of what was Anaxagoras accused, like Socrates thirty years later?

7. How was Anaxagoras less extreme than Parmenides, with respect to reason and perception?

8. Was Anaxagoras a mind-matter dualist?

Quiz six
1. How was Democritus remembered after his death, and why?

2. Why did early Christians oppose atomism?

3. Name two other early atomists.

4. What idea did Democritus take over from Leucippus?

5. When did ancient atomism become a mature scientific view?

6. What ability was most valued in Periclean Athens?

7. For whom was the term sophistes, Sophists, reserved in the time of Protagoras, Gorgias, Hippias, et al, and what subjects did they teach?

8. What were Plato's & Aristotle's stated objections to the Sophists?

9. What playwright satirized Socrates and the Sophists indiscriminately?

10. Which Sophist embraced subjectivity and said "Man is the measure of all things"?

Quiz Seven
1. What was Socrates' "faith"?

2. How does Gottlieb account for Socrates' appeal to the "high society" of Athens, given his humble background and poverty?

3. What did Alcibiades see in Socrates?

4. with what request did Socrates typically commence a philosophical conversation? What was his method called?

5. Why were the defenders of Athenian democracy uneasy about Socrates?

6. In what way did the Oracle mean that Socrates was wise? Did Socrates accept the Oracle's authority at face value?

7. What was Socrates' basic motive for philosophizing?

8. Why did Socrates say it's unwise to fear death?

9. In what different ways were Socrates and Plato "unworldly"?

10. What form of life did Socrates say is not worth living? OR, Do the "authentically Socratic" dialogues usually settle on a final conclusion?