Wednesday, March 10, 2010

237: Aristoteles

When you want do describe an ax you can talk about its shape, its color, the materials it is made of, but the description is incomplete, if you don't add the mentioning of the function of the object: to chop wood.

According to Aristotle, everything has a purpose or final end. If we want to understand what something is, it must be understood in terms of that end, which we can discover through careful study.

Everything has a "telos", a final end, a goal, a purpose says Aristotle. From this idea comes the word teleological. You can look at nature in a teleological way, which means that you assume that everything in nature has a goal, a final end.

Thus we also can ask what is the final end, the "telos" of a human being. What is it that human beings are meant by nature to become?

Aristotle's answer to this question is: we are meant to become happy. This is very nice, but not very conclusive. Aristotle says that living happily requires living a life of virtue.

Someone who is not living a life that is virtuous, or morally good, is also not living a happy life, no matter what they might think.

Much more than any herd animal the human being is a political animal. And because everything in nature has a purpose, according to Aristotle, the fact that the human being alone has speech has a purpose too.

To quote Aristotle himself: Speech serves to reveal the advantageous and the harmful and hence also the just and unjust.

For it is peculiar to man as compared to the other animals that he alone has a perception of good and bad and just and unjust and other things of this sort; and partnership in these things is what makes a household and a city. -- end quote

The partnership between men who deliberate about just and unjust shapes the city. This is essential in Aristotle's view. Ethics and politics are closely linked in his opinion.

He holds the view that the ethical and virtuous life is only available to someone who participates in politics, while moral education is the main purpose of the political community.

And thus Aristotle says: "The end [or goal] of politics is the best of ends; and the main concern of politics is to engender a certain character in the citizens and to make them good and disposed to perform noble actions.”

Politics as an educational function. From the politicians we have to learn the virtues. I wonder who would dare to say that these days.

I think a lot of us have not such a high esteem of politicians. Politics is often depicted as aiming at ignoble, selfish ends, such as wealth and power, rather than the “best end”,

and many people regard the idea that politics is or should be primarily concerned with creating a particular moral character in citizens as a dangerous intrusion on individual freedom, in large part because we do not agree about what the “best end” is.

What we often see as the important task of a government is to keep us safe from other people, for instance through provision of police or army. This provides us with the liberty to pursue our own ends in freedom.

The teleological ontology of Aristotle has been supported through the ages, but somewhere in history we have dropped his views, when you recognize my description of how we look at politics (and politicians) these days.

Sometime in history the political philosophers dropped the idea that the emergence of a (city-)state was the result of a natural teleological process.

You only have to wait and attend the coming lectures to discover when and why this happened, or maybe you already know.

The Discussion

[13:27] herman Bergson: This is just a tiny bit of Aristottle's ideas...
[13:27] herman Bergson: But enough for today ^_^
[13:28] herman Bergson: Your remark was to the point oola....
[13:28] oola Neruda: at first... what you were saying, almost seemed like religion
[13:28] herman Bergson: The highest person in esteem in the city state according to Aristotle is the Lawgiver
[13:28] herman Bergson: yes you might say so...
[13:29] herman Bergson: IN fact Aristotle had a high esteem of the human being able to attain virue
[13:29] Repose Lionheart: The Greek city state must have been an interesting social and ethical laboratory
[13:29] Repose Lionheart: I agree with Aristotle
[13:29] herman Bergson: I think so too Repose
[13:30] Repose Lionheart: our lives are lived on a moral axis
[13:30] herman Bergson: Aristotle had also many ideas about how it should be organized
[13:30] Repose Lionheart: hmmm
[13:30] herman Bergson: A mix of olichary and democracy
[13:30] Alaya Kumaki: yes, oola if we consider the root of the word religions,== to link,= religiare.. to link people together,is a natural process , for the goods of name. at first
[13:30] Repose Lionheart: oh
[13:30] Repose Lionheart: yeah
[13:30] Alaya Kumaki: of many
[13:30] Repose Lionheart: that's waht we have in every republic now
[13:31] herman Bergson: indeed Alaya
[13:31] Repose Lionheart: especially the USA
[13:31] Abraxas Nagy: interesting oola
[13:31] herman Bergson: well Repose..there is one difference...
[13:31] Repose Lionheart: ?
[13:31] herman Bergson: Aristotle believed that the organization of the state was the result of a natural process
[13:32] Alaya Kumaki: and a mixture of autarchy also, maybe
[13:32] Repose Lionheart: oh, yes
[13:32] herman Bergson: He was deeply concerned fro instance about civil war...
[13:32] herman Bergson: the relation between the poor and rich
[13:32] Repose Lionheart: oh
[13:33] herman Bergson: a fear for factions...
[13:33] Repose Lionheart: yes, all things that have trouble the democracy i live in
[13:33] herman Bergson: What is typical in Greek thinking, especially in Aristotle, in my opinion , is the search for equilibrium, harmony, balance
[13:34] herman Bergson: Virtue is the middle between two extremes
[13:34] Sartre Placebo: equilibrium,harmony,balance but only for citizens right ?
[13:34] herman Bergson: like olichargy is the ruling by the rich and democracy the ruling by the masses
[13:34] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:34] herman Bergson: Aristotle suggest a mix
[13:35] Repose Lionheart: practical, i suppose ㋡
[13:35] Repose Lionheart: the rich are always with us
[13:35] herman Bergson: But historically more interesting is that we have lost Aristotle's ontology
[13:35] Repose Lionheart: oh, yes
[13:35] herman Bergson: we have lost the teleological thinking
[13:36] herman Bergson: Thus the state is no longer the result of a natural process
[13:36] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:37] herman Bergson: Does anyone knowwhen we lost our innocence??? ^_^
[13:37] Alaya Kumaki: the state is nearly as what everything was tough to look at , a merchandise as well. we can shop our governements nearly
[13:38] herman Bergson: yes Alaya
[13:38] Alaya Kumaki: maybe before it was more of a culture , human cultural developements.
[13:38] herman Bergson: When did we loose the Aristotelian beliefs?
[13:38] oola Neruda: i agree Alaya
[13:39] Alaya Kumaki: when the capital become the main point
[13:39] oola Neruda: the selling of the president ... that was written about the kennedy=nixon teddy white
[13:39] oola Neruda: race
[13:39] herman Bergson: A bit earlier Alaya
[13:39] Alaya Kumaki: really oola, how interesting
[13:39] Abraxas Nagy: mm I'd say
[13:39] Repose Lionheart: Maybe we lost our innocence in the Enlightenment
[13:39] herman Bergson: Right Repose!
[13:39] Repose Lionheart: ㋡
[13:39] Alaya Kumaki: aw,, when was that?
[13:40] Repose Lionheart: 17th century
[13:40] Alaya Kumaki: i see
[13:40] Repose Lionheart: i think
[13:40] herman Bergson: The very moment we started to think that the state was just a social contract (between animals)
[13:40] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:40] Repose Lionheart: a balancing of contending forces
[13:41] Repose Lionheart: no harmony
[13:41] Abraxas Nagy: but isnt everything like that?
[13:41] Repose Lionheart: not
[13:41] Alaya Kumaki: between animal, eww that is the lowering of values , human value
[13:41] herman Bergson: Hobbes, who we certainly will discuss was the witch-master by claiming that we are wolves for each other
[13:41] herman Bergson: No Alaya, because we are saved by our reason
[13:41] Alaya Kumaki: im not saying animals has no value, there.. .. either
[13:42] herman Bergson: No, but as Aristotle already remarked...contrary to animals we posses the ability of speech..which means reason
[13:43] herman Bergson: So ..what we will do is follow the Aristotelian ideas through the ages for a start
[13:43] Alaya Kumaki: oh, and did the wolf theory, was also brought in the Enlightments period?
[13:43] oola Neruda: is it naieve to speak about virtue as if there was no.. evil?
[13:44] Sartre Placebo: homo homini lupus :P
[13:44] herman Bergson: yes the beginning of the Age of Science so to speak
[13:45] Alaya Kumaki: gosh i always wonder where did the idea that human became predator for one another, , but i think that wolf are doing even better,, according their ethics
[13:45] herman Bergson: fact was Hobbes wrong with comparing us with wolves...they are very social animals
[13:47] herman Bergson: For the next lecture we will introduce the Civitas Dei of Saint Augustine
[13:47] Repose Lionheart: oh, great ㋡
[13:47] Abraxas Nagy: oops
[13:47] Sartre Placebo: die stadt gottes
[13:47] herman Bergson: The moment that christianity takes over
[13:47] Sartre Placebo: ?
[13:47] herman Bergson: Correct Sartre
[13:47] Alaya Kumaki: ^^
[13:48] herman Bergson: If you have no further questions I would like to thank you for your participation
[13:48] Sartre Placebo: thx, herman
[13:48] Abraxas Nagy: thank YOU professor
[13:48] Repose Lionheart: Thank you, Professor ㋡
[13:48] Qwark Allen: ******* Herman *******
[13:48] Qwark Allen: ty
[13:48] Alaya Kumaki: thank yu to yu herman,^^
[13:48] Abraxas Nagy: see you all next time :D
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