Quotable: Aristotle, on education

This is one of my favorites. I thought of this quote about every week when I was teaching.

“We ought to have been brought up in a particular way from our very youth, as Plato says, so as both to delight in and to be pained by the things that we ought; for this is the right eduction.” Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, 1104b11-13

This should be added to the picture.

“Since things that are found in the soul are of three kinds–passions, faculties, states–excellence must be one of these. By passions I mean appetite, anger, fear, confidence, envy, joy, love, hatred, longing, emulation, pity, and in general the feelings that are accompanied by pleasure or pain; by faculties the things in virtue of which we are said to be capable of feeling these, e.g. of becoming angry or being pained or feeling pity; by states the things we of which we stand well or badly with reference to the passions, e.g. with reference to anger we stand badly if we feel it violently or too weakly, and well if we feel it moderately; and similarly with reference to the other passions.

“Now neither the excellences nor the vices are passions, because we are not called good or bad on the ground of our passions, but are so called on the ground of our excellences and our vices, and because we are neither praised nor blamed for our passions (for the man who feels fear or anger is not praised, nor is the man who simply feels anger blamed, but the man who feels it in a certain way), but for our excellences and our vices we are praised or blamed.

“Again, we feel anger and fear without choice, but the excellences are choices or involve choice. Further, in respect of the passions we are said to be moved, but in respect of the excellences and the vices we are said not to be moved but to be disposed in a particular way.” (1105b19-1106a6)

Aristotle goes on to say that virtues or excellences are states, the things by which we stand well or badly with reference to the passions. So, I suppose the question now is what sort of “thing” is a state? These “things” are clearly related to the passions, but how? Are they the regulatory conditions? And if so, what constitutes these conditions for Aristotle? What constitutes these conditions for us? Or are we prepared to dismiss his categories entirely? Finally, how are choices “involved”? All of this is fertile ground for further ethical reflection. But, at least for me, this muddles up the flash card version of Aristotle on emotion.

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