Quotable: Aristotle

“Actions, then, are called just and temperate when they are such as the just or the temperate man would do; but it is not the man who does these that is just and temperate, but the man who also does them as just and temperate men do them. It is well said, then, that it is by doing just acts that the just man is produced, and by doing temperate acts the temperate man; without doing these no one would have even a prospect of becoming good.

“But most people do not do these, but take refuge in theory and think they are being philosophers and will become good in this way, behaving somewhat like patients who listen attentively to their doctors, but do none of the things they are ordered to do. As the latter will not be made well in body by such a course of treatment, the former will not be made well in soul by such a course of philosophy.”

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1105b5-17

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.

Quotable: James K.A. Smith

“Since its early beginnings, Charles Taylor notes, modernity has been marked by a rejection of teleology, a rejection of the notion that there is a specified, normative end (telos) to which humanity ought to be directed in order to enjoy the good life. And this rejection was driven by a new notion of “libertarian” freedom, which identified freedom with the freedom of choice.”
James K.A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom, 175.

From Dorothea Frede, “The Cognitive Role of Phantasia

“Knowledge is ‘remembered’ only accidentally (Mem. 450a12-14), i.e. we only remember when and how we first learned Pythagorus’ theorem, but not the theorem itself. This is not as strange as it may sound at first, given Aristotle’s presuppositions: I do not recall a past phantasia in the case of theoretical knowledge; the question is rather whether I still know it, that is understand it.”

I cannot explain now, but this is important, related to Michael Polanyi, and I need to save it.

Paragraph Summaries of Aristotle

This will make you wish you too were reading Aristotle.

Physics, Book I, Chapter 7

¶ We must first give an account of becoming, beginning with general things and getting more specific.

¶ There are examples of simple becoming and complex.

¶ In simple becoming the something does not survive in the process of becoming (e.g. non-music becomes musical).

¶ In the case of complex becoming the something survives the process (a man goes from being a non-musical man to a musical man).

¶ There is an underlying something in all change which survives, but the other element of the compound (e.g. non-musical) does not survive.

¶ We use the two forms “becoming that from this” and “this becoming that” in slightly difference senses.

¶ Only with regard to substances can we technically say “come to be.”

¶ In all cases other than substances there is an other underlying something which becomes.

¶ But we will see even in the case of substances, something underlies coming to be.

¶ Things come to be in different ways: change of shape, addition, subtraction, putting together, etc. In all cases there is something underlying.

¶ Thus, whatever comes to be is complex.

¶ Everything that comes to be comes from subject and form (opposite).

¶ Subject is one numerically (though it is two in form).

¶ Yet, there is also a sense in which the principles are three since being man is different than both being musical and being unmusical.

¶ It is clear then, that there must be something underlying the contraries and the that contraries must be two.

¶ The underlying nature can be known by analogy, wood to bed, bronze to statue, etc.

¶ While it’s not clear whether the form or what underlies is substance, we’ve at least seen the three principles of becoming.

So that’s what that’s about.

Aristotle on Virtue

In fact, however, arguments seem to have enough influence to stimulate and encourage the civilized ones among the young people, and perhaps to make virtue [excellence] take possession of a well-born character that truly loves what is fine; but they seem unable to stimulate the many towards being fine and good.

For the many naturally obey fear, not shame; they avoid what is base because of the penalties, not because it is disgraceful. For since they live by their feelings, they pursue their proper pleasures and the sources of them, and avoid the opposed pains, and have not even a notion of what is fine and truly pleasant, since they have had no taste of it.

What argument could reform people like these? For it is impossible, or not easy, to alter by argument what has long been absorbed by habit [_ethos_]….

Arguments and teaching surely do not influence everyone, but the soul of the student needs to have been prepared by habits for enjoying and hating finely, like ground that is to nourish seed. For someone whose life follows his feelings would not even listen to an argument turning him away, or comprehend it; and in that state how could he be persuaded to change? And in general feelings seem to yield to force, not to argument.

Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, X.9

Quotables: Aristotle and Piper

We say that some peole who do just actions are not thereby just, if, for instance, they do the actions prescribed by the laws either unwillingly or because of some other end, not because of the actions themselves, even though they do the right actions, those that the excellent person ought to do.

– Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, IV, 12.15-19

(Lewis) demonstrated for me and convinced me that rigorous, precise, penetrating logic is not inimical to deep soul-stirring feeling, vivid lively imagination. He was a romantic rationalist. He combined what almost everybody today assumes are mutually exclusive, rationalism and poetry, cool logic, warm feelings, disciplined prose, free imagination. And in shattering these old stereotypes for me he freed me to think hard and write poetry, argue for the resurrection and compose a hymn to Christ, smash an argument and hug a friend, demand a definition and use a metaphor. It’s a wonderful thing when a great man shows a struggler how to be himself.

– Piper on C.S. Lewis