COMMENTARY ON ARISTOTLE’S NICOMACHEAN ETHICS: BOOK I, 7
(For the nature of the sections see the “General Introduction”, here.)
Abbreviations: Ar. = Aristotle, AQ= Aquinas, NE = Nicomachean Ethics, EE= Eudemian Ethics
“Let us go back again to the good being sought, whatever it might be. For it appears to be one thing in one action or art, another in another: it is different in medicine and in generalship, and so on with the rest. What, then, is the good in each of these? Or is it for the sake of which everything is done? In medicine, this is health; in generalship, victory; in house building, a house; and in another, it would be something else. But in every action and choice, it is the end involved, since it is for the sake of this that all people do everything else. As a result, if there is some end of all actions, this would be the good related to action; and if there are several, then it would be these. So as the argument proceeds, it arrives at the same point. But one ought to make this clearer still.
Since the end appears to be several, and some of these we choose on account of something else –for example, wealth, an autos, and the instrumental things generally– it is clear that not all ends are complete, but what is the best appears to be something complete. As a result, if there is some one thing that is complete in itself, this would be what is being sought, and if there are several, then the most complete of these. We say that what is sought for itself is more complete than what is sought out on account of something else, and that what is never chosen on account of something else is more complete than those things chosen both for themselves and on account of this [further end]. The simply complete thing, then, is that which is always chosen for itself and never on account of something else.
Happiness above all seems to be of this character, for we always choose it on account of itself and never on account of something else. Yet honor, pleasure, intellect and every virtue we choose on their own account —for even if nothing resulted from them, we would choose each of them —- but we choose them also for the sake of happiness, because we suppose that, through them, we will be happy. But nobody chooses happiness for the sake of these things or, more generally, on account of anything else.
The same thing appears to result also on the basis of self-sufficiency, for the complete good is held to be self-sufficient. We do not mean by self-sufficient what suffices for someone by himself, living a solitary life, but what is sufficient also with respect to parents, offspring, a wife, and, in general, one´s friends and fellow citizens, since by nature a human being is political. But it is necessary to grasp a certain limit to these; for if one extends these to include the parents [of parents], and descendants, and the friends of friends, it will go in infinitely. But this must be examined further later on. As for the self-sufficient, we posit it as that which by itself makes life choiceworthy and in need of nothing, and such is what we suppose happiness to be.
Further, happiness is the most choiceworthy of all things because it is not just one among them —and it is clear that, were it included as one among many things, it would be more choiceworthy with the least addition of the good things; for the good that is added to it results in a superabundance of goods, and the greater number of goods is always more choiceworthy. So happiness appears to be something complete and self-sufficient, it being an end of our actions.
But perhaps saying that “happiness is best” is something manifestly agreed on, whereas what it is still needs to be said more distinctly. Now, perhaps this would come to pass if the work of the human being should be grasped. For just as in the case of the aulos player, sculptor and every expert, and in general with those who have a certain work and action, the relevant good and the doings of something well seem to reside in the work, so too the same might be held to be the case with a human being, if in fact there is a certain work that is a human being’s. Are there, then, certain works and actions of a carpenter but none of a human being: would he, by contrast, be naturally “without a work”? Or just as there appears to be a certain work of the eye, hand and foot, and in fact of each of these parts in general, so also might one posit a certain work of a human being apart from all of these?
So whatever, then, would this work be? For living appears to be something common even to plants, but what is peculiar to human beings is being sought. One must set aside, then, the life characterized by nutrition as well as growth. A certain life characterized by sense perception would be next, but it too appears to be common to a horse and cow and in fact to every animal. So there remains a certain active life of that which possesses reason, and what possess reason includes what is obedience to reason, on the one hand, and what possess it and thinks, on the other. But since this [life of reason in the second sense] also is spoken of in a twofold way, one must posit the life [of that which possess reason] in accord with an activity, for this seems to be its more authoritative meaning. And if the work of a human being is an activity of the soul in accord with reason, or not without reason, and we assert that the work of a given person is the same kind as that of a serious person, just as it would be in the case of a cithara player and a serious cithara player, and this would be so in a all cases simply when the superiority in accord with virtue is added to the work; for it belongs to a cithara player to play the cithara, but to a serious one to do so well. But if this is so —and we posit the work of a human being as a certain life, and this is an activity of the soul and actions accompanied by reason, the work of a serious man being to do these things well and nobly, and each thing is brought to completion well in accord with he virtue proper to it —if this is so, then the human good becomes an activity of the soul in accord with virtue, and if there are several virtues, then in accord with the best and most complete.
But, in addition, in a complete life. For one swallow does not make a spring, nor does on day. And in this way, one day or a short time does not make someone blessed and happy either.
Let the good have been sketched in this way, then, for perhaps one ought to outline it first and then fill it in later. It might seem to belong to everyone to advance and fully articulate things whose sketch is in a noble condition, and time is a good discoverer of or contributor to such things: from these have arisen the advances in the arts too, for it belongs to everyone to add what is lacking.
But we must remember the points mentioned previously as well, to the effect that one must not seek out precision in all matters alike but rather in each thing in turn as accords with the subject matter in question and insofar as is appropriate to the inquiry. For both carpenter and geometer seek out the right angle but in different ways; the former seeks it insofar as it is useful to his work; the latter seeks out what it is or what sort of a thing it is, for he is one who contemplates the truth. One ought to act in the same manner also in other cases to have nobly pointed out the “that” —such is the case in what concerns the principles— and the “that” is the first thing and a principle. Some principles are observed by means of induction, some by perception, some by a certain habituation, and other in other ways. One ought not to go in search of each in turn in the manner natural to them and to be serious about their being nobly defined. For they are of great weight in what follows from them: the beginning seem to be more than half the whole, and many of the points being sought seem to become manifest on account of it. ” (NE, 1097a15-1098b8; Aristotle´s Nicomachean Ethics, Bartlett, Robert, and Collins, Susan; University of Chicago, Chicago, 2011)
I. PRIVATE PUZZLES
1) Why does one have the feeling in this subsection that Ar. can FINALLY get into the real argument itself? Aren’t the digressions sort of the “hard work” prior to actually engaging in the much more rewarding, even joyful process itself? However, generally speaking, what is the point of an argument that is so strikingly formal in nature? For, aren’t we continuously speaking of happiness WITHOUT actually knowing what Ar. understands by it concretely? How are we to “fill in” this initial formalism; as Ar. himself acknowledges: “But perhaps saying that “happiness is best” is something manifestly agreed on, whereas what it is still needs to be said more distinctly”? Presumably when we finish READING the whole of the NE we will be much better prepared to fill it out? As a matter of fact, Ar. points out that ANYONE can fill it out? Isn’t this another example of clear Aristotelian humor? But then, wouldn’t this filling out suffer immensely if one simply SKIPPED parts of the text, as is generally the case with Books III (end) and IV on the moral virtues (seen as a simple apologetics of Greek virtues by a “duped” Aristotle)? And, generally, as well, why does Ar. once again REMIND us of methodological issues at the end of this subsection, and more perplexing still, now NOT calling them a digression? But most importantly, didn’t we already say that the end which hierarchically orders all others, IS that of THE political art? But then why does Ar. have us repeat: “But in every action and choice, it is the end involved, since it is for the sake of this that all people do everything else.”? Didn’t we already agree that it was the political art in subsection 3? But if so, why proceed in ways which, at the very least, seriously modify this initial political assumption? Isn’t this why Ar. says that this is a KIND of political inquiry? And further, how exactly are we going to square the public political art and the issue of individual human happiness? Will this question simply be relegated, rather, to the very end of BOOK VIII of the Politics, which ironically deals with a complex discussion of the ideal regime (almost in Platonic terms!)? Nonetheless, doesn’t Ar. want to KEEP quite distinct the investigation into the political and the investigation into the ethical? Isn’t his why he wrote SEPARATE books on these issues? But, if the general movement is towards a demonstration of the limits of the political life, then: why does Ar. repeat once again here, that in terms of self-sufficiency we must not forget that we are NOT speaking of a solitary human, but rather —and the list is impressive— “what is sufficient also with respect to parents, offspring, a wife, and, in general, one´s friends and fellow citizens, since by nature a human being is political” (repeating for us here the famous preliminary claim found in the Politics? However, how does one KNOW that this is so BY NATURE? Didn’t Ar., just a few subsections before, say that the legal appears to be by nomos, rather than by physis? Does he think he need not back up argumentatively this assertion? But isn´t this what philosophy is all about? And further, don’t modern early political theorists REALLY think Ar. does in fact need some such backing up? Isn’t this why they BEGIN their political analysis from a radically different starting point, namely, that of the Social Contract? Isn’t THIS the debate which characterizes the American Founding, or more generally the confrontation between Ancient and Modern liberalism/republicanism? Moreover, wouldn’t this be THE key to our misunderstanding Aristotle as moderns? But be this as it may, if Ar. is in fact putting forth a realm beyond the political, how will it come to appear as we proceed along in the argument? And if so, how can one reveal the limits of the political, while simultaneously not destabilizing it? For, isn’t the destabilization of the political THE core point of the previous Aristotelian procedural digressions? And yet, isn’t Ar. pointing towards the possibility that there may appear a tension between the life of personal fulfillment, and the life of the political, of recognition, and of the adamant concern for justice and the power of law? Isn’t this why, in the discussion of friendship in BOOKS VIII and IX, Ar. will point out that the best of true friends do not require justice? Won’t this show up clearly also in the tension between the two peaks of the NE, namely that of the Magnanimous human (megalophuchos) and that of all the virtues covered under justice as akin to the North Star? And besides, surely we know too that Plato never married, and we need only read Xenophon´s humorous Symposium to hear about Socrates´s ideas regarding “a wife and offspring”, don´t we? (not to mention the discussion of Ischomachus´s wife in the Economics!) Put another way, what finally is the human work (“ergon”) principally about: i) the fulfillment of individual happiness, the city being but a stage for THAT personal fulfillment, or ii) rather, understanding oneself fundamentally as part of a larger whole to which one owes a duty of self-sacrifice (be it the city, or perhaps even beyond, as part of the whole cosmic/divine order)? As assassinated (which is revealing in itself) President Kennedy famously put it; “Ask not, what your country can do for you. Ask what, you can do for your country.”?But, if ——as Ar. has argued—— law seems to be by nomos and not by physis, then how is one to critically see oneself as part of a regime that may turn out badly? How exactly will we differentiate between the good citizen and the good human? And to conclude, why does Ar. waiver back and forth, as we have seen, between these two possibilities? Is he allowing us to think for ourselves the implications either way?
2) Why does Ar. begin the investigation with the question of instrumentality? Isn’t this very indicative of the PURPOSE of an ethical inquiry? Isn’t this why in parallel fashion Benjamin Franklin is said to have written ALWAYS with the practical in mind (see section IV below)? For what is the point of an ethical inquiry that is not USEFUL to our concrete particular lives? But, WHAT is the useful here, and WHO is it truly useful for? And, what are we to make of the possible relationship between wealth and an aulos here mentioned? Are we somehow beginning to be taught by Aristotle to be musical with our wealth? For surely, in the analysis of liberality in Book IV, we are decidedly asked to look in THAT direction, aren’t we? But isn’t there a modern danger here of confusing OUR instrumentalism/utilitarianism with that of Ar.’s? For it is absolutely clear that the end of the Politics states clearly that the best of education is NOT guided by mere instrumentality, is it? (“Similarly they should be educated in drawing not so that they may not make errors in their private purchases and avoid being deceived in the buying and selling of wares, but rather because it makes them experts at studying the beauty connected with bodies. To seek everywhere the element of utility is least of all fitting for those who are magnanimous and free.” (my emphasis: Aristotle Politics VIII *3, 11138a40-1338b3). Furthermore, as to the criteria that Ar. sets out in the formal section of the argument: why exactly do we have TWO criteria as regards happiness, namely: i) that of completeness/perfection AND ii) that of self-sufficiency? as to the first, does not Ostwald aid us immensely in better understanding what Ar. refers to as completeness: namely, “this completion constitutes a perfection (which) is the complete actuality of the thing (entelecheia)” (Ostwald, p. 315)? But, must all perfection BE an actualization? Must all completeness, somehow BE REQUIRED to actualize itself? Or would this perhaps be the way we HUMANS look at things from our limited moral perspective? For, one could ask, moving to the monotheistic tradition; is GOD in his completeness REQUIRED to create us? But, wouldn’t that be odd, that perfection be limited by the imperfect? However, in OUR human terms, isn’t the ETHICAL precisely the occasion for our completeness in action and thus the expression of our HUMAN perfection? And, isn’t this sense of perfection beyond the merely given that will help us better understand, when we reach those moral high points ——the very foundation of the motivation underpinning the most virtuous humans of all—– that is to say, the magnificent and magnanimous human beings? Aren´t these most virtuous of humans THE prime examples of living a life that aspires to a certain complete and self-sufficient perfection? But once again, do THEY have as their target THEIR fulfillment, or is it rather the fulfillment of the city/ cosmic whole to which they belong? Don’t even humans of the caliber of Washington vacillate in this regard? And, as a contrasting reference, isn’t it clear WHY Abraham acts as he does? Moreover, isn’t this precisely why Ar. will have to BACK UP his argument in this subsection by mentioning, for the first time, the role model par excellence which we ought to follow in trying to make concrete sense of the outline proposed, namely, the presence of the serious human being in moral affairs (in Greek, the spoudaios, see Ostwald, p. 314)? Is the serious human longing for a perfection beyond the political/familial, a perfection beyond the fame granted as recognition which can only be sought elsewhere; ironically, in a kind of perfection that actualizes itself in a different type of activity altogether?
3) And don’t we thus come face-to-face with what could be argued is THE core paragraph of the whole NE? Why so? Precisely because we meet for the first time the argumentative hypothesis of the connection between happiness and the life of ethical virtue? Won’t THIS be the crucial debate? For, on the one hand, we find happiness which above all seems to fit these criteria, BUT Ar. adds: ”yet honor, pleasure, intellect and every virtue we choose on their own account —for even if nothing resulted from them, we would choose each of them”? Leaving aside the previous critique on honor and pleasure in other subsections, one is lead to ask: how will happiness fit with each of these four elements? And that Ar. HIMSELF seems to be clear on the issue, can be seen in that he quickly adds regarding the latter, or some of the latter, that we in our ordinary life “suppose that through them we will be happy”? But, and here is the CORE thesis to be argued for as we read along the NE, WILL we? Will happiness as the most complete perfection consist in the complete activation of the highest of the moral virtues, in particular? Must one not recall what we have previously said, above all, as regards the complex virtue of courage in our previous subsections? How exactly does the self-sacrifice involved in giving up one´s life for the city (Kennedy, Galán) or the whole (Isaac), generate happiness in the individual who thus CEASES to exist? Or, as Professor Pangle summarizes the basic issue by way of puzzles in his illuminating The Spirit of Modern Republicanism:
“The noble, in order to be noble, must also be a source of good, for the possessor as well as for those in whose behalf he acts. Virtue cannot be disentangled from the concern for happiness. But if the concern for virtue is necessarily a part of the concern for happiness, how can it in the final analysis be a form of sacrifice? What makes it so moving? What distinguishes the most virtuous man from the man who has the cleverest knowledge of his own interests —and then why should virtue deserve praise or reverence, rather than simple admiring congratulation? How does the man lacking in virtue differ from the man who is ignorant of his own best interests —and why should such a man be blamed or punished.” (Pangle obviously points to subsection 12 of BOOK I which deals with “the praise accorded to happiness”; p. 58)
4) Furthermore, why does Ar. have to add to the question of completeness as regards the highest good, also the question of self-sufficiency? What is the kind of self-sufficiency Ar. is referring to here if it if fact includes the LONG list of familial and political interrelations mentioned in puzzle number 1 above? I mean, what are we to make of Ar.’s OWN words when quoting Hesiod in one of the previous subsections which stated that best is he who understand things BY HIMSELF? Does THIS mean, by himself, and WITH others? Or does one understand, but somehow makes/aids others understand what one such as Ar. has understood? But wouldn’t THIS be odd? For why would understanding be guided by misunderstanding? And, further, why then does Ar. clearly separate his discussion of friendship into 2 DIFFERENT and separate books, relegating the questions of the family and the political to BOOK VIII, while keeping the more fundamental parts (specially regarding the question of “self-love”) to BOOK IX? Are we not to understand by this that we are somehow ascending?
5) What exactly is the connection between happiness (eudaimonia) and the work (ergon) of the human being? Why is Ar. so open to there actually NOT being such a work proper to a human? And isn’t this really the most fundamental question: can we in fact IMAGINE humans without a characteristic ergon? Is our ergon primarily justice-oriented? Is it, as we moderns do not tire of repeating endlessly, the dignity conferred to us by our modern notion of HUMAN rights? But wouldn’t this be odd, for doesn’t is presuppose that ALL previous understandings of the basic nature of human beings is ERRONEOUS? And is this ergon transcultural and transhistoric, so that we moderns have the very same BASIC ergon as the Ancient Greeks? But what would THAT be? And, just to be bold; are we speaking of the ergon of Athens, or is it that of Sparta? And, poignantly does not Locke argue as a criticism of Ar. that we do not have any innate ideas? Isn´t this why Locke argues his BOOK was so negatively received? Besides, in terms of the examples; is the ergon more like an aulos player, that is to say much more akin to the musical in life? Or, rather, is it more like the hard work of constant chipping away by the sculptor? Is it of the levity of wind, or rather of the hardness of rock? Furthermore, and very importantly, why does Ar. HERE not provide the example of the physician or the general? Why does he DROP them here? Don’t physicians and generals deal with the question death in a very direct way, so that THEIR view of things is hardly that of the creative artist connected to the beauty of things? How is this connection of the noble, the beautiful and the good to be understood in relation to the completeness and self-sufficiency of the happy human? And continuing with the examples: what of the example given by Ar. of the carpenter? Is it more ironical than anything else in the sense that Ar. points out, if EVEN a carpenter has a specific work, it would be odd that WE as humans had none? Moreover, don’t ALL these examples related to our human activity clearly relate one to a consideration of complete happiness as in relation to other human beings? For isn’t the artist in need of others who recognize him for what she is, for her musical talent? But, doesn’t Ar. go on —following his biological bent—- to provide a more perplexing example which differs markedly from the previous ones, namely, that of the analogy to our human body, our organs? In what sense would we conceive of the human ergon in THIS regard? For, first, are we to reconsider happiness as moving beyond our social relationships to a broader connection the WHOLE of nature? Wouldn’t be Ar. speaking her a connection beyond anthropomorphism? But if so, then why use the HUMAN organs as his example? And secondly, how does the political come to be understood in THIS light? For just as there are natural organs to us; is there natural justice for all? Does nature somehow provide us the basis for affirmations such as the one pointed out above, namely, that the human is a political being BY NAUTRE? And politically speaking, does this not make on recall the very critique by Ar. of the idea of the polis as a beehive? And, finally, doesn’t this point make us recall immediately what Ar. will say in his discussion of Natural Justice in BOOK V as regards the issue of ambidextry? Can our organs learn and makes us perfect ourselves towards a self-sufficiency akin to the divine?
6) And in this regard, what to make of the first appearance of the makairos or blessed human? What is the relationship between blessedness, the divine and happiness? Is Ar. here touching upon the issue of piety once again, but in a rather indirect way? And if so, then once again we need ask, why then does he OMIT it from the actual analysis of the virtues themselves in Books III and IV? Must we be seriously attentive as to the next appearances of the word so as to be able to find clues with regards to Ar. own considerations as regards the issue of completeness, self-sufficiency and divinity? Or more importantly, why does Ar. leave these issues open for the reader? Is it part of the strategy of leaving the outline as open as possible from the very start so that we are not impelled to choose either way from the beginning (contrast AQ.´s more closed interpretation below)? And moreover, does the reference to the serious moral man, the spoudaios, include an inherent reference to a belief in the Gods? But if so, which Gods, of which city? Jerusalem, Athens, …? Put bluntly, how does philosophy philosophize about faith?
7) And finally: don’t we have now a better understanding for Ar.´s memorable words as regards this subsection and all the digressions that have built up to it? Don’t we truly appreciate now the words: “the beginning seems to be more than half the whole, and many of the points being sought seem to become manifest on account of it.” Have we prepared ourselves adequately to continue?
III. PUZZLES REGARDING COMMENTARY BY AQUINAS
1) As usual, AQ´s help is impressive as a commentator. He aids us particularly in trying to better understand the issue of completion and perfection (specially 103, 107 and 108). However we need ask,: how are we to interpret AQ.´s words on self-sufficiency at 112/113, given that Ar. himself does not ONCE speak of the issue of happiness after this life?
“In this work the Philosopher speaks of happiness as it is attainable in this life, for happiness in a future life is entirely beyond the investigation of reason.”
2)As regards number 126, one MUST emphasize that AQ. is QUICK to point out the superiority of intellect and rationality to desire. Thus he tells us:
“From this we can see that happiness will more properly be found in the life of thought than in the life of activity, and in a act of reason or intellect than in an act of the appetitive power controlled by reason.”
Such words stand in striking contrast to Ar.´s own affirmation which reveals his more flexible and open argumentative nature:
“And if the work of a human being is an activity of the soul in accord with reason, or not without reason …” (my emphasis)
3) And finally, linked to 1) above: what are we to make of the words we find in 129?
“So continuity and perpetuity, which are not found in the present life, belong to the nature of perfect happiness. Hence perfect happiness cannot be had in this life.”
But, then, pace AQ, what motivates US to continue seriously entertain the dynamic of the NE itself?
4) Two contrasting examples from the Bible can perhaps aid us in understanding i) the question of ergon under a paradigm of belief, namely, OBEDICNCE, and ii) what God’s exemplary completeness/perfection and self-sufficiency means as exemplary King David (a pious spoudaios?) sees it:
i) Genesis 22; 2-3)
“And He said, ¨Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah; and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”
So Abraham rose early in the mooring and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.” (See Pangle, Political Philosophy and the God of Abraham.)
ii) Psalm 33: 1-5, 18-22; “A Psalm of Joy”
“Sing for joy in the Lord,
O you righteous ones;
Praise is becoming to the upright.
Give thanks opt the Lord with the lyre;
Sing praises to Him with a harp of ten strings
Sing to Him a new song;
Play skillfully with a shout of joy.
For the word of the Lord is upright;
And all His work is done in faithfulness.
He loves righteousness and justice;
The earth is full of the lovingkindness of the Lord.
Behold the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him.
On those who hope for his Lovingkindness.
To deliver their soul from death.
And to keep them alive in famine.
Our soul waits fort the Lord;
He is our help and our shield.
For our hearts rejoice in Him.
Because we trust in his holy name.
Let Thy lovingkindness;
O Lord, be upon us.
According as we have hoped in Thee.” (my emphasis)
IV. FLEXIBLE SECTION
1) For Strauss’s discussion of Aristotle’s practical philosophy see Liberalism Ancient and Modern,
“Second, the Aristotelian distinction between theoretical and practical sciences implies that human action has principles of its won which are known independently of theoretical slice (physics and metaphysics) and therefore that the practical sciences do not depend o the theoretical sciences or are not derivative from them. The principles of action are the natural ends toward which man is by nature inclined and of which he has by nature some awareness. Tis awareness is the necessary condition for his seeking and finding appropriate means for his ends, or for his becoming practical wise or prudent.” (“Epilogue”, p. 205 ff.)
2) For a look at Benjamin Franklin´s view as regards the question of moral principles and methodology, see his “utilitarian” inspired Letter to Joseph Priestly On Moral Algebra, or Decision-making:
“And though the weight of reasons cannot be taken with the precision of algebraic quantities, yet, when each is thus considered separately and corporately, and the whole lies before me, I think I can judge better, and the whole lilies before me, I think I can judge better, and am less likely to make a rash step; and in fact I have found great advantage from this kind of equation, in what may be called moral or prudential algebra”
3) For an example of the political significance of intellectual activity, see Thomas More´s Utopia:
“The other hours of the day, when they are not working, eating or sleeping, are left to each man´s individual discretion, provided he does not waste his free time in roistering or sloth but uses it properly in some occupation that pleases him. Generally these periods are devoted to intellectual activity. For they have an established custom of giving public lectures before daybreak; attendance at these lectures is required only for those who have Benn specially chosen to devote themselves to learning, but a great many other people of all kinds, bath men and women, choose voluntarily to attend. Depending on their interests, some go to one lecture, some to another. But if anyone would rather devour his spare time to his trade, as many do who don´t care for the intellectual life, this is not discouraged; in fact, such persons are commended as specially useful to the commonwealth.” (BOOK II; “Their Occupations”, p. 51 Cambridge)
4) On the question of the divine as seen in the Memorabilia one need recount Xenophon´s appreciation of Anaxagoras:
“(6) And he turned one away wholly from becoming a worrier about the way n which the god contrives each of the heavenly things. For he held these things are not discoverable by human beings, and he believed that one who sought what the gods did not wish to make clear would not gratify them. And he Saud that the one who was anxious about these things ran the risk of going out of his mind no less than Anaxagoras went out of his mind, he who took the greatest pride in explaining the contrivances of the gods”
words which continue with a direct reference to the Socratic issue of health and self-sufficiency:
“(9) He also vehemently turned his companions toward attending tot their health by learning form those who know how, as mocha s was possible, and by each one turning his mind to himself through his whole life, that is, to which food or which drink or what sort of labor was to his advantage and how he might live most healthfully by making use of these things, For he said that someone who turned his mind towers himself in this way would have to work to find a doctor who discerned better than himself what was advantageous to his health”. (IV, Chapter 7, pp. 146-147 )
5) Aristotle´s words on method can be complemented by looking into the Metaphysics:
i) “The way we receive a lecture depends on our custom, for we expect a lecturer to us the language we are accustomed to, and any other language appears not agreeable but rather unknown and strange because we are not accustomed it; for the customer is more known. …. Therefore, one should already be trained in how to accept statements, for it is absurd to be seeking science and at the same time the way of acquiring science; and neither of them can be acquired easily”. (Metaphysics, BOOK II, 995a1-5, 995a12)
as well as: Metaphysics, BOOK IV, Chapter 6, 1011a7-17
ii) “All such problems amount to the same thing for hey demand a reason for everything; they ask for a principle but they demand a demonstration of it, although from their actions it is obvious that they are not convinced. But as we just said, their trouble I s this: they seek a reason for that which has no reason: of the starting point of a demonstration is not a demonstration. Now the former may be easily convinced of this fact, for it is not difficult to grasp. But those who seek to be persuaded by verbal argument alone are asking for the impossible; for they claim the right of stating the contraries and so they begin by statin them.”
6) One could put forth the question as to what exactly is the modern ergon of technology and its appearance. A simple way to look at this issue, emphasized by Heidegger again and again, is by reflecting on the very appearance of the automobile in our modern life. Such recounting is best done by artists. It is masterfully recreated by Faulkner in his The Reivers:
“You see what I mean not senior and junior in the social hierarchy of the town, least of all rivals in it, but bankers, dedicated priests in the impenetrable and ineluctable mysteries of Finance; it was as though, despite his life long ramrod-stiff and unyielding opposition to, refusal even to acknowledge, the machine age, Grandfather had been vouchsafed somewhere in the beginning a sort of –to him— nightmare vision of our nation´s cast and boundless future in which the basic unit of its economy and prosperity would be a small mass-produced cubicle contriving four wheels and an engine”” (Faulkner, The Reivers, Vintage pg. 28 and context)
7) For the contrasting view of Kant, who proceeds to make NO reference to the actual way we live our lives, one can read the following anti-Aristotelian words in nature:
“With a view to attaining this, it is extremely important to remember that we must not let ourselves think that the reality of this principle can be derived from the particular condition of human nature. For duty is practical unconditional necessity of action: it must, therefore, hold for all rational beings (to which alone an imperative can apply), and only door that reason can it be a law for all human wills” (Foundation of the Metaphysics of Morals, Macmillan, p. 43)
V. IMPORTANT GREEK TERMS IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE
|ἔργονἀνθρώπου||work of a human being|
|πᾶσανἀρετὴν||All the virtues|
|αὔταρκες||sufficient in oneself, self-supporting, independent|
|φύσειπολιτικὸνὁἄνθρωπος||humans by nature a political|
|σπουδαίου||in haste, quick, serious, ‘setting high standards for oneself, ‘of high moral standard’|
|γίνεσθαι||come into a new state of being|
VI. NICOMACHEAN ETHICS, GREEK, BOOK I, 7; text at Perseus (based on Bywater)
πρὸς τὰ κτητὰ καὶ πρακτὰ τῶν ἀγαθῶν: οἷον γὰρ παράδειγμα τοῦτ᾽ ἔχοντες μᾶλλον εἰσόμεθα καὶ τὰ ἡμῖν ἀγαθά, κἂν εἰδῶμεν, ἐπιτευξόμεθα αὐτῶν. πιθανότητα μὲν οὖν τινα ἔχει ὁ λόγος, ἔοικε δὲ ταῖς ἐπιστήμαις διαφωνεῖν: δὲ νίκη, ἐν οἰκοδομικῇ δ᾽ οἰκία, ἐν ἄλλῳ δ᾽ ἄλλο, ἐν ἁπάσῃ δὲ πράξει καὶ προαιρέσει τὸ τέλος: τούτου γὰρ ἕνεκα τὰ λοιπὰ πράττουσι πάντες. ὥστ᾽ εἴ τι τῶν πρακτῶν ἁπάντων ἐστὶ τέλος, τοῦτ᾽ ἂν εἴη τὸ πρακτὸν ἀγαθόν, εἰ δὲ πλείω, ταῦτα. μεταβαίνων δὴ ὁ λόγος εἰς ταὐτὸν ἀφῖκται: τοῦτο δ᾽ἔτιμᾶλλονδιασαφῆσαιπειρατέον. ἐπεὶδὲπλείωφαίνεταιτὰτέλη, τούτωνδ᾽αἱρούμεθάτιναδι᾽ἕτερον, οἷονπλοῦτοναὐλοὺςκαὶὅλωςτὰὄργανα, δῆλονὡςοὐκἔστιπάντατέλεια: τὸδ᾽ἄριστοντέλειόντιφαίνεται. ὥστ᾽εἰμένἐστινἕντιμόνοντέλειον, τοῦτ᾽ἂνεἴητὸζητούμενον,
εἰδὲπλείω, τὸτελειότατοντούτων. τελειότερονδὲλέγομεντὸκαθ᾽αὑτὸδιωκτὸντοῦδι᾽ἕτερονκαὶτὸμηδέποτεδι᾽ἄλλοαἱρετὸντῶνκαὶκαθ᾽αὑτὰκαὶδι᾽αὐτὸαἱρετῶν, καὶἁπλῶςδὴτέλειοντὸκαθ᾽αὑτὸαἱρετὸνἀεὶκαὶμηδέποτεδι᾽ἄλλο. τοιοῦτονδ᾽ἡεὐδαιμονίαμάλιστ᾽εἶναιδοκεῖ: ταύτηνγὰραἱρούμεθαἀεὶδι᾽αὐτὴνκαὶοὐδέποτεδι᾽ἄλλο, τιμὴνδὲκαὶἡδονὴνκαὶνοῦνκαὶπᾶσανἀρετὴναἱρούμεθαμὲνκαὶδι᾽αὐτά（μηθενὸςγὰρἀποβαίνοντοςἑλοίμεθ᾽ἂνἕκαστοναὐτῶν）, αἱρούμεθαδὲκαὶτῆςεὐδαιμονίαςχάριν, διὰτούτωνὑπολαμβάνοντεςεὐδαιμονήσειν. τὴνδ᾽εὐδαιμονίανοὐδεὶςαἱρεῖταιτούτωνχάριν, οὐδ᾽ὅλωςδι᾽ἄλλο. φαίνεταιδὲκαὶἐκτῆςαὐταρκείαςτὸαὐτὸσυμβαίνειν: τὸγὰρτέλειονἀγαθὸναὔταρκεςεἶναιδοκεῖ. τὸδ᾽αὔταρκεςλέγομενοὐκαὐτῷμόνῳ, τῷζῶντιβίονμονώτην, ἀλλὰκαὶγονεῦσικαὶτέκνοιςκαὶγυναικὶκαὶὅλωςτοῖςφίλοιςκαὶπολίταις, ἐπειδὴφύσειπολιτικὸνὁἄνθρωπος. τούτωνδὲληπτέοςὅροςτις: ἐπεκτείνοντιγὰρἐπὶτοὺςγονεῖςκαὶτοὺςἀπογόνουςκαὶτῶνφίλωντοὺςφίλουςεἰςἄπειρονπρόεισιν. ἀλλὰτοῦτομὲνεἰσαῦθιςἐπισκεπτέον: τὸδ᾽αὔταρκεςτίθεμενὃμονούμενοναἱρετὸνποιεῖτὸνβίονκαὶμηδενὸςἐνδεᾶ: τοιοῦτονδὲτὴνεὐδαιμονίανοἰόμεθαεἶναι: ἔτιδὲπάντωναἱρετωτάτηνμὴσυναριθμουμένην—συναριθμουμένηνδὲδῆλονὡςαἱρετωτέρανμετὰτοῦἐλαχίστουτῶνἀγαθῶν: ὑπεροχὴγὰρἀγαθῶνγίνεταιτὸπροστιθέμενον, ἀγαθῶνδὲτὸμεῖζοναἱρετώτερονἀεί. τέλειονδήτιφαίνεταικαὶαὔταρκεςἡεὐδαιμονία, τῶνπρακτῶνοὖσατέλος. ἀλλ᾽ ἴσως τὴν μὲν εὐδαιμονίαν τὸ ἄριστον λέγειν ὁμολογούμενόν τι φαίνεται, ποθεῖται δ᾽ ἐναργέστερον τί ἐστιν ἔτι λεχθῆναι. τάχα δὴ γένοιτ᾽ ἂν τοῦτ᾽, εἰ ληφθείη τὸ ἔργον τοῦ ἀνθρώπου. ὥσπερ γὰρ αὐλητῇ καὶ ἀγαλματοποιῷ καὶ παντὶ τεχνίτῃ, καὶ ὅλως ὧν ἔστιν ἔργον τι καὶ πρᾶξις, ἐν τῷ ἔργῳ δοκεῖ τἀγαθὸν εἶναι καὶ τὸ εὖ, οὕτω δόξειεν ἂν καὶ ἀνθρώπῳ, εἴπερ ἔστι τι ἔργον αὐτοῦ. πότερον οὖν τέκτονος μὲν καὶ σκυτέως ἔστιν ἔργα τινὰ καὶ πράξεις, ἀνθρώπου δ᾽οὐδένἐστιν, ἀλλ᾽ἀργὸνπέφυκεν; ἢκαθάπερὀφθαλμοῦκαὶχειρὸςκαὶποδὸςκαὶὅλωςἑκάστουτῶνμορίωνφαίνεταίτιἔργον, οὕτωκαὶἀνθρώπουπαρὰπάνταταῦταθείητιςἂνἔργοντι; τίοὖνδὴτοῦτ᾽ἂνεἴηποτέ; τὸμὲνγὰρζῆνκοινὸνεἶναιφαίνεταικαὶτοῖςφυτοῖς, ζητεῖταιδὲτὸἴδιον.
ἀφοριστέονἄρατήντεθρεπτικὴνκαὶτὴναὐξητικὴνζωήν. ἑπομένηδὲαἰσθητικήτιςἂνεἴη, φαίνεταιδὲκαὶαὐτὴκοινὴκαὶἵππῳκαὶβοῒκαὶπαντὶζῴῳ. λείπεταιδὴπρακτικήτιςτοῦλόγονἔχοντος: τούτουδὲτὸμὲνὡςἐπιπειθὲςλόγῳ, τὸδ᾽ὡςἔχονκαὶδιανοούμενον. διττῶςδὲκαὶταύτηςλεγομένηςτὴνκατ᾽ἐνέργειανθετέον: κυριώτερονγὰραὕτηδοκεῖλέγεσθαι. εἰδ᾽ἐστὶνἔργονἀνθρώπουψυχῆςἐνέργειακατὰλόγονἢμὴἄνευλόγου, τὸδ᾽αὐτόφαμενἔργονεἶναιτῷγένειτοῦδεκαὶτοῦδεσπουδαίου, ὥσπερκιθαριστοῦκαὶσπουδαίουκιθαριστοῦ, καὶἁπλῶςδὴτοῦτ᾽ἐπὶπάντων, προστιθεμένηςτῆςκατὰτὴνἀρετὴνὑπεροχῆςπρὸςτὸἔργον: κιθαριστοῦμὲνγὰρκιθαρίζειν, σπουδαίουδὲτὸεὖ: εἰδ᾽οὕτως, ἀνθρώπουδὲτίθεμενἔργονζωήντινα, ταύτηνδὲψυχῆςἐνέργειανκαὶπράξειςμετὰλόγου, σπουδαίουδ᾽ἀνδρὸςεὖταῦτακαὶκαλῶς, ἕκαστονδ᾽εὖκατὰτὴνοἰκείανἀρετὴνἀποτελεῖται: εἰδ᾽οὕτω, τὸἀνθρώπινονἀγαθὸνψυχῆςἐνέργειαγίνεταικατ᾽ἀρετήν, εἰδὲπλείουςαἱἀρεταί, κατὰτὴνἀρίστηνκαὶτελειοτάτην. ἔτιδ᾽ἐνβίῳτελείῳ. μίαγὰρχελιδὼνἔαροὐποιεῖ, οὐδὲμίαἡμέρα: οὕτωδὲοὐδὲμακάριονκαὶεὐδαίμονα μίαἡμέραοὐδ᾽ὀλίγοςχρόνος. περιγεγράφθωμὲνοὖντἀγαθὸνταύτῃ: δεῖγὰρἴσωςὑποτυπῶσαιπρῶτον, εἶθ᾽ὕστερονἀναγράψαι. δόξειεδ᾽ἂνπαντὸςεἶναιπροαγαγεῖνκαὶδιαρθρῶσαιτὰκαλῶςἔχοντατῇπεριγραφῇ, καὶὁχρόνοςτῶντοιούτωνεὑρετὴςἢσυνεργὸςἀγαθὸςεἶναι: ὅθενκαὶτῶντεχνῶνγεγόνασιναἱἐπιδόσεις: παντὸςγὰρπροσθεῖναιτὸἐλλεῖπον. μεμνῆσθαιδὲκαὶτῶνπροειρημένωνχρή, καὶτὴνἀκρίβειανμὴὁμοίωςἐνἅπασινἐπιζητεῖν, ἀλλ᾽ἐνἑκάστοιςκατὰτὴνὑποκειμένηνὕληνκαὶἐπὶτοσοῦτονἐφ᾽ὅσονοἰκεῖοντῇμεθόδῳ. καὶγὰρτέκτωνκαὶγεωμέτρηςδιαφερόντωςἐπιζητοῦσιτὴνὀρθήν: ὃμὲνγὰρἐφ᾽ὅσονχρησίμηπρὸςτὸἔργον, ὃδὲτίἐστινἢποῖόντι: θεατὴςγὰρτἀληθοῦς. τὸναὐτὸνδὴτρόπονκαὶἐντοῖςἄλλοιςποιητέον, ὅπωςμὴτὰπάρεργατῶνἔργωνπλείωγίνηται. οὐκἀπαιτητέονδ᾽οὐδὲτὴναἰτίανἐνἅπασινὁμοίως, ἀλλ᾽ἱκανὸνἔντισιτὸὅτιδειχθῆναικαλῶς, οἷονκαὶπερὶτὰςἀρχάς: τὸδ᾽ὅτιπρῶτονκαὶἀρχή. τῶνἀρχῶνδ᾽αἳμὲνἐπαγωγῇθεωροῦνται, αἳδ᾽αἰσθήσει, αἳδ᾽ἐθισμῷτινί, καὶἄλλαιδ᾽ἄλλως. Μετιέναιδὲπειρατέονἑκάσταςᾗπεφύκασιν, καὶσπουδαστέονὅπωςδιορισθῶσικαλῶς: μεγάληνγὰρἔχουσιῥοπὴνπρὸςτὰἑπόμενα. δοκεῖγὰρπλεῖονἢἥμισυτοῦπαντὸςεἶναιἡἀρχή, καὶπολλὰσυμφανῆγίνεσθαιδι᾽αὐτῆςτῶνζητουμένων. σκεπτέον δὲ περὶ αὐτῆς οὐ μόνον ἐκ τοῦ συμπεράσματος καὶἐξὧνὁλόγος, ἀλλὰκαὶἐκτῶνλεγομένωνπερὶαὐτῆς: τῷμὲνγὰρἀληθεῖπάντασυνᾴδειτὰὑπάρχοντα, τῷδὲψευδεῖταχὺδιαφωνεῖτἀληθές. νενεμημένωνδὴτῶνἀγαθῶντριχῇ, καὶτῶνμὲνἐκτὸςλεγομένωντῶνδὲπερὶψυχὴνκαὶσῶμα, τὰπερὶψυχὴνκυριώταταλέγομενκα δὲπειρατέονἑκάσταςᾗπεφύκασιν, καὶσπουδαστέονὅπωςδιορισθῶσικαλῶς: μεγάληνγὰρἔχουσιῥοπὴνπρὸςτὰἑπόμενα. δοκεῖγὰρπλεῖονἢἥμισυτοῦπαντὸςεἶναιἡἀρχή, καὶπολλὰσυμφανῆγίνεσθαιδι᾽αὐτῆςτῶνζητουμένων.