COMMENTARY ON ARISTOTLE’S NICOMACHEAN ETHICS: BOOK I, 8
(For the nature of the sections see the “General Introduction”, here.)
Abbreviations: Ar. = Aristotle, AQ= Aquinas, NE = Nicomachean Ethics, EE= Eudemian Ethics
“One must examine what concerns it, not only on the basis of the conclusion and the premises on which the argument rests, but also on the basis of things said about it. For with the truth, all the given facts harmonize; but with what is false, the truth soon hits a wrong note.
Now, although the good things have been distributed in a threefold manner ——both those goods said to be external, on the one hand, and those pertaining to the soul and to the body, on the other —— we say that those pertaining to the souls should be the most authoritative and especially good. And we posit as those “goods pertaining to the soul”, the soul’s actions and activities. As a result, the argument would be stated nobly, at least according to this opinion, which is ancient and agreed to by those who philosophize. It would be correct to say that certain actions and activities are the end, for in this way the end belongs among the goods related to soul, not among the external ones.
And that the happy person both lives well and acts well harmonize with the argument, for [happiness] was pretty much said to be a certain kind of living well and good action. It also appears that all the things being sought pertaining to happiness are included in what was said: in the opinion of some, happiness is virtue; of others, prudence; of others, a certain wisdom; in the opinion of still others, it is these or some of these things, together with pleasure or not without pleasure. And others include alongside these the prosperity related to external goods as well. Many of the ancients say some of these things, a few men of high repute say others of them: and it is reasonable that neither of this two group be wholly in error, but rather that they be correct in so respect, at least, or even in some respects.
The argument, then, is in harmony with those who say that [happiness] is virtue or a certain virtue, for an activity in accord with virtue belongs to virtue. But perhaps it makes no small difference whether one supposes the best thing to reside in possession or use, that is, in a characteristic or an activity. For it is possible that, although the characteristic is present, it accomplishes nothing good — for example, in the case of someone who is asleep or has been otherwise hindered. But this is not possible when it comes to the activity: of necessity a person will act, and he will act well. For just as it is not the noblest and strongest who are crowned with the victory wreath in the Olympic games but rather the competitors (for it is certain of these who win), so also it is those who act correctly who attain the noble and the good things in life.
But their life is also pleasant in itself, for feeling pleasure is among the things related to the soul, and there is pleasure for each person in connection with whatever he is said to be a lover of — for example, a horse is pleasant to the horse lover, a play to the theater lover. In the same manner too the just things are pleasant to the lover of justice, and in general, things in accord with virtue are pleasant to the lover of virtue. Now, things pleasant to the many do battle with one another, because such things are not pleasant by nature; but to the lovers of what is noble, the things pleasant by nature are pleasant. Such are too are the actions in accord with virtue, with the result that they are pleasant both to such people and in themselves. Indeed, the life [of those who love what is noble] has no need of additional pleasure, like a sort of added charm, but possess pleasure in itself. For, in addition, to the point mentioned, he who takes no delight in noble actions is not good either; for no one would say that somebody who does not delight in acting justly is just or who does not delight in liberal actions is liberal, and morally in the other cases as well. And if this is so, then the actions in accord with virtue would, in themselves, be pleasant. But certainly these actions are good as well as noble; and they will be each of these specially, if in fact the serious person judges nobly about them —and he judges as we said.
Happiness, therefore, is the best, noblest, and most pleasant thing; and these are not separated, as the inscription at Delos has it:
Noblest is what is most just, but best is to be healthy;
And most pleasant by nature is for someone to attain what he passionately desires.
For all these are present in the best activities, and we assert that happiness is these activities – or the best among them.
Nonetheless, it manifestly requires external goods in addition, just as we said. For it is impossible or not easy for someone without equipment to do what is noble: many things are done through instruments, as it were —through friends, wealth and political power. Those who are bereft of these (for example, good birth, good children, or beauty) disfigure their blessedness, for a person who is altogether ugly in appearance or of poor birth, or solitary and childless cannot really be characterized as happy; and he is perhaps still less happy, if he should have altogether bad children or friends or, though he did have good ones, they are dead. Just as we said, then, [happiness] seems to require some such external prosperity in addition. This is why some make good fortune equivalent to happiness, and others, virtue. ”
(NE, 1098b9-1099b8; Aristotle´s Nicomachean Ethics, Bartlett, Robert, and Collins, Susan; University of Chicago, Chicago, 2011)
I. PRIVATE PUZZLES
1) Doesn’t modern philosophy have truly much to learn from the procedural points Ar. makes in this, apparently less interesting —“philosophically” speaking—- subsection? Isn’t the modern philosophical outlook, procedural ethics a la Kant in particular, fundamentally biased towards the formal considerations of ethics rather than towards Ar.´s emphasis “on the basis of what is said about it”? Surely what Ar. means is far from Habermas´s Communicative Ethics, isn’t it? Generally speaking, isn’t our philosophical and scientific bias prone to being unable to consider seriously this second element? And particularly, isn’t Political Science, affected most profoundly and dangerously? But then again, WHO is Ar. thinking about when he adds this element? In other words, WHO, more concretely are those who ”say things about it”? Surely he has told us already that the starting point has to involve, to a certain degree, the spoudaios (the serious citizen)? But WHO are the spoudaios, we do not tire of asking: is it primarily the student of the Lyceum? But wouldn’t that be odd? Won’t it most likely be the serious citizen who lives up to the demands of the noble (kalos) and the dutiful respect for the law (nomos)? Isn’t the speaker rather Pericles, or the impressive Diodotus, or Laches, or Nicias, or Ischomachus (even Thrasymachus already befriended) rather than the student of practical philosophy? But why continue to push this point further? For isn’t it true that we find ourselves involved in a vicious circle nowadays: serious speakers not being taken seriously by the young, and the young not taking serious speakers seriously because academy rarely invites them towards such a respectful prudent recognition? Bluntly, is it any wonder that Lincoln is seen as a racist? But leaving this point aside, what exactly does Ar. mean by telling us that “the truth harmonizes with the given facts, but hits a wrong note with the false”? What truth is he speaking of here, if he does not add ANY details; further, sees NO need to add further details? For surely, that the truth harmonizes seems to imply some linkage to what is beautifully so, doesn’t it? But how can a relativistic academy in particular even begin to consider this “simple” statement? Isn´t the truth of modern academic theory the one which dictates what in fact harmonizes, or not, with the practical sphere (see quotes by Strauss, Section IV below)? Isn’t Ar., then, ONCE again providing ANY kind of philosophical/theoretical endeavor, with its most original and inescapable limitations? However, isn’t modern academia’s self-understanding quite different? Isn’t the modern university THE leader in the implementation of political perspectives, so that the political leaders in many cases cannot but be seen suspiciously by those who attend these learning settings? But be that as it may; really, don’t we just have to listen to Ar. to SEE which truth he is speaking of, namely, that there are 3 types of hierarchically ordered goods? Isn’t part of this truth, the one that harmonizes with “ the way things are said”, that among those goods “those pertaining to the soul should be the most authoritative and especially good”? But, then, wouldn’t one have to INVESTIGATE what soul is as Ar. does in the De Anima? But surely he does not even ask us to refer to THAT work here, does he? Besides, what does it mean for Ar. that just simply the WAY we speak of the soul is SUFFICIENT as providing the bedrock of an investigation into the ethical? And by way of contrast, what if we have come to see ourselves as truly soulless, as truly nothing more than complex biological beings? Can a materialistic society, that perceives itself as matter in constant motion, not but see with radical irony such “high-flown” Aristotelian affirmations? Aren’t WE Aristotelians swimming upstream in this regard? For truly one rarely, if ever, finds the word “soul” being used in philosophical discussions as Ar. uses it, doesn’t one? Isn’t this part of the shock of reading Straussian interpretations for the first time with their constant reference to the soul WITHOUT going into a epistemological/ontological debate of its core importance? And even more dramatically: doesn’t Ar. in one and the same sentence let us see his prudent initial conciliatory note by affirming that this argument is not simply any kind of argument but rather a NOBLE type of argument? Aren’t we faced once again with the intimate relation between ethics, rhetoric and pragmatics? And most dramatically still, does not Ar. HERE seem to equate the ancient WITH those who philosophize? I mean, how further from radical skepticism can one go here? But who exactly are those who have so philosophized? For didn’t just 2 subsection ago Ar. tells us how misguided the presuppositions of Plato were in core themes (against Broadie and Rowe’s as well as Ostwald’s interpretations that EASILY provide an answer that includes Plato (!)? But then, is he speaking of Anaxagoras? Surely not, for Xenophon speaks of Anaxagoras´s fate, doesn’t he? So WHO then exactly? Hermeneutically letting go almost imprudently of ourselves: isn’t Ar. quietly hinting here to Cicero’s claim that it was Socrates who brought philosophy “back down to the earth”? And finally, don’t we better understand here Strauss´s stunning reference to Plato as being TOO LOUD, in contrast to the masterful rhetorical skills developed by Xenophon? And, thus, isn’t it obvious why Xenophon is not read in academic circles; circles not attuned to the very words of Ar.´s claim at the beginning of this MUCH “less important” subsection?
2) Besides what is the connection of THIS procedural reference to the very possibility of happiness in humans? If what we have said above is true, then wouldn’t the lack of such procedural understanding imply to a high degree that academy is not perhaps the greatest site for human happiness itself? But wouldn’t this go against the way academics speak of themselves? But leaving this thorny point aside, how do we KNOW that the person who is happy HARMONIZES with the argument, if we do not know WHO the happy person is, WHAT she does and HOW she lives? And why does Ar., once again, not simply AFFIRM a point but rather pregnantly adds that happiness is not SUCH and SUCH, but rather, PRETTY MUCH said to be so and so? And what to make about the ensuing list of differing opinions as regards the core element of happiness itself? Is it virtue, or prudence or, wisdom, or an eclectic mix? And why is Ar. again so tentative with regards to the still not developed question of wisdom, qualifying it as he does by saying that it is a “CERTAIN wisdom”? So are there different kinds of wisdom? But then, which one accords and harmonizes with the truth? Which one hierarchically orders the whole, so to speak? And those that do not, can we reasonably call them wisdom? But, how are we to know? How are we to lead our lives without knowing? And fundamentally, how do those that believe it is virtue, get along with those who believe it is wisdom? And those who turn to wisdom, how exactly do they relate to the prudent (primarily remembering Plato’s Third wave of the Republic)? And if the political art as we were told (but later omitted) is the ruling art, then doesn’t it make all the difference if prudence is the ORDERING political virtue par excellence? Moreover, what exactly is the relationship of pleasure to each of these? What is the pleasure of the virtuous, of the prudent, of the wise? And crucially, why clarify the argument by adding “or not without pleasure”? Why exactly is the question of pleasure SO utterly problematic in relation to the inquiry into the ethical virtues? Briefly, how are altruism and hedonism to get along? CAN they get along? And finally, doesn’t Ar. again seek to provide SOME common ground for the ancient, those who philosophize and those bestowed with high repute? But if those who hold fast to ancient tradition and those who have come to be considered as highly reputable see THEMSELVES as being partially correct, won’t a CRTICAL inquiry into the basis of their most fundamental longings via a rational reconsideration of their primordial framework (to use Taylor’s vocabulary) become ever more difficult? Or, again, is Ar. simply healing a relationship that has gone array between the philosophers of old, and the old who lead the political space in which philosophy alone can be carried out? Doesn´t one have to constantly keep Plato’s Laws in mind here?
3) Crucially, why does Ar. add that happiness is a virtue “OR a certain virtue”? Don’t we, with our moralistic bent, tend not so see how careful Ar. constantly is? And, what is this certain virtue? Is it a virtue in the ordinary moral sense of the term? Or rather, should one revert to the consideration of virtue in the broader Greek sense of “excellence” (so that even any instrument HAS a specific virtue)? But then wouldn’t one need to ask: doesn’t Ar. use the broadness of the term virtue —as excellence in general—- in such a way that it can be quite misleading? Is he purposely misleading, or better, silent about these issues? Put another more explicit way, is moral action the sphere which holds the KEY to greatest excellence of us as human beings? Or, rather, is the broadness of the term virtue itself, pointing to the fact that the ethical virtues are perhaps an entry point via which there may appear a sphere which is more perfect and more complete, and thus happiest? Moreover, what of the cryptic addition “for an activity in accord with virtue belongs to virtue”? Why is it so necessary to add this? Don’t WE feel like saying: “Well, of course, it does. So”? But what if the most compete activity were IN ACCORD with virtue but not simple REDUCED to moral virtue? What then? And why does Ar. speak of the crucial primacy of activity in contrast to possession? Don’t we feel like asking: well how do you get to “posses” a virtue, well by acting on it; but then, acting on it you get to possess it, don’t you? So, why does Ar. emphasize ONLY THE ACTIVE part of the circle for now? For truly, once again one need ask: suppose I have proven my courage in battle, what would it mean for me to seek occasion for its remaining active? How “happy” could the courageous be in times of peace? Isn’t THIS, in part, the KEY debate surrounding the conflicting parties debating the conditions for a NEW peace process for Colombia? And more generally, shouldn’t one recall The Federalist Papers´s memorable description of the horrific fate of classical republics? So, put another way, isn’t Ar. trying hard to let us see that an investigation into the ethical MIGHT open for us a realm beyond the simply ethical? Could Ar. be pointing out that the life of action can PERHAPS turn out to be a secondary type of life in terms of the requirements of the most complete happiness available to humans? And dramatically, isn’t this why in modern times Machiavelli (or other modern theorists, for that matter) does not speak ANYWHERE about this OTHER “certain virtue”? Finally, what to make of the idea that virtue is like an Olympic competition? By hearing this analogy, don’t we feel in our guts “I want to compete”? But IS the best life one that can best be captured by a competitive analogy? For, what is winning in education besides BECOMING better and thus happier? And truly, something like the idea of a “tenure track” just follows the Olympic analogy to the letter, doesn’t it? BUT what if Ar. were presenting this analogy ONLY to later on provide us with some astounding dilemmas as regards the life of action itself? Wouldn’t this make us utterly suspicious of an idea such as that of a “tenure track”? And, once again repeating, doesn’t BOOK X with its astounding conclusions lead us in THIS direction? Or should we rather believe Nietzsche and his admiration of Classical Culture as utterly competitive? But, is there HAPPINESS in constant competition; or rather is not Nietzsche simply PROJECTING his own views on the Will to Power backwards in time? Moreover, shouldn’t we recall that just a few subsections before Ar. quite explicitly said that the life of honor is VERY secondary (that it didn’t even seem to harmonize with the truth!)? So, one need ask, which is it: should one go ahead and run the race (of the ethical virtues), seek to win it (whatever that might mean) and be praised and recognized by others for doing it so well? OR, should we live the life of virtue —or of a certain virtue—- FOR ITS OWN SAKE, and truly, emphatically, disregard the added praise and benefits accorded to it as a kind of self-sacrifice? And if winning here is related to becoming like the greatest exemplars of the virtues, namely the magnanimous and magnificent, what IF Ar.´s inquiry were to find inherent dilemmas in THEIR lives as well? What, then?
4) Now, why does Ar. develop the argument further by dropping the issue of prudence and wisdom and focusing EXCLUSIVELY on the noble, the moral virtues and justice?Is he simply affirming that HE believes this to be the case? Or rather, is he not presenting the morally serious person with a rather unique challenge, namely, to show how, in acting thus morally he/she in FACT does act with pleasure? And how exactly are the noble actions related to the other 2 examples given, namely, i) that of the lover of horses (for Alcibiades and Xenophon were such lovers) which implies HAVING something of GREAT value and useful primarily in WAR, and ii) that of the lovers of the theater, where we NEED spectators to WITNESS out activities, be they tragic or comic? In other words, does the noble person act independently of the recognition granted for thus acting nobly? Or put another way, what exactly is the possession (like a horse is a beautiful possession) that results form loving to act in a noble manner? Isn’t the ONLY possession that of ONE’s own knowing one has acted thus, INDEPENDENTLY of ANY external result from it? Put briefly, coming to know that I POSESS myself, so to speak? Further, isn’t Ar. seriously grounding his whole argument in the very FACT that we humans are fundamentally and irremediably pleasure-seeking beings? How is the Bible to come to grips with this? Doesn’t the most complete happiness have all to do with this core human longing of a pleasantly fulfilled excellence and existence? Isn’t this why Ar. so carefully writes:
“Such are too are the actions in accord with virtue, with the result that they are pleasant both to such people and in themselves. Indeed, the life [of those who love what is noble] has no need of additional pleasure, like a sort of added charm, but possess pleasure in itself…” (my emphasis)
And strikingly, why do Broadie and Rowe — in their Oxford commentary— not see the crucial relevance of these words for Ar. (they do not even mention them in their hermeneutical analysis!)? Is it because they believe that Ar. is simply AFFIRMING that this is so? But isn’t this precisely WHY such interpreters, when they do reach BOOK X, are utterly confounded because they think Ar. has somehow “switched” sides? Isn’t it more prudent, hermeneutically speaking, to leave open the question as to how far Ar. simply AFFIRMS this connection between pleasure and moral virtue in particular? For truly, on the one hand, we “know”, and have been correctly educated to believe that he who does a liberal action, but does so in utter pain and grievance, can HARDLY be called liberal and generous, can he? But, why chose liberality (eleutheria) precisely here (and not, for instance, moderation)? Will it turn out in BOOK IV that Ar. will show serious concerns as regards the claim that liberality (which seems to be one of the virtues most akin to pleasure, as WE constantly SHOW in practice as a consumer society) is SIMPLY practiced for ITS OWN SAKE and not for its collateral benefits and rewards both personal and social? And in the same vein, why bring out the topic of the relation between justice and pleasure precisely here? What exactly is the pleasure of acting justly if one acts justly for its OWN SAKE, and NOT for any extrinsic reward for one’s actions, be they earthly or transcendental? Kant is clear about THIS, isn’t he? Put dramatically, why exactly does Abraham in The Bible have to be REWARDED for his obedient actions, if acting justly is good in itself and not rather a kind of mutilating self-sacrifice? Don’t we begin to surmise what Ar. would have to say about, for instance, the sacrifice of Isaac? Wouldn’t he be a bit puzzled as to WHY such actions were to be required if one wished to live blessedly? But, you may ask, why link this subsection thus to the question of the divine?
5) Precisely because, as regards the famous words from the Oracle of Delos (second only to the oracle of Delphi), we need ask seriously, why does it make its appearance so LATE in the NE, while in the EE these VERY words actually BEGIN the whole discourse itself(!)? Furthermore, didn´t Ar. just a few subsections before tells us that “the beginning is HALF the whole” (!)? Has Ar. changed his mind in between books; or is one much more mature, namely the NE, so that this provides us with a KEY to why Ar. provides so many digressions in the NE, digressions which reflect the maturity of sustained reflection in terms of the dynamic between audience, “methodology”, and his own personal philosophical history? Now then, what exactly does the Delos inscription mean? Doesn’t it see human life as fundamentally torn and tragic, and CONSEQUENTLY in need of the presence of divine beings who make their abode precisely inside the walls of Delos itself? For if one is to separate justice, health and erotic possession, doesn’t this IMPLY that —to be consequent with ourselves— truly justice is NOT pleasant? So, why would one act justly? Wouldn’t it be, as we have already seen in quoting Hesiod in previous commentaries, BECAUSE the Gods so REQUIRE it, and thus guarantee a certain protection and reward to those who do so act (in contrast to whose who do not, like Hesiod’s brother)? And, if the best is to be healthy, then doesn’t the inscription of Delos generate a severe tension between soul and body? Isn’t OUR modern society, intent on the elimination of all pain, clearly bent THIS way? But then hasn´t Ar. told us above that the SOUL is unquestionably superior if one sees things in the right way from the start? And finally, if possession what one desires erotically is the most pleasant, then how precisely is this affirmation connected intimately with the necessity of the Gods? For isn’t it something like this about which Aristophanes speaks of in Plato’s Symposium? In seeking to possess the other, aren’t we truly seeking to become like the Gods? And isn´t this longing punishable as in fact it is shown comically-tragically by Aristophanes’ wonderful words? Moreover, isn’t Ar.´s radical silence on the question of the erotic (in contrast to Plato’s long and complex discussions in his Symposium and Phaedrus) truly revealing as to the level of commitment by Ar. to the utter superiority of the best of friendships over erotic desire? And, let us be pardoned, but what exactly does “attaining” what one passionately desires stand for? Is it prolonged dialectical interchange? Finally, isn’t it striking that Broadie and Rowe, when discussing these lines mention that Delos (like Delphi) was a center for the worship of Apollo and that thus “the pessimistic verses must have been credited with the same authority as the Delphic ‘Know thyself’ and ‘Nothing in excess’ (p. 281)? But, we must protest, isn’t it absolutely clear that Ar. in contrast makes NO mention whatsoever to the other 2 sayings —-namely, ‘Know thyself’ and ‘Nothing in excess’—– which CLEARLY are related to Socrates, the sole originator of Classical Political Rationalism? Isn’t the NE, in contrast to the words of Delos, precisely a voyage into coming to “know oneself” beyond the powers of the shrine?
6) To conclude: why does Ar. end this section by returning to what HE himself has said is evidently the lowest and thus least likely to “harmonize” with the truth, namely, external goods. And in this regard, isn´t the KEY interpretative point whether Ar. is simply —very naively—- affirming that HE believes that this is the case, or is it rather he affirms that those who seek the life of nobility, who wish to become simply victorious see it thus? For if so, then, from THEIR perspective one OBVIOUSLY is in need of external goods such as friends, political power and wealth? For, how to be liberal if one has nothing? How to show one´s justice at the highest levels if one has no political power? However, hadn’t Ar. just a few sections before told us that the life of money was truly low-leveled in comparison to the other three? So then, IF good birth, children, wealth, political power, even physical beauty are crucial to the most complete end which is happiness; AND not only that but GOOD friends and GOOD children; AND not only that, but that they be always good; AND not only that, that they —seemingly– NOT EVEN DIE; if ALL these are conditions for the most complete happiness, THEN one simply MUST ask: HOW exactly will one´s friends not die(“though he did have good ones, they are dead)? Isn’t it precisely because the noble seeking the life of nobility require such a complex list of preconditions THAT it turns out that happiness is in FACT equated to luck, or perhaps related to the absolute need for the Oracles at Delos? Or put another way, isn’t it striking that Broadie and Rowe end their discussion of the final passage of this subsection by asking in perplexity: “Is the claim that physical beauty is necessary for happiness, or that ugliness is an impediment?” Striking we say, for don’t they take it for granted that Ar. is actually defending HIS position, rather that putting forth what is SAID about happiness by those who argue that in acting virtuously one becomes happy, complete and self-sufficient? For aren´t we told, dress appropriately for your interview; as if our skills were related to our clothing? Or put yet another way, don’t we know also that when Ar. discusses “magnanimity/greatness of soul” (the peak of the moral virtues) he will go on to speak, as he NEVER does, how the megalopsuchos is characterized thus:
“Also slowness of movement seems to be the mark of a great-souled man, as well as deep voice and steady speech …” (NE, 1125b 35)
But, will Ar. SIMPLY defend the great-souled man and his characteristic physical demeanor? Or won’t he rather, in defending him/her, provide clues as to the limits of the very way of life defended and acted upon but these most serious of human beings? And that Broadie and Rowe cannot but be perplexed given their interpretative presuppositions ALSO becomes apparent when they write (without attempting an answer themselves) that: “it is very surprising that health is not mentioned among the ingredients of a happy life.” However, IF the moral/noble life is of the essence, THEN health becomes KEY to its actualization (for how am I to be liberal if I have nothing to be liberal with given my illness? How can I prove my justice if I cannot make it to the courtroom as part of a jury? How join the military if my eye sight is incredibly poor?)? BUT if Ar. is allowing us to BOTH defend AND prudently question the life of nobility, THEN it becomes clear that happiness and certain issues regarding health may easily coexist, even coincide. Put yet another way, if liberality is related to freedom (eleutheria), then might not the most complete freedom have little to do with wealth and the use of things or health and the use of our bodies? Isn’t this, perhaps, the true value of a liberal education in the Aristotelian tradition?
III. PUZZLES REGARDING COMMENTARY BY AQUINAS
1) For the problematic relation between the life of pleasure and the Christian tradition see 155 and 158.
2) For the proximity of the Delian view to AQ.´s own presuppositions see 161
3) Finally, in 162 one would have to consider how exactly Christianity sees the virtue of magnanimity, the issue of power, and the reference to the death of a friend.
4) For the pleasure of love in the Bible see Song of Songs:
“Come, my beloved, let us go out into the country
Let us spend the night in the village
Let us rise early and go to the vineyards:
Let us see whether the vine has budded.
And its blossoms have opened.
And whether the pomegranates have bloomed.
There I will give you my love” (Song of Songs, 7: 11-12)
IV. FLEXIBLE SECTION
1) Strauss´s defense of Ar. ´s ethical starting point can be found in “On Classical Political Philosophy” where we read:
“The political philosopher first comes to sight as a good citizen who can perform this function of the good citizen in the best way and at the highest level. In order to perform his function he has to raise ulterior questions, questions that are never raised in the political arena; but in doing so he does not abandon his fundamental orientation, which is the orientation inherent in political life. Only if that orientation were abandoned, if the basic distinctions made by palatial life were considered merely “subjective” or “unscientific” and therefore disregarded, would the question of how to approach political things on order to understand them, that is to say, the question of method, become a fundamental question, and, indeed, THE fundamental question” (The Rebirth of Classical Political Rationalism, pp. 51-52.)
Aristotle “could found political science as an independent discipline man a number of disciplines in such a away that political science preserves the perspective of the citizen or statesman or that it is the fully conscious form of the “common sense” understanding of political things.” (Strauss The City and Man, “On Aristotle´s Politics”; p. 25)
The striking column in El Tiempo newspaper of Colombia which CLEARLY goes against the spirit of Aristotelians reads in its conclusion as follows:
“Quizas las dos columnas de Eco sí tengan mucho que ver (Eco), y por eso, supongo, las asocié arbitrariamente: porque una sociedad abierta de verdad es aquella en la que las cosas pueden ser dichas y nadie se las toma demasiado en serio. La demasiada seriedad no es seria.
Los buenos parecen ser más, como ellos mismos lo gritan con tanto orgullo y tanta furia. No sé ustedes, pero yo ya empecé a correr.”
Surely WE won´t start running as the journalist bids.
2) For a sobering discussion of character as affected by wealth, one does well in reading Rhetoric BOOK II, Chapter 16:
“The kinds of character that follow from wealth are plain for all to see….. (Rhetoric, 1390b …)”
3)As to a parallel concern found in Tocqueville’s views on modern democracies and the need for a new political science following in the Aristotelian spirit of this subsection;
¨The first duty imposed on those who now direct society is to educate democracy; to put, if possible, new life into its beliefs; to purify its mores; to control its actions; gradually to substitute understanding of statecraft for present inexperienced and knowledge of its true interests for blind instincts; to adapt government to the needs of time and place, and to modify it as men and circumstances require. A new political science is required for a world itself quite new.” (Democracy in America, Introduction, p. 12 ; Lawrence translation”
4) The very different beginning found in the EE, much more related to the question of the divine, and the notion of tragedy reads:
“The man who, in the shrine art Delos, published his opinion by composing an inscription ion the propylaeum of the temple of Let, distinguished the good, the fine and the pleasant as not belonging to the same thing. These were his verses:
´The most just is finest, being healthy is best; most pleasant to achieve one’s heart’s desire.”
But we do not agree with him: for happiness, the finest and best thing of all, is the most pleasant.
As pointed out above, a core puzzle is that of the appearance of this very same passage much later on in the argument of the NE, specifically, subsection 8. And strikingly disconcerting is the fact that Woods, the translator of the EE, begins his commentary by actually saying that Ar. Agrees with this words! (p. 47 “with which Aristotle expresses his agreement” (!)”.
5) For an example of the love of horses see Xenophon’s The Art of Horsemanship:
“I have had the fortune to spend a great deal of time riding, and so I think myself versed in the horseman´s art. This make same willing to set forth to the younger of my friends what I believe to be the vest way to deal with horses … Still, I shall not strike out of my work all the points in which I chance to agree with him, but shall ace much pleasure in passing them on to my friends.” (Chapter I, pp. 13-14; Dover)
For the case of the contrast between Alcibiades and Socrates in relation to the question of horses and war see Alcibiades´s speech in Plato´s Symposium (220a off)
6) For the death of a friend see Iliad, BOOK XVI, “Patroclus fights and dies”. Patroclus final words to Hector:
“Already I see them looking up beside you —death
and the strong force of fate, to bring you down
at the hands of Aeacus´great royal son …
Achilles!” (995- 1000)
7) For a radically contrasting view to Ar.´s prudent bowing to tradition, see Descartes Discourse on Method, First Part:
“I will say nothing of philosophy except that it has been studied for many centuries b the most outstanding minds without having produced anything which his not in dispute and consequently doubtful and uncertain … It is true that while I did nothing but observe the customs of other men; I found nothing there to satisfy me, and I noted just about as much difference of opinion, as I had previously observed among philosophers” (Discourse’s on Method and Meditations, p. 8,9 ; Bobs Merrill /Library of Liberal Arts.)
8) On attaining what one passionately desires as being the most pleasurable, see Sappho:
“As a sweet apple turns red on a high branch
high on the highest branch and the applepickers
well, no they didn’t forget —were not able to reach.”
Analyzed here .
And, of course, Aristophanes speech in Plato’s Symposium analyzed here.
9) For the moral problematization of Pleasures see Foucault, The History of Pleasure , Volume 2 of the History of Sexuality, which strikingly seems to go truly against the grain of the spirit of this subsection:.
“It would be interesting, surely, to trace the long history of the connection between alimentary ethics and sexual ethics, … … (p. 51)
Such a project would, surely, be of no interest to Aristotle. Such an analysis would point rather to the tragic Delian view of life.
10) The complete interpretation of Broadie and Rowe’s analysis of the final part of this subsection reads:
“(b) It is not entirely clear whether Ar. really means to classify good birth, good children, and physical beauty as external goods. By the triple division at 1098b12-14, beauty fish a good of the body, and it is a puzzle where good birth should go. )c) It is very surprising that health us not mentioned among the ingredients of the happy life. Is the claim here that physical beauty is necessary for happiness, or that ugliness is an impediment?”(Aristotle; Nicomachean ethics: p. 281-282; Oxford)
11) For Confucius appeal to tradition and thus his importance in China today. See Analects:
“The Master said, “A youth, when at home, should be filial, and, abroad, respectful to his elders. He should be earnest and truthful. He should overflow in love to all, and cultivate the friendship of the good. When he has time and opportunity, after the performance of these things, he should employ them in polite studies.”
Tsze-hsia said, “If a man withdraws his mind from the love of beauty, and applies it as sincerely to the love of the virtuous; if, in serving his parents, he can exert his utmost strength; if, in serving his prince, he can devote his life; if, in his intercourse with his friends, his words are sincere:-although men say that he has not learned, I will certainly say that he has.
The Master said, “If the scholar be not grave, he will not call forth any veneration, and his learning will not be solid. (The Analects of Confucius, Translated by James LEgge; eBooks@Adelaide
The University of Adelaide Library http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/c/confucius/c748a/book1.html )
V. IMPORTANT GREEK TERMS IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE
false, cheat by lies
those who philosophize
VI. NICOMACHEAN ETHICS, GREEK, BOOK I, 8; text at Perseus (based on Bywater)
σκεπτέον δὲ περὶ αὐτῆς οὐ μόνον ἐκ τοῦ συμπεράσματος καὶ ἐξ ὧν ὁ λόγος, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐκ τῶν λεγομένων περὶ αὐτῆς: τῷ μὲν γὰρ ἀληθεῖ πάντα συνᾴδει τὰ ὑπάρχοντα, τῷ δὲ ψευδεῖ ταχὺ διαφωνεῖ τἀληθές. νενεμημένων δὴ τῶν ἀγαθῶν τριχῇ, καὶ τῶν μὲν ἐκτὸς λεγομένων τῶν δὲ περὶ ψυχὴν καὶ σῶμα, τὰ περὶ ψυχὴν κυριώτατα λέγομεν καὶ μάλιστα ἀγαθά, τὰς δὲ πράξεις καὶ τὰς ἐνεργείας τὰς ψυχικὰς περὶ ψυχὴν τίθεμεν. ὥστε καλῶς ἂν λέγοιτο κατά γε ταύτην τὴν δόξαν παλαιὰν οὖσαν καὶ ὁμολογουμένην ὑπὸ τῶν φιλοσοφούντων. ὀρθῶς δὲ καὶ ὅτι πράξεις τινὲς λέγονται καὶ ἐνέργειαι τὸ τέλος: οὕτω γὰρ τῶν περὶ ψυχὴν ἀγαθῶν γίνεται καὶ οὐ τῶν ἐκτός. συνᾴδει δὲ τῷ λόγῳ καὶ τὸ εὖ ζῆν καὶ τὸ εὖ πράττειν τὸν εὐδαίμονα: σχεδὸν γὰρ εὐζωία τις εἴρηται καὶ εὐπραξία. φαίνεται δὲ καὶ τὰ ἐπιζητούμενα τὰ περὶ τὴν εὐδαιμονίαν ἅπανθ᾽ ὑπάρχειν τῷ λεχθέντι. τοῖς μὲν γὰρ ἀρετὴ τοῖς δὲ φρόνησις ἄλλοις δὲ σοφία τις εἶναι δοκεῖ, τοῖς δὲ ταῦτα ἢ τούτων τι μεθ᾽ ἡδονῆς ἢ οὐκ ἄνευ ἡδονῆς: ἕτεροι δὲ καὶ τὴν ἐκτὸς εὐετηρίαν συμπαραλαμβάνουσιν. τούτων δὲ τὰ μὲν πολλοὶ καὶ παλαιοὶ λέγουσιν, τὰ δὲ ὀλίγοι καὶ ἔνδοξοι ἄνδρες: οὐδετέρους δὲ τούτων εὔλογον διαμαρτάνειν τοῖς ὅλοις, ἀλλ᾽ ἕν γέ τι ἢ καὶ τὰ πλεῖστα κατορθοῦν. τοῖς μὲν οὖν λέγουσι τὴν ἀρετὴν ἢ ἀρετήν τινα συνῳδός ἐστιν ὁ λόγος: ταύτης γάρ ἐστιν ἡ κατ᾽ αὐτὴν ἐνέργεια. διαφέρει δὲ ἴσως οὐ μικρὸν ἐν κτήσει ἢ χρήσει τὸ ἄριστον ὑπολαμβάνειν, καὶ ἐν ἕξει ἢ ἐνεργείᾳ. τὴν μὲν γὰρ ἕξιν ἐνδέχεται μηδὲν ἀγαθὸν ἀποτελεῖν ὑπάρχουσαν, οἷον τῷ καθεύδοντι ἢ καὶ ἄλλως πως ἐξηργηκότι, τὴν δ᾽ ἐνέργειαν οὐχ οἷόν τε: πράξει γὰρ ἐξ ἀνάγκης, καὶ εὖ πράξει. ὥσπερ δ᾽ Ὀλυμπίασιν οὐχ οἱ κάλλιστοι καὶ ἰσχυρότατοι στεφανοῦνται ἀλλ᾽ οἱ ἀγωνιζόμενοι （τούτων γάρ τινες νικῶσιν）, οὕτω καὶ τῶν ἐν τῷ βίῳ καλῶν κἀγαθῶν οἱ πράττοντες ὀρθῶς ἐπήβολοι γίνονται. ἔστι δὲ καὶ ὁ βίος αὐτῶν καθ᾽ αὑτὸν ἡδύς. τὸ μὲν γὰρ ἥδεσθαι τῶν ψυχικῶν, ἑκάστῳ δ᾽ ἐστὶν ἡδὺ πρὸς ὃ λέγεται φιλοτοιοῦτος, οἷον ἵππος μὲν τῷ φιλίππῳ, θέαμα δὲ τῷ φιλοθεώρῳ: τὸν αὐτὸν δὲ τρόπον καὶ τὰ δίκαια τῷ φιλοδικαίῳ καὶ ὅλως τὰ κατ᾽ ἀρετὴν τῷ φιλαρέτῳ. τοῖς μὲν οὖν πολλοῖς τὰ ἡδέα μάχεται διὰ τὸ μὴ φύσει τοιαῦτ᾽ εἶναι, τοῖς δὲ φιλοκάλοις ἐστὶν ἡδέα τὰ φύσει ἡδέα: τοιαῦται δ᾽ αἱ κατ᾽ ἀρετὴν πράξεις, ὥστε καὶ τούτοις εἰσὶν ἡδεῖαι καὶ καθ᾽ αὑτάς. οὐδὲν δὴ προσδεῖται τῆς ἡδονῆς ὁ βίος αὐτῶν ὥσπερ περιάπτου τινός, ἀλλ᾽ ἔχει τὴν ἡδονὴν ἐν ἑαυτῷ. πρὸς τοῖς εἰρημένοις γὰρ οὐδ᾽ ἐστὶν ἀγαθὸς ὁ μὴ χαίρων ταῖς καλαῖς πράξεσιν: οὔτε γὰρ δίκαιον οὐθεὶς ἂν εἴποι τὸν μὴ χαίροντα τῷ δικαιοπραγεῖν, οὔτ᾽ ἐλευθέριον τὸν μὴ χαίροντα ταῖς ἐλευθερίοις πράξεσιν: ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν ἄλλων. εἰ δ᾽ οὕτω, καθ᾽ αὑτὰς ἂν εἶεν αἱ κατ᾽ ἀρετὴν πράξεις ἡδεῖαι. ἀλλὰ μὴν καὶ ἀγαθαί γε καὶ καλαί, καὶ μάλιστα τούτων ἕκαστον, εἴπερ καλῶς κρίνει περὶ αὐτῶν ὁ σπουδαῖος: κρίνει δ᾽ ὡς εἴπομεν. ἄριστον ἄρα καὶ κάλλιστον καὶ ἥδιστον ἡ εὐδαιμονία, καὶ οὐ διώρισται ταῦτα κατὰ τὸ Δηλιακὸν ἐπίγραμμα: “κάλλιστον τὸ δικαιότατον, λῷστον δ᾽ ὑγιαίνειν:
ἥδιστον δὲ πέφυχ᾽ οὗ τις ἐρᾷ τὸ τυχεῖν.
ἅπαντα γὰρ ὑπάρχει ταῦτα ταῖς ἀρίσταις ἐνεργείαις: ταύτας
δέ, ἢ μίαν τούτων τὴν ἀρίστην, φαμὲν εἶναι τὴν εὐδαιμονίαν. φαίνεται δ᾽ ὅμως καὶ τῶν ἐκτὸς ἀγαθῶν προσδεομένη, καθάπερ εἴπομεν: ἀδύνατον γὰρ ἢ οὐ ῥᾴδιον τὰ καλὰ πράττειν ἀχορήγητον ὄντα. πολλὰ μὲν γὰρ πράττεται, καθάπερ δι᾽ ὀργάνων, διὰ φίλων καὶ πλούτου καὶ πολιτικῆς δυνάμεως: ἐνίων δὲ τητώμενοι ῥυπαίνουσι τὸ μακάριον, οἷον εὐγενείας εὐτεκνίας κάλλους: οὐ πάνυ γὰρ εὐδαιμονικὸς ὁ τὴν ἰδέαν παναίσχης ἢ δυσγενὴς ἢ μονώτης καὶ ἄτεκνος, ἔτι δ᾽ ἴσως ἧττον, εἴ τῳ πάγκακοι παῖδες εἶεν ἢ φίλοι, ἢ ἀγαθοὶ ὄντες τεθνᾶσιν. καθάπερ οὖν εἴπομεν, ἔοικε προσδεῖσθαι καὶ τῆς τοιαύτης εὐημερίας: ὅθεν εἰς ταὐτὸ τάττουσιν ἔνιοι τὴν εὐτυχίαν τῇ εὐδαιμονίᾳ, ἕτεροι δὲ τὴν ἀρετήν.