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Posts Tagged ‘Aristoteles’

ESCRITOS CORRUPCIÓN Y PAZ COLOMBIA 2017

(y su contexto)

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El año pasado, el 2016, escribimos críticamente sobre el proceso de paz en Colombia (link ), en particular antes y después del plebiscito que ganó el “NO” contra todo pronóstico. Dicho resultado fue negado de manera anti-democrática y anti-ética. Ese es el contexto específico de los escritos que siguen a continuación.

Ahora, en el 2017, escribimos sobre la corrupción en Colombia. No es necesario ser un genio para ver la conexión entre la primera problemática y la segunda. Sin embargo, como se verá en los siguiente escritos, hay muchos que defienden la paz a como de lugar, incluso a través de medios corruptos. Consideramos también que los que creen ser los menos corruptos, pueden llegar a ser los más corruptos. Ahí el peligro omnipresente de la corrupción tanto privada como pública.

Afortunadamente, a diferencia de tantos columnistas y periodistas y demás personajes “importantes” de Colombia,  nadie nos ha pagado un peso por estos escritos. Tampoco nos han dado cargos o diplomas a través de ellos. Simplemente los hemos compartido, como los anteriores, en Facebook. Creemos que escribiremos menos y menos al respecto, simplemente porque creemos que escribiríamos palabras demasiado similares! Además sabemos que usted lector sabe mucho mejor qué hacer.

Escribimos en medio de circunstancias que algunos cercanos conocen, escribimos por amor a  Colombia y a Canadá; y sobretodo por el respeto y admiración a las palabras de Aristóteles acerca de la importancia de crear una ciudadanía ética y políticamente educada. Aristóteles, el modelo.

(Nota 1: Para tweets/tuits y columnas encontrarán el link, casi siempre, luego de una reflexión –—a veces corta, a veces larga (!)— acerca del tema.)

(Nota 2, Octubre 1 de 2017:

Y así como lo hicimos en el 2016 —–cuando dejamos de escribir por muchos meses sobre Colombia, hasta ya entrado el 2017—– ahora también dejaremos de escribir sobre Colombia hasta el 2018. Si a una sola persona le sirvió lo que escribimos durante estos largos últimos meses nos damos por bien servidos. Para nosotros es siempre un placer escribir y reflexionar. Quedan recopilados en nuestro blog.
Pero no sobra decir que se ha vuelto costumbre escribir y comentar día a día, segundo a segundo. Pero la realidad es que hay unos principios éticos y políticos que van mucho más allá del día a día. Estos principios son los que guían ahora y siempre, no dependiendo de circustancias históricas particulares, el quehacer politico. Esos principios los da Aristóteles en sus textos ético-políticos, textos que siguen y complementan la tradición inaugurada por Sócrates. Porque Sócrates se INVENTÓ el análisis filosófico de lo político. Impresionante. Y no sobra tampoco recordar que Sócrates no escribió una sola palabra, creemos, no porque le faltara tiempo para hacerlo, sino para indicar de manera inequívoca que la vida de la reflexión —la vida filosófica– es una realidad vital, una realidad de carne y hueso que nada escrito puede captar o explicitar. La reflexión permanente es un modo de vida.
Hasta el 2018, año que definirá el futuro de Colombia para siempre.)

 

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Osuna.

Screen Shot 2017-09-01 at 7.57.56 PM

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Nada como escuchar a un corrupto, pero poderoso, hablando de que en absoluto es corrupto.

(Pero bueno, eso lo escuchamos muchas, pero muchas veces, en nuestras vidas, de poderosos y nada poderosos.)

 

 

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El corrupto fiscal anti-corrupción mostrando orgulloso su libro. Clave para entender la epidemia de corrupción en Colombia.

 

 

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Ahora todo es cizaña. Que si digo “a” cizaña; que si digo “b”,
cizaña. Cizaña … la suya.

¿Quiere salir de la cizaña?

Entonces cuando hable o escriba –y sobretodo, cuando piense– hágalo a través de argumentos. Fácil.

Lo díficil. Que aprender a argumentar toma toda una vida que entre otras cosas requiere:

1) aprender a gustarle los argumentos,

2) aprender a gustarle evaluar buenos y malos argumentos a través de la razón,

SOBRETODO,

3) aprender a leer y leer y leer a quienes –especialmente si va a hablar de lo político—- han dado los más sofisticados y relevantes argumentos para comprender las posibilidades del ámbito político (Locke, Rousseau, Montesquieu, DeTocqueville, Marx, Hobbes, Aristóteles, Platón, Maquiavelo, Biblia, Santo Tomás Moro, Aquino, Lincoln …)

4) comenzar a entender la relación entre a) argumentación, b) carácter y c) retórica. (Acerca del triángulo Aristotélico puede aprender acá:https://prezi.com/7snss9sqhkoi/aristotles-rhetorical-triangle/ )

5) preferiblemente venir de una cultura que valore los argumentos (e.g., el valor de “public speaking” en los Estados Unidos —–de tanta importancia—- que los debates presidenciales cobran un valor sui generis)

y finalmente,

6) tener el ingenio, humor y amor-propio suficiente como para atacar la cizaña que desconoce de argumentos; no tratando de convercerla, sino silenciándola. ¡Porque a veces hay que ser al menos el doble de cizañero que el cizañero! (Y en casos extremos, evitándola, o usando los recursos legales disponibles)

Nota 1: ¿Quiere aprender sobre argumentación? Aquí puede hacer un curso completo gratis. ¿Único detalle? En inglés.

link

Nota 2: Otro sitio excelente,

link

Nota 3: Sin lugar a duda, el mejor texto introductorio sobre los más importantes argumentos políticos de la historia, es del Profesor Pangle y tiene versión electrónica para el app Kindle:

link

y gratis, acá:

link

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A manera de resumen, la división en Colombia se puede entender así:

Grupo A: Para algunos la paz con las farc es SEPARADA de la corrupción. Es más, para esos mismos, la paz es —en su imaginario– la que algún día futuro acabará usando su intensa luz la oscura corrupción, sobretodo la corrupción institucional. A estos se les puede llamar “los iluminados”. La paz es el INSECTICIDA de la corrupción.

Grupo B: Para otros la paz con las farc es el RESULTADO de la corrupción. Es más, para esos mismos, la paz –en su imaginario— es el camino disfrazado (como el cuento de las ovejas) hacia la máxima corrupción posible, la corrupción del alma de un pueblo y la entrega de la ibertad y la vida a unos pocos. A estos se les puede llamar “los realistas” . La paz es el ABONO de la corrupción.

La mayoría de colombianos pertenecen al Grupo B, como lo indican las encuestas. La ONU pertenece al Grupo A. La arrogancia de los iluminados —ahora miembros de la JEP— y sus deseos nunca cuestionados (como ocurrió en el plebiscito del 2016) son el impulso para ese rechazo de la población colombiana.

Sin duda alguna nosotros pertenecemos al Grupo B, y lo hacemos con orgullo. Colombia debe en su mayoría redefinir el proceso de paz hacia este Grupo B. Así la paz no destruirá la libertad sino que la hará más real.

 

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http://www.semana.com/opinion/articulo/perla-presidencial/533318

Cuando lo que suena bonito es lo más peligroso. En la paz como en el amor.

Que en 2018 Colombia recupere su libertad real frente al modelo internacionalista/cosmopolita que nos cogió —–gracias a Santos y su grandísimo ego—- de “conejillos de indias”.

Santos, como hemos indicado desde 2016, es el presidente del “mundo”, no el Presidente de los colombianos/as.

Santos es el presidente de la “historia”, no el de la historia diaria de los colombianos/as.

Santos cree que lo eligió la ONU, no los colombianos/as.

Santos es el Presidente de la forma, no del contenido.

Por todo eso es tan poco querido. Pero, peor, por todo lo anterior, esa falta de amor que le tienen sus ciudadanos/as —–antes que ser motivo de preocupación y tristeza para él—- es motivo de orgullo. Un líder que se enorgullece de no ser querido (sobrado dice: “estoy dispuesto a entregar toda mi popularidad”). Eso, sólo un líder vacuo.

Es esa actitud lo que CONFIRMA todo lo anterior, y mucho más.

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Aniversario del Plebiscito 2016 ganado por el NO:

Hoy hace un año la posible paz estable y duradera dejó de ser posible porque sus defensores, los del “sí”, prefirieron sus sueños tramposos a la realidad de saber —-en sus mentes y sus corazones— que habían perdido un plebiscito frente a sus compatriotas.

El deseo ilimitado de paz no solo mató la paz —por más decretos y decretos que se pasen— sino que hizo aceptable la idea de que por un fin todo medio vale; es decir, se blindó la corrupción en las tres ramas gubernamentales. No nos sorprende que el 2017 sea el año de mayor corrupción en la corrupta historia colombiana. Por la paz todo vale.

Ser mal perdedor es el comienzo del ser corrupto. Blindar la paz de maneras ilegales e inmorales, la más cruda corrupción. Ahora hasta homenajean a criminales de lesa humanidad, sin siquiera haber pasado por justicia alguna. Celebrar sin merecerlo, eso cualquier niño/a lo sabe, es el origen del alma corrupta. Celebrar la masacre inhumana, la muerte del espíritu.

En resumen: al negar la victoria del “no” en el amañado plebiscito por la paz del 2016, la historia de Colombia se distanció irremediablemente de la verdad. La historia de la paz recibió una herida mortal.

En ese sentido, ya un año después, es que la JEP resulta, en gran medida, una mentira compartida. Allí, quienes ganaron el plebiscito “fair and square” como dicen en inglés, revivirán esa herida que los silenció “permanentemente”.

 

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Aniversario del Plebiscito 2016 ganado por el NO:
Referente al amañado plebiscito por la paz del 2016.
“NO es NO”, es una frase central de la defensa contra la violación sexual.
En Colombia por la paz, “NO ES SI”.
¿Me entiende?
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Aniversario del Plebiscito 2016 ganado por el NO:

El “NO” tenía razón (aniversario del plebiscito)

https://www.elespectador.com/opinion/el-no-tenia-razon-aniversario-del-plebiscito-columna-715754

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Aniversario del Plebiscito 2016 ganado por el NO:
El “sí¨frente a su propio espejo solitario.

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Los del “sí”, un año después y siguen con lo mismo:

Si el Plebiscito lo gana el NO, se acaba la Paz.

Si ganan los que no quieren la JEP, se acaba la Paz.

Si no dejan x, se acaba la Paz

Si no dejan y, se acaba la Paz.

Todo lo que no sea lo que nosotros pensamos, acaba la Paz.

Déjennos hacer la paz en paz. No molesten.

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Aniversario del Plebiscito 2016 ganado por el NO:
Vía Hassan.
Qué lindos que son los conejos, ¿no?
Sííííí.

 

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Aniversario del Plebiscito 2016 ganado por el NO:

Como mañana es el aniversario del plebiscito del 2016 en Colombia, plebiscito que contra todo pronóstico ganó el “no”, ya hay tuits que leen de la siguiente manera:

“Estoy orgullosa/o de haber votado ´sí´.”

Lo aterrador es que hablan como si hubieran ganado el plebiscito.

Ser mal perdedor es el camino directo hacia la corrupción. No en vano hay una conexión directa entre el 2016 y el 2017, entre la paz mal forjada y la corrupción imperante.

 

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 Palabras de los del “sí” en la “paz” de Colombia:

Antes del Plebiscito:

A A A A A A A A A A

Pierden el Plebiscito:

A A A A A A A A A A A x3

Encuestas revelan que los/as colombianos/as no apoyan el tratado de paz con farc:

A A A A A A A A A A A A x 7

La corrupción inunda todas las ramas políticas, especialmente las judiciales:

A A A A A A A A A A A A x 9

Aniversario de Pérdida del Plebiscito:

A A A A A A A A A A A A x 11

Pierden elecciones en el 2018:

A = 0

Muy hábiles los del sí, o bueno, los que les quedan. No enseñan, no educan …… son expertos en dirigir, obligar y callar.

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Aniversario del Plebiscito 2016 ganado por el NO:

Hace un año escribimos esto.

Nunca imaginamos la capacidad delirante de algunos de los del “sí”. Ya escribimos un aparte sobre esto hoy. Por sus acciones, la paz dejó de ser la paz real de todos, para convertirse en la paz ilusoria de unos pocos.

 

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El caos de la paz. No sobra indicar que bajo ciertas concepciones políticas de la izquierda este caos es PRECISAMENTE EL CAMINO para obtener el poder.

Querido colombiano/a del común: usted es simplemente una fichita para su juego. Luego, si no les gusta esa fichita que es usted, pues la esconderán. En otras palabras, lo esconderán a usted.

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Las primeras palabras, las palabras ideales de la JEP —y sus privilegiados miembros— para con sus ciudadanos deberían ser:

“Queridos/as ciudadanos/as, sabemos del nivel degradante de corrupción a la que ha caído toda la esfera a la que pertenecemos y por medio de la cual ahora nos entregan poderes incluso más altos que la misma constitución que ustedes defienden y dan vida real día a día. Poderes entregados en medio de una crisis total de confianza y después de que todos las encuestas indican que una gran mayoría de ustedes no está de acuerdo con este tratado y, por ende, no están de acuerdo con nuestra existencia y los poderes exagerados que ahora poseemos. Humildemente nos preparamos para lo que viene, a sabiendas de que es posible que nuestra misma elección pueda no ser totalmente defensible. Antes que pretender ser sabios, sabemos lo ignorantes que hemos sido a cada paso de nuestro desarrollo personal y laboral.”

Las palabras reales serán:

“Estamos aquí para salvarlos queridos ciudadanos. No se preocupen. Hagan caso.”

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La arrogancia de la paz que desconoce cualquier límite. El mismo que dijo que si ganaba el NO, todo se acababa. Metiendo miedo y ni así ganaron el plebiscito.

 

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Palabras como estas son las que harán que la paz que negó un plebiscito, y se fundó en la corrupción, sea tranformada seriamente en el 2018. El desagradable.

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A Santos nada le da vergüenza.

http://www.wradio.com.co/escucha/archivo_de_audio/esta-paz-es-con-puestos-para-los-que-voten-la-jep-y-sin-puestos-para-los-que-no-la-voten/20171003/oir/3597611.aspx

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La JEP. COLUMNA CRUCIAL.

“Pero el problema no es ese. Consiste en que el tribunal de la JEP no refleja las distintas visiones de los colombianos frente al acuerdo suscrito entre el Gobierno y las Farc. En eso presenta un complicado déficit democrático. Y por ello amenaza con trasladar, con cero reconciliación, la confrontación de la lucha armada al escenario judicial.”

link

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La JEP y la memoria del criminal de lesa humanidad JOJOY.

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Como a nosotros nos importa muy poco lo importante que una persona sea —pregúntele a cualquiera que nos conoce—- no sabemos quién es Uprimmy. Pero luego de leerlo muchas veces, ya sabemos mejor. Es el escudero de la JEP, el Sancho Panza de la JEP y la paz de Santos.

Al igual que Sancho Panza, quien protegía a Don Quijote —-obra monumental que hemos leído dos veces de comienzo a fin por lo absolultamente cómica y hermosa que resulta—– Uprimmy es un protector. Es EL protector.

Sancho Panza era el protector de los sueños descabellados de su Superior, el noble y desquiciado Don Quijote. Sancho ayudaba a proteger a quien imaginaba gigantezcos monstruos en molinos. Don Quijote nos llena de alegrías y dolores compartidos; pero sobretodo de risas. Incluso al morir, Don Quijote prohibe a todos llorar. Imagínese el por qué. Loco, loco hasta el final. No es difícil amar a Don Quijote y a Sancho.

Uprimmy protege los molinos de su Don Quijote, Doña Paz. Su JEP nació de un hurto: pero el molino de la imaginación hace imposible ver hasta lo obvio y fundamental. Pero encubrir el hurto de luz ética si que es ir más lejos que Don Quijote mismo. Para Uprimmy, la JEP ES la salvación. Pero, a diferencia, cuando Sancho Panza intenta robar —porque uno no vive de molinos ilusorios (!)—- Don Quijote lo castiga ejemplarmente.

¿Pero en qué se diferencia Uprimmy y su JEP a Sancho Panza de manera fundamental? En lo siguiente. En sus aventuras Don Quijote y Sancho tienen muchas conversaciones. Y resultan muy cómicas por la diferencia en lenguaje que usan. Sancho usa millares de dichos populares para expresarse; Don Quijote el lenguaje del letrado, del caballero, de la élite.

Uprimmy y los suyos —incluyendo los letrados de la JEP—- son del segundo tipo. Es por ESO que ni la JEP ni la PAZ son populares entre los colombianos/as del común. Pero ya sabemos qué responderán. Que ahora sí serán populares. No hay fin para el dedicado a la protección, para el guardaespalda. El molino impulsado por los vientos de la paz es un gigante indestructible como Don Quijote nos ha enseñado.

Y para terminar. Nada mejor que ver a alguien que cree en la JEP comenzar su columna con Churchill y su famosa crítica a la democracia. Es un claro ejemplo de un chiste que sólo es para académicos y letrados. Nosotros preferimos el humor y la humanidad de Cervantes.

https://www.elespectador.com/opinion/la-jep-columna-715769

Ver también:

https://www.elespectador.com/…/los-prejuicios-contra-el-tri…

 

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La JEP.

“La JEP es considerada la joya de la corona, la almendra, el núcleo, en fin, lo más pétreo de los acuerdos de La Habana. Es la gran conquista de una guerrilla ya derrotada en el plano militar. Es vista así por las izquierdas y los amigos de una paz a cualquier precio, incluso, al de arrasar la Constitución y las instituciones. Pero, para las mayorías del país, las que ganaron con el NO el plebiscito de hace un año, es la corona de espinas con la que se inicia en forma el nuevo orden sonado por las guerrillas que no es otro que el de imponer en Colombia su modelo comunista, marxista leninista, su política de venganza contra el uribismo y todo aquello que huela a paramilitarismo y su verdad histórica que los dejará en el sitial de víctimas del sistema, perseguidos y excluidos que se vieron obligados a tomar las armas.”

https://www.elespectador.com/opinion/jep-golpe-de-gracia-la-democracia-colombiana-columna-715965

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Hay los “Invictus Games” y hay la JEP. Escoja Colombia.

(La suerte de haberlos vivido acá en Toronto: link  )

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La JEP es tan diversa y representativa que no representa al 75% de colombianos/as que no le creen. (!)

Paz de élites para élites: élites de la guerra como las farc, élites económicas como Santos, élites periodísticas y élites académicas como muchas.

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Como van con todo por la JEP, sin remordimiento alguno, pues tocará ir con todo contra la JEP. Y como tocar enfrentar una JEP obtenida a través de medios oscuros y en un medio oscuro, nos llamarán toda clase de cosas. Preferimos eso a la trampa.

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La JEP:

“Tenemos que reinventar nuestra historia de violencia. Tenemos que reinventar nuestra historia de 1819 al 2017. Pero olvidemos el 2016 y su incómodo plebiscito. Así tendremos una historia patria completa y verdadera y justa. Olvidemos por nuestro bien. Recordemos por nuestro bien. ” (!)

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Súper título: “Tenemos JEP, camarada”

link

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Osuna. La JEP.

22008301_10155846420383413_3014489420964679323_n

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Nueva columna acerca de la ética y la corrupción en Colombia. Al menos ahora el escritor hace alusión a la ética de la Grecia Clásica; la de Sócrates, Platón, Aristóteles y Tucídides. Dice el columnista en dos pasajes:

1. “Desde la mirada Griega, la ética es el arte político de saber elegir, saber referirse al otro, reconocerlo en su integralidad, y saber coexistir. ”

y

2. “Para los filósofos Platón y Aristóteles la ética es hacer justicia, decir la verdad y actuar bien, principios olvidados por líderes políticos y ciudadanía en general.”

Desafortunadamente, el escritor hace una lectura muy supérflua de la pregunta por la justicia en la obra de los clásicos griegos. No son completamente verdaderas sus palabras.

La filosofía politica clásica, antes que simplemente decir que “la ética es hacer justicia”, se PREGUNTA: ¿Qué es la justicia? No dan ellos un manual que uno sigue para ser ético y punto. Si fuese así, pues entonces a repartir copias de sus obras y a poner a los ciudadanos a memorizarlas! Como cuando quieren regalar constituciones en ciertos países!

Es cierto que las obras clásicas están llenas de CIERTAS virtudes que consideran sin lugar a duda como centrales para el desarollo de una ciudadanía responsable. Entre ellas el coraje. Pero no mencionan otras que el columnista sí hace, por ejemplo ” la inclusión”. Y jamás, pero jamás, estarían de acuerdo con estas palabras del columnista:

“Las altas presiones sociales o económicas que la gente vive sin solución alguna provocan actuaciones equivocadas que terminan lamentablemente en hurtos, muertes o prisión.”

Sea como fuere, incluso cuando mencionan las virtudes, los pensadores clásicos no lo hacen como un listado simplista para repetir y ejecutar en la realidad política. Para ni siquiera mencionar que las virtudes que ellos mencionan son radicalmente antimodernas, es decir, poco democráticas, en su naturaleza (piénsese en el valor de la magnanimidad —-“megalopsuchia”—- atribuida por Platón y Aristóteles al gran líder político).

Al contrario, como su punto de partida es PREGUNTAR, “qúe es la justicia” —– y no simplemente dar una receta vacía de lo que es “ser bueno”—— los pensadores políticos griegos, entonces comienzan una árdua labor para dilucidar elementos importantes, y a la vez problemáticos, en lo que se refiere a la naturaleza de la justicia y su realización política en particular, bajo contextos específicos.

Una de las consecuencias de dicho proceder es comenzar a considerar la relación que hay entre justicia y el regimen político al cual uno pertenece. Si la justicia es buscar el “bien común”, entonces, ese bien depende de a qué tipo de régimen uno pertenece. Ser justo en una monarquía como la de Arabia Saudita, no es lo mismo que ser justo en un democracia como la canadiense o la colombiana. Sólo mire los intentos por instaurar democracias occidentales en Medio Oriente, para que vea. Es más, ni siquiera pareciera ser lo mismo ser justo en la democracia estadounidense que en la canadiense, aunque ambas son democracias representativas! Portar armas es parte de la justicia y libertad en los Estados Unidos; portar armas en Canadá es bien difícil de hacer. Incluso a la tiranía de Venezuela, el régimen la llama es “democracia directa”, y por ende, desde su perspectiva miope, “justa”.

Como el poder político es quien DETERMINA el régimen de una sociedad, entonces determina lo que ha de considerarse como “justo” o como “no justo”. En la monarquía es injusto creer que todos somos iguales; en la democracia es injusto creer que no todos somos iguales. Precisamente POR ESO es la pelea para obtener el poder político. ¡Para determinar lo que es la justicia!

Pero, entonces cómo saber cuál noción de justicia es la más apegada a la verdad, si unos defienden la monarquía, otros la democracia, incluso otros la tiranía como la de Maduro. ¿Cómo podemos siquiera decir que Maduro es un tirano, con certeza?

Pues bien, el proyecto clásico, al preguntarse por la justicia, revela las fortalezas y debilidades de los diversos regímenes —la democracia, la oligarquía, la monarquía, la tiranía—- para así poder dar luz, en la compleja realidad, acerca de cómo tratar de sanar los regímenes existentes hacia una posición que en la medida de lo posible sea más y más beneficiosa para los ciudadanos/as del régimen mismo. Es decir, todo régimen puede mejorarse con vista en ciertos presupuestos que la filosofia clásica desarrolla. Dos de estos presupuestos son: a) cualquier análisis político debe comenzar desde el lenguaje político mismo de los ciudadanos (no desde un lenguaje utópico o académico irreal), y b) se debe mirar con detenimiento la diferenciación y la tensión entre lo que es el “ser humano justo” y el “ser humano bueno”. Sólo si se da esta diferencia entonces podemos encontrar elementos que permitan juzgar si un régimen es o no tiránico; es, o no, la mejor democracia posible; es, o no, la mejor monarquía posible. Sólo de esta manera se puede encaminar TODO régimen, ya sea democrático, oligárquico, monárquico, e incluso tiránico, hacia al mejor régimen posible.

Lecturas serias y detenidas de La República y Las Leyes de Platón, y de La Política y La Ética Nicomáquea de Aristóteles, son el camino para mejor comprender los dilemas de la justicia, y por ende la corrupción que se da incluso en nombre de la justicia misma. La columna desafortunadamente no nos ayuda en esa lectura seria y detenida.

link

 

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Of Bill Clinton it is said that he said: “It is the economy, stupid.” He thus became President.

Applied to Maduro, and other tyrants like him, it would read: “It is the Army, stupid.”

NEVER, NEVER, lose control of your Army. This is ESSENTIAL for the future of Colombia.

(more…)

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COMMENTARY ON ARISTOTLE’S NICOMACHEAN ETHICS: BOOK I, 12

(For the nature of the sections see the “General Introduction”, here.)

Abbreviations: Ar. = Aristotle, AQ= Aquinas, NE = Nicomachean Ethics, EE= Eudemian Ethics

NICOMACHEAN ETHICS

BOOK I

CHAPTER TWELVE

“With these things defined, let us examine closely whether happiness is something praised or rather honored, for it is clear it does not belong among the capacities, at any rate. Now, everything praised appears to be praised for its being of a certain sort and for its condition relative to something: we praise the just person, the courageous person, and, in general, the good person as well as virtue itself, on account of the action and works involved; and we praise the strong man and the swift runner and each of the rest for their being, by nature, of a certain sort and for their condition in relation to something good and serious. This is also clear on the basis of the praises offered to the gods, since it is manifestly laughable for them to be compared to us; but this happens because praise arises through comparison, as we said.  And if praise is of things of that sort, it is clear that not praise, but something greater and better than praise applies to the best things, as in fact appears to be the case: the gods we deem blessed and happy, and the most divine of men we deem blessed.

The case is similar with the good things too, none praise happiness the way they praise justice; rather, people deem happiness a blessed thing, on the grounds that it is something more divine and better. And Eodoxus too seems to have nobly pleaded his case that the first prize belongs to pleasure. For the fact that it is not praised as being among the good things reveals, he supposed, that it is superior to the things praised; and such, he supposed, is the god and the good. For it is to these that all else is compared. Indeed, praise belongs to virtue: people are apt to do noble things as a result of virtue, whereas encomiums belong to the works of both body and soul alike. But perhaps being very precise about these things is more appropriate to those who have labored over encomiums; to us it is clear, on the basis of what has been said, that happiness belongs among the things that are honored and complete. This seems to be the case also on account of its being a principle: for it is for the sake of this that we all do everything else, and we posit the principle and the cause of the good things as being something honorable and divine. ” (NE, 1101b10-1102a4; Aristotle´s Nicomachean Ethics, Bartlett, Robert, and Collins, Susan; University of Chicago, Chicago, 2011)

I. PRIVATE PUZZLES

1) Aren’t we somewhat caught off guard by the sudden appearance of this extremely short and striking, not to say strange and foreign, subsection? But then again, should be really SO surprised by its appearance if we have listened carefully to what Ar. has said (and not said) in previous subsections? For isn’t this subsection a “recapitulation” of sorts? Doesn’t Ar. here once again mention the courageous man and the just man, the exemplars of political life in a sense? For, what is there to be of political life without its defenders in battle and its defenders in virtue? And, what is there to be of political life without the just and their healthy obedient submission to the law? But also, doesn’t Ar. mention once again the athletic humans who, we imagine, participate in the kind of competitions Ar. mentioned way back in subsection I, 8; namely, the swift runner/the strong man? Weren´t we there led to think, like Nietzsche has us believe about that Greeks, that Ar. too favored primarily this competitive politically inspired spirit (for the athlete, as in the Olympics, REPRESENTS his city/nation, doesn’t he?)? And, if happiness is related not to a capacity as Ar. himself puts it here (though he will question this at 2.1 and 2.5 (see section IV below)), but rather perhaps to a kind of activity (let us assume so for a moment), then —to our amazement— this ODD short section would certainly seem to point out that the highest form of activity is NOT that characteristic of those who consider themselves and are considered to be the just and the courageous and the sportive within society, wouldn’t it? But honestly speaking, who could be more active than, for instance, the courageous? Isn´t war THE action par excellence? “But what, more exactly, is so astounding?”, a reader might ask. Well, precisely that if we are looking for the architectonic science which “calls the shots” as regards the good and happiness, then even here, when we are just barely finishing ONLY BOOK I of the NE —–out of 10 difficult books all complex in their own right, and besides without ANY sustained argumentation having explicitly pointed in this direction—— Ar. CLEARLY gives the adherents to political life previously mentioned as “appearing” to be the architectonic good (I, 2) ONLY a SECONDARY position, doesn’t he? And if all this is at least half so, then we need ask why many interpreters are so SURPRISED, as we have argued in previous subsections, once Ar. reaches similar conclusions at the END of the NE in Book X? Put another way, what is it about OUR current paradigmatic forms of philosophical understanding that the overall direction of Ar. own thought cannot be seen, let alone properly appreciated? However, in the just and courageous defense of ourselves: haven’t OUR commentaries at least pointed —- however inadequately, of course—- in THIS direction? For instance, haven’t we painstakingly mentioned again and again the “conundrums of courage”? That is to say, how exactly will courage in defending one´s own come to line up with the happiness in being one´s own?

But let us move back a bit, and ask again: How exactly did we GET HERE? What if this passage held the KEY to the whole of the NE? Actually, one could argue that one could seriously dedicate one’s whole life to an understanding of this passage alone, couldn’t one? But also, isn’t what we learn from other commentators even more revealing and perplexing in this regard?  For isn’t it striking to see, for instance JOACHIM —in his very detailed, almost line-by-line commentary—- speaking of this passage in the following terms: “The passage has no philosophical interest, as indeed Aristotle himself recognizes … when he says that the topic is more appropriate (to those who have made a study of encomia) (Joachim, p. 61) But, why exactly does Joachim say it has “no philosophical interest”, as IF Ar. here ONLY, or even primarily, spoke of encomia? Perhaps, wouldn’t it be more precise to say that it is of no philosophical interest to JOACHIM? (!) For wouldn’t it be odd that Ar., who is so careful in all his philosophical endeavors, once again slipped up —do remember how we were once told there were three lives only to find out there were really, really four (!)——and added a subsection which was really, really, not relevant as Joachim claims? Wouldn’t that kind of interpretative attitude be in the same ballpark as those who say that the books on the virtues must be “skipped over as irrelevant”? But isn’t this a kind of a reflective surrender? For even if we cannot fully ANSWER a puzzle, shouldn’t we at least RECOGNIZE the puzzle for what it is in the first place? And what if our philosophical interests as MODERN philosophers were genuinely FOREIGN to those of Aristotle? Wouldn’t it then become OBVIOUS that we wouldn’t see them? For what if we could not even see the problematic nature of justice itself (one might think of the differing roles played by the Greek dikaiosune in Ar.,  in contrast to the concept of Recht in both Kant and Hegel: for a personal political example see here)? Moreover, aren´t we also struck by the fact that this subsection 12 of BOOK I is kind of a conclusion —–or very close to a conclusion, as Book I is composed of 13 subsections—– to the introductory BOOK I we are almost about to finish?

Let us be a bit bold before looking at the details: could this be making explicit Ar.‘s own hypothesis which will, following Plato’s dialectical reasoning in the Republic, truly be a steppingstone by means of which we will ascend to give the principle which at the start must be assumed, its real power, argumentative solidity and living strength? As Plato allows Socrates to say:

“Well, then, go on to understand that by the other segment of the intelligible I mean that which argument itself grasps with the power of dialectic, making the hypotheses not beginnings but really hypotheses—that is, steppingstones and springboards—in order to reach what is free from hypothesis at the beginning of the whole. When it has grasped this, argument now depends on that which depends on this beginning and in such fashion goes back down again to an end;”(my emphasis: Republic, 511b)

And thus we ask, conscious we are entering deep waters: will we (or better, some of Ar. listeners) by the end of the NE be much less puzzled and much more aware about why this passage reveals the direction of the whole: that is to say, the whole of the text, and even the whole of our lives?  Isn’t this why Ar. ends this extremely strange subsection by SUDDENLY making reference to THE principle (arche)? That is to say, doesn´t he write as regards happiness (eudaimonia):

This seems to be the case also on account of its being a principle: for it is for the sake of this that we all do everything else, and we posit the principle and the cause of the good things as being something honorable and divine.”

Or put yet another way, what we mean to ask dialectically is whether by the end of the NE this principle posited as a hypothesis (understood as a steppingstone) will have been rationally proven to be THE principle by which some of us choose to lead our lives (and perhaps aid a few interested others in at least trying to have a faint image of its presence)? Or put still another way, will this principle achieve life beyond mere formality, freeing the hypothesis “at the beginning of the whole”? Or will we, pace Ar., end up in a kind of Kantian formalism which remains quite aloof both from the way the best of statesmen/stateswomen actually do lead their political, as well as from the way the best of living philosophers live theirs?

2) But leaving aside such perplexing —perhaps even counterproductive (!)—- generalities,we must ask as regards the specifics of the subsection: why does Ar. ONCE again give us an either/or, namely happiness is EITHER praised OR honored? Why not leave it at its being USEFUL, as modern Utilitarianism has it? Or, why not take the AESTHETIC route as Nietzsche does in his reference to Stendhal?  Or, why not leave it at CIVILITY as in Locke? Why is Ar. so reticent to go DOWN these modern roads? Isn´t Ar., instead, rather keen on puzzling philosophically about utility, beauty and civility (nobility)? Why don´t WE seem to puzzle thus? Or, from a different point of view: don´t we find in the religious Spanish word “alabar”, for instance, BOTH a praising and an honoring of God? I mean, does THAT difference —between praising and honoring—  make ANY sense as we read the Bible (see section III below)? Is there really ANY difference between praising and honoring God in the Bible? What is Ar. getting at then? Why does he wish to separate them thus, and so poignantly? Where is the alleged “Aristotelian flexibility” so many interpreters seem to speak of, to be found here? Or, is it rather than when seeking rationally the TRUTH about the essential, tough choices are in order?

For truly Ar. says, happiness can be either something PRAISED (τῶν ἐπαινετῶν) OR something honored (τῶν τιμίων)? But doesn´t this assertion lead US to an even more EXTREME puzzle? For doesn’t Ar. seem to be going at the argument as if HE HAD NEVER said anything about honor in the first place? However, didn’t he tell us  —in what, it is true, seems a long time ago— that the life of honor is only SECONDARY to that of contemplation (the latter which of course, as we pointed out, Ar. mentioned ONLY to silence immediately!). But shouldn’t WE refresh our memory and recall the words Ar. had told us just some subsections before as regards the nature of “honor”, namely: but it appears to be more superficial than what is being sought, for honor seems to reside more with those who bestow it than with him who receives it; and we divine that the good is something of one’s own and a thing not easily taken away”? So, a bit dizzy we ask: do we understand clearly? According to subsection I, 5, the life of honor is NOT the highest in part because it depends on the recognition by others, right? But NOW Ar. asks us to consider the question as to whether happiness is PRAISED OR HONORED? But isn’t what we hear here about praise EXTREMELY akin to what we have heard about honor previously, specially as regards its being dependent on others? Let’s listen to what Ar. himself has to say regarding PRAISE in THIS subsection I, 12: “Now, everything praised appears to be praised for its being of a certain sort and for its condition relative to somethingbecause praise arises through comparison.” Now we need ask, what makes these two —-that is to say, the honor of previous subsections and the praise of this subsection—– SO different? And to make things even MORE confusing; isn’t Ar. asking us HERE to really see the radical difference between PRAISE and HONOR with regards to the best, most complete and self-sufficient principle which IS happiness? Unlike Joachim, we must persevere in our puzzle, mustn’t we? Isn’t this dramatic tension precisely why we say again that one could spend one’s entire life trying to understand this, usually found to be rather irrelevant passage? (more…)

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COMMENTARY ON ARISTOTLE’S NICOMACHEAN ETHICS: BOOK I, 9

(For the nature of the sections see the “General Introduction”, here.)

Abbreviations: Ar. = Aristotle, AQ= Aquinas, NE = Nicomachean Ethics, EE= Eudemian Ethics

NICOMACHEAN ETHICS

BOOK I

CHAPTER NINE

“This is also why the perplexity arises as to whether happiness is something that can be gained through learning or habituation or through some other practice, or whether it comes to be present in accord with a sort of divine allotment or even through chance.

Now, if there is in fact anything that is a gift of the gods to human beings, it is reasonable that happiness is god given, and it specially among the human concerns insofar as it is the best of them. But perhaps this would be more appropriate to another examination —yet it appears that even if happiness is not god sent but comes to be present through virtue and a certain learning or practice, it is among the most divine things. For the prize of virtue or its end appears to be best and to be something divine and blessed. It would also be something common to many people, for it is possible for it to be available, through a certain learning and care, to all who have not rendered defective in point of virtue. And if it is better to be happy in this way rather than through chance, it is reasonable that  this is how [happiness is acquired] — if in fact what accords with nature is naturally in the noblest possible state, and similar too is what accords with art and with cause as a whole, especially the best [art or cause]. To entrust the greatest and noblest thing to chance would be excessively discordant.

What is being sough is manifest also on the basis of the argument [or definition], for happiness was said to be a certain sort of activity of soul in accord with virtue. Now, of the resulting goods, some must necessarily be present, others are coworkers and by nature useful in an instrumental way. And this points would be in agreement also with those made at the beginning: we posited the end of the political art as best, and it exercises a very great care to make the citizens of a specific sort —namely, good and apt to do noble things. It is to be expected, then, that we do not say that either a cow or a horse or any other animal is at all happy, for none of them are able to share in such an activity. It is because of this too that a child is not happy either: he is not yet apt to do such things, on account of his age, though some children are spoken of as blessed on account of the expectation involved in their case. For, as we said, both complete virtue and a complete life are required: many reversals and all manner of fortune arise in the course of life, and it is possible for someone who is particularly thriving to encounter great disasters in old age, just as the myth is told about Priam in the Trojan tales. Nobody deems happy someone who deals with fortunes of that sort and comes to a wretched end. ” (NE, 1099b9-1100a9; Aristotle´s Nicomachean Ethics, Bartlett, Robert, and Collins, Susan; University of Chicago, Chicago, 2011)
I. PRIVATE PUZZLES

1) To begin, why does Aristotle CLEARLY connect this subsection to the previous one, specially with the reappearance of the question of luck and ethical upbringing? For didn’t he end the previous subsection pointing in this direction? Put directly; why does Ar. —-towards the end of this subsection— tell us that leaving happiness to chance is EXCESSIVELY discordant, but NOT simply COMPLETELY discordant? Why is he SO open to this possibility, or at the very least, its influences? To contrast, haven’t we seen many OTHER subsections ending abruptly? And surely The Bible does not so argue, does it? How could it, given God’s omnipotence and foreknowledge? And surely Kant doesn’t either, does he? What is it about the Kantian categorical imperative that allows it to be blind to fortune? What are the political consequences of this Kantian blindness? Is Habermas aware? And, coming back to the passage, don’t WE take it for granted —and specially the spoudaios— that it is EDUCATION (habituation and learning), moral education in particular, that allegedly makes us in the end good and happy? Isn’t this why parents SEND their children to pre-school, school and university: to aid them in making them fulfilled and complete human beings? Doesn‘t the complex matrix of social education make, allegedly, ALL the difference? Put very succinctly, what is Ar.’s mentioned PERPLEXITY all about: “This is also why the perplexity arises”? What does he MEAN that HAPPINESS may NOT be up to us? Isn’t our modern mindset truly oblivious to THIS possibility? In other words, WHO is thus perplexed: evidently not parents, are they? Law-makers? Or, is it rather that Ar. has ANOTHER aim in mind? Could he be preparing the terrain to make us more OPEN to the complexities of life, more attuned to the myriad situations that may occur and that in FACT we do not, cannot and should not wish to control (see also Plato´s Phaedrus and the initial speeches related to erotic domination, and some of Nussbaum insights)? Won’t we see something like this in BOOK VI, and the crucial discussion of prudence (phronesis) as part of the correction of a certain blindness behind justice AND, more importantly, THE just? Or, in moral terms: isn´t Aristotle slowly opening a serious critique of the radical moralistic claims that underlie the life of the spoudaios? How so? Precisely because perhaps the spoudaios HAS TO believe in the utter responsibility for HIS and OUR own actions? Isn’t this the core element of his “seriousness”, of his noble justice? And don’t we hear it in our daily lives: “take responsibility for …” (specially, and STRIKINGLY, as regards illness)? But, if this were so, if learning the moral virtues by way of a certain serious habituation is the path, the HOW exactly are we to critically, philosophically, Socratically, question the very presuppositions of such seriousness which knows itself not only to have found THE answers, but furthermore, and more problematically, has found in THOSE answers the MEANING of its self-worth? Isn’t this PRECISELY why Plato’s Laws can be seen as setting the stage in which righteous indignation ——which KNOWS of its seriousness and its self-created responsibility— can be softened to EVEN include the philosophical critique of the gods? For, isn’t impiety perhaps the single most IRRESPONSIBLE crime committable by any human? And so that we may be understood, wasn’t Ar.´s departure from Athens the result of such accusations of impiety? Don’t we have to keep constantly in mind both Socratic Apologies in this respect? And, what if Ar. were heading in a similar direction? For isn´t it striking, for instance, that righteous indignation (which is one of the virtues Ar. lists initially), will in fact, NOT be analyzed by Ar. as he proceeds? What is it about nemesis in particular and its relation to justice as punitive retribution that Ar. finds, from the point of view of the philosopher concerned with the truth of the whole, SO deeply troubling? Furthermore isn’t this why Ar. is so adamant about pointing out that there is a BIG difference between voluntary and involuntary actions in BOOK II?  And even going further, could this be the very beginning of Ar.’s concern with Socrates’s famous idea that “no one does evil voluntarily”? But, what is THE POINT OF this idea as regards the greatest most complete and happiest life available to us humans? Won’t Ar. take up that challenge in BOOK VII dedicated to the phenomenon of akrasia (Book which strikingly begins criticizing a Socratic position, ONLY to agree with it in the end!)?

And so that we may be better understood as regards the importance of Ar.’s explicit reference to chance/fortune (tuche); what are we to make of MACHIAVELLI’S distinctively un-Aristotelian and un-biblical concern with chance (fortuna) both in the Prince and in his Discourses (see section IV below)? Shouldn’t we attentively hear Machiavelli’s words when he memorably says in this regard:

“When I have thought about this sometimes, I have been in some part inclined to their opinion. Nonetheless, so that our free will not be eliminated, I judge that it might be true that fortune is arbiter of half of our actions, but also that she leaves the other half, or close to it, for us to govern. And I liken her to one of these violent rivers which, when they become enraged, flood the plains, ruin the trees and the buildings, lift earth from this part, drop in another; each person flees before them, everyone yields to their impetus without being able to hinder them in any regard. And although they are like this, it is not as if men, when times are quiet, could not provide for them with dikes and dams so that when they rise later, either they go by a canal or their impetus is neither so wanton nor so damaging.”

What, then, is the aim of the New Rational Political Science inaugurated by Machiavelli and developed by all early modern theorists (Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu; albeit in different forms)? Put more directly, how does SCIENCE and the reconsideration of NATURE as purely materialistic and interconnected solely in terms of efficient causality, define the WAY we moderns relate to political things (see Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws)?  Won’t we tend to believe, contrary to what Ar. is telling us is perplexing, that we can in fact control events —both natural and social—-  to such a degree that Ar.´s call for a serious concern with such PERPLEXITIES might be seen as rather naïve (see quote Hobbes section IV below)? But, hasn’t this idea of progressive control, within a materialistic universe founded upon discoverable casual laws, come into question via different angles? Politically speaking, didn’t THE political sphere of the 20th century show this collapse most dramatically of all? But then, if Ar. truly believes that it is the political which ORDERS the human ends towards happiness, how exactly are we to retrace our steps, or regain our footing, beyond the calamities of mere chance OR the calamities of radically directed and deadly political programs? Put another way, isn’t Ar.´s perplexity OUR deepest perplexity once again? In Straussian terminology, doesn’t chance invite a debate between a return and progress?

2) But leaving aside the question of chance, what exactly does Ar. mean by saying that happiness can be gained by learning OR habituation OR —–dramatically—– “some other practice”? First off, isn’t learning a kind of habituation; can they be so easily separated? And how will habituation in BOOKS 2 and 3 be related to the moral virtues in particular so that IT becomes the KEY element in the education of our virtuous character? And, if we are habituated INTO something, that is to say, some way of being, how exactly can we say that WE have made ourselves into such a being? And if so, once again one need ask, did not Ar. say just a few subsections before tell us that justice appears to be by nomos (custom/convention) rather than by physis (nature)? So, aren’t we really speaking of different sorts of habituation depending on the regimes we live under? But then, WHO decides which one is better than another? HOW does one so decide, specially if, as we moderns tend to believe, all cultures are relative and worthy of EQUAL respect? Aren´t all cultures, all habituations, simply historically “determined”? And, thinking of the very way we INTERPRET Ar. himself: isn’t this precisely the issue with those who see in Ar. a duped defense of the Greek virtues per se? Don’t THEY think that Ar. was simply habituated into thinking that philosophy cannot go beyond the limits of what is morally given at any given time by the society of which we are a part? But it is clear Ar. thinks otherwise, doesn’t he? In other words, if there is nothing BEYOND the claims of habituation to form us, how exactly can we even truly speak of LEARNING? Aren’t those who argue that Ar. simply defended the Greek virtues simply submitting to this VERY MODERN belief, rather than tackling Ar.’s realistic challenges to the limits of the moral/political sphere? For, wouldn’t it be extremely ODD that he who is called THE philosopher, were so easily duped in the ESSENTIALS? But if Ar. is not so duped, then what does that say about OUR modern relativistic and historicist self-deceptions? What would Ar. have to offer us THEN? Simply that we become Greek again? The answer is “certainly not”, isn’t it? Or is it we are to learn anew, precisely because a certain kind of HABITUATION has NOT allowed us to see beyond its spheres, respectable as they may be? Isn’t THIS why Ar. adds the striking words “or some other practice”? Couldn’t this OTHER practice be moving US in that direction? For we need ask, why does Ar. not simply say WHAT that other practice might be? Is it because he wishes to be seen as open-minded so that we can add WHAT we wish depending “on the historical times”? Or rather, he PRUDENTLY points to a path for the serious reader who —given the digressions of previous subsections— understands the dangers of philosophical inquiry to the practical political sphere, and consequently is willing to take up this highly critical task within the contours of a much more private educational setting, a setting which perhaps leads  towards the most complete and self-sufficient happiness?

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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

NICOMACHEAN ETHICS

BOOK I

CHAPTER EIGHT

“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?

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COMMENTARY ON ARISTOTLE’S NICOMACHEAN ETHICS: BOOK I, 6

(For the nature of the sections see the “General Introduction”, here.)

Abbreviations: Ar. = Aristotle, AQ= Aquinas, NE = Nicomachean Ethics, EE= Eudemian Ethics

NICOMACHEAN ETHICS

BOOK I

CHAPTER SIX

As for the universal [good], perhaps it is better to examine it and to go through the perplexities involved in the ways it is spoken of, although undertaking such an inquiry is arduous, because the men who introduced the forms are dear. But perhaps it might be held to be better, and in fact to be obligatory, at least for the sake of preserving the truth, to do away with even one’s own things, specially for those who are philosophers. For although both are dear, it is a pious thing to honor the truth first.

Now, those who conveyed this opinion did not make ideas pertain to those cases in which they spoke of the prior and posterior: hence they did not set up an idea of numbers either. But the good is spoken of in relation to what something is, and in relation to what sort of thing it is, and as regards its relation to something: but that which is the thing in itself –that is, the being —is prior by nature to any relation it has (for it is like an offshoot and accident of the being). As a result, there would not be any common idea pertaining to these things

And further, the good is spoken of in as many ways as is the term is —for the good is spoken of in relation to what something is (for example the god and intellect); as for what sort of thing something is, the good is spoken of as the virtues; as for how much something is, it is spoken of as the measured amount; in its relation to something, as what is useful; as regards time, as the opportune moment; as regards place, as the [right] location; and other things of this sort [Since all this is so,] it is clear that the good would not be something common, universal, and one. For if that were the case, it would not be spoken of in all the categories but in one alone.

And further, since there is a single science of things that pertain to a single idea, there would also be some single science of all the good things. But as things stand, there are many sciences even of the things that fall under a single category –for example, the opportune moment: in war, it is generalship, in illness, medicine; and in the case of the measured amount of nourishment, on the one hand it is medicine, but in that of physical exertions, on the other, it is gymnastic training.

But someone might be perplexed as to whatever they mean by the “thing-as-such”, if in fact the very same account of human being pertains both to “human being-as-such” and to a given human being. For in the respect in which each is a human being, they will not differ at all. And if this is so, [then neither the good as such nor a good thing will differ] in the respect in which each is good. Moreover, the good will not be good to a greater degree by being eternal either, if in fact whiteness that lasts a long time will not be whiter than that which lasts only a day.

The Pythagoreans seem to speak more persuasively about it by positing the One in the column of the goods, and it is indeed they whom Speusippus seems to follow. But about these things let there be another argument.

A certain dispute over the points stated begins to appear, because the arguments made [by the proponents of the forms] do not concern every good: things pursued and cherished by themselves are spoken of in reference to a single form, but what produces these (or in some way preserves them or prevents their contraries) is spoken of as being good on account of the former sorts of goods and in a different manner. It is clear, then, that the good things would be spoken of in two senses: those that are good in themselves, others that are good on account of these.

Separating the things good in themselves from those that are advantageous, then, let us examine whether the former are spoken of in reference to a single idea. What sort of things might one posit as being good in themselves? Is it so many things as are in fact pursued for themselves alone —-for example, exercising prudence and seeing, as well as certain pleasures and honor? For even if we pursue these on account of something else as well, nonetheless one might posit them as being among the things that are good in themselves. Or is nothing good in itself except the idea? The result will be that the form [abstracted from all individual things] is pointless. But if in fact these things [that is, exercising prudence, seeing and the like] are among the things good in themselves, the definition of the good will need to manifest itself as the same in all cases, just as the definition of whiteness is the same in the case of snow and in that of white lead. But the definitions of honor, prudence and pleasure are distinct and differ in the very respect in which they are goods. It is not the case, therefore, that the good is something common in reference to a single idea.

But how indeed are they spoken of [as good]? For they are not like things that share the same name by chance. It is by dint of their stemming from one thing or because they all contribute to one thing? Or is it more that they are such by analogy? For as there is sight in the body, so there is intellect in the soul, and indeed one thing in one thing, another in another. But perhaps we ought to leave these consideration be for now: to be very precise about them would be more appropriate to another philosophy. The case is similar with the idea as well: even if there is some one good thing that is predicated [of things] in common,, or there is some separate thing, itself in itself, it is clear that it would not be subject to action or capable of being possessed by a human being. But it is some such thing that is now being sought.

Perhaps someone might be of the opinion that it is better to be familiar with it, with a view to those goods that can be possessed and are subject to action. By having this [universal good] as a sort of model, we will to greater degree know also the things that are good for us; and if we know them, we will hit on them. Now, the argument has a certain persuasiveness, but it seems to be inconsistent with the sciences. For although all sciences aim at some good and seek out what is lacking, they pass over knowledge of the good itself. And yet it is not reasonable for all craftsmen to be ignorant of so great an aid and not even to seek it out.

A further perplexity too is what benefit the weaver or carpenter might gain, in relation to his own art, by known this same good, or how he who has contemplated the idea itself will be a more skilled physician or general. For it appears that the physician does not examine even health this way, but inquires rather into the health of a human being and even more, perhaps into that of this particular human being. For he treats patients individually.

And let what pertains to these things be stated up to this point.”

(NE, 1096a11-1097a14; Aristotle´s Nicomachean Ethics, Bartlett, Robert, and Collins, Susan; University of Chicago, Chicago, 2011)

I. PRIVATE PUZZLES

1) Why exactly can’t Ar. seem to get his argument going? Why does he lead us into a third and even more complex, not to say impossible (from the point of view of practical things), digression? Put bluntly, does one imagine a Pericles/Xenophon/Thucydides listening intently? Is a Pericles/Xenophon/Thucydides, so interested in THESE perplexities? But if not, then WHO are we speaking to in terms of the ETHICAL? To philosophy students? Wouldn’t that be utterly ODD, if we seek to respect the dignity of the practical (as that appears to be clearly the objective of the previous two digressions!)? Shouldn’t one, as well, ask more explicitly what is the actual relation between these three digressions (from the type of student, to the kind of methodology, to a discussion of the erroneous views of his friends on the absolute good)? Are we ascending in some sense to more and more impenetrable perplexities? Or do they stand at the same level of importance? Moreover, why does Ar. indeed connect the second and third digressions in the EE BOOK I, Ch. 8 1218a15-ff; “They ought in fact to demonstrate….”) and does NOT so proceed in the NE (see section IV below)? Is it because he wants us in the NE to assume a more active role in OUR coming to see the sources of our perplexities? And what are we to make of the very LENGTH of the digression? I mean, doesn’t AQ. actually divide his commentary into three sections, while our translators only deal with one very long and complex one? But leaving this aside, why is it SO important to get THIS one right? Why is our stance on the Forms/Ideas, the crux of the matter, so to speak? And, very importantly, why does Ar. go, as rarely he does in his Ethics, into his much less practical works, for instance, the Categories? Is he telling us that, in the end, we DO need some such vocabulary to get clear of our PRACTICAL perplexities? However, IF his audience has a dual character, then what are the less philosophically inclined to do with this section? For it is clear, notions like substance, predicates, the “thing-as-such” etc… are NOT the concern of the practical, and much less so –at least explicitly— of the political art? And putting it provocatively, isn’t this why one does NOT find any mention of the “Theory of the Forms” in the work of Xenophon (or Alfarabi, for that matter)? And isn’t this , in part, why modern philosophy and political science departments —with their modern procedural approaches—- find Xenophon, who knew of this Socratic tradition, rather irrelevant? Isn’t the overwhelming amount of academic writings of Plato´s “Theory of Ideas”, precisely, in part, what reveals the stance of OUR modern philosophy departments as regards the practical arena? But doesn’t this reveal a certain perplexing blindness which Ar. DOES see? Isn’t this why he explicitly tells us that these concerns are those of another kind of philosophy which can actually harm praxis as we saw in previous commentaries? Again, is this to safeguard the dignity and independence of the practical sphere in its own terms? But then, why even mention them, if they belong elsewhere? So, shouldn’t we conclude that Ar. is purposely confronting his audience with such complexities PRECISELY to get clear on how HE will, at least initially, move away from them? For it is clear, the idea of the ideas will NOT ever return to the argument in the NE, will they? And surely at the end of the NE we are not asked to go read the Categories or the Metaphysics, but rather to go read the Politics, aren´t we (with some exceptions, perhaps, dealing with the private education which BOOK X defends, so that SOME may read both)? In other words, is it perhaps that his audience, at least part of it, has already been misled by those who attended Plato’s Academy? Don’t they clearly still have in their minds all the Apology affair (which Ar. did not witness)? Isn’t Ar. rather troubled by the radical nature of the rhetorical skills used in the Republic, even if he might agree with its core dialectics? Doesn’t he see that such philosophical projects undermine the practical so that the relation between the practical and the speculative reach insolvable breakdowns of communication (to use modern language)? But if THIS is true, don’t we and Ar. also know that Plato wrote his more mature The Laws, where such critiques are better responded? Furthermore, as regards the Straussian interpretation of the so-called Platonic “Theory of the Forms” (for instance, Blooms famous reading of The Republic as a comic response to Aristophanes´s Clouds, or Strauss´s own unique conception; see section IV below) , then why exactly does one not find anything “comic” about Ar.’s presentation of these ideas? Doesn’t HE seem to think that Plato took them seriously? Or is it rather that he is criticizing a rather incomplete, not to say an erroneous interpretation of Plato’s thought (as one could easily see, for instance, also in the very purposely minimalistic critique of Plato’s communism in Politics Book II)? For surely Ar. seems to CONVENIENTLY forget that these theories appear in DIALOGUES with all the dramatic complexities that this entails ( and we know Ar. himself wrote many dialogues as well!)? So why does he find it “convenient” to leave these obvious, yet crucial, issues aside? For aren’t we to realize that, for instance, the presentation of the ideas in the Republic is given precisely within Socrates’ description of three incredible waves that Socrates himself tells us are so utterly incomprehensible they will hardly be believed? (see section IV below for references to the ideas in the Republic). Isn’t this perhaps THE key to this subsection? Isn’t it perhaps the key to the relationship between Plato and Aristotle as Alfarabi saw it (see beginning of The Philosophy of Aristotle: “Aristotle sees the perfection of man as Plato sees it and more.”; Mahdi p. 71, )

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COMMENTARY ON ARISTOTLE’S NICOMACHEAN ETHICS: BOOK I, 4

(For the nature of the sections see the “General Introduction”, here.)

Abbreviations: Ar. = Aristotle, AQ= Aquinas, NE = Nicomachean Ethics, EE= Eudemian Ethics

NICOMACHEAN ETHICS

BOOK I

CHAPTER FOUR

Now, let us pick up again and —since all knowledge and every choice have some good as the object of their longing —let us state what it is that we say the political art aims at and what the highest of all the goods related to action is. As for its name, then, it is pretty much agreed on by most people; for both the many and the refined say that it is happiness, and they suppose that living well and acting well are the same thing as being happy. But as for what happiness is, they disagree, and the many do not give a response similar to that of the wise. The former respond that it is something obvious and manifest, such as pleasure or wealth or honour, some saying it is one thing, others another. Often one and the same person responds differently, for when he is sick, it is health; when poor, wealth. And when they are aware of their ignorance, they wonder at those who say something that is great and beyond them. Certain others, in addition, used to suppose that the good is something else, by itself, apart from these many good things, which is also the cause of their all being good.

Now, to examine thoroughly all these opinions is perhaps rather pointless; those opinions that are specially prevalent or are held to have a certain reason to them will suffice. But let it not escape our notice that there is a difference between the arguments that proceed from principles and those that proceed to the principles. For Plato too used to raise this perplexity well and investigated, whether the path is going from the principles or to the principles, just as on a racecourse one can proceed from the judges to the finish line or back again. One must begin from what is known, but this has a twofold meaning: there are things known to us, on the one hand, and things known simply, on the other. Perhaps it is necessary for us, at least, to begin from the things known to us. Hence he who will listen adequately to the noble things and the just things, and to the political things generally, must be brought up nobly by means of habituation. For the “that” is the principle, and if this should be sufficiently apparent, there will be no need of the “why” in addition, and a person of the sort indicated has or would easily get hold of the principles. As for him to whom neither of these is available, let him listen to the words of Hesiod:

This one is altogether best who himself understands all things

……………………………………………………………………………………..

But good in his turn too is he who obeys one who speaks well.

But he who neither himself understands nor, in listening to another,

takes this to heart, he is a useless man. ” (NE, 1095a14-1095b13; Aristotle´s Nicomachean Ethics, Bartlett, Robert, and Collins, Susan; University of Chicago, Chicago, 2011)

I. PRIVATE PUZZLES

1) Why does Ar. proceed in such a STRANGE manner, first telling us that after the previous digression he will get back on track with his own argument regarding the architectonic good of the political art, only to, a few lines later, digress once again (!) (at, “but let it not escape our notice”)? Why is he going about things as he is? Why is he so very hesitant to get to the point, so to speak? What is so crucial about getting things right from the beginning? For surely it seems a sign of prudence and sensitivity towards the actual independence, specially from the philosophical, of the practical sphere, doesn’t it? And isn’t this precisely WHY Ar. has become so relevant to us moderns, children of the Copernican revolution who attempted for centuries to side-step these initial Aristotelian “preludes” or digressions? Because, aren’t WE children of the scientific/technological grid, virtually unaware of such beginnings? Isn’t this why we find in the writings of Husserl the clear example of this procedural history? For, Husserl first wrote a very strange defence of philosophy IN TERMS OF the natural sciences themselves in his weirdly named “Philosophy as Rigourous Science”, only in his later years to back off from such a “kneeling” posture to a defence of a more Aristotelian notion, that of the “life-world” in his last book revealingly entitled The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Philosophy? Isn’t it, then, precisely out of respect for the independence of the practical that Ar. digresses anew, before going back to the argument presented? Doesn’t he have us LISTEN to a defence of the practical political life as AGAINST a certain kind of IMPRUDENT scientific/philosophical undermining of the realm of serious practical human things? Or put yet another way in terms of the history of philosophy, isn’t the young Wittgenstein of the Tractacus also guilty of not having begun in such a prudent way? For, doesn’t his logical attempt give way to the language as a way of life in his much more mature Philosophical Investigations? And much more importantly, in the early history of this constant tension, did not Socrates himself tell us that there came a point in his life in which he too had to undertake a “second sailing” (see, Phaedo), one in which philosophy was brought down from the Heavens to Earth for the very first time in time in philosophical inquiry (Cicero, Tusculan Disputations)? Don´t we see this clearly in Aristophanes´ comic presentation of the early Socrates in his Clouds? And don´t we see it MUCH MORE clearly in Xenophon´s Economics where we are told Socrates saw the need for a radical shift in HIS philosophical undertaking while simply LISTENING to the best of gentlemen, Ischomachus? Isn’t this respect for the dignity of the practical what redefines Socratism —and the whole of classical political philosophy— as against the pre-Socratics and their apolitical concern with the whole? But if so, what are the impending dangers of Heidegger´s and Nietzsche´s urging US to “return” to the PRE-Socratics who themselves did not know of this initial starting point for ethical inquiry? Isn’t this, in part, why Heidegger could not take back his troubling past? Musn’t THIS destabilizing danger, this mocking of logos within the practical sphere, be the one to be confronted HEAD ON (see Pangle ‘s poignant and ironical remarks on Rorty in The Ennobling of Democracy)? And, in Aristotelian terms, isn’t his different attitude from the EE to the NE precisely a similar expression of such a change in procedural outlook as well? Isn’t this THE key to understanding how the EE must be regarded as an earlier, less mature, work (vs. Kenny)?

2) Furthermore, what to make of the appearance of the central term happiness (eudaimonia)? How are we to get clear on the fundamental differences between the ancients´ concern for eudaimonia —which evidently goes beyond a feeling of temporary joy—- and OUR very own notion of the constitutionally defended “pursuit of happiness” (e.g., Constitution of the United States)? Won’t we make a MASSIVE mistake by not seeing the tension in which they stand? For instance, what are we to make of Kant’s very secondary, not so say, dismissive use of the term in his own ethical foundations (see section IV below)? Or, what to make of Locke’s reduction of the term and, crucially, its liberation (by way of redefinition and exclusion) from the Aristotelian moral virtues which will become the core of Ar.´s own argument (difference which is pregnantly developed by Pangle in his The Spirit of Modern Republicanism: The Moral Visions of the American Founders and the Philosophy of Locke, see section IV below)? And isn’t this equally true of the difference between Ar.’s eudaimonia and Hobbes’s little inspiring felicity (see section IV below)? Isn’t the modern connection quite Anti-Aristotelian in that it DOES NOT believe there is an actual END to our longings? Doesn’t then modern desire –—-and particularly the desire for a certain kind of power that guarantees self-preservation—- lead the way, while reason deforms into mere utilitarianism? Similarly, can one not easily find in the Federalist vs. Anti-federalists debates over the US Constitution, precisely this very same debate on the appearance/delineation of happiness as THE END of the political (see section IV below)? Isn’t this why Brutus is so crucially upset by the unheard of proposals of Hamilton/Madison/Jay (proposals which “won the day”)? And, looking at Ar. more specifically; what exactly does it mean that happiness involves a living well and an acting well? Is living merely the substratum for acting? I mean, do we live simply to act, and specially in a moral sense? Or, in other MUCH more problematic terms, is life simply/exclusively the occasion for the presentation of the moral virtues in their alleged splendour? And if so, how are the moral virtues as the core of acting well, to be related to happiness which is BOTH acting AND living well? For surely, as we have said in our previous commentaries, sometimes the actual performance of certain virtues, such as courage, seems to GO AGAINST living itself as Ar. HIMSELF has pointed out in previous subsections? And, how is this consideration of happiness to be related to the context of the quote we find from Hesiod at the very end of this subsection (see puzzle No. 11 below)?

3) Moreover, why exactly does Ar. first mention two groups, the many (oi polloi, usually used in pejorative terms in Aristotle, see e.g., discusses of democracy in the Politics) and the refined (χαρίεντες; with the connotations of the beautiful, the graceful, the elegant, the courteous and the educated), only lines later to go on to mention a VERY different second pair, namely, the many and the wise? Are we to understand that the refined are to be passed over in silence? Or rather, that the refined are precisely THE most problematic in that they are already to a large extent educated by their society as such? What is one to learn about ethics if one is, to a large extent, ALREADY educated and courteous and graceful and …? And very importantly, what makes one part of the refined: good looks? Elegance? Or more likely, education; but WHICH education? I mean, why would the refined NEED the NE? And, are the refined variable as the just and the noble seem to be? Besides, put in modern terms, wouldn’t Ar. see the refined more in terms of Locke’s virtue of civility? And therefore, being refined —seeing oneself as one of the refined—- doesn’t THAT mean that one must appear to be refined to SOMEONE? Specially to those who are refined as well? But then, IF Ar.´s digressions are precisely to RESPECT some such education, how are we to MOVE beyond its already set parameters of what is beautiful and noble and just? In other words, aren’t we here speaking of the Ischomachus’s –the best of gentlemen (kalos kágathos)—- of our lives (see Xenophon’s crucial Economics)? For, don´t we see in Xenophon’s compelling (though little studied) text how SOCRATES is TRULY SILENT and merely listens to one of the most refined of Athens? Wouldn’t THAT be the respect of the practical sphere that Ar. seeks? But then, how to get the conversation going, so to speak, if Ar. goes on to say that the WHY should not be asked? And as regards the many, what are we to make of those thinkers who see in Ar. the beginning of radical social democracy (Nussbaum)? Aren’t they caught irredeemably in a MODERN LIBERAL DEMOCRATIC framework which has little to learn from Ar. himself? For surely Ar., in quoting Hesiod´s words in this very subsection seems little democratic in spirit, doesn’t he? But more problematic still, Ar. CLEARLY tells us that it is the many who mistakenly hold eudaimonia to be leisure, wealth or honour? But then again, who are these “many”: for surely one would tend to think that the many are the poor and therefore, in political terms, the ones least like to have the potential for honour in political office in particular? Or could it be, but this would be rather problematic given the type of digressions Ar. has made, that the many and the refined, when it comes to the CORE issues, to what truly defines happiness as the end of this “kind of political inquiry”, and more importantly to what truly defines happiness as THE END of the best human life possible simply, are very close to each other? Could it be that the refined and the many turn out to be, in their essence, almost indistinguishable; particularly when compared to/confronted by the wise? And, wouldn’t this allow us to NOT be so surprised once we reach the stunning conclusions of BOOK X? But then again, WHO are the wise? Are our professors the wise as Ar. uses the term? If not, then WHO?

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Filosofía política clásica; el modelo socrático y aristotélico como respuesta a las encrucijadas modernas.

El interés principal para esta propuesta de investigación ——como aspirante a su departamento——- es la de hacer una defensa profunda de lo que representa la filosofía política clásica como posible respuesta a la actual crisis del liberalismo moderno occidental. Dicha investigación se enfrentaría conceptualmente a los defensores del proyecto de la modernidad que buscan las condiciones universales para la defensa de nuestras democracias en una teoría comunicativa (Habermas), y a aquellas posturas que buscan hacer explícitas las condiciones fundacionales imaginarias e hipotéticas para una teoría de la justicia (Rawls). Por otra parte, aunque esta investigación ve la importancia del serio y profundo cuestionamiento radical a la razón moderna que plantean las obras de Nietzsche/Heidegger ——–que en su conjunto incluso llegan a cuestionar el proyecto occidental de racionalidad política fundado originariamente por Sócrates—– esta considera que la falta de una reflexión política sostenida permite a los neo-nietzscheanos post-modernistas (Foucault, Derrida) una ilusoria victoria conceptual que permanece incompleta, que es imprudente (en el sentido Aristotélico de phronesis), y que por ende es altamente peligrosa para la salud general de la comunidad política. En contraposición, afirmamos que es en la obra ético-política de Aristóteles que se da la máxima expresión de lo que representa la filosofía política clásica como contrapropuesta. (1)

Dejando de lado las múltiples interpretaciones que puedan haber surgido de Aristóteles, lo cierto es que al centro de la argumentación detrás de esta investigación radica una lectura que se funda en el pensamiento de Leo Strauss (y en particular, de su estudiante Thomas Pangle). En general el reto neo-aristotélico se ve enmarcado dentro de una tradición aún más amplia que se puede comprender hoy en día como la del “movimiento socrático”. Este movimiento de retorno retoma con seriedad el evento socrático ejemplar, a saber, el de la fundación de la reflexión filosófica de lo político por parte de Sócrates. Comprenden ellos que en efecto hay un segundo Sócrates que se ha distanciado de las presuposiciones apolíticas de los pre-socráticos, presuposiciones que llegaron a conformar la postura conceptual del primer Sócrates interesado exclusivamente en la pregunta por la naturaleza (physis). Esto es lo que es conocido como la “segunda navegación” de Sócrates (Fedón, 99c). Strauss lo resume así: “Socrates was the first philosopher who concerned himself chiefly or exclusively, not with the heavenly or divine things, but with the human things”; Strauss (TCaM, 13).  Es por ello que para lograr una real recuperación del reto del pensamiento político clásico se debe recurrir a la ya mencionada perspectiva que ve el debate antiguos-modernos como el conflicto fundamental para las aspiraciones de una verdadera filosofía política que tenga respuestas concretas, prudentes y sabias a nuestras crisis. (2) Sin embargo este retorno comprometido y serio al racionalismo de la filosofía política clásica tiene ya desde su comienzo diversas variantes interpretativas. Esto se puede ver claramente en la triple comprensión que se da de Sócrates por parte de Platón el filósofo dialéctico, por parte de Jenofonte el escritor militar y por parte de Aristófanes el comediante. La evidente tensión entre estas apropiaciones socráticas se ve claramente hoy en día en el contexto filosófico universitario en la medida en que Jenofonte no es considerado, como sí lo era en la antigüedad (por los romanos, por Maquiavelo, por Hobbes y por Shaftesbury), como un pensador digno de un estudio serio, profundo y continuado; sobretodo por la recuperación del valor de la retórica como lenguaje privilegiado de lo político. (3)

Ahora bien, la excepción a esta regla de exclusión silenciosa, es precisamente la propia tradición straussiana. Al recuperar la multiplicidad de lenguajes socráticos, y muy especialmente la obra de Jenofonte, la tradición straussiana gana una interpretación enriquecida de los clásicos, y en particular, de la obra aristotélica. El retorno recuperativo de la filosofía política clásica por parte de la tradición straussiana por lo tanto permite el planteamiento de preguntas olvidadas. Por ello a la base de esta interpretación surge la pregunta fundamental que el discurso filosófico moderno ha relegado al olvido, a saber, la pregunta misma de ¿por qué la filosofía? A la importancia de las preguntas heideggerianas tanto por el sentido del ser como por el “¿qué es la filosofía?”, se enfrenta una pregunta aún más fundamental y originaria en términos políticos. Es decir, el “qué es” de la filosofía sólo se puede comprender cabalmente una vez hayamos realizado una investigación prudente del “por qué” de la necesidad del filosofar dentro de la comunidad política. Leo Strauss ofrece cierta claridad acerca de esta pregunta que funda las posibilidades del saber filosófico una vez se ha liberado de su “amnesia” frente a la filosofía política clásica: “The philosophers, as well as other men who have become aware of the possibility of philosophy, are sooner or later driven to wonder, Why philosophy? Why does human life need philosophy? … To justify philosophy before the tribunal of the political community means to justify it in terms of the political community, that is to say, by means of a kind of argument which appeals, not to philosophers as such, but to citizens as such.” (mi énfasis) (4) Sin duda la academia, en gran medida, no ha escuchado este llamado. (more…)

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