- Aristotle's Ethics - Moral Responsibility - Philosophy Stack Exchange
- Aristotle: Ethics
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- The Nicomachean Ethics
Aristotle's Ethics - Moral Responsibility - Philosophy Stack Exchange
And to the extent that he runs these ideas together, he could be said not to have fully attained the notion of loving someone truly as an individual, rather than as a bearer of desired qualities. The friend is not loved for his qualities alone, but also as one with whom one has shared past activity and with whom one has shared oneself. To that p. The presence of a friend in memory and the development of a narrative about the meaning of the lost friendship preserves the care present in the friendship, as well as retaining elements of the vulnerability therein. Memory becomes an important faculty for dealing with such losses because such losses are not limited to the loss of an abstract good, nor even to a disinterested regret on behalf of the friend e.
What is beloved in the memory of the lost friendship is not only the recollection of how the friend once exhibited virtue, though this might well be part of such a memory. Nor is there simple regret of the contrast between the past good and the present lack of such a good in the friend, though again this sense of loss might be part of such a memory. Why might such care for memory be of such importance?
For example, a friend who behaves poorly as a result of a reaction to a traumatic experience as in a wartime trauma , but who has been known to be brave or generous in other circumstances, is not reducible to his current behaviour. His life as a whole communicates a different reality from what his current activity or character seems to do. Ethics a—b. The person who, in a sense, continues in friendship with his friend through the faculty of memory relies on his prior sense perceptions, and not only upon an intellectual judgement that his friend was good or could be good again.
If memory focuses upon sense perception, then one would expect Aristotle to include among such memories of friendship particular contingent experiences of the friend—experiences that were specific to the pair, and not only memories of general characteristics that the friend once possessed. For example, there is a significant difference between remembering abstractly that my friend once used p.
An old shared joke takes on a distinct and particular value among friends that exceeds the way in which the joke exemplifies the virtue of wittiness. Indeed, memory and narrative together tend to reshape and to reformulate the value of such experiences: a joke told many times among friends, or word play understood only among intimates who understand the reference, has a deeper value than a similar joke outside of the context of its presentation in friendship. The memory of such witty moments becomes a reminder of the past bond of friendship and of the particular moments shared in friendship.
Thus, Aristotle emphasizes in his discussion of memory that it is not merely a case of contemplating my own experience. I also possess an awareness of the object of contemplation as a presentation of the other real object:. Just in the same way we have to conceive that the mnemonic presentation within us is something which by itself is merely an object of contemplation, while, in relation to something else, it is also a presentation of that other thing. In so far as it is regarded in itself, it is only an object of contemplation, or a presentation; but when considered as relative to something else, e.
On Memory and Reminiscence b In other words, memories are not Cartesian inner experiences, nor are they simply reproductions or copies of past experiences.
Ordinarily, memories are understood by the subject to be tokens of the original p. In the case of friendship, a memory of my friend is not merely a re-experiencing of my own affection or knowledge of her, or what I knew through her, but rather the memory about her, in her very being. Indeed, because the activity recalled through memory is often shared activity, whenever I remember a past incident with my friend in which I also shared, my own selfhood is also the object of reference.
Practical activity, exercise of my human faculties, takes place not only alongside other rational beings, but also with and in relation to them in a strong sense. Memories of those activities constitute a part of my selfhood. Indeed, to the extent that memory memorializes the lost friend, it also keeps present the vulnerability experienced in the loss itself. In friendships of virtue that are going well, the harmony between oneself and the other is a source of ongoing pleasure. While the otherness of a friend can delight by its complementarity, such alterity is held in balance with a sense of abiding and shared values.
Such a decision involves genuine loss for him, even if the decision is right. Aristotle suggests that older people can so often suffer such losses that in time, many older individuals are shaped by a pervading sense of distrust for the imperfections of human nature N. Ethics b—a. Such distrust diminishes their capacity for happiness, but Aristotle does not suggest that their judgements are thereby mistaken.
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Rather, along with the great possibilities for happiness that intimate friendship opens up, so too is the possibility of diminished happiness brought on by repeated loss or betrayal. Such violations are not escapable, but instead part of the human condition. While Aristotle advises that friends must share many meals together before trust is given, his advice is descriptive and not prescriptive. To this extent, Aristotle values a balance between self-sufficiency and dependency that takes account of ongoing human vulnerability in friendship.
In This Article
The interdependency of human beings in moral development poses another kind of paradox for Aristotle, one with social and political consequences. For, if the goodness of one person can profoundly reinforce and even assist those still growing in virtue, then there would seem to be a duty to assist another person, even a wicked person, in growing to become a better person.
As we have seen, such assistance potentially poses dangers for the friend who takes on this task, if it detracts from the good of his own virtuous and lived activity or simply seems impossible to accomplish. But because the development of virtue depends on others for its very possibility, there ought to exist some social resources that would allow a man who has morally p.
Virtue is far more important than property. And yet, the presence of such a vicious or incontinent person in public life also produces problems for the flourishing of the community, and especially for those with whom he is in closest relation. A former criminal, for example, who especially needs social resources that might lead him to live better, is also a potential threat to that community; and yet, to exclude him from participation within society and its goods is likely to make him grow worse, not better.
The Nicomachean Ethics
Here Aristotle recognizes a deep problematic in the nature of the development of virtue: to become good is partly a matter of personal responsibility, but also partly conditioned by those with whom we surround ourselves. In the case of a man who already lacks virtue, the only real possibility of his reform lies in exposure to and education by those who possess virtue. This is especially true in the case of the vicious, who believe what is bad to be good, and so lack an understanding of the good, not only an ability to follow through on it in action.
However, those who possess virtue, seemingly, will not love those who lack it, for by their character they only love what is good and wish to pursue the good along with other good people. At most, they will only love the other for who he or she might someday become, or who they once were, but not for their currently bad state.
Aristotle thus encounters the problem of how and whether friendship or other analogous relationships can sufficiently address the need for the community to engage with those who lack virtue. The virtuous friend who had loved, discovers that the beloved friend is, in fact, not even the person he had at first thought him to be. Indeed, for Aristotle, one can not love what one does not understand to be good. Even in the case of a friend hesitant as to whether to continue a friendship with one who has failed morally, the remaining love for the friend concerns what is still good or lovable about him.
To this extent, Aristotle is not inconsistent in his account of virtuous friendship. However, the notion of moral failure in friendship raises an additional practical and political problem, namely, how societies are to care for those who fail at a moral level when rehabilitation of such character depends upon engagement and the care of others who surround them.
igatcontersgen.gq In other words, if we are vulnerable to harm from those who lack virtue, and yet also ought to care for the cultivation of virtue in others more than any other good, then vulnerability to harm becomes a political and ethical problem. Ethics b7— Particularly when it comes to the question of moral development or rehabilitation, we find in Aristotle a continual need for dialectical interplay between the role of the family and of the law for the possibility of establishing virtue in its citizens.
Neither resource is adequate alone, and each one is subject to the possibility of misfortune. For Aristotle, the role of parents is significant, but limited, insofar as moral development continues long past the period of childhood or formal education N. The role of law, while commendable, is also limited in the extent to which it can shape virtue.
In Book X of the Ethics , Aristotle emphasizes the importance of laws that can reinforce the nurture and the earlier habits of temperance provided by parents N. Without some shared idea of the goal of education for children, individual moral upbringing cannot be harmonized into a civic morality. The law can legislate how to educate children, but does not itself act as the primary educator.
The family and class to which one belongs, the education one receives, and the stability of the political parties that might support such education are subject to chance and prone to instability. Moreover, certain moral states seem to arise not only from the influence of education, but also from luck. For Aristotle, the brutish state, one step below vice, in which there is hardly even a moral sensibility, seems to be a result of bad luck.
Ethics a , such as the cases of a slave who ate the liver of another fellow human being N.
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Ethics b , indicating that the brute is not brutish or amoral by virtue of his own choice, but as a result of a defect. We can therefore say that the case of the brute is less evil, but more alarming, precisely because no choice is involved N.
Even the incontinent man who is incontinent by virtue of strong passion is overcome by his bodily state, and akin to a person who is asleep, mad, or drunk. But although Aristotle mostly emphasizes that incontinence is the result of many habitual incontinent acts, he also allows for the possibility that some forms of incontinence may be present from birth:. Incontinents through habituation are more easily cured than the natural incontinents; for habit is easier than nature to change.