Foundations of Ancient Ethics/Grundlagen Der Antiken Ethik

Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoek (2014)
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Abstract
This book is an anthology with the following themes. Non-European Tradition: Bussanich interprets main themes of Hindu ethics, including its roots in ritual sacrifice, its relationship to religious duty, society, individual human well-being, and psychic liberation. To best assess the truth of Hindu ethics, he argues for dialogue with premodern Western thought. Pfister takes up the question of human nature as a case study in Chinese ethics. Is our nature inherently good (as Mengzi argued) or bad (Xunzi’s view)? Pfister ob- serves their underlying agreement, that human beings are capable of becoming good, and makes precise the disagreement: whether we achieve goodness by cultivating autonomous feelings or by accepting external precepts. There are political consequences: whether government should aim to respect and em- power individual choices or to be a controlling authority. Early Greek Thinking: Collobert examines the bases of Homeric ethics in fame, prudence, and shame, and how these guide the deliberations of heroes. She observes how, by depending upon the poet’s words, the hero gains a quasi- immortality, although in truth there is no consolation for each person’s inevi- table death. Plato: Santas examines Socratic Method and ethics in Republic 1. There Socrates examines definitions of justice and tests them by comparison to the arts and sciences. Santas shows the similarities of Socrates’ method to John Rawls’ method of considered judgments in reflective equilibrium. McPherran interprets Plato’s religious dimension as like that of his teacher Socrates. McPherran shows how Plato appropriates, reshapes, and extends the religious conventions of his own time in the service of establishing the new enterprise of philosophy. Ac- cording to Taylor, Socrates believes that humans in general have the task of helping the gods by making their own souls as good as possible, and Socrates’ unique ability to cross-examine imposes on him the special task of helping others to become as good as possible. This conception of Socrates’ mission is Plato’s own, consisting in an extension of the traditional conception of piety as helping the gods. Brickhouse and Smith propose a new understanding of Socratic moral psychology—one that retains the standard view of Socrates as an intellectualist, but also recognizes roles in human agency for appetites and passions. They compare and contrast the Socratic view to the picture of moral psychology we get in other dialogues of Plato. Hardy also proposes a new, non-reductive understanding of Socratic eudaimonism—he argues that Socrates invokes a very rich and complex notion of the “Knowledge of the Good and Bad”, which is associated with the motivating forces of the virtues. Rudebusch defends Socrates’ argument that knowledge can never be impotent in the face of psychic passions. He considers the standard objections: that knowledge cannot weigh incom- mensurable human values, and that brute desire, all by itself, is capable of moving the soul to action. Aristotle: Anagnostopoulos interprets Aristotle on the nature and acquisition of virtue. Though virtue of character, aiming at human happiness, requires a complex awareness of multiple dimensions of one’s experience, it is not properly a cognitive capacity. Thus it requires habituation, not education, according to Aristotle, in order to align the unruly elements of the soul with reason’s knowledge of what promotes happiness. Shields explains Aristotle’s doctrine that goodness is meant in many ways as the doctrine that there are different analyses of goodness for different types of circumstance, just as for being. He finds Aristotle to argue for this conclusion, against Plato’s doctrine of the unity of the Good, by applying the tests for homonymy and as an immediate cons- equence of the doctrine of categories. Shields evaluates the issue as unresolved at present. Russell discusses Aristotle’s account of practical deliberation and its virtue, intelligence (phronesis). He relates the account to contemporary philo- sophical controversies surrounding Aristotle’s view that intelligence is neces- sary for moral virtue, including the objections that in some cases it is unnecessary or even impedes human goodness. Frede examines the advantages and disadvantages of Aristotle’s virtue ethics. She explains the general Greek con- ceptions of happiness and virtue, Aristotle’s conception of phronesis and compares the Aristotle’s ethics with modern accounts. Liske discusses the question of whether the Aristotelian account of virtue entails an ethical-psy- chological determinism. He argues that Aristotle’s understanding of hexis allows for free action and ethical responsibility : By making decisions for good actions we are able to stabilize our character (hexis). Hellenistic and Roman: Annas defends an account of stoic ethics, according to which the three parts of Stoicism—logic, physics, and ethics—are integrated as the parts of an egg, not as the parts of a building. Since by this analogy no one part is a foundation for the rest, pedagogical decisions may govern the choice of numerous, equally valid, presentations of Stoic ethics. Piering interprets the Cynic way of life as a distinctive philosophy. In their ethics, Cynics value neither pleasure nor tradition but personal liberty, which they achieve by self-suffi- ciency and display in speech that is frank to the point of insult. Plotinus and Neoplatonism: Gerson outlines the place of ordinary civic virtue as well as philosophically contemplative excellence in Neoplatonism. In doing so he attempts to show how one and the same good can be both action-guiding in human life and be the absolute simple One that grounds the explanation of everything in the universe. Delcomminette follows Plotinus’s path to the Good as the foundation of free will, first in the freedom of Intellect and then in the “more than freedom” of the One. Plotinus postulates these divinities as not outside but within each self, saving him from the contradiction of an external foundation for a truly free will. General Topics: Halbig discusses the thesis on the unity of virtues. He dis- tinguishes the thesis of the identity of virtues and the thesis of a reciprocity of virtues and argues that the various virtues form a unity (in terms of reciprocity) since virtues cannot bring about any bad action. Detel examines Plato’s and Aristotle’s conceptions of normativity : Plato and Aristotle (i) entertained hybrid theories of normativity by distinguishing functional, semantic and ethical normativity, (ii) located the ultimate source of normativity in standards of a good life, and thus (iii) took semantic normativity to be a derived form of normativity. Detel argues that hybrid theories of normativity are—from a mo- dern point of view—still promising. Ho ̈ffe defends the Ancient conception of an art of living against Modern objections. Whereas many Modern philosophers think that we have to replace Ancient eudaimonism by the idea of moral obligation (Pflicht), Ho ̈ffe argues that Eudaimonism and autonomy-based ethics can be reconciled and integrated into a comprehensive and promising theory of a good life, if we enrich the idea of autonomy by the central elements of Ancient eudaimonism. Some common themes: The topics in Chinese and Hindu ethics are perhaps more familiar to modern western sensibilities than Homeric and even Socratic. Anagnostopoulos, Brickhouse and Smith, Frede, Liske, Rudebusch, and Russell all consider in contrasting ways the role of moral character, apart from intellect, in ethics. Brickhouse / Smith, Hardy, and Rudebusch discuss the Socratic con- ception of moral knowledge. Brickhouse / Smith and Hardy retain the standard view of the so called Socratic Intellectualism. Shields and Gerson both consider the question whether there is a single genus of goodness, or if the term is a homonym. Bussanich, McPherran, Taylor, and Delcomminette all consider the relation between religion and ethics. Pfister, Piering, Delcomminette, and Liske all consider what sort of freedom is appropriate to human well-being. Halbig, Detel, and Ho ̈ffe propose interpretations of main themes of Ancient ethics.
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