Contemplating Friendship in Aristotle's Ethics

SUNY Press
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 Examines how Aristotle posits political philosophy and the experience of friendship as a means to bind strictly intellectual virtue with morality.
In this book, Ann Ward explores Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, focusing on the progressive structure of the argument. Aristotle begins by giving an account of moral virtue from the perspective of the moral agent, only to find that the account itself highlights fundamental tensions within the virtues that push the moral agent into the realm of intellectual virtue. However, the existence of an intellectual realm separate from the moral realm can lead to lack of self-restraint. Aristotle, Ward argues, locates political philosophy and the experience of friendship as possible solutions to the problem of lack of self-restraint, since political philosophy thinks about the human things in a universal way, and friendship grounds the pursuit of the good which is happiness understood as contemplation. Ward concludes that Aristotle’s philosophy of friendship points to the embodied intellect of timocratic friends and mothers in their activity of mothering as engaging in the highest form of contemplation and thus living the happiest life.
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About the author

 Ann Ward is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Politics and International Studies at Campion College at the University of Regina, Canada. She is the author and editor of several books, including Herodotus and the Philosophy of Empire and Socrates and Dionysus: Philosophy and Art in Dialogue.

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Additional Information

Publisher
SUNY Press
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Published on
Sep 30, 2016
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Pages
182
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ISBN
9781438462684
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Language
English
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Genres
Philosophy / Ethics & Moral Philosophy
Philosophy / History & Surveys / Ancient & Classical
Philosophy / Political
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Socrates is widely regarded as the first philosopher to investigate not simply the natural world but to make human and political questions concerning justice, virtue and the good life central to rational inquiry. Thus, Socratic philosophy is often viewed as taking a rationalist approach to human narratives and becomes a narrative itself. After Socrates the prevailing view of what defines the Greeks and those commonly regarded as their descendents, the Europeans, is their civilizational foundation in philosophic rationalism.

The Socratic conception of Greek and European identity has not gone unchallenged however. In antiquity the comic poet Aristophanes lampooned Socrates as impious and unjust and cast doubt on whether the Socratic way of life was an appropriate basis for politics. Examples from more recent times include the ambiguous place that Socratic philosophizing holds in the philosophies of Hegel, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. The re-assessment of Socratic rationalism in the 19th century has led a to a “post-modern” suspicion of “grand narratives.” The radical critique of Socrates as the remote but powerful source of the priority assigned to reason in the 17th and 18th century Enlightenment(s) has shaken European faith in scientific, social and political progress. The European mind is left longing for a unifying narrative that crystallizes the European identity.

Can Socratic philosophy survive the powerful challenges made in the name of history, faith and art? Does Socratic philosophizing adequately sustain political life in the face of such challenges, and does it prioritize reason over other human ways of knowing and representing their world? Alternatively, do the positions of later thinkers offer superior ways to understand the human person and develop political communities? This volume addresses these and related questions as it seeks to recover and revise our understanding of Socratic philosophy as an appropriate paradigm for European identity. It takes an interdisciplinary and international approach with contributions from scholars in the fields of philosophy, classics, religion, English and political science. The contributors teach and research in Europe, Canada, the United States and Iran.

Dramatic changes have occurred in Europe in the past quarter century. The fall of communism and the expansion of liberal democracy, together with the desire to project a new “Europa” that is united, peaceful and prosperous into the future, illustrate that political philosophy is what grounds European political discourse and identity. Thus, an understanding of Europe’s political past and potential future directs us to the question: What is political philosophy? An exploration of the question of political philosophy points us back to Socrates, widely regarded as the first political philosopher, or the first philosopher to make human beings central to philosophic inquiry. Scholars such as Thomas Pangle suggest that a revival of the study of Socratic political philosophy will revive serious consideration of the questions of justice or how one ought to live, and demonstrate that classical rationalism is the essential dialectical partner and interrogator of the political theology of Scripture/scripture(s). Classical rationalism in this context is understood as a necessary alternative to modern liberalism, inadequate to the task of taking questions of justice seriously as it insists on regarding all religious claims and understandings of virtue as private preferences rather than definitive of the public sphere, and contemporary postmodernism, which has abandoned rationalism altogether by rejecting any truth claims not understood as relative. This volume explores Socratic rationalism, the major alternatives to it in the history of political philosophy, the potential impact of returning to it in contemporary times, and related themes. It takes a multifaceted approach with contributions from scholars in the fields of philosophy and political science.

Nearly two thousand years after it was written, Meditations remains profoundly relevant for anyone seeking to lead a meaningful life.

Few ancient works have been as influential as the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, philosopher and emperor of Rome (A.D. 161–180). A series of spiritual exercises filled with wisdom, practical guidance, and profound understanding of human behavior, it remains one of the greatest works of spiritual and ethical reflection ever written. Marcus’s insights and advice—on everything from living in the world to coping with adversity and interacting with others—have made the Meditations required reading for statesmen and philosophers alike, while generations of ordinary readers have responded to the straightforward intimacy of his style. For anyone who struggles to reconcile the demands of leadership with a concern for personal integrity and spiritual well-being, the Meditations remains as relevant now as it was two thousand years ago.

In Gregory Hays’s new translation—the first in thirty-five years—Marcus’s thoughts speak with a new immediacy. In fresh and unencumbered English, Hays vividly conveys the spareness and compression of the original Greek text. Never before have Marcus’s insights been so directly and powerfully presented.

With an Introduction that outlines Marcus’s life and career, the essentials of Stoic doctrine, the style and construction of the Meditations, and the work’s ongoing influence, this edition makes it possible to fully rediscover the thoughts of one of the most enlightened and intelligent leaders of any era.
Socrates and Dionysus engages and seeks to redraw the boundaries between philosophy and poetry, science and art. Friedrich Nietzsche argues in his work The Birth of Tragedy that science conquers art, especially the tragic art of the Dionysian poet of ancient Greece. Appealing to the natural, primeval self that is suppressed but not extinguished by the knowledge of culture, Dionysian tragedy establishes contact with our bodies and their deepest longings. Science and philosophy, associated with the ‘Socratism’ of the theoretical man, celebrate the human mind in particular and the mind or rationality of the universe more generally.

According to Nietzsche, it is Euripides who destroys the Dionysian entirely. Euripides celebrated the unadorned individual because only the individual, separated from their god, is intelligible or accessible to human reason; he insisted that art be comprehended by mind or that it be rationally understood. Euripides was possessed of such a rationalizing drive, Nietzsche claims, because his primary audience was Socrates. It is Socrates, therefore, who is the true opponent of Dionysus. Following Nietzsche’s bifurcation between philosophy and art, postmodern political philosopher Richard Rorty rejects the tendency of philosophy to posit absolute, universal truths and turns to the concept of ‘redescription’ which he associates with the ‘wisdom of the novel’. The novel is wise because it posits the relative truths and perspectives of the various individuals, societies and cultures that it represents. As an art form, it can therefore include every possible perspective of every particular situation, event or person.

New interdisciplinary fields in politics, literature and film are giving rise to an expanding community of scholars who disagree with the approaches taken by Nietzsche and Rorty. These scholars are shedding light on the ways in which philosophy and art are friends rather than enemies. They seek to bridge the theoretical and ethical gaps between the world of ‘fiction’ and the world of ‘fact’, of art and science. There appears to be a fundamental tension between literary-artistic and scientific projects. Whereas the artist seeks to recreate human experience, thereby evoking basic ethical issues, the scientist apparently seeks ethically-neutral, evidence-based facts as the constituents of our knowledge of reality. Chapters in this volume, however, will reconsider how artists, philosophers and film-makers have addressed and attempted to reconcile the artist’s language of normativity and the scientist’s language of facticity.

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