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Lecture 2  Worldviews and Philosophy  Introduction to Plato  The Issue of The Gorgias  Plato’s Arguments and his Theory  Introduction to Aristotle.

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Presentation on theme: "Lecture 2  Worldviews and Philosophy  Introduction to Plato  The Issue of The Gorgias  Plato’s Arguments and his Theory  Introduction to Aristotle."— Presentation transcript:

1 Lecture 2  Worldviews and Philosophy  Introduction to Plato  The Issue of The Gorgias  Plato’s Arguments and his Theory  Introduction to Aristotle

2 Worldviews and Philosophies  An unprecedented social and cultural decline: crime, family breakdown, teen suicide, educational failure.  Mystery: why such decline, in face of scientific advancement, economic progress?  Key: understanding human nature.

3 How do we grow in our understanding of human nature?  Two answers; –1. Through an application of the scientific method. Experimentation, quantification, analysis into forces and components. –2. Through metaphysics and the exercise of the moral imagination. Literature, philosophy, theology.  Answers reflect two competing "worldviews".

4 Introduction to Plato  Parallel to modern times: –1. Traditional morals, religion (Homer, Hesiod, Aristophanes). –2. Scientific revolution in physics (Thales, Democritus). –3. Creation of social sciences, sociology, anthropology (Sophists). –4. Cultural relativism, ethical nihilism. –5.Neo-conservative reaction (Plato, Aristotle).

5 Plato’s Threefold Goal  1. Articulate a position according to which there are absolute, eternal values.  2. Demonstrate that these values include traditional virtues (as their own reward, not justified on pragmatic grounds alone).  3. Argue that this view is not only compatible with mature science -- it is supported by science, rightly understood.

6 Plato's Dialogues  Socrates was a real person, Plato's mentor.  In the Dialogues, Socrates is a character, through whom Plato expresses his own views.  The dialogue represents a kind of ideal discussion: typically, truth triumphs in the end.

7 The Socratic Method  "My method is to call in support of my statements the evidence of a single witness, the man I am arguing with."  Asking questions, and guiding the reasoning of the participant, step by step.

8 Characters in Gorgias  Socrates  Gorgias: a Sophist, older, respectable. Socrates treats with respect. Skeptical about philosophy, but not about morals.  Polus: a younger, impetuous colleague of Gorgias. Object of S’s first interrogation.  Callicles: defender of naked power politics.

9 The Sophists  In Plato’s day, success (and even survival) in Athens depended on excelling at two things: democratic politics and litigation.  The Sophists were experts in public speaking, political campaigns, litigation. Guns for hire. Plato saw them as the source of moral decadence.

10 The Issue of The Gorgias  Which is worse, to suffer wrong or to do wrong?  Socrates claims: it is worse to do wrong, and still worse than that to do wrong and escape punishment.  The person most to be pitied (not envied!) is the person who does wrong and gets away with it.

11 Distinction: doing what one pleases vs. doing what one wills.  If I go to a quack to be healed, then I am doing what I please (going to the quack), but not what I will (being healed).  The dictator/demagogue does as he pleases (killing and coercing at will), but not as he wills (thriving as a human being).

12 Plato vs. the Sophists Plato is attacking 3 theses of the Sophists: –1. Value is relative: if something seems right/good to you, it is right/good for you. No gap between reality and appearance. –2. Virtue is a second-best option, valuable only as a means to greater social reward. The very best option: prosperous immorality. –3. Moral norms are social constructs, purely conventional in nature.

13 Analogy between physical health and health of the soul/mind  Both are anchored in facts about human nature.  Both can be studied scientifically, objectively.  Both are valued for their own sake.

14 Distinction between appearance and reality  Appearing healthy vs. really being healthy.  Pleasure is the appearance of health, not the underlying reality.

15 The reality/appearance distinction leads to a second distinction  Doing what one pleases  Doing what one wills

16 We will the ultimate object of our acts  When we take medicine, we will to be healthy.  When we enter business, we will to make profit.  We can make mistakes. Then we do what we please, but not what we will.

17 Doing what we please, not what we will  Taking a quack cure.  Investing in Russian stock futures.  Living an immoral life.

18 What we will  Ultimately,we all will to be happy, to lead a good life, to live well ("eudaemonia")  What is happiness?

19 Plato’s Radical Claim  To be virtuous,even with torture, ignominy, and death, is to live better than to be vicious with prosperity and long life.  One should pity the wicked, especially if they escape punishment!

20 Socrates’ first argument  1. To act righteously is to do a fine thing.  2. Fine things are either pleasant or beneficial, or both.  3. To act righteously is not (typically) pleasant.  Therefore, to act righteously is beneficial.

21 Socrates’ second argument  1. To punish an evildoer is to do a fine thing to him.  2. Fine things are either pleasant or beneficial or both.  3. To be punished is not pleasant.  Therefore, to be punished is beneficial.

22 Problems with the arguments?  Pleasant or beneficial to whom?  To the one acting righteously, or to others in his society, or to disinterested onlookers?  To the one being punished, or to the punishers, or to third parties?

23 The Upshot  The proofs are inconclusive.  What is important: Plato has proposed an alternative to the relativism of the Sophists, one that is open to scientific, philosophical inquiry.

24 Core of Plato’s Theory  1. All human beings will the same thing- - to live well.  2. Living well consists in being virtuous.

25 Implications of Plato’s theory, if true  1. Value is not relative to the subjective perception of the individual. There are true and false perceptions of happiness.  2. Moral virtue is valuable in itself, not merely as a means to getting on in society.  3. The standard of value and of moral virtue is to be found in human nature, not in social conventions.

26 Plato’s Theory further developed in the Republic  Characters parallel Gorgias: –Glaucon corresponds to Polus. –Thrasymachus corresponds to Callicles.  Issue: what is justice (righteousness)?

27 Thrasymachus’s Answer  The moral rules that define “justice” for a given society are invented and sustained by its ruling class.  These rules are designed to dupe the populace into acting against their own, individual interests, and acting instead for the advantage of the rulers.  The savvy person transcends the grip of “morality”.

28 Plato’s Reply  Human beings have a natural function.  The paradigm cases of natural function: –Bodily organs (eye, hand, stomach). –Tools (shovel, hammer). –Professions (physician, navigator).  The function of a human being is to live a human life.

29 Virtue = Excellence  Something can have a virtue or be excellent some way only in relation to its natural function.  E.g., an excellent hammer is one that has the capacity to perform its natural function well.  Similarly, a virtuous human being is one with the capacity of living a human life well.

30 Plato’s Main Argument  To be happy = to live well.  To live well = to perform one’s natural function well.  To perform one’s natural function well = to have virtue and to exercise it.  To have virtue and to exercise it = to live justly.  Hence. To be happy = to live justly.

31 Glaucon’s Challenge  Justice is desired only as a means, not as an end in itself.  From the point of view of the individual’s self-interest, justice is a necessary evil. We lose the advantages of amoral exploitation of others, but we gain freedom from punishment, censure.

32 Illustration: The Ring of Gyges  In Greek myth, Gyges has a ring that makes him invisible.  Possessed with such a ring, any reasonable person would steal, murder and rape, since he would be able to escape all the costs of immorality, maintain the appearance of justice. (So Glaucon argues.)

33 Plato’s Response to Glaucon  Plato argues that there is an analogy between an individual person and an entire society.  Social justice consists in harmony among the various parts, classes.  Individual justice consists in harmony among the various parts of the personality.


35 Table of parallels  Righteous monarchy  Military dictatorship (rule by brave)  Plutocracy  Democracy (rule by the many)  Tyranny  The moral person  The honorable person  The wealth-seeker  The wishy-washy person  The amoral monster

36 Why the moral person is happiest  Happiness depends on a state of overall health.  Spiritual health depends on harmony in the soul: each part fulfilling its natural function.  Overall control or guidance is the natural function of reason (an enlightened conscience).

37 Why the immoral person is miserable  The immoral person is dominated by a chaos of conflicting drives.  Just as there is “no honor among thieves”, so too there can be no inner tranquility without the discipline of moral virtue.

38 What about pleasure?  Isn’t pleasure a measure of happiness?  And don’t wicked people (if they escape detection and punishment) enjoy more pleasure?

39 Plato’s Two Responses  Three kinds of pleasure: –Intellectual –Ambitious –Appetitive ( bodily)  The intellectual pleasures are the greatest, and the wicked enjoy these the least.

40 Second Response  Some pleasures are real, and others are illusory. (Again: reality/appearance)  Pleasure is the appearance of happiness. It is a reliable, but fallible, indicator (like a thermometer).  Illusory pleasures, in the absence of real happiness: heroin, cocaine.

41 Plato’s summary  How would a man profit if he received gold and silver on the condition that he was to enslave the noblest part of himself to the worst?

42 Aristotle’s Theory of The World  Aristotle builds on Plato’s foundations.  Aristotle’s views are shaped by his interest in biology.  Aristotle rejected the materialism of many of his predecessors: Empedocles, Democritus.

43 The Four “Causes”  1. Formal  2. Final (teleological)  3. Efficient  4. Material

44 The standard example: a bronze commemorative statue  1. Formal cause: shape of the bronze, its resemblance to military hero on horseback  2. Final cause: its purpose as a commemoration of bravery and service  3. Efficient cause: its origin in a bronze forge  4. Material cause: the mixture of metals in its alloy

45 Organs have all 4 causes: the heart  1. Formal cause: the specific configuration of parts that make up a healthy, working heart  2. Final cause: its purpose as a blood pump  3. Efficient cause: its origin in the intrauterine development of the fetus  4. Material cause: the various tissues (muscle, blood vessels, nerves) that constitute its substance

46 From Parts to the Whole  Aristotle reasons: if all the parts of the organism have functions, so must the organism as a whole.  Sometimes accused of the “fallacy of composition”.  Although not a foolproof inference, it does seem a reasonable extrapolation.

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