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In some key areas of ethics and psychology, Seneca is at pains to distinguish his views from those of the Peripatetic followers of Aristotle. While he probably does not know Aristotle’s works at first hand, Seneca shows some knowledge of the doctrines that were favored by most Peripatetics, gleaned from secondhand discussions in such writers as Posidonius and from at least one summary account that was similar in style to Stobaean Doxography “C,” attributed to Arius Didymus. Passing references throughout his works show a consistent effort to differentiate his Stoic positions from Peripatetic views, especially on the value of externals and on the emotions. Recognition of this fact aids with the interpretation of Epistulae morales 92, which responds point for point to a list of Peripatetic doctrines. In particular, the first paragraph of that letter should be read as accommodating the Peripatetic tripartition of soul to Seneca’s Stoic commitments rather than the other way around.
According to the Neoplatonic classification of Aristotle’s writings, it has often been claimed that his biological works were excluded from his physical writings, and do not form a part of Neoplatonic school curricula. In this paper, I shall challenge this view, arguing that there are reasonable indications that the Neoplatonists regarded most of Aristotle’s biological works (apart from the History of Animals) as a proper part of his natural philosophy, and as works which deserved serious study.
This chapter discusses the historical origins and emergence of the distinction between experimental philosophy and speculative philosophy. It opens with a summary of certain disciplinary-specific shifts in the late Renaissance that led to an increased appreciation of the value of experiment and observation. It then turns to the crucial traditional distinction between speculative and practical knowledge, which can be traced all the way back to Aristotle and was central to medieval and Renaissance understandings of the disciplines. Traditionally, natural philosophy had been classed as a speculative science, but interesting new approaches can be found in Roger Bacon, in the practice of natural magic, and in mechanics. These developments paved the way for the emergence of Francis Bacon’s division of natural philosophy as having a speculative and a practical, or operative, side. Francis Bacon’s heirs were to embrace his emphasis on the role of experiment in the operative side of natural philosophy, and by the 1660s in England a new form of operative natural philosophy emerged that its practitioners and advocates called experimental philosophy. In many contexts, it was set against the older, speculative approach to natural philosophy.
Prudence is the ability to determine the right course of action for a given situation. The virtue is fundamentally concerned with what we should do to achieve a desired objective, rather than what we should believe. Prudence is also a translation of Aristotle’s concept of phronesis (practical reason), which the Nicomachean Ethics defines as an “excellence of deliberation” (VI.9.9). In his formulation, Aristotle emphasizes the rightness of the ends being pursued, unlike several premodern and modern theories focusing only on the ability to attain desired ends, and which develop a somewhat uneasy relationship between prudence and virtue. Shakespeare makes the ethical challenges of prudence integral to The Merchant of Venice, a play featuring many deliberations over the means to such ends as happiness, wealth, friendship, and love. Throughout the play, Shakespeare takes a largely Aristotelian approach to prudence: characters who “hazard all” to gain noble ends are depicted as the most prudent, while the “shrewd,” who deliberate well but for immoral objectives, inevitably fail. Still, Shakespeare adds a final constraint to the virtue, suggesting that prudence is not a static trait but a dynamic effort to uncover one’s blind spots – and thus a virtue that few can hope to master.
This chapter traces philosophy of music from its origins until the end of the classical period. Four major questions dominated ancient philosophy of music. Ancient philosophers asked about the nature of music, and they debated whether music is a mimetic (imitative) art. The second question concerned the relationship between musical harmony and the world. Many ancient philosophers believed that musical harmony provides the key to understanding reality, including the human soul and the motions of celestial bodies. The third question concerned the value of music. Some philosophers held that music is valuable as a source of pleasure, while others believed that music could improve or corrupt the characters of listeners, and still others talked about the beauty of music. The final question concerned musical genius and the Platonic and Longinian accounts of genius emerged. Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle, Aristides Quintilianus, Lucretius, the Epicureans, Augustine, Quintilian, Boethius, Sextus Empiricus, Ptolemy and Longinus are among the writers discussed.
Teaching Shakespeare and Moral Agency begins with respect for the unschooled insights students express and supports their emotional engagement with the plays. Students were asked to set aside historical context and to engage directly with the resistant structure of the text. Building from their own background knowledge and the spontaneity of their response, it is then possible to develop their preliminary insights into a more rigorous understanding of the moral seriousness of Shakespeare’s dramatic art. Contrasting styles of moral inquiry can then be used to put questions of this kind into a philosophical context. Required philosophical reading included Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics; Erasmus, Enchiridion; Immanuel Kant, Prolegomena to the Metaphysics of Morals; Friedrich Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals. These ethical encounters between contemporary readers and Shakespeare’s fictional universe often turn out to be profoundly disturbing. To illustrate the ethical distress provoked in these encounters the chapter builds on student responses to Isabella’s moment of decision in Measure for Measure: “More than our brother is our chastity.” What students discover from this program is a distinctively Shakespearean account of virtue ethics - conflicted, panoramic in scope and grounded in the concrete immediacy of experience.
Aristotle’s sense of the movement out of dynamis (potential, capacity) and into energia (actuality) was itself ethically neutral, designed to account for a wide range of types of becoming. Yet it also provided a way of conceptualizing the translation of interior states of being into embodied action. Aristotle’s dynamis-energia continuum, along with his taxonomy of voluntary and involuntary behavior, provided the foundational ethical terms by which early moderns negotiated legal cases, theological disputes, and, just as crucially, the regular dilemmas presented by daily social life. Within this context, the Shakespearean stage became a signal space for working out the era’s complicated ways of understanding the move from dynamis to energia as it pertains to intentional ethical action. This chapter focuses on Julius Caesar and Richard II, two plays that take as their central concern the uncertain intentions of potentially rogue agents and the fashioning of multiple forms of community that occurs in response to such ambiguous interior states. By attending closely to the shifts from dynamis to energia within communities as well as individuals – and to variant resonances of these concepts largely lost to modern audiences – Shakespearean drama freshly reimagines classical ethical ideals as a means for fostering communal tranquility within post-Reformation English culture.
Shakespeare builds on virtue ethics’ concern with basic cognitive functions linking attention and intention to sociability and future-oriented deliberation. Aristotle’s virtue ethics, stressing the cultivation of habitual attentiveness to avoiding excess and deficiency is consonant with archaic Greek poetry’s depiction of the divine, human, and natural realms as three mutually interpenetrative orders, each characterized by hierarchical reciprocities whose balancing of forces and claims constitute sociable ecosystems. Similar presentations of mutually interpenetrative, ecosociable divine, human, and natural realms shape the presentation of virtue in Sanskrit epic and African, Australian, and Amerindian oral traditions. In his “Complaint of Peace,” Erasmus recuperates ecosociability for early modernity in the guise of nature infused by divine love. Its instantiation in moral-social life demands a virtue ethics interfusing shrewdness (metis) and righteousness (themis), as in Hesiod. Shakespeare dramatizes in Richard II how failures of virtue rooted in thinking of the state as a possession or entitlement rather as an ecosociable order yield both monstrousness and chaos, while in The Winter’s Tale Shakespeare probes the extent to which what is lost by such failures in familial life may be retrieved.
This short chapter examines the degree to which the communal experiences of political prisoners on what Irving Goffman calls a “total institution” like South Africa’s Robben Island Prison might paradoxically exemplify the kind of community that Aristotle requires for the exercise of virtue proper: a sense of communal friendship built on trust and the virtues celebrated by Nelson Mandela: “Honesty, sincerity, simplicity, humility, pure generosity, absence of vanity, readiness to serve others”. But at the same time, it complicates that utopian vision with the fact that such communities tend to establish their sense of identity on the exclusion of others, regarded as alien, different, or threatening, a tendency present on Robben Island. The chapter consequently opposes the Aristotelean notion of communal virtue with a very different concept of ethics derived from Levinas: in which no community may be established in opposition to another, but in which the ethical imperative is to be open to otherness, beyond to bounds of the Aristotelian polis. It argues that the prisoner’s signing their names against their favourite passage from Shakespeare, in Sonny Venkatrathnam’s copy of Shakespeare’s complete works, is an exemplum of such openness to the stranger.
Aristotle’s notion of aretē provides a way of reading Shakespeare’s plays that unifies the characters’ actions in a manner parallel to how ethics unifies humanity. For Aristotle, moral virtue is determined by how completely an individual embodies human nature. As a result there is a sense in which Aristotelian virtue is a selfish endeavor; I strive to fulfill my nature, and in doing so I achieve happiness (eudaimonia). Yet for Aristotle, moral virtue is a political exercise, it is action that ties a person to others. An individual’s role in the state is necessary for the full cultivation of virtue, and hence a requirement for achieving their own selfish end. Shakespeare frequently plays with this tension in Aristotelian virtue: The way characters relate their own good to the good of the state is, by this reading, a way of interpreting the virtue of the characters. Virtuous judgment is not set over universal principles. It is thinking through objects and experience in all their vicissitudes, as characters in a drama have to do. This chapter uses King Lear to demonstrate how Aristotelian moral virtue, and its relation of the individual and the state, can serve as a structuring principle for understanding action.
This chapter features a book from the era which marks the culmination of the Ottoman intellectual efforts to reinstate traditional categories of knowledge from an imperial perspective. Ahlak-i Alai [The morals of Ali] of Kınalızade Ali Çelebi showcases the maturation of moral thinking that overlaps the central themes of Shakespearean virtue ethics. Written by a contemporary of Shakespeare and became the representative account of moral thinking in social and political domains of the Ottomans, the book is of interest to the readers of Shakespeare as it accommodates more parallels with the moral world of Englishmen than indicated in Shakespeare’s ‘turning Turk’ in Othello. Ahlak-i Alai follows in form and content the Aristotelian virtue ethics and deals with a broad spectrum of questions from the source of morality and the possibility of an individual’s moral education to the highest good and the moral order in society. It is suggested in the chapter that the common moral ground of Ottomans and Shakespeare is shaped mainly by the Aristotelian virtue ethics whose objective is to operate in moderation what is thought to be the powers of the self.
How do we strengthen our underlying character, so that we can practise law without fear? Aristotle insightfully insisted that character (virtue) does not suddenly appear; it does not just arrive one morning (in an email). We develop our character by applying ourselves to that task, usually over years. We can become ‘habituated’ to goodness by reflecting on the good and bad experiences we all have. Let us not forget that as lawyers we are guaranteed to be put under formidable pressure by clients, other lawyers and even police, to do the wrong thing. The key virtues for lawyers are wisdom and knowledge, courage and justice – they are a stable foundation for modern legal ethics. To those who say virtue ethics is too subjective, or paternal or fails to give adequate action guidance when it is needed (compared to Western duty-based frameworks), we say that virtue ethics looks first at the actor and then the act. If the actor is good, so also will be the act. Nevertheless, reflection on the connections between your virtues and various lawyer ‘types’ (the zealous advocate; the responsible lawyer; the moral activist; and the ‘relationship of care’), will strengthen your character further.
In this book, Lydia Schumacher challenges the common assumption that early Franciscan thought simply reiterates the longstanding tradition of Augustine. She demonstrates how scholars from this tradition incorporated the work of Islamic and Jewish philosophers, whose works had recently been translated from Arabic, with a view to developing a unique approach to questions of human nature. These questions pertain to perennial philosophical concerns about the relationship between the body and the soul, the work of human cognition and sensation, and the power of free will. By highlighting the Arabic sources of early Franciscan views on these matters, Schumacher illustrates how scholars working in the early thirteenth century anticipated later developments in Franciscan thought which have often been described as novel or unprecedented. Above all, her study demonstrates that the early Franciscan philosophy of human nature was formulated with a view to bolstering the order's specific theological and religious ideals.
In this book, Stewart Clem develops an account of truthfulness that is grounded in the Thomistic virtue of veracitas. Unlike most contemporary Christian ethicists, who narrowly focus on the permissibility of lying, he turns to the virtue of truthfulness and illuminates its close relationship to the virtue of justice. This approach generates a more precise taxonomy of speech acts and shows how they are grounded in specific virtues and vices. Clem's study also contributes to the contemporary literature on Aquinas, who is often classified alongside Augustine and Kant as holding a rigorist position on lying. Meticulously researched, this volume clarifies what set Aquinas's view apart in his own day and how it is relevant to our own. Clem demonstrates that Aquinas's account provides a genuine alternative to rigorist and consequentialist approaches. His analysis also reveals the perennial relevance of Aquinas's thought by bringing it to bear on contemporary social and ethical issues.
There are many authors who consider the so-called “moral nose” a valid epistemological tool in the field of morality. The expression was used by George Orwell, following in Friedrich Nietzsche’s footsteps and was very clearly described by Leo Tolstoy. It has also been employed by authors such as Elisabeth Anscombe, Bernard Williams, Noam Chomsky, Stuart Hampshire, Mary Warnock, and Leon Kass. This article examines John Harris’ detailed criticism of what he ironically calls the “olfactory school of moral philosophy.” Harris’ criticism is contrasted with Jonathan Glover’s defense of the moral nose. Glover draws some useful distinctions between the various meanings that the notion of moral nose can assume. Finally, the notion of moral nose is compared with classic notions such as Aristotelian phronesis, Heideggerian aletheia, and the concept of “sentiment” proposed by the philosopher Thomas Reid. The conclusion reached is that morality cannot be based only on reason, or—as David Hume would have it—only on feelings.
In this book, Matthew Pawlak offers the first treatment of sarcasm in New Testament studies. He provides an extensive analysis of sarcastic passages across the undisputed letters of Paul, showing where Paul is sarcastic, and how his sarcasm affects our understanding of his rhetoric and relationships with the Early Christian congregations in Galatia, Rome, and Corinth. Pawlak's identification of sarcasm is supported by a dataset of 400 examples drawn from a broad range of ancient texts, including major case studies on Septuagint Job, the prophets, and Lucian of Samosata. These data enable the determination of the typical linguistic signals of sarcasm in ancient Greek, as well as its rhetorical functions. Pawlak also addresses several ongoing discussions in Pauline scholarship. His volume advances our understanding of the abrupt opening of Galatians, diatribe and Paul's hypothetical interlocutor in Romans, the 'Corinthian slogans' of First Corinthians, and the 'fool's speech' found within Second Corinthians 10-13.
This chapter offers the evidence for the practice of dissection from the fifth through first centuries BC. The chapter begins with dissection among the pre-Socratic philosophers and then moves on to the authors of the Hippocratic Corpus. A discussion of the opportunities for public display in medical contexts of the fifth and early fourth centuries follows, in order to evaluate the range of public contexts within which the practice of dissection would have fallen. Aristotle’s zoological research program and the parallel developments among fourth-century doctors, including Diocles and Praxagoras, then receive sustained attention before a consideration of the advancements of Herophilus and Erasistratus. The chapter next turns to the dearth of evidence for dissection in the centuries after these figures, touching on various sects, both medical and philosophical, including the Herophileans, Erasistrateans, Empiricists, and Peripatetics. Finally, it considers the opportunities for public medical display in the Hellenistic period, as revealed via both texts and inscriptions.
I propose that the young Roman orator Cicero, lacking a political base, cleverly positions himself as defender of the “people’s will”: It is fundamental, justifying all power wielded in its name; it is singular, despite the many conflicting “wills” within it; it is fallible, especially when misled by demagogues; and it is thus dependent on wise elites like Cicero. I then take up the treatises De republica and De legibus, which argue for popular sovereignty and against popular power. His theory differs from the mixed constitutionalism of Polybius and Aristotle. Cicero’s innovation is rational trusteeship: The people own all of the Republic, and the senate and magistrates represent all of the people. The trusteeship principle from Roman law (ius civilis), filtered through Platonic rationalism and Stoic natural law, creates an entirely new constitutional dynamic: A rational elite guides the people’s will, which elevates them in turn to high offices of state. He watches Caesar exploit his notion of voluntas populi to remake Rome around his own brutal will. Yet it is Cicero’s “will of the people” – reliant on a ruling class, limited to voting – with which, for better or worse, we find ourselves in modern democracies.
This chapter draws on Cicero’s letters to propose the existence of an “economy of goodwill” in the late Roman Republic. Through voluntas mutua, the mature statesman handles sensitive transactions and vouchsafes his allies’ support. I examine potential antecedents to Cicero’s goodwill in Aristotle’s theories of friendship (eunoia and philia), as well as in the system of “friendly loans” (mutuom argentum) in the comedies of Plautus. Cicero’s economics of friendship, though informed by these others, aim at problems particular to Rome’s fast-growing empire. Unlike normal currency, “spending” voluntas only increases one’s supply of it, allowing for mutual reinforcement of political support over time. Additionally, voluntas may be exchanged regardless of facultas, facilitating long-distance governance by low-cost trades of support across the empire when concrete beneficia are unfeasible. In his philosophical works, finally, Cicero shows an intriguing ambivalence about the economy of goodwill that served him so well in practice. Are reciprocal favors a defensible part of friendship? Though he excludes the possibility in De amicitia, in De officiis, voluntas mutua is redeemed in decorum, the ideal by which proportion and mutuality yield virtue.
This chapter turns to anatomical texts of the Classical and Hellenistic periods, encompassing all texts that handle anatomy in a sustained way, even if not exclusively. It begins by laying out three different categories of anatomical texts that will be operative across the second half of the volume: general books that include anatomy, anatomical handbooks, and anatomical procedures. It then turns to examples from the periods under study, in each case describing the texts, querying the extent to which they are reliant on dissection, and addressing their fortunes, with particular attention to the ways they were received by Galen and other anatomical authorities of the Roman period. Authors covered include Alcmaeon, Anaxagoras, Diogenes of Apollonia, Democritus, Empedocles, the authors of the Hippocratic Corpus, Plato, Diocles, Mnesitheus, Dieuches, Aristotle, the early Peripatetics, Praxagoras, Pleistonikus, Phylotimus, Herophilus, Erasistratus, Aristophanes of Byzantium, Celsus, and Pliny the Elder. It also briefly addresses anatomical passages in more literarily and philosophically focussed authors, including Callimachus, Philo Judaeus, the early Stoics, Cicero, Horace, and Seneca.