Warum soll man tugendhaft sein?

In diesem Aufsatz werde ich erklären, was die menschlichen Tugenden für Aristoteles sind, wofür ich mich besonders auf sein ergon-Argument beziehen werde, und dann werde ich einige der wichtigsten Gründe, die Aristoteles in der Nikomachischen Ethik gibt, für warum man tugendhaft sein soll, darstellen.

Um die Frage, warum man laut Aristoteles tugendhaft sein soll, zu beantworten, müssen wir erst verstehen, was genau es für Aristoteles bedeutet, tugendhaft zu sein, und wie sein Begriff von Tugend sich von dem Begriff, den wir heutzutage als Tugend bezeichnen, unterscheidet. Das Wort der alten Griechen für die Tugend lautet aretḗ. Es gibt zwei Sinne, in den aretḗ in der NE benutzt wird: aretḗ, als das Wort, das die anderen Zeitgenossen von Aristoteles (andere Philosophen, Adlige, Politiker, die Menge) benutzten, und aretḗ als Fachbegriff von Aristoteles, den er im Laufe des Buches schrittweise definiert und von dem anderen Sinn abgrenzt.

Für die Zeitgenossen von Aristoteles bedeutete, aretḗ zu haben, eine Art von Vortrefflichkeit in Bezug auf die eigene Funktion zu besitzen. [1] Zum Beispiel konnte ein Krieger aretḗ besitzen, wenn er ein sehr geschickter Krieger war. Ähnlich konnte ein Mathematiker aretḗ besitzen, wenn er ein geschickter Mathematiker war. Weiterhin war aretḗ nicht eine exklusive Qualität des Menschen, sondern aretḗ konnte auf beliebige Arten von Objekten angewendet sein, mindestens wenn diese Objekte eine Art von einer Funktion hatten. Zum Beispiel konnte in einem altgriechischen Kontext ein Stuhl aretḗ besitzen, wenn der Stuhl seine Funktion als Stuhl hervorragend erfüllte (er war angenehm, stabil, beständig etc.). Also bezeichnet Tugend (aretḗ) für die Altgriechen normalerweise eine Art von Vortrefflichkeit und im Unterschied zu dem modernen Gebrauch des Wortes, der von Christentum beeinflusst wurde, nicht unbedingt eine moralische Qualität.

Aber die allgemeine Bedeutung des Wortes aretḗ bezieht sich nur auf einige individuelle Aspekte von einer Person (die Person ist geschickt in etwas, die Person verhält sich gut in einigen Situationen, etc.). Gibt es dann hingegen die Möglichkeit, allgemein tugendhaft zu sein, wenn jemand den Menschen als Ganzes betrachtet, sodass man dann ein ganzheitliches Urteil machen kann, wie z.B.: „Ja, jene Person ist tugendhaft“ oder „Nein, jene Person ist nicht tugendhaft“ ? Ein Weg, diese Frage zu antworten, wäre zu sagen, dass wenn eine Person genügend Tugenden besitzt, dann ist diese Person tugendhaft. Aber das nimmt an, dass eine Person nichts mehr als die Summe seiner Teile ist und dass jeder Teil seine eigene Tugend hat, wohingegen ein Mensch komplex genüg ist, um die Annahme zu verdienen, dass er viel mehr als nur eine Reihe von unabhängige individuelle Teile ist. Ein anderer Weg, die Frage „Was ist es für einen Menschen als Ganzes tugendhaft zu sein?“ zu antworten, ist ein Weg, der für komplexe Objekte mit emergenten Eigenschaften wie der Mensch besser geeignet ist, nämlich den Menschen als Ganzes zu behandeln und als ob er ein normales Objekt wäre, und zu fragen, was seine Funktion ist, um zu bestimmen, was seine spezifische idiosynkratische aretḗ ist. Um ein solches Urteil zu machen, man muss erst identifizieren, was die Funktion eines Menschen ist, sodass man dann beurteilen kann, ob ein Mensch diese Funktion gut erfüllt oder nicht. Das ist meiner Meinung nach, was Aristoteles in seinem ergon-Argument versucht zu tun, indem er in Buch I Kapitel 6 (NE 1097b 20 – 1098a 20) die Funktion (ergon) eines Menschen bestimmt, sodass er dann identifizieren kann, was das Gute für den Menschen als Ganzes ist und entsprechend was die menschliche Tugend (aretḗ) ist.

Das ergon-Argument läuft folgendermaßen: wenn Menschen eigentlich eine bestimmte Funktion haben, dann müssen wir ihre eigene spezifische (idios) Funktion suchen (I.6 1097b 20-30), die den Mensch von anderen Lebewesen trennt (I.6 1097b 30 – 1098a 1). Der Teil des Menschen, der sich mit Ernährung und Wachstum beschäftigt, hat der Mensch mit den Tieren gemeinsam, also sie ist nicht eine eigene spezifische Funktion des Menschen (I.6 1097b 30 – 1098a 5). Eine Funktion, die nur Menschen ausführen können, ist eine Tätigkeit des Teils der Seele, die Vernunft besitzt (logon echon) (I.6 1098a 1-5). Dieser Teil ist weiter in zwei Teile geteilt:  einen Teil, der die Vernunft per se ist (logos), und einen Teil, der der Vernunft sozusagen zugehört aber nicht immer gehorcht (das Strebevermögen, orektikon) (I.6 1098a 1-10; Anmerkung I.64 von U. Wolf). Deshalb, was auch immer die eigentümliche Funktion des Menschen ist, diese Funktion wird eine Tätigkeit des vernünftigen Teils der Seele einschließen (I.6 1098a 5-10).  Wenn wir dann annehmen, dass die Funktion des guten Menschen ist, diese Tätigkeit (unter anderen) gut und werthaft (kalos) auszuführen, und wenn eine Tätigkeit gut auszuführen heißt, diese Tätigkeit gemäß seiner aretḗ auszuführen, dann folgt für Aristoteles, dass das Gute für den Menschen eine Tätigkeit der Seele gemäß der eigentümlichen Tugend ist, und falls es mehr als eine Art von menschlicher aretḗ gibt, dann die Art, die die Beste und am meisten ein abschließendes Ziel (teleios) ist (I.6 1098a 5-20). [2]

Aus dem ergon-Argument können wir einige sehr interessante Bemerkungen über Aristoteles‘ Auffassung von aretḗ und eudaimonia machen.

Erstens ist Aristoteles daran interessiert, was das spezifische Gut (und damit eudaimonia) für die Menschen ist, und nicht darin was das Gute allgemein oder an sich selbst ist. Wie er in seiner Kritik von der platonischen Konzeption des Guten (NE I.4) argumentiert, ist das Gute nicht etwas Universelles, sondern gibt es mehrere verschiedenen Arten von Güten, die auf verschiedene Sachen anwendbar sind. Das Gute für die Menschen ist nicht dasselbe als das Gute für einen Fuchs oder für einen Stuhl. Man kann das ergon-Argument von Aristoteles kritisch interpretieren, indem Aristoteles scheint, Menschen nur mit dem Teil ihrer Seele, der Vernunft besitzt, zu identifizieren. So scheint die Konklusion zum Beispiel zu sein, wenn Aristoteles später in Buch I.13 schreibt: „Mit «menschliche Gutheit» bezeichnen wir nicht die Gutheit des Körpers, sondern die der Seele“ (1102a 15-20). Andererseits kann man das ergon-Argument auch wohlwollender interpretieren, indem Aristoteles scheint, die Eigenarten (idiosyncracies), die das Gute für die Menschen von anderer Arten von Güter oder von einem allgemeinen Gut differenzieren, zu suchen, sodass er dann die Besonderheiten eines solchen Gutes mehr genau bestimmen und analysieren kann.

Zweitens führt Aristoteles hier zwei wichtige Annahmen, die er später mehrmals implizit benutzen wird, ein. Die erste Annahme lautet, dass die Funktion (ergon) eines guten Menschen ist, gut und werthaft (kalos) zu handeln (I.6 1098a 10-15). Die zweite Annahme ist, dass jemand gut handelt, wenn er gemäß seiner eigentümlichen aretḗ handelt (I.6 1098a 15-20). Da Aristoteles später in zahlreichen Kontexten (z.B.: III.6 1113a 25-35, V.13 1143b 20-25, IX.4 1166a 10-15) sagt, dass um tugendhaft zu handeln, man soll als der gute (spoudaios) Mensch handeln, heißt das wegen der ersten Annahme, dass man gut und werthaft handeln soll, um tugendhaft zu handeln. Da gut zu handeln laut der zweiten Annahme heißt, gemäß der eigentümlichen Tugend zu handeln, bringt in dieser Hinsicht der Vergleich mit dem guten Menschen uns nichts Neues, aber dass man auch werthaft handeln muss, um tugendhaft zu handeln, ist etwas Neues und repräsentiert ein Hauptstück der ganzen ethischen Theorie von Aristoteles.

Drittens gibt es entsprechend den Teilen der menschlichen Seele, die Vernunft besitzen und in dem ergon-Argument erstmal präzisiert geworden sind, zwei Arten von menschlicher Tugend. Für die Vernunft (logos) gibt es die Tugenden des Denkens (dianoetike) und für das Strebevermögen (orektikon) gibt es die Tugenden des Charakters (ethike) (I.13 1103a 1-10). Diese sind die zwei Arten von menschlicher Tugend, die laut Aristoteles eine tugendhafte Person besitzen soll. Die Tugenden des Denkens sind nur zwei, Klugheit und Weisheit (VI.2 1139b 10-15, VI.12 1143 15-20), während die Tugenden des Charakters zahlreiche sind: Tapferkeit, Mäßigkeit, Freigebigkeit, Großzügigkeit, Stolz, Sanftmut, Wahrhaftigkeit, Gewandtheit, Freundlichkeit, Schamhaftigkeit, Gerechtigkeit, usw. (II.7 1107a 25 – 1108b 10).[3]

Nun, da wir erklärt haben, was Aristoteles unter menschlichen Tugenden versteht, sollen wir seine impliziten und expliziten Argumente dafür, warum jemand tugendhaft sein soll, betrachten.

Der wichtigste Grund, der Aristoteles gibt, wofür man tugendhaft sein soll, ist, dass, um eudaimonia zu erreichen und eudaimon zu sein, man tugendhaft sein muss. Genauer gesagt ist eudaimonia „eine bestimmte Tätigkeit der Seele im Sinn der Gutheit (aretḗ)“ (I.13, 1102a 5-10). Weiterhin ist eudaimonia laut Aristoteles das höchste Gut (I.2, 1095a 15-20), das man durch Handeln erreichen kann (prakton agathon), und „das Ziel allen menschlichen Tuns“ (X.6 1176 30-35). Zusätzlich ist eudaimonia auch „das Beste (ariston), Werthafteste (kaliston) und Erfreulichste (hḗdiston)“ Tätigkeit, oder mindestens ist die eine davon (I.10 1099a 20-30).  Deshalb, um das Endziel (eudaimonia) von unserem Leben zu erreichen, und damit auch das höchste durch Handel erreichbare Gut zu bekommen, ein Gut, das auch werthaft und erfreulich ist, müssen wir tugendhaft sein.

Man kann weitere Gründe im Buch I finden, weshalb man tugendhaft sein soll. Eine Tugend zu besitzen ist etwas Wünschenswertes auch für sich selbst als abschließendes Ziel (I.5, 1097b 1-5). Wenn man Tugendhaft ist, dann wird man von seinen Mitbürgern und anderen Menschen gelobt. Im Gegensatz dazu, wenn man Lasterhaft ist, wird man getadelt (I.12, 1101b). In Buch I (z.B. in dem ergon-Argument) kann man auch die ersten Indizien von der engen Verbindung zwischen das Werthafte und Tugend finden. Später wird es im Laufe der NE klar, dass wenn man tugendhaft ist, man viele werthafte Taten erringen wird: „Die Betätigungen der Tugend sind werthaft und werden um des Werthaften willen getan.“ (VI.2, 1120a 20-25).

Die Tugenden des Denkens sind auch günstig. Klugheit zu besitzen ist sehr vorteilhaft, denn das würde implizieren, dass man die Fähigkeit (oder mindestens einen wichtigen Teil der Fähigkeit) hat, gute, gerechte und werthafte Ziele zu erreichen (VI.13 1143b 20-25). Die andere Tugend des Denkens bringt auch große Vorteile: wenn man Weisheit besitzt, kann man an etwas Göttlichen teilhaben (VII.7 1177b 25-35).

Noch einen sehr wichtigen Grund, warum man tugendhaft sein soll, ist dass, nur wenn man tugendhaft ist, kann man laut Aristoteles in der vollkommenen Freundschaft teilnehmen. Eine solche Freundschaft ist beständiger als die anderen Arten von Freundschaft (VIII.5 1156b 30-35) und in einer vollkommenen Freundschaft bekommt man alles was er von der anderen Person in einer Freundschaft bekommen soll (VIII.5 1156b 30-35).  Zusätzlich wird in dieser Art von Freundschaft man für sich selbst geschätzt, und nicht nur weil er für etwas angenehm oder vorteilhaft benutzt werden kann (VIII.4 1156b 5-15).[4]

Zum Schluss ist es interessant zu bemerken, dass Aristoteles mehrere heterogene Gründe dafür gibt, warum man tugendhaft sein soll. Es ist nicht nur wegen des Glücks, dass man die menschlichen Tugenden besitzen soll, sondern diese Tugenden bringen auch zahlreiche Vorteile für ihren Besitzer. Deswegen gibt es mehrere Einstiegspunkte für die Leser in der Nikomachischen Ethik, und auch wenn man nicht von dem ergon-Argument überzeugt ist oder nicht in eudaimonia interessiert ist, kann man trotzdem darin andere interessante praxisrelevante Ratschläge beim sorgfältigen Lesen finden.


Fußnoten

[1] Die folgende Erklärung des Begriffs aretḗ ist laut meinem eigenen Verständnis des Begriffs, das unter anderen von U. Wolfs Erklärung von aretḗ (NE S. 348, Anmerkung I.44) und von der Erklärung des Begriffs in der Vorlesung von Herrn Prof. Dr. Brüllman beeinflusst geworden ist.

[2]  Aristoteles fügt dann hinzu, dass für diese Tätigkeit die Beste für die Menschen zu sein, muss sie auch über ein ganzes Leben ausgeführt werden, da ein Tag zu kurz ist, um zu bestimmen, ob jemand eudaimon ist. (NE I.6 1098a 15-20)

[3] Mit diesen Grundlagen gelegt, können wir auch die Definitionen, die Aristotles gibt, für die zwei Arten der menschlichen Tugend, betrachten. Er definiert die Tugenden des Charakters als “eine Disposition (hexis), die sich in Vorsätzen äußert (prohairetike), wobei sie in einer Mitte liegt, und zwar der Mitte in Bezug auf uns, die bestimmt wird durch die Überlegung (logos), das heißt so, wie der Kluge (phronimos) sie bestimmen würde.” (Buch II.6, 1107a). Später definiert er in Buch VI auch die Tugenden des Denkens: “Für beide Teile [der Vernunft] wird daher ihre Gutheit jeweils in derjenigen Disposition bestehen, vermöge deren sie am meisten die Wahrheit treffen.” (VI.2, 1139b). Genauer gesagt ist die Tugend für den Teil der Vernunft, der sich mit unveränderlichen Sachen sich beschäftigt, Weisheit und für den Teil der Vernunft, der sich mit veränderlichen Sachen sich beschäftigt, Klugheit (VI.2 1139a, 1139b).

[4] Die drei Eigenschaften der vollkommenen Freundschaft sind aus meinen abgegebenen Lektürenotizen für das Tutorium herausgenommen und hier weiterentwickelt und dargestellt.


Literaturverzeichnis

  • Nikomachische Ethik – geschrieben von Aristoteles, übersetzt und herausgegeben von Ursula Wolf, 5. Auflage (März 2015), veröffentlicht im Rowholt Taschenbuch Verlag.
Das Essay wurde ursprünglich für das HU SoSe 2017 Nikomachische Ethik Tutorium geschrieben. Diese Version schließt die Korrekturen der Tutorin, wofür ich sehr dankbar bin, ein.

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Lektürenotizen – Nikomachische Ethik – Freundschaft (VIII, IX)

Frage 1. Wie definiert Aristoteles die Freundschaft? Welche Kriterien müssen in einer Beziehung erfüllt sein, um von Freundschaft zu sprechen? Wie werden diese Kriterien begründet?

Aristoteles definiert Freundschaft als gegenseitiges Wohlwollen, das nicht verborgen bleibt und wegen eines der von ihm drei genannten Gründe (1156a 1-5) entstanden ist. Unter Wohlwollen wird es verstanden, dass jeder Freund dem anderen um seiner selbst willen Gutes wünscht (1155b 30-35). Die drei von ihm genannten Gründe für die Liebe (und dadurch die Freundschaft) sind: das Gute, das Angenehme, und das Nützliche (1155b 15-30).

Um das zu begründen, gibt es eine implizite Annahme bei Aristoteles, dass der Freund (philos) liebenswert (philḗton) ist. Dann, um zu sehen, in welche Situationen jemand uns ein Freund sein könnte, erkundigt Aristoteles, in welche Situationen ein Gegenstand uns als liebenswert erscheinen kann. Er identifiziert Gegenstände, die gut, angenehm oder nützlich sind, als liebenswert (1155b 15-30), und dadurch bestimmt auch die Arten von Menschen, die uns Freunden sein könnten.

Dass man seinem Freund um seiner selbst willen gut wünschen muss, scheint eine Bedingung zu sein, die aus einer impliziten Annahme hergeleitet wurde. Weiterhin, dass es eine notwendige Bedingung der Freundschaft ist, dass das Wohlwollen erwidert ist, scheint auch eine implizite Annahme zu sein. Man könnte auch die entsprechende Passage (1155b 25 – 1156a 5) lesen, sodass man die Annahmen versteht, als begründet, in wem die Leute als „Freundschaft“ und „Wohlwollend“ eigentlich in Praxis bezeichnen: „Diejenigen, die in dieser Weise Gutes wünschen, nennt man wohlwollend“, „denn das Wohlwollen, das gegenseitig ist, nennt man Freundschaft“, „wie könnte man sie Freundschaft nennen, wenn sie von ihrem gegenseitigen Verhältnis nichts wissen?“. Dann würden diese impliziten Annahmen eigentlich empirisch begründet sein.

 

Frage 2. Was ist die vollkommene Freundschaft und was macht sie vollkommen? Wer kann die vollkommene Freundschaft haben?

Aristoteles gibt eine Definition der vollkommenen Freundschaft an dem Anfang des Kapitels VIII.4: „Die vollkommene Freundschaft aber ist die Freundschaft zwischen Menschen, die gut und gleich an Tugend sind.“ (1156b 5-10). Die ist vollkommen (teleios) wegen mehrerer Gründe:

  • Die ist am meisten von allen Arten der Freundschaft beständig (1156b 30-35).

  • In dieser Art von Freundschaft „bekommt jeder in allen Hinsichten vom anderen dasselbe oder etwas Ähnliches, wie es eben unter Freunden geschehen soll“ (1156b 30-35).

  • Die Freunde wünschen einander um ihren selbst willen Gutes wegen ihrer eigenen Beschaffenheit und nicht wegen anderer Gründe (1156b 5-15).

Nur gute und tugendhafte Menschen können diese Freundschaft miteinander haben. (1156b 5-10).


Literaturverzeichnis

  • Nikomachische Ethik – geschrieben von Aristoteles, übersetzt und herausgegeben von Ursula Wolf, 5. Auflage (März 2015), veröffentlicht im Rowholt Taschenbuch Verlag

Die Lektürnotizen wurden ursprünglich für das HU SoSe 2017 Nikomachische Ethik Tutorium geschrieben. Die Fragen sind von der Tutorin gestellt.

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Lektürenotizen – Nikomachische Ethik – Lust (VII 13)

Frage 1. In der ersten Abhandlung zur Lust im VII. Buch im 13. Kapitel führt Aristoteles einige Differenzierungen ein, die es ihm ermöglichen, u.a. auf die Frage zu antworten, ob die Lust ein Gut sein kann und muss, oder vielleicht sogar das höchste Gut darstellt. Macht euch diese Differenzierungen (ggf. anhand von Beispielen) bewusst! Was bedeutet es, wenn etwas “gut überhaupt” und “gut für jemanden” ist? Was ist lustvoll schlechthin und was nur akzidentell? Was ist gemeint mit der Differenz zwischen Disposition und Tätigkeit?

Eine Lust, die gut für jemanden ist, ist eine Lust, die gut für eine Person in einer bestimmten Situation / seelischen Verfassung / etc. ist, aber nicht unbedingt gut für alle Personen in allen Situationen. Eine Lust, die gut überhaupt ist, ist eine Lust die immer für alle Personen und alle Situationen gut und wählenswert ist, auch wenn diese Lust vielleicht nicht wählenswert oder als etwas schlecht zu einer individuellen Person erscheint.

Lustvoll schlechthin ist die Lust, die eine Tätigkeit, die aus einer „unversehrt gebliebenen Disposition und Natur“ entspringt, begleitet (1152b 35). Akzidentell Lustvoll ist eine Lust, die nur vorübergehend als Lust tritt, wegen eines Bedarfs eines Menschen. Zum Beispiel, man hat manchmal Lust auf etwas bitter oder sehr salzig, weil etwas in sich fehlt, aber wenn man genug salzig und bitter gegessen hat, bekommt man keine Lust mehr von diesen Sachen. Weiterhin, wenn eine Disposition sehr versehrt ist oder seine Natur sehr mangelnd, kann man auch Lust von Dingen, die normalerweise gar Unlustvoll scheinen, bekommen. In Kontrast sind die Lüste, die schlechthin lustvoll sind, immer (für die wirklich gute Person und seelische Verfassung) lustvoll, wie z.B. laut Aristoteles das Betrachten. Betrachten ist nicht wegen eines Mangels oder etwas fehlend in unserer Natur lustvoll, sondern weil irgendwie das Betrachten an sich Lustvoll ist.

In dieser Passage verstehe ich Dispositionen als Zustände, die sich uns zu einer bestimmten Tätigkeit (Handlung, Aktion) neigen und sich ändern können. Dispositionen können laut Aristoteles unversehrt oder versehrt geblieben sein. Beispiele für versehrte Dispositionen wären nach meinem Verständnis des Textes: hungrig zu sein, durstig zu sein, salzgierig zu sein, etc. Dann, wenn man eine bestimmte Tätigkeit ausübt (wie z.B. Essen, Trinken, etwas salzig Essen), verändern sich diese versehrten Dispositionen in unversehrten Dispositionen (nicht hungrig zu sein, nicht durstig zu sein, nicht salzgierig zu sein).


Literaturverzeichnis

  • Nikomachische Ethik – geschrieben von Aristoteles, übersetzt und herausgegeben von Ursula Wolf, 5. Auflage (März 2015), veröffentlicht im Rowholt Taschenbuch Verlag

Die Lektürnotizen wurden ursprünglich für das HU SoSe 2017 Nikomachische Ethik Tutorium geschrieben. Die Fragen sind von der Tutorin gestellt.

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Lektürenotizen – Nikomachische Ethik – Tugend und Wissen (VI 13)

In diesem Kapitel werden die folgenden Problemen (unter anderen) behandelt:

  • Warum muss ein Mensch eigentlich klug sein? Wäre es nicht genug die Hinweise eines klugen Menschen zu folgen, sowie ein Kranke folgt die Hinweise eines Arztes?

    Aristoteles antwortet: nein, das wäre nicht genug. Klugheit und Weisheit sind die Tugenden für ihre entsprechenden Teile der menschlichen Seele – Klugheit ist die Tugend des Teils, der sich mit veränderlichen Sachen beschäftigt, und Weisheit ist die Tugend des Teils, der sich mit unveränderlichen Sachen beschäftigt. Da Klugheit und Weisheit Tugenden eines Teils der menschlichen Seele sind, sie sind auch Teil von eudaimonia für den Menschen, und deshalb sind sie wünschenswert auch um ihrer selbst willen.

 
  • Was sind die Grenzen der Klugheit?

    In diesem Kapitel macht Aristoteles ein paar sehr wichtigen Bemerkungen für sein ethisches System. Die Klugheit ist laut ihm für das Herausfinden und Ausführung des Weges zum Zielpunkt verantwortlich, während die charakterlichen Tugenden für die Auswahl des Zielpunktes zuständig sind. Das heißt, dass um nach den richtig werthaften, guten und gerechten Zielen zu streben, müssen wir die charakterlichen Tugenden besitzen. Aber um diese Ziele richtig zu treffen, brauchen wir die Tugenden des Denkens, nämlich Klugheit und Weisheit. Da Weisheit mit allgemeinen und notwendigen Sachen beschäftigt ist, während Klugheit mit spezifischen und handlungsbezogenen Sachen beschäftigt ist, scheint Klugheit für das richtige Handeln die wichtigere von den beiden zu sein.

 
  • In welchem Sinn hatte Sokrates mit seiner Tugendtheorie recht?

    Laut Aristoteles hatte Sokrates in einer Hinsicht recht und in einer anderer nicht. Nämlich hatte Sokrates recht, wenn er behauptet hat, dass man braucht Klugheit, um tugendhaft zu sein. Aber er hat sich geirrt, wenn er die Tugenden mit Wissen identifiziert hat, weil Wissen nicht genug ist, um eine Tugend zu besitzen. Man braucht so Aristoteles auch die richtige entsprechende Disposition und Vorsatz.


Literaturverzeichnis

  • Nikomachische Ethik – geschrieben von Aristoteles, übersetzt und herausgegeben von Ursula Wolf, 5. Auflage (März 2015), veröffentlicht im Rowholt Taschenbuch Verlag

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Analysis of freedom of choice

Q: Suppose you are presented with two (apparent) options, A and B; and suppose that you choose A. Did you do so freely? Could you have chosen B?

I. Introduction

In order to answer the question of whether one chose option A freely, I will develop an analysis of the concept of freedom of choice. This analysis will separate the different types of freedom of choice into higher and lower degrees of freedom of choice. In order for a person to possess for example freedom of choice of the 4th degree, he will need to posses all the other types of freedom up until that level. Developing such an analysis is useful, for two main reasons:

First, it will allow us to distinguish between the different types of freedom of choice, and by assigning them to a continuum, we will be able to reconcile the works on the reading list and place them in relationship to each other.

Second, it will help us in our future work in establishing responsibility for one’s action. It will be possible to choose a precise level of freedom of choice, that exists both in deterministic and in some non-deterministic worlds, so that if a person posses that level of freedom of choice, then we will hold that person responsible for his actions.

II. Freedom of choice 

1st level of freedom of choice – being able to choose

In order to have any kind of freedom of choice, I must first be an entity that is capable of making a choice. This means that in some states of the world, I would choose option A, and in some other state of the world (in which that which I am remains the same, e.g. my personal identity), I would choose option B. If regardless of the state of the outside world, I will always choose an option  A, then I am not really an entity that is making a choice, but rather an entity that just goes for A no matter what, and that has no freedom of choice whatsoever, since it is not even capable of choosing (it is a degenerate case of freedom of choice).

A harder case here is one in which I have previously decided that no matter what happens in the future, I will always choose A. In this case, I did make a choice in the past, but by doing so I gave up my ability to choose in the future. This is at tricky case. There are two obvious ways to approach this:

1. I gave up my choice, and after that I have no more freedom of choice.

  1. After my initial choice, every time I choose A, that choice is simply part of the bigger initial choice.

I am inclined to go with the second way of approaching this, and thus say that the level of freedom of choice under which I am operating is the one under which the original decision was taken.

If I sometimes choose A, and under some different circumstances, I choose B, then in that case I am indeed capable of making a choice, and I have this most basic level of freedom of choice, namely the ability to choose.


2nd level of freedom of choice – having at least 2 options

If I am an entity that is capable of making a choice (capable of sometimes choosing A under some circumstances, and of choosing B under different circumstances that preserve my personal identity), then I have a 1st level of freedom of choice, and I might be able to attain a second level of freedom of choice.

When I chose A, did I have any other choice except A? If A was the only choice, then clearly there wasn’t really a choice to be made. You need at least two options in order to make a choice. If there was no other option, then my choice didn’t have this second degree of freedom of choice (which again, is a degenerate case, since there is no choice to be made). If on the other case there was another option, let’s say B for example, then my action was made under a second level of freedom of choice.


3rd level of freedom of choice – lack of external constraints that force you to choose otherwise

The third level of freedom of choice concerns the case in which you want to choose B, but somebody else compels you to choose A. For example, you wanted to get cocoa ice-cream, but a psychotic mass-murderer threatens to kill you unless you chose vanilla. In that case, your choosing of vanilla is not a free choice. It was still of course your choice, but it was made under constraint and externally imposed on yourself. If on the other hand no external agent compelled you to choose vanilla, and you would have gone ahead and chose vanilla according to what you wanted to get initially, then you have this 3rd level of freedom of choice.

At this level of freedom of choice we can include Hume’s original definition of liberty (An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, VIII, 73), that of being able to move if you so desire, or to stay in place if that is what you will, and also Ayer’s contrast of liberty with constraint.


4th level of freedom of choice – the decision of the will comes from personal identity

Why did you will to choose A (again, for the sake of example, cocoa ice-cream rather than vanilla)? If you choose A because of reasons such as a chemical addiction to cocoa, a mental disorder, weakness of will, then we intuitively say that that decision was less free that a decision taken on the simple reason that you like cocoa in general, as a part of your personality. To formalize this, if a decision is made based on a part of our internal mental processes that we consider not to be part of who we are (a split personality, an addiction, a bad habit), then that decision was less free than a decision that resulted from mental processes we consider to be part of who we are (for example, I consider myself to be a person that fundamentally likes cocoa ice cream, therefore I decide to have that cocoa ice cream).1

Of course, this clear-cut distinction will be hard to achieve in practice. For example, an addiction might make you rationalize your actions, and say that you are indeed a person who likes and craves for cocoa, so as to reduce the mental dissonance and to justify your actions to yourself and to others2. Still, I assume that will not be a permanent effect on your brain, and it will be most likely part of a back-and-forth struggle between the addiction and the person’s actual personality. To simplify, we consider a decision to have the complete 4th degree of freedom of choice if and only if it was taken as a unified decision of all the mental processes of a person associated with his or hers personal identity. If that is not the case, then he can have at best only a partial 4th degree of freedom of choice.


5th level of freedom of choice – you decided who you are or who you want to be

So your choice of A was made based on what you consider to be your personal identity. Still, what caused you to be that way? Did you choose to become the person you are, or was that caused by factors outside of your control?

In order to ensure maximum freedom of choice, ideally, here we would be able to construct a causal chain of the personal self-identity of one moment deciding on the self-identity of the next moment ending in the self-identity that chose A. Still, this would be unreasonable, since external circumstances such as unexpected events shape our identity at every point in our lives. It is not just what we decide to be that shapes us. Still, let us grant this extreme case, that since we were born, we decided who we will become at each moment, and it was entirely our self identity at one point in time that shaped our future self identity at the next moment, for each given moment. In that perfect case, we can say we have a 5th degree of freedom, namely that the choice of A came from our personal identity and that personal identity was our past selves’ choice.


6th level of freedom of choice – being able to choose who you originally were

What caused my first personal identity (i.e. who I was when I began existing? If I was somehow able to choose who I was when I began to exist (by creating a cyclical deterministic loop / by my decision somehow being the cause of my own existence, and so on), then I would be able to achieve one additional level of freedom.

This seems not to be the case with humans. For humans, the most reasonable assumption is that who we were originally (when we were born / conceived depending on when our personal identity chain starts) was shaped by the world, by our DNA, by our mother’s womb, by our parents, etc. In that case, it was external entities that caused (“decided”) your original personal identity, in which case you had no choice over your original personal identity, and you do not have this 6th level of freedom of choice.

Here we could fit Van Inwagen’s argument, which if true, shows that we are unable to have the 6th level of freedom of choice, since who we initially were is determined by the state of the universe before our birth + the laws of physics (but under our model this does not exclude the possibility to have the first 5 levels of freedom of choice). Hume’s view would also exclude being able to have this 6th level of freedom of choice, since nothing can be the cause of itself, so something else (external to ourselves) would have to have caused our original existence (An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, VIII, 74).


Special cases that involve the change of personal identity

In cases where your personal identity is modified against your will by an external entity, such as if you are mind-controlled by a perfectly skilled hypnotist, then by completely changing your personal identity, they are in effect temporarily (or permanently) killing you and replacing you with another person. That new person may then execute actions in accordance to one of the 6 degrees of freedom of choice.

III. If I chose A, then could I have chosen B?

Did you have more than one option? If no, then you could not have chosen B.

Are you capable of choosing anything else than A (in different circumstances that preserve your personal identity)? If not, then you could not have chosen B.

If you have more than one option, and if you are capable of choosing something else than A, then:

– In different circumstances, yes, you could have chosen B.

– If all the circumstances were the same, and if the universe were deterministic, then no, you could not have chosen B. (see Van Inwagen’s argument)

– If all circumstances were the same, and the universe is not deterministic, then it would be possible for you to have chosen B. A few examples of such cases:

– My personal identity implies a level of randomness in all my choices and my brain physiology is such that it can truly make a random decision. I am a person who likes surprises, so for all of my choices, I have a 1 in 2 chance of choosing something a course of action at random.

–  I am a perfectly rational person. In that case, if I do my analysis and I ended up with a 50% probability of getting what I want by choosing A, and a 50% probability of getting what I want by choosing B, in which case there is no reason to choose A over B. In that case, if my brain could contain a true random number generator (such as a decaying radioactive substance) and if the universe was indeed non-deterministic, than in that case I could have chosen B, even if the same circumstances were true.

IV. Weaknesses and counterarguments against this model

– The list of levels of freedom of choice is not exhaustive. There may be other intermediary levels, there may be higher degrees of freedom, lower degrees of freedom, and there might also be branching steps of freedom (in which at one step, if you want to go to a higher level of freedom, than you have two options that are incompatible with each other, and you need to choose one over the other, or a combination of a partial degree of both)

– Some theories of personal identity might collapse this model and make it incoherent (such as for example personal identity being just a continuation of consciousness).

– Possible objection: At the 3rd level of freedom of choice (freedom from an external constraint), the choice you are making still comes from your personal identity (for example if you are threatened with a gun, you are basing your decision to obey on your personality that values survival over resistance to submission). In that case doesn’t the decision have the 4th level of freedom of choice?

Answer: In a simple model, no, because you don’t have the 3rd level of freedom of choice, so you cannot have the 4th level. In a more complex model, then yes it has the 4th level of freedom of choice. This is more intuitively obvious in cases such as this: a man compels you to commit a crime by threatening you with a gun, but you are Superman. If you obey him just because he has a gun and you are too drunk to realize that you could resist him, then you do so against who you are, in which case you go against your personal identity. In that case, you have neither the 3rd level of freedom nor the 4th level of freedom, which is worse than not having just the 3rd level (obeying him because you have to and because of who you are).

– Possible objection: Well in the end, if determinism is true, doesn’t that mean that we have no freedom of choice at all? That all our actions are determined by events before we were born and the laws of nature? (or some other adaptation of Van Inwagen’s argument).

Answer: Yes, it might be true that all our actions are predetermined, but that doesn’t mean that they were not executed under certain freedoms of choices. There was still a choice being made, even if its result could have been foreseen by somebody with enough information. And the degree to which that choice was free, even if it wasn’t completely free, is still of vital importance in ascertaining the responsibility of the agent.

Bibliography

  • Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, sect. viii
  • J. Ayer, ‘Freedom and Necessity’, in Ayer, Philosophical Essays Macmillan, 1954), Chapter 12, pp.271-284, originally published in Polemic 5 (1946). Reprinted, Gary Watson (ed.) Free Will (1st edition) (OUP 1982), Chapter 1, pp.15-23
  • Van Inwagen, P., ‘The Incompatibility of Free will and Determinism’, Philosophical Studies 27 (1975), pp. 185-99. Reprinted in Watson (ed.), Free Will, OUP (1982)
  • Theodore Sider, ‘Free Will and Determinism’, chapter 6 of Earl Conee and Theodore Sider, Riddles of Existence (Clarendon Press, 2005)

1 The idea that an action is free if it stems from the personal identity of the agent is taken from the soft determinism approach presented by Theodere Sider.

2 Idea suggested in private discussion by Maria Androushko.

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The relationship between equality and democracy in Aristotle’s Politics and in Tocqueville’s Democracy in America

Prompt: Analyze the relationship between equality and democracy in Aristotle’s Politics and in Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. What types of equality are needed, according to each of the authors, to give rise to democracy, and what types of equality are intrinsically parts of it? Furthermore, considering both texts, is it possible for one to have his cake and it eat too? More exactly, when considering the problems of equality, is it possible for a society with a democratic social state (in Tocquevillean terms), while avoiding a despotic regime, to give rise to an Aristotelian polity? If so, can we see any elements of that happening in Tocqueville’s description of the U.S.?

We begin this investigation by looking into Aristotle’s Politics. Aristotle initially classifies political regimes in Book 3, Chapter VII by two criteria: whether the purpose of the rulers is the common good or not, and what the size of the ruling class is (one, few, many). Thus, there are six combinations of regimes, three correct (kingship, aristocracy, polity) and three deviated (tyranny, oligarchy, democracy). What many people commonly associate today with democracy (majority rule) is represented in two of these regimes: polity (many rule for the common good) and democracy (many rule for the good of a particular part of society).

This initial simplistic classification of regimes is revised continuously by Aristotle in the books that follow, adding ever more nuances and tensions in his classification of the regimes. For example, Aristotle asks (in III.9): if the majority is rich in a democracy, is it still a democracy or should we call this oligarchy, since the rich rule? Or if a poor minority rules the society, can it still be called an oligarchy? These problems arose because people in his time (and in our time) commonly associate oligarchy with the rule of the rich, and democracy with the rule of the common people or the poor. This was not a groundless association, since in almost every case of a deviated regime, when a minority ruled it tended to be rich, and when the majority ruled they tended to be made of the poorer classes (1279b 34-37). The solution Aristotle offers to this is that wherever the poor are part the ruling class, we call that regime a democracy (if of course it’s a deviated regime, interested in the good of only one part of the polis), and wherever the rich rule because of their wealth (which implies the need for a society to consider wealth meritous), we call that an oligarchy (1279b 34 – 1280a 6). This of course raises further questions and tensions, like for example: if we have five poor men, ruling over 100.000 rich men, what do we call that regime? A democracy? It seems far away from any conception that we initially had of it, and it shows that there is still work to be done with the classification of the regimes, since when five people rule a hundred thousand, a word that means “rule of the people” is no longer appropriate. A defense in this case for Aristotle’s classification would be of course that such a thing is highly improbable to happen, and Aristotle is basing his detailing of the regimes on empirical facts. Still, it would be worthwhile to have a complete framework that can properly (though not comprehensively) describe any type of regime and fit them into itself. Since for example, it would be possible that in a highly religious society, five poor people would end up ruling a hundred thousand, without any consultation with the public, and for such a situation democracy would not be the best of words to describe such a society.

Nevertheless, we must press on with our inquiry, and returned to the problem at hand. From our investigation so far into Aristotelian thought, we can assemble two revised definitions for the regimes we are interested on: a regime is a polity when it is ruled by many, and its purpose is the common good, and it is a democracy when its purpose is not the common good, and the poor partake in the governing of the state.

Before moving on and discussing equality for Aristotle, it is necessary to discuss his notion of justice in his Politics, which infuses and propagates through his whole ethical classification of regimes. For Aristotle, there seem to be two concepts of justice in Politics, one general (coming perhaps from his Nicomachean Ethics) which states that “justice is the common benefit”, and one more specific, a justice that is “something to someone”, and concerns itself with “some sort of equality” (quotations from 1282b 14-22). This specific kind of justice [1] is concerned with giving the same thing to people who are equal, and with giving different things with people who are unequal. In modern terms, we would call this concern distributive justice.

But people have different notions of justice, stemming from misunderstandings of equality or which equality matters for what purpose (1280a 7- 23), and this gives rise to the desire and foundation of different types of regimes (1301a 25-28). People in democratic regimes tend to falsely believe that since they are equal in one respect (freedom) they must be equal in all respects (1301a 28-30). Thus they consider each completely equal to all the others, including in merit, and so go for a numerical kind of justice. The majority is the one that has the right to decide for the state as a whole. People in oligarchic regimes mistakenly believe that since they are unequal in one respect (wealth) they must be unequal in all others (1301a 30-33). Thus they desire and found a regime in which participation in the political body and decision-making is proportional to one’s merit, which they consider to be wealth. But according to Aristotle, this is also wrong. Participation in the political body should be according to one’s merit, but the value which is chosen to represent merit is key. Aristotle argues that since a city-state (polis) is founded and defined by its purpose of enabling its citizens to live well, than shares in governing a city-state should be given in accordance to that which pertains to living well, which is virtue (1281a 1-7). Thus, a just regime is one which accords people with equal virtue equal shares in the governance of the city-state (as kingship, aristocracy, and polity do).

Justice is also very important for Aristotle since differences in how they understand it are what makes people desire to change the regime they are living in. Once people start having different conceptions of distributive justice, and of what approach to equality is correct and fair, then faction will arise and people will desire to change their regime to another one. An interesting connection that we can make here is with Plato’s Republic, which Aristotle also often references in his Politics. If Socrates wanted to start his interlocutors on the path of changing the constitution (regime, politeia) of their soul, what is the perfect question to ask, if not “What is Justice?” ? Whereas if one wants regime stability, than according to Aristotle, one should seek above all “equality in accordance with merit”, which is the current type of accepted justice in a society (merit can mean wealth for oligarchy, virtue for non-deviated regimes, or it can be completely the same for  every person in democracies), “and the possesion of private property” (1307a 25-27).

With these notions in mind, let’s turn our attention to democracy and equality, and asks ourselves two critical questions: “What types of equality or inequality are needed for democracy to arise?” and “Which types of equality or inequality must exist simultaneously with a democracy, or in other words what types of equality does the Aristotelian notion of democracy necessarily include or give rise to?”.

First, according to Aristole, if you want to change a regime, then you need some kind of inequality, since a perception of inequality causes strife and is the main cause of regime change (1302a 22-32). This perception depends on the people’s understanding of justice. Thus, if people, according to what they believe justice is, perceive a kind of inequality, then the wheels of change start moving. Next, if you want this change to give rise to a democracy, then you need the people that are unsatisfied with the current state of affairs to have an equality of opinion, in so far as they need to share a democratic understanding of justice. Last but not least, before you can get your democracy, you need the people who have this equality of opinion to have more power than the one’s that are against a democratic regime. [2]

Once you have a democracy, you need to maintain this equality of opinion about the notice of justice. This can be achieved through education, which is one of the possible reasons why Aristotle considers it of foremost importance to the survival of a regime (1310a 12-35). This education (or propaganda, depending on how you approach it) will also need to involve some equality of access to it, for a few or for most people depending on the situation, since you need to educate a critical mass of people that would have enough power to defend the current constitution in case of need. Furthermore, in order to maintain a democracy, you need to continuously ensure that the ones who have the same opinion about it being maintained continue to have more power than those who are against the constitution.

Now that we have analyzed the fundamental types of equalities that must go along with democracies, we can go on and look at polities.  In order for a polity to arise, you also need an initial inequality, perceived by some according to their different notion of justice. If you are starting from a deviated regime, then these people must have a notion of distributive justice based on virtue, so that they would want to change to a just and proper regime. Furthermore, as with democracies, these people who share this belief must have enough power to enact the regime change. If on the other hand you are starting from a just non-deviated regime, than you need more equality of virtue between its different citizens, and the regime should naturally transform itself into a polity (since its virtuous rulers will realize that that is the proper thing to do). As for the kinds of equality needed for a polity to survive, they are the same fundamental kinds as for a democracy: equality of opinion on the notice of justice, and equality of access to education for enough people in order to ensure the regime’s survival.

Whereas for Aristotle the notion of justice that people have gives rise to their preference and desire for a certain regime, Tocqueville attributes a desire and tendency for a political regime to something he calls the social state of a people. In his work, Democracy in America, Tocqueville mentions two types of social state: democratic (on which we will focus) and aristocratic. He never directly defines what a democratic social state is, but a careful reader can infer from its usage a definition good enough to work with and approach the subject at hand.

A democratic social state is one in which a society has at least a minimum level of equality of opportunity and equality of conditions (equality of outcome). In this social state, the equality of conditions gives rise to a desire for even more equality of conditions (p. 479). This is crucial for understanding his whole work.

This democratic social state appears in a society once there are enough ways in which people can gain power, regardless of their current conditions. People will naturally try to improve their condition, and once they have managed to shrink the inequality between them and their superiors, they will desire even more to reduce the remaining inequality. This will lead to a self-sustaining and self-increasing effect that although not invincible, if left unchecked or not confronted by significant opposite forces, will only serve to increase the equality of conditions of that society. This is the situation that Tocqueville presents to have been happening in his native France, and it is useful to look at it in order to better understand how such a process works. 700 years ago, there was only “one origin of power to be discovered” and that was landed property. Then other ways appeared with which one could gain power: by joining the clergy, by becoming a jurist, by going into commerce, by going into science and becoming a lettered person. In all of these a wide range of persons could participate, since they involved thinking and using your mind, as a prerequisite for obtaining the job. Knowledge became power, and knowledge is something that more and more people could have, regardless of their condition of birth. The more possibilities to gain power in society, regardless of the conditions you were born in, increased the equality of conditions of the society. This gave rise, over time, to a democratic social state.

According to Tocqueville, this democratic social state, since it is characterized first and foremost by a love of equality, can lead to two possible political outcomes: either society will organize itself in a democratic political body in which all citizens have rights, or towards a tyrannical despotic regime in which all are equal by being subjugated to a single ruler (pp. 52-53). Here we can see one of the reasons that his work is so crucial for him. Since he considers that his time is characterized by a democratic social state that has past a certain point, and acquired a virtually unstoppable tendency towards more equality, it is of the utmost importance to learn how to channel this force into creating a democratic political regime, instead of a despotic one.

Another danger of this tendency towards more and more equality of conditions is that over the long-term this seems to lead towards a situation in which goods are divided equally to everybody in society, regardless of merit and/or need. Tocqueville acknowledges this, considers it a problem and on p. 431 discusses possible solutions to it. One option would be that a central government would be in charge of distributing them according to merit. Tocqueville is against this, and he argues for restoring a kind of equality of opportunity into society (p. 431). A possible interpretation of his solution is that by educating people (by giving them “equal enlightenment”) and ensuring an equality of chances (giving “equal independence to all”) we would be able to redirect their ardent desire for more equality of conditions, towards a desire and an acceptance of equality of opportunity. He mentions that the inequality of outcome should be left up to the “natural inequality”, a position which today would need to be laid out very carefully and in detail before being accepted. For example, should physically handicapped people be helped to go to school, since mentally they have as much potential as anybody else, or should they be left on their own, trying to slowly and arduously walk to school? A possible solution to account for such cases is to allow only for specific natural inequality – when it comes to a physically handicapped person trying to succeed in a mental activity, he should be helped and made as equal as possible with others from a physical perspective (bionic legs, attendant, wheelchair, etc.), but given just the same attention as other people when it comes to the mental perspective. In any case, if society is to best use its resources, and to avoid stagnation, it seems that the democratic social state’s tendency towards perfect equality of conditions will have to be stopped somehow, or human nature modified so that there is no longer any kind of natural inequality (which might be far from desirable).

Tocqueville sets out to observe democracy in America, because he wants to see what the democratic social state can lead to. He considers that the equality of conditions propagates into every part of society, such as the public spirit, the laws, the maxims of those who govern, the particular habits of the governed, their political mores, and over the entire civil society (p. 3). In fact he says that the equality of conditions is “the generative fact from which each particular fact seemed to issue” (p. 3) and that he found it as the central point at which all his observations came to an end (p. 3). Thus, the social state of a people infuses itself deep into society, and its presence can be felt and deduced from most parts of it.

We know that this social state can lead either to ultimate despotism or to a democratic regime. But in the case of America, which is clearly not (yet) a despotic regime, is the democratic regime, in Aristotelian terms, going to be a polity or a deviated version of it? Can it even be a polity? Tocqueville’s description of America seems to tend more towards a polity than towards its corrupted counterpart. One of the founding documents of an American colony reads:

“And by virtue hereof, do enact, constitute and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions and officers, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.” (p. 35)

With virtue as its foundation, government of the many, and general good as its purpose, this colonial political body fits perfectly into the criteria of a polity from Aristotle. Did this tendency towards a polity that America had at birth maintain over the next centuries? It seems so. The American government has both democratic (in Aristotelian terms) and oligarchic elements. Its representative government ensures that a minority rules, but that minority is ruled by the people. The rich have significant influence over the political system, since they are able to influence public opinion through mass media, but at the end of the day, they do need the consent of the majority in order to implement their will.

Still, can Aristotle’s notion of polity and Tocqueville’s notion of democracy truly coexist? Can a society that is characterized by significant equality of conditions, and a strong desire for more of it, be able to maintain a notion of distributive justice based on virtue? Or will its desire for more equality engulf its notion of justice over time, and twist it towards believing that everybody has equal merit, and thus everybody should have an equal share in the political body?

I believe that a democratic social state can lead to a political regime that is a polity, and that the key to achieving this is a properly implemented representative democracy. A representative democracy requires a citizen to choose between a set of persons, on the basis of which of them can rule and represent him better (and one could say that in an Ancient Greek sense, there can be a virtue (arête) of ruling representing somebody). Thus, he will constantly be reminded of the notion that some are better at ruling than others, and he will also be constantly required to develop and think about his notion of what makes a good ruler, or more exactly what virtue a ruler needs to have. Furthermore, the higher a politican’s function, the more he reminds the common people by his function and existence, that there is a difference between people in virtue in governing. Not all people are equal when it comes to government. A local councilor is better than the common man, a senator is better than a local councilor, and a president is better than a senator (or at least in theory, since the selection process is a lot more competitive). Not surprisingly is the President’s wife, even in a society like America where the driving force seems to be equality, still called the “First Lady” (implying of course that her husband is the “First Man”). Thus, in a representative democracy, the notion of political virtue will be constantly engendered into the citizen, and along with it the notion of distributive justice based on virtue (one should partake in the government of the country proportional to how much political virtue he has). It is not a given of course, that any representative democracy will manage to remain a polity, and not degenerate into an Aristotelian democracy, but the seed for its protection is there.

Bibliography

  • Politics, Aristotle, translated by C.D.C. Reeve, Hackett Publishing Company (1998)
  • Democracy in America,, Alexis de Tocqueville, translated by Harvey C. Mansfield and Delba Winthrop, The University of Chicago Press (2000)

[1] I adopt the terms general and specific kind of justice from Miller, Fred, “Aristotle’s Political Theory”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2012 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2012/entries/aristotle-politics/>.
[2] It is also important to keep in mind when discussing a faction between two groups based on opinion, that when one judges the power of one of these groups, it should also include in such an assessment the influence the group has over public opinion, and thus the capability to attract more people (neutral or from the other side) to its cause.
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How does Diotima’s theory of eros from the Symposium account for Ovid’s personal experience of love in The Amores?

In this essay, I will first offer my interpretation of Diotima’s conception of love. I will do this by trying to build a cohesive theory, free from self-contradictions, and with as few axioms as possible, from Diotima’s statements and arguments. In order to further enrich it, I will bring from the Republic the division of the soul into three parts (the calculating part, the spirited part and the appetitive part) and the 4 virtues of the soul (wisdom, moderation, justice, courage).  Afterwards, I will use this newly acquired erotic lens to analyze Ovid, and see where his personal experience of love in The Amores fits within Diotima’s expanded theory.

The source of eros is the desire that all living things have for immortality (Symposium, 207A – 208B). All living things can partake in the immortal only by engendering (207 D), and thus they naturally strive and desire to engender. Even ourselves, we are not made of the same constant things over time, but parts of our body are constantly coming into being and perishing. Our body changes over time. The only way for our current body to partake in the future body is to engender it (207 D). The same applies to our soul, and for example its “ways, character, opinions, desires, pleasures, pains, fears” (207 E). Some of them might seem the same over the course of our lives, but they never are (207 E). The only way for them to also be present when we are old, is if somehow there are created new copies of them. There are two kinds of engendering that living beings are capable of: through body and through soul (208 E, 209 A). The beasts can give birth only through body, whereas humans can give birth in both the body and the in the soul.

Diotima details and gives examples of what exactly she means by giving birth through body: “Now there are those who are pregnant in terms of their bodies’, she said,’ and they turn rather to women and are erotic in this way, furnishing for themselves through the procreation of children immortality, remembrance, and happiness (as they believe) for all future time” (208 E). But Diotima argues indirectly and directly against this. Those who give birth through body might be deceived, if they only base their beliefs on opinion rather than knowledge. An argument I would also raise against trying to achieve immortality through body is the gradual loss of any individual identity – over the long term, any recognizable trace of the original individual (be it bodily features, or grand-grand-grand-…-grand children remembering him as their ancestor) will be lost and assimilated into the species as a whole. But Diotima seals the argument with an empirical observation – there are no shrines to commemorate people who just give birth to children (209 E). Thus, giving birth through body is ineffective. If one wants to partake in immortality, he must seek to give birth through soul.

The second option, giving birth through soul, is the one that Diotima argues for. The soul is able to bear and to give birth to virtue (of which prudence is singled out among others) (209 A). The general examples she gives are poets and all the craftsmen who are said to be inventors and procreators (209 A). More specific examples would be: Homer and Hesiod through their poetic works (209 D), or Lycurgus and Solon though their laws (209 D). What survives over time, and allows them to partake in immortality, is the virtue they have engendered (instantiated in some form in their intellectual works). To understand how comprehensive this notion of “giving birth to virtue is”, one should consider the example of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae. What survives through the ages, and confers them immortality, is the virtue they have engendered there, which we admire and built shrines to. We don’t remember their individual names, their dreams and ambitions, their daily struggles, or most of what we would call their personal identity – but we do remember the virtue (the courage) they have given birth there by defending the narrow pass against overwhelming odds.

Before going further, it is worth exploring what beauty is in Diotima’s account of eros. As Diotima says, eros is not a desire for beauty, but a desire to engender and to bring to birth in the beautiful (206 E). One can only give birth in the beautiful (206C), and thus if one wants to be immortal or to partake in it, since he can only do so by engendering in body or in soul, one needs to seek the beautiful. Thus beauty is not the ultimate end or eros, but the means to that end. If you choose to give birth in body, then beauty is the appropriate environment in which to give birth to children (for example: a healthy fertile wife, or a husband with the skills and resources necessary to support the child). If you choose to give birth in soul, beauty is the appropriate environment in which to give birth to virtue (a love interest for inspiration if you are a poet like Ovid for example, or a person with whom to discuss about “what sort a good man must be and what he must practice” (209 C), etc.) 1.

But again, giving birth through soul will not mean that one necessarily will be able to completely partake into immortality, although it is better for that purpose than giving birth in body. Furthermore, even if you choose to give birth through soul to virtue, some ways are better than others at helping you partake more in immortality. Diotima singles out prudence out of all the other virtues, and includes within it “moderation and justice”, which for her mean the “the arranging and ordering of the affairs of cities and households” (211 B). In order to fully account for the choice of these three cardinal virtues, and why moderation and justice arise from prudence, and in order to extract all the nuances from it, it is necessary at this point to bring in some notions from Plato’s The Republic.

The definitions of moderation and justice arose in The Republic after long and thoughtful deliberation (which requires the possession of some degree of prudence) about “the arranging and ordering of the affairs of cities and households”. Moderation is an agreement of all the parts of the soul that the calculating part is the one that rules, and they should not try to overturn it (The Republic, 442 c). Justice for the soul is when each part minds its own business and does what it’s appropriate for it (The Republic, 441 e). Since moderation implies that the calculating part 2 should rule, and justice that the calculating part should concern itself with discerning the truth, the need for somebody to have a prudent soul is only reinforced by these two virtues, and we can see in The Republic that a man whose soul is ruled properly by the calculating part is referred to as a “prudent man” (The Republic 583 a, b). But why is giving birth to prudence, and from it to moderation and justice so important for Diotima? Because without prudence, moderation, justice and as I will argue in the next paragraph, courage, one will not be able to ascend the ladder of love and give birth to true virtue, so that he may become as immortal as a person can be.

Without prudence, he will not be aware of these qualities (moderation, justice and courage) that his soul should possess. Without justice in his soul, since the calculating part would not be concerned with the truth, which is its proper business, a man hearing about the ladder of love would not acknowledge its importance. Without moderation in his soul, he will not decide to follow it, unless it benefits his desires or his spirited part somehow, which is unlikely 3. Even if he understands its importance, and decides to follow it, his spirited part (his will) must be able to implement his decision over his desires, and keep him going on the ladder of love. Thus, he needs courage, since courage means that “his spirited part preserves, through pains and pleasures, what has been proclaimed by the speeches about that which is terrible and that which is not” (The Republic, 442 c).

Once a man has moderation, justice and courage, and he starts following the steps detailed in Diotima’s ladder of love, he still needs wisdom (as a part of prudence) in order to get to the top. Thus, in order for a person to acknowledge the ladder’s existence, decide to follow it, have the willpower to do so and the intelligence necessary to reach its end (beauty itself), one must already have a soul in some kind of virtuous state. The lover need not posses true virtue (since that’s part of what he is aiming for by climbing the ladder), but he does need to posses moderation, justice, courage and wisdom, at least as the logical concepts defined in The Republic. Thus, in order to reach true beauty and true virtue, it is not enough for his soul to give birth to virtue, but he must also apply it to himself and embody it. This is also one of the possible reasons why along each step of the ladder of love, the lover must give speeches. In each of the beautiful environments in which he is operating at a given moment, he is able to engender speeches of virtue that, if needed, he will apply to himself so that he may ascend to the next step.

Now let’s turn our attention to the ladder of love. Since eros arises from the desire for immortality, but humans are not necessarily aware of this and experience it most commonly, initially, as a desire for a person they consider beautiful, it is necessary to orient this desire properly to satisfy its original purpose. If one is to love correctly, according to Diotima, then he must be “guided” this way (210 A): he must first love a beautiful body, then be made to realize that what he is looking for is a characteristic of bodies in general, and thus love beautiful bodies in general, then move on to the abstract plane and love beautiful souls, after which he must see that he does not love a specific mind, but certain beautiful patterns that pertain to many minds, and thus he will turn his love towards beautiful pursuits and laws, then to the beauty of sciences, and by giving birth in “ungrudging philosophy” to many beautiful speeches and thoughts, he will discern a “certain philosophical science”, through which he will be able to reach beauty itself (210, 211). Once he reaches beauty itself he can use that environment to give birth to and cherish true virtue (212 A), and “if it is possible for any human being, to become immortal as well” (212 A).

This should give us a sufficient account of Diotima’s theory of eros in order to approach and to analyze Ovid’s amorous pursuits and experiences. There is of course much more to be discussed about Diotima’s account of eros, which is why I wrote in the notes (1, 2) at the end of this essay a few interesting threads of thought that emerge from this particular interpretation of her speech. Now, let’s turn our attention to Ovid.

The first thing that stands out in Ovid’s The Amores is his capitulation to his desires:

“Yes, that must be it: heart skewered / by shafts of desire, the raging Beast, passion, out at prowl in my breast. Shall I give in? To resist might just bank up the furnace – All right, I give in. A well-squared load lies light.” (Book 1, Poem 2)

It seems to have been a quick surrender, without any part of the soul really protesting against it. It is interesting to see that the reasons for why he did so he mentions only after the fact, which might suggest a rationalization of his actions:

“All right, I give in. A well-squared load lies light. Flourish a torch, it burns fiercer. I know, I’ve seen it. Stop the Motion, and pouf! It’s out. Yoke-shy rebellious oxen collect more blows and curses Than a team that’s inured to the plough. Your restive horns earns a wolf-curb, his mouth’s all bruises; A harness-broken nag scarcely feels the reins. It’s the same with Love. Play stubborn, you get a far more thorough Going-over than those who admit they’re hooked. So I’m coming clean, Cupid: here I am, your latest victim, Hands raised in surrender. Do what you like with me.” (Book 1, Poem 2)

The comparisons he makes with the oxen suggest a kind of inescapable slavery that love imposes over him. Since he cannot escape it, all he can do in this condition is to try to satisfy his master, so that he will endure less suffering at its expense. Ovid’s rationalization ends with an unconditional surrender, showing that he has absolutely no power over his conqueror, love, and thus no possibility to negotiate for better terms with him.

Thus we can see that in his soul, the desiring part rules over the calculating part and the spirited part. This characteristic he shares with most people, as the vast majority of people are ruled by their desires, without philosophizing too deeply about their natures, or trying to constantly select and prune which desires to follow and which ones suppress. Most people fall in love, marry, and have children, without asking themselves if this is the true and original purpose of their eros. Ovid too is interested in the opposite sex and bodily pleasures, and does not philosophize too deeply about why that is so, but submits to it and describes the experience to the best of his poetic experience. Even if he does not philosophize, and his calculating part does not rule, he is an intelligent man – he is aware of his fundamental desire for immortality, and he considers his poetic ability to earn immortality as the most important power that he has. Let’s look at some of his poems that show exactly this:

“What I seek is perennial fame, Undying world-wide remembrance. While Ida and Tenedos Still stand, while Simois still runs swift to the sea,

Old Homer will Live. While clustering grapes still ripen And wheat still falls to the scythe Hesiod’s works will be studies. The verse of Callimachus –

[…]

So when the final flames have devoured my body, I shall Survive, and my better part live on” (Book 1, Poem 15)

First of all we can see in the last two verses his clear desire for immortality and his belief that he can obtain it for the parts of himself that are more important (his “better part”). As for the first verses of the quote, they help us distinguish exactly what kind of immortality he is hoping for. We can see here that he is going for the same kind of immortality that is presented in Diotima’s speech, by giving birth through soul, and he even mentions the exact same poets as role models: Homer and Hesiod. Thus, through his works, Ovid hopes to gain “perennial fame” and “undying world-wide remembrance”. It is not a coincidence that in Ovid, who is a man with a very active and fiery eros, this desire for giving birth to immortal works is so strong, since both come from the same desire for immortality that Ovid’s mortal nature has. It is worth nothing that Ovid’s approach has succeeded to some degree, as we are still discussing and reading him in the present day.

But what exactly is he trying to pass on in his works? What kind of virtue is he giving birth to?

“In love for the very first time. May some fellow-sufferer, Perusing my anatomy of desire, See his own passion reflected there, cry in amazement:

‘Who told this scribbler about my private affairs?’” (Book 2, Poem 1)

What he is doing in The Amores is giving a first person subjective account of how he deals with his own eros. It is worth noting that he is not only passing down his virtue (excellence) in love in his poems, but also the eros that he embodied. If somebody reads Ovid’s poems, and if that person’s soul has a similar arrangement to Ovid’s, and if he finds examples of virtue (judged by the criteria of his own soul) in Ovid’s account, then he too might adopt Ovid’s view and approach to love.  An analogy to this would be somebody with a philosophical nature, who reads the Diotima’s speech, and finds the arguments there, or at least the general picture presented to be something attuned and in concordance with his soul, will adopt the conception of eros presented by Diotima 4. Thus, it is not only Ovid’s virtue that gets passed down by his works, but also his eros.

The desire for immortality deserves further analysis, which we can do by looking at this another poem of Ovid:

“What have I got on my side, then? Poetic genius, sweetheart, Divine inspiration. And love. I’m yours to command –

[…]

Besides, when you give me yourself, what you’ll be providing Is creative material. My art will rise to the theme And immortalize you. Look, why do you think we remember The swan-upping of Leda, or Io’s life as a cow,

Or poor virgin Europa whisked off overseas, clutching That so-called bull by the – horn? Through poems, of course. So you and I, love, will enjoy the same world-wide publicity, And our names will be linked, for ever, with the gods” (Book 1, Poem 3)

Here we can see first of all what Ovid is bringing to the table in his relationships. He offers to immortalize his beloved, by giving birth in soul to his poems. According to Diotima, that is a very good deal for the beloved, since all mortal beings desperately seek to partake in some form of immortality. Unfortunately for Ovid, not all women choose to seek their immortality through giving birth in soul, and furthermore, not all women are in tune enough with their desires to realize what the primary cause of their eros is. Thus, even though, according to Diotima, he offers exactly what they seek, he will still face rejections. We can see the mentality of a person who does not understand the value of earning immortality through poetry in Dipsas’ (the procuress’) speech:

“This poet of yours, now, what does he give you, except his latest Verses? Find the right lover, you’d scoop the pool. Why isn’t he richer? The patron god of poets Wears gold, plays a gilded lyre. Look, dear, stop worshipping genius, try generosity” (The Amores, Book 1)

We can see exemplified in Dipsas an epitome of a money-loving soul, who does not seem to follow through and ask the question: well, what exactly do we need this money for? Is it not to satisfy some desires? If desires can give rise to other desires, what are the primary desires that I am trying to satisfy? If so, am I actually approaching it correctly? And so on and so forth. In short, she is clearly not a philosopher, and according to Socrates’ account in the ninth book of The Republic, not in a position to decide what values should rule one’s life, since her soul is by no means moderate or just.

But what about Ovid’s soul? What can we say about it from what we have discovered so far in his poems? Well, his soul seems to be most akin with to a desire-driven kind of soul. The calculating part in him clearly does not rule, since as we have seen earlier it has surrendered to serve his desires. The spirited part of his soul has also been won over his desires. We can see this in the twelfth poem of book 2:

“A wreath for my brows, a wreath of triumphal laurel! Victory – Corinna is here, in my arms, Despite the united united efforts of husband, door, and porter […]

What did my generalship win? Some town with crumbling defences And a shallow moat? Oh no, I captured a girl! When Troy fell at last, after that ten-year struggle, How much of the credit went to the High Command,

And how much to the troops? There’s no army to share my glory,

The credit is mine alone, I’m a one-man band,

Commander, cavalry, infantry, standard-bearer, announcing With one voice: Objective achieved. What’s more, mere luck played no part at all in my triumph: Unswerving perseverance did the trick. […]

You could say I’m Cupid’s conscript, called up, like so many others,

For front-line service – but no shedding of blood.”

The whole poem is framed as his obtaining a glorious victory in the front-line service of Cupid. Thus his love exploits seem to appeal to his spirited part of the soul, which rejoices in glory (“A wreath for my brows, a wreath of triumphal laurel!”, “my glory”, “my triumph”), victory (“Victory – Corinna is here, in my arms”, “What did my generalship win?”) and mastery (“Objective achieved”, “What’s more, mere luck played no part at all in my triumph: / unswerving perseverance did the trick”) 5. What we can see here happening in this poem is how the spirited part of one’s soul can be taken over and seduced by the desiring part, and distanced from the calculating part. If it is by following the desires that the spirited part gets what it wants, why should it stand alongside the calculating part and rule and deny the desires?

Thus Ovid’s soul is unjust, since each part does not mind its own business. The spirited part is standing alongside the desires and helping them rule over the soul, and the desires are thus made masters of his soul. The calculating part also does not seem to be seriously concerned with discerning the truth, and expresses a preference for being deceived if reality is too harsh to accept (“Lay them all, but allay my suspicions, leave me / In ignorance, let me cling / To my foolish illusions”, Book 3, Poem 14). Furthermore, not only is his soul unjust, but it is also immoderate, since the parts of the soul do not all recognize that reason should rule. Since his soul is immoderate and unjust, as we would expect, he does not seem to be following the steps detailed in Diotima’s speech in the ladder of love section. Rather he is stuck in loving all beautiful women, and not ascending further than that. He is in accordance with Diotima in his attempts to seek immortality by giving birth in soul to poetic works, but since he is nowhere near beauty itself, he cannot exemplify true virtue in his works 6. I see this inability of his to engender true virtue as leading to three possible outcomes for him, regarding his desire for immortality, depending on whether definite truths can be reached or not, and on how humans will advance intellectually in the future.

Diotima herself is not necessarily convinced that one can reach definite truths, since at the end of the first account of the ladder of love, she says the lover “must come close to touching the perfect end” (211 B), and only after in the second summarized account of the ladder of love that she gives the lover seems to be able to get to beauty itself (211 C). Thus it is worth considering for both Diotima and Ovid what happens if beauty itself cannot be reached, and thus true virtue cannot be engendered. In that case everybody will be stuck into opining about things, never being able to really know the true nature of objects and desires. Ovid, as an opiner himself, might be able to strike a chord with readers for centuries.

On the other hand, if the ladder of love can be followed until the end, and true virtue engendered, than Ovid is in trouble. It is possible that over time society will advance and change its conceptions of love to a more refined understanding, and thus at best people would read Ovid as a curious example of a “caveman” kind of love, and at worst he would be forgotten. His solution out of this (though unlikely to come from himself) would be to start arranging his soul properly, into a moderate and just state, and after developing the other relevant virtues, start walking that hard path to beauty itself.

The third option that must be considered is that true beauty and virtue can be reached, but society in general will never do so. Humans might not necessarily keep on advancing intellectually on the right path. It doesn’t matter if you engender true virtue, if there is nobody out there to recognize it and carry your offspring further. Here Ovid has an advantage over a follower of Diotima when it comes to attaining immortality, in that his understanding and conception of virtue is one that is shared if not by the majority of people, at least by a significant number. On the other hand, a follower of Diotima might be able to correct for this, and instead of choosing to engender true virtue, he might just use his knowledge to engender the most popular with the people virtue possible.

In short, I would say that even though a follower of Diotima’s ladder of love need not be necessarily as successful in achieving immortality as Ovid, he would be able to succeed in attaining immortality on the same level as Ovid by engendering popular virtue, and might be even better at doing so because of his general dedication to knowledge, which would enable him to have insight into human nature and what kinds of works the masses read and transmit to further generations. And furthermore, if he is successful in his intellectual pursuits, and if it is possible, he also has a fair chance at engendering true virtue, something that Ovid would not be able to do, and thus he could get as close to immortality as a human being can.

Bibliography

  • Symposium, Plato, translated by Seth Benardete, The University of Chicago Press (2001)
  • The Republic, Plato, translated by Allan Bloom, second edition, Basic Books (1968)
  • The Amores, Ovid, translated by Peter Green, Penguin Classics (1982)

[1] Giving absolute definitive examples of a beautiful environment in which to give birth to virtue is problematic, because the notions of beauty and virtue are different depending on where on the path to true beauty and true virtue you are. I have offered the example of a poet and a curious inquisitive person, since both are also given in Diotima’s speech when she’s describing who engenders virtue and how they do so (Symposium, 209), and they are probably based on the best notions of virtue and beauty that she was operating with at that time.
[2] One of the possible divisions of the soul offered in The Republic by Socrates, and the one most used throughout the book, is into the following three parts: the calculative part (reason), the spirited part, and the appetitive part (desires). For a detailed description see 436a – 441c and 580d – 592b.
[3] Why would there be a need for the lover to be guided properly, as Diotima says, if people of all types of souls, would just naturally stumble upon this ladder of love progression in love? Furthermore, empirical observation seems to suggest that most people do not naturally follow the progression presented in the ladder of love section of Diotima’s speech, since most people do not seem to be consciously striving to understand beauty itself, so that they may engender true virtue.
[4] Here I must credit my interlocutor, Maria Androushko, with coming up with the idea that people who give birth in ideas can also pass on their eros, along with their virtue, over the course of time.
[5] The Republic, 581 a: “ ’And what about this? Don’t we, of course, say that the spirited part is always wholly set on mastery, victory, and good reputation?’/ ‘Quite so.’ ”
[6] It might be possible that he would just give birth to true virtue by sheer luck, without conscious intention – but this is highly improbable.
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How to read Andreas Capellanus’ The Art of Courtly Love as a unified whole

There is a new custom and understanding of love developing in the courts of Western Europe around the 12th century, as we can see exemplified in the troubadour poetry and stories such as Gottfried von Strassburg’s Tristan. Love was becoming a new social force, a desire that once implanted in a man’s heart, could make him become obsessed with his object of love, and could give him the will to trample over established institutions (such as marriage) and mores (such as honor). Andreas Capellanus sees this, and as a man in a very high position of power (as a clerk, he considers himself a member of the highest nobility), he tries to take control of this great force that was sweeping over medieval society, and direct it towards his own ethical, social and political goals.

In The Art of Courtly Love, he achieves this by setting himself up for a win-win situation. For in the work as a whole, from the very beginning in the Preface until the ending of Book 3, he clearly states that he is for the rejection of love, which he considers to be “not expedient” and not “fitting for any prudent man” (The Art of Courtly Love, Preface). So his opinion, as stated in book 3, is that the reader (Walter) should reject love and other “vanities of the world” and should be mindful that he always performs “charity and good works”. But what if the reader is to do the opposite, and embrace love? Well, if the reader and his beloved abide by the rules of love offered by Capellanus, then the most important thing that the lover will have to develop and maintain is excellence of character (p. 34-35), which means above all performing good deeds and especially works of charity (p. 59-61). Thus, regardless if the reader chooses to engage in the works of love or not, he will still end up performing Christian deeds.

Thus, the first two books not only serve to teach the lover how to succeed in obtaining and maintaining his beloved, but also to instill in him a certain understanding of love. This understanding of love, preached by Capellanus, will not only make the lover a good Christian, if he is to follow it, but it will also use love as an agent of change for society as a whole, imposing on people Capellanus’ system of ethics. Love can be used as such a tool because a man who is in love, considers the good to be whatever pleases his beloved (p. 185, rule XXV), and will leave all other business aside and act towards the fruition of his love (Preface; p. 156). Thus, the woman who is loved by a man is in a position of power, in which she can impose on him any system of ethics she wishes. This is where the key to the whole problem of love lies. Depending on the innate nature of women, and how much that can be changed by culture, rules or learning, lies the value or danger of love. If women are driven naturally towards being good and towards looking for excellence of character in a man, or they can be made so by culture, then love can be used as a powerful tool in imparting a “good” system of morals and ethics on men. This is the assumption that serves as the foundation of the first two books, and because of it women are as much of a target audience, if not even more important, than men. We can see this scenario, of a woman cultivating the excellence of character in a suitor, unfolding in the dialogue between a man of the middle class and a woman of the higher nobility (p. 59-61).

But it is not clear that the nature of women is good. Even though it is mentioned in the first two books that they seem to be the source of all good deeds (p. 108), or at least through their existence enable them (p. 148), and even though their suitors in the dialogues many times praise them for their goodness and wisdom (pp. 37, 54, 84), there are also many dialogues in which the women themselves have different conceptions of love, and need to be educated and convinced in this “art of love” that Capellanus is arguing for. We see this happening in the dialogue between a man of the higher nobility and a woman of the same class. It is in it that we see that the nature of the woman is not necessarily good, and she needs to be educated by the man about the proper habits and rules of love, and constantly reminded about its rules (p. 109). Andreas’ skepticism is fully unleashed in book 3, in which he lists numerous negative qualities that all women possess (pp. 200-209).

What is Andreas’ final take on love and the nature of women? Is he for or against love? Does he consider the nature of women innately good, or innately bad? His work seems to be presenting two opposite and incompatible viewpoints simultaneously, and in order to discern his true position, we must first understand his method. Andreas has a very platonic way of approaching intellectual matters. He makes extensive use of philosophical dialogue in The Art of Courtly Love (most of the work is actually in a dialogue form). In the dialogues, a man and a woman present arguments for both sides of an issue (like for example: “Should women engage in this kind of love?” or “Should nobility of character be more important than nobility of birth?”), and try to convince each other of their validity, while at the same time rebuking the other’s arguments. The dialogues sometimes end with an impasse (the dialogue between a man of the middle class a noble woman), sometimes the woman is convinced by the man (the dialogue between a nobleman and a noblewoman), and sometimes they have to appeal to a higher authority to decide whose argument is right (the dialogue between a man of higher nobility and a woman of the same class).

The work itself approaches the form of a dialogue at a bigger scale, being similar to the last dialogue (between the man and woman of higher nobility), in which two sides are in direct opposition to each other and a third party has to make a decision. The first two books present a strong case for love, and the last book presents a case against love, and Andreas decides against love. But is that because of what he writes in book 3? We know we cannot take many of the things in book 3 to be Capellanus’ final opinion on the topic of love, because he himself presents solutions to these issues in the first two books. For example, for the problem of not having chastity and restraint of carnal desire bringing social shame and God’s rebuke (p. 192), we find the practice of pure love as a possible solution (p. 122), or the problem of love leading to poverty for the lover (p. 191), is solved by the fact that if the beloved truly loves him then she will help him gain even more wealth (p. 145).

But there are also arguments and claims in book 3 that cannot be reconciled with the first two books, such as the claims about the nature of women. Yet, Andreas himself does not seem to be convinced by these arguments against the nature of women, since he says there is only one thing that is really stopping him from being love’s faithful servant, and that is love’s tendency to make men fall in love with somebody who can never return their love, no matter how much they try (p. 32, para. 2; p. 210). The further details that Andreas gives about his unrequited love clarify that it is not a problem with the nature (character) of the woman he loves that is preventing her from partaking in this noble kind of love, since she is “of such a lofty station that we dare not say one word about it”, but with the difference of nobility of character between them (p. 163, para. 4). Furthermore, the chapter about the courts of love further supports the claim that women are indeed capable of partaking in Capellanus’ kind of love, as much as men are (see case XIII, p. 172). So even though Capellanus’ decides against love, it is not the arguments in book 3 that convince him to turn away from it, neither the nature of women, but his unrequited love for a woman of considerable nobility of character.

Capellanus understands that his is a personal choice, and that many people will choose to embrace love despite the arguments offered against it. For them, he has prepared an elaborate framework of love, through treatise, images1 and rules. Under this framework, if a man is to be successful in love, than he must be: generous, charitable, compassionate towards the poor, humble, prudent, wise, clever, sincere, and many other things – in short, he must possess excellence of character (p. 59-61). This excellence of character also includes Christian values such as not saying anything blasphemous regarding god, being respectful to the clergy, going to church frequently and gladly listening to those who are preaching (p. 59-61). In fact, if one is to stray away from the Catholic religion, then that would cause his love to come to an end (p. 156).

Thus, if one follows Capellanus and chooses to reject love, he will be a good Christian. On the other hand, if one chooses to embrace love, and if he does so properly, as recommended in the first two books, by engaging in pure love, not only will he be a good Christian, but following Capellanus’ ethics, he will also consider nobility of character more important than nobility of birth (p. 48), he will respect all women and try to serve them (p. 60), and he will be on a continuous course of self-improvement of character for his beloved. Not bad for a chaplain’s day of work.

Bibliography

  • The Art of Courtly Love, Andreas Capellanus, translated by John Jay Parry, Columbia University Press (1960)

[1] For example the allegories that the nobleman uses in the dialogue with the noblewoman, including the story about the King and Queen of Love (pp 73-83). Another example of an image is the story about how the rules of love were made known to lovers (pp. 177-186).
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The significance of Alcibiades and his speech in Plato’s Symposium

Alcibiades and his speech play a crucial role in the Symposium, because they serve as a platonic image complementing Socrates’ speech. According to Socrates in The Republic, images serve as a first step on the path to understanding (imagination is the first part of the divided line) (The Republic, 511 d), and thus are the most accessible form in which somebody can be put on the path to knowledge. Thus, compared to the highly abstract and complex language of Diotima, Alcibiades’ account portrays how eros works in practice in a more easy to grasp form for the reader. Furthermore, this image is useful for persuasive purposes. If Plato would simply state that love should not involve any sex, but instead it should consist mostly of philosophy, he will probably be outright rejected by many people. By offering an image, in this case Alcibiades’ account of his relationship with Socrates, he can present the idea to the reader in a form that seems more natural and that will not invite visceral immediate rejection. The third and most powerful purpose that this image has is that it gives rise to philosophical inquiry, because of the different ways of interpreting it and the questions that it poses. Thus Plato, rather than offering a direct addition to Diotima’s speech about souls ruled by honor, presents this particular story to the reader, and requires him to build his own philosophical theory and explanations about it (which might be different than those the author intended), thus serving to encourage and to advance philosophical inquiry.

For that reason, much of the value and significance that the image (Alcibiades’ personal account) brings to the text as a whole is through the questions that it poses, one of which is: where can we place Alcibiades’ love for Socrates on Diotima’s ladder of love? Each and every step of Diotima’s ladder of love requires the follower to give speeches (Symposium, 210), until he reaches the form of beautiful itself (211 A, B, C). Yet because Alcibiades did not associate love with giving speeches for the sake of the truth (since when Socrates offers him to “deliberate” over Alcibiades’ insistence to have a more physical erotic relationship, he interprets it as a rejection) (219 B), and was erotically interested in Socrates so that he may teach him how to become “the best” (219 D), his speech does not seem to be anywhere on the ladder of love. This gives rise to the most crucial question that Alcibiades’ speech raises for the dialogue as a whole: Is Alcibiades personal account of eros compatible with Socrates’ speech and his attempt at defining the concept, and if so, where does it fit into his theory? In order to address this question, and most of the other questions raised by the image, and to be able to make sense of Alcibiades’ account of what happened between him and Socrates, we must use Socrates’ speech, and try to build a more complete and coherent framework about eros out of it.

When Socrates begins his speech at 201 D, the interlocutors were still talking about Eros as a god. Socrates (invoking Diotima’s speech) then shows that Eros is actually a daemon, an entity that bridges the gap between humans and the divine (202 E). At 205A, another jump is made, and we start talking about “eros” instead of “Eros”. Eros thus becomes more like a force of nature, a more abstract entity. Once Diotima has started talking about this abstract “eros”, she says that there are actually two kinds of “eros” (205 B).

There is the general concept of eros: “In brief, eros is the whole desire of good things and of being happy” (205 D). This is something that all human beings have (205 A).

Then, there is a more specific kind of eros, which “we detach from eros and give it the name eros, imposing upon it the name of the whole;” (205 B). It’s very easy to mix these two up, so in this essay I will call them general eros and specific eros. While there is only one type of general eros, there can be numerous types of specific eros, which are subsumed under the general eros, depending on what people consider “good things” to be. Diotima describes in detail only one type of specific eros, to which I shall refer as the calculating eros, which is defined by the desire for “the good’s being one’s own always” (owning the good, forever) (206 A).

But Alcibiades does not seem to be driven towards “the good” itself, nor are most people when they think about love. As a solution to this problem, in order to be able to integrate Alcibiades’ account into Diotima’s erotic framework, I propose to build upon Diotima’s classification, and add two other kinds of specific eros, depending on which part of the soul rules in a certain person: a spirited eros (for the likes of Alcibiades) and a desiring eros (the most common one, present in the vast majority of people).

How would this work in Diotima’s model? First, there is the general kind of eros, that present in all people: “the whole desire of good things and of being happy”. Then Diotima says that there are many subtypes of general eros, depending on how one approaches it (205 D), more exactly on what people consider “good things” to be. With this in mind, we draw upon Plato’s The Republic, and depending on what part of the soul rules, we have different types of specific kinds of eros.

If the calculating part of soul rules, that man will be driven by a calculating (rational) eros. In order to obtain “good things”, he realizes that he must first know what “good” itself is. Only then can the good be “one’s own always” (206 A). This is the eros that Diotima uses for the rest of her speech, and the one to which the ladder of love applies to.

If the spirited part of the soul rules, that man will be driven by a spirited (honor-seeking) eros. He will consider good things to be things such as being the best, earning honor or glory and being admired by others. By obtaining these, he will be happy (204 E).  Warriors, politicians and other honor-seeking people like Alcibiades would have this kind of specific eros.

If the desiring part of the soul rules, that man will be driven by a desiring eros. Depending on the stage of his life, he will desire things such as sex, marriage or children, and consider them to be good things, which once in his possession will make him happy (204 A). Since the majority of people are ruled by the desiring part of their soul, they will have this kind of specific eros.

An argument for why the calculating type of eros is the preferable one can be made drawing upon Plato’s The Republic. There, it is shown that the calculating part should rule the soul (The Republic, 442 a, b), and thus it follows here in the Symposium that humans should preferably be guided by the calculating eros.

Socrates considers the calculative eros to be the only true kind of eros, since he agrees with Diotima that “there is nothing that human beings love other than the good” (Symposium, 205 A). Thus, we can understand Socrates’ behavior as described by Alcibiades, by thinking about how a person with a calculative eros acts. What will a person who seeks to always own the good do? First, if they want to own the good, they need to find out what the good is. In order to do that, they need to create different ideas about what the good is, to analyze them, to construct upon them, in one word: to philosophize. But in order to philosophize properly, which requires dialectic, one needs other people (The Republic, 534 c). Thus, in order to find out what the good is, one will seek environments (people) in which he can philosophize and give rise to ideas. With this in mind we can understand Diotima’s statement about how people who are driven by this calculative eros will act: “Their deed is bringing to birth in beauty both in terms of body and in terms of soul” (Symposium, 206 B). They will look for beautiful environments (people with which to philosophize) in order to “birth” (to create) ideas (“in terms of soul”). This possibility is mentioned specifically by Diotima in her speech (209 A).

But it is not enough only to try to figure out what the good is. This calculative eros also makes you want to own it forever (206 E, 207 A). That gives rise to a desire for immortality that all living things share, and which they can achieve through “birth” (206 D). Some give birth in a physical sense, and have children, others “give birth” and find their immortality in a more abstract way (208 E, 209 A). Those who choose to do so abstractly for example seek immortality by “giving birth” to ideas, thoughts, philosophies, laws, etc (209 A, B).  Diotima (and thus also Socrates) argues in favor of the second way of achieving immortality, through abstract things (209). Beauty comes into play as a desirable attribute of the environment in which such offspring are to be generated (206 C, D, E). Thus, the calculating eros would include the desire and the search for such an environment (205 D, E).

This seems to fit Diotima’s ladder of love pretty well.  If one is to love correctly (to seek to own the good in perpetuity) then he must be “guided” this way (210 A): he must first love a body, then realize that what he is looking for is a characteristic of bodies in general, and thus love bodies in general, then move on to the abstract plane and love souls (minds in contemporary terms), and then realize he does not love a specific mind, but certain patterns that pertain to many minds, and thus he turns his love towards beautiful pursuits and laws, then to the sciences and philosophy, and in the end to beauty itself (210, 211). Once he reaches beauty itself he can use that environment to “give birth to and cherished true virtue” (212 A), which implies knowledge of the good, and “if it is possible for any human being, to become immortal as well” (212 A), which will allow the human to possess the knowledge of the good forever.

Now that we have Diotima’s philosophical framework for eros, which we have taken further by adding two new types of specific eros, we can use it to return to the image, and understand the significance of Alcibiades and his speech in the Symposium.

First, we can understand what Socrates means when he says “I claim to have expert knowledge of nothing but erotics” (177 D, E). He means that he has expert knowledge of desiring to understand what the good is and to posses it (which we can see play out in The Republic). Furthermore, we can see how this fits with Alcibiades’ description of him. He is shown to be an intellectual person, who spends most of his time either thinking (220 C, D) or philosophizing with others (215 C; 221 D, E; 222 E). Because his soul is ruled by the calculating part, he is able to have extraordinary self-control (221 B) and endurance (220 B). When it comes to love, because he is driven by a calculative eros, he does not desire physical beauty, money, honor, or whatever else most of the people would be attracted to (216 D, E), but he is interested in giving speeches and philosophizing.

Alcibiades on the other hand has a spirited, honor-driven soul. He admits that he has succumbed to the honor he receives from the masses (216 B), and his main interest is “becoming the best possible” (218 D). He thinks in terms of superiority and honor, as shown by his behavior. He comes surrounded by attendants, “thickly crowned with ivy and violets, with many fillets on his head” (212 D, E) – all social signs of superior status, and indicative of the fact that he cares about the opinion of others. He says that he could not come to Agathon’s show, but later he comes to “wreathe” Agathon (212 E) and thus to confer honor to him, from a position of superiority. Furthermore, his state of drunkenness (212 E) can be interpreted as a metaphor for his clouded reason, which does not rule in his soul.

Alcibiades’ approach to philosophy is also in line with his honor-driven soul. He does not care about truth; he cares about the power that comes with the knowledge. When he describes Socrates, he seems fascinated by the “power” Socrates has to enthrall others (215 E). Later, when he recounts about his time spent with Socrates speaking and wrestling, without “gratifying Socrates” or doing anything sexual with him, he concludes that “I got no advantage from it at all” (217 C). Furthermore, when Socrates responds to his sexual offer by inviting him to deliberate and later decide together on what course to follow, Alcibiades interprets this as a rejection (219). He does not seem to understand how love works for Socrates’, and neither what philosophy is about. He is not interested in conversing with Socrates, but only in obtaining some kind of power from him, that will enable him to enthrall others and to be able to contradict and to defeat anybody in argument (216 B).

Socrates also has an interest in Alcibiades. He mentions that he still has some love for Alcibiades, and that has proved quite bothersome (213 C, D). But his love is of a different kind. Socrates is interested in finding out what the good is, and in order to achieve that he will look for people with which to philosophize, and to ascend together with them on the ladder of love by giving speeches. Judging by his actions, that is exactly what he was trying to do with Alcibiades. Alcibiades’ main activity with Socrates was conversing (217), and when Alcibiades’ tried to make their relationship more erotic, Socrates responds that “what you say is good” and offers to deliberate (to think about issues) together with him (219 A, B). For Socrates, this is a sign of affection, and not one of rejection. Since love for Socrates means spending time with the other person and giving speeches, rejection would mean simply not spending time with the other person. Thus, Socrates did not reject Alcibiades, but on the contrary, offered him his love according to his eros.

The breaking point in their relationship was caused by Alcibiades’ inability to understand and to satisfy Socrates’ eros. Socrates desired a dialectical partner with which he may ascend on the ladder of love, but had no interest for bodily pleasures, money, honor or power over his peers. On the other hand, Alcibiades’ wanted Socrates to give him his knowledge so that he may obtain power, and was not interested in philosophy for the sake of the truth. Thus, because Alcibiades’ had nothing to give Socrates, since he was not concerned with the search for the truth, and he was not interested in what Socrates had to give willingly (dialectic), their different types of eros were fundamentally incompatible.

Alcibiades’ presence also serves to bring into light the issue of jealousy and eros. His jealousy and envy still haunt Socrates at the time of the feast, and they need to be removed or kept in check in order for the two men to be on friendly terms again (214 D). Since Alcibiades was honor-driven, we can infer he wanted to be Socrates’ only lover, since that would confer him more honor than simply being one of his lovers. Also, since he would have had exclusivity to Socrates’ wisdom and teachings, he would have gained an advantage over his Athenian peers. Thus it was in his interest for Socrates to be only his. Socrates on the other hand was driven by a different kind of eros, the calculative one. Since he would be interested in searching for people with which to philosophize (or beautiful environments in which to give rise to ideas), he had no need to limit himself to only one person. On the contrary, a diversity of philosophical perspectives usually serves better in order to dialectically get closer to the truth. It follows then that jealousy was a much smaller part, if not entirely absent, for Socrates than for Alcibiades.

Thus, after being compelled by the initial image, we have gone back and understood Diotima’s erotic framework; and after we have closely read and interpreted the last part of the Symposium, we can see that Alcibiades and his speech actually offer us not one but three distinct images to complement Socrates’ abstract account of eros. These images are: the image of Socrates (as a man who is driven by a calculating, rational, eros), the image of Alcibiades (as a man who is driven by the spirited, honor-seeking, kind of eros), and the image of how each of the two men (and types of soul) approaches an erotic relationship. Each of these images, once understood, offers the reader a more intuitive and comprehensive understanding of Diotima’s (and Socrates’) theory of eros, and most importantly of all, invite him to ask further questions.

Bibliography

  • The Republic, Plato, translated by Allan Bloom, second edition, Basic Books (1968)
  • Symposium, Plato, translated by Seth Benardete, The University of Chicago Press (2001)
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How can one escape self-tyranny

In this paper I first explain the concept of self-tyranny in Rousseau’s “Second Discourse” and then in Plato’s “The Republic”. Drawing upon “The Republic”, I then tackle Rousseau’s conundrum regarding how to escape from his description of self-tyranny, by showing that even though the transformation from Natural Man to Civil Man seems to bring self-tyranny, it actually offers the only possibility of escaping it.

At the beginning of Rousseau’s “Second Discourse”, in the state of nature, Man’s behavior is only driven by two forces: self-preservation and pity (Preface, [9]). Perfectibility, combined with the need to adapt to one’s environment, leads man to develop more complex technology and societies (Part 1, [17]).  Once he invents agriculture and metallurgy, he reaches a point where he can no longer ensure his self-preservation on his own, and he requires other people to survive (Part 2, [20]). Because of this need, a number of secondary social desires arise in him: to be well-regarded by his peers (amour-propre), to have a high social status; to be a useful member of society, etc. As perfectibility leads the way to innovation and progress, and man becomes more and more dependant on other humans for his survival, so does his need for their recognition grow (Part 2, [27]).  In Civil Man, his needs for social recognition and integration can go so far as to overpower his initial drives for self-preservation and pity. This can lead to situations such as people over-working themselves to death (desire for being a successful member of society overpowering the drive for self-preservation), or people killing other men just because of glory and reputation (amour-propre overpowering pity) [Note IX].

Thus, even though all the new needs that we encounter in Civil Man appeared initially to help satisfy the fundamental ones, their original purpose was lost, and they became detrimental, promoting a regime of self-tyranny upon the soul of Civil Man. Rousseau himself acknowledges this self-tyranny, but does not seem to be willing to escape from it (Note IX, [14]), even though he clearly considers the time before it as the “happiest and most lasting epoch” and “the best for man” (Part II, [18]). In order to show why Rousseau is right in not wanting to revert to the so-called “golden age” lifestyle, and to offer a clear way out of this self-tyranny, we must make use of Plato’s ideas.

The first step in explaining the notion of self-tyranny in “The Republic” is to understand how the soul is organized according to Plato. He divides the soul into three parts: the calculative part, the spirited part and the desiring part (“The Republic”, 441a). The calculative part is reason, and we can group the spirited part and the desiring part both under the general term of inclinations. The spirited part contains the inclinations pertaining to mastery, victory, honor and the likes while the desiring part is formed by the countless other inclinations that are left (hunger, thirst, sex drive, etc.).

By following the desiring part or the spirited part over the calculating one, the part that is followed can become its own tyrant. This is because both the desires and the spirit can easily be deceived, and thus need the calculating part to guide them. (586c). To give an example outside of “The Republic”, if one should feel a strong thirst and thus have a desire to drink, and he would drink randomly without using his reason, drinking any water he sees on the street, or saltwater if he leaves near the sea, he would not only damage his health, but he would also defeat the nature of his desire. For his desire stemmed from the need to drink potable water, not any kind of water. Thus, blindly following one’s desire, without using reason, could lead to doing things in opposition to what the true nature of what the desire required. Since reason is the only part of the soul that can pursue truth, it should naturally be the one that leads. Only reason can show the path to how to truly satisfy your desires and your spirit (587 a).

By not accepting the calculating part as the master of the soul, man will inevitably fall into the chains of self-tyranny, since he does not know how to fulfill the true nature of his inclinations.  But it is not enough for the calculating part to rule in order to escape self-tyranny. The calculating part must also be “turned” into the right direction (518). If you have a philosophic nature, you need to pursue the forms (the top part of the divided line) [485 b], and if not, then you should acknowledge your limitations, and follow the advice of those who can achieve true knowledge (474 b, c).  Only then will you be able to be true to your nature (586c).

Plato is thus able to give a very powerful solution out of the self-tyranny that Rousseau has shown us. By making reason the master and turning it towards philosophy, we are able to escape from our chains. Not only that, but also instead of returning to subsisting on “grass and acorns” (“Second Discourse”, note IX), we would be able to maintain our modern social and technological life, and thus have the best of both worlds. But before we move forward we must acknowledge the limitations of this solution. The main assumption for using reason to escape tyranny is that we can reach final truths (the forms) [490 b]. If that is not the case, then there is never a complete escape from our chains. There is always the risk of self-tyranny. If we are not able to reach definite answers, the next best thing that we could hope for is the possibility to continuously get closer to the truth (like the laws of physics, which are better and better approximations of how Nature works). Then, even though we could never completely unshackle ourselves completely, we could at least loosen the chains. If continuously getting closer and closer to the truth is also not possible, if in the philosophical inquiry about a concept one is destined to arrive at answers, which might be opposite or totally not related to each other, if in the morning red is blue and in the evening blue is red, then the whole possibility of ever being true to our inclinations disappears, and we are always condemned to self-tyranny, regardless if we are Natural Men or Civil Men. With these three levels of possible freedom from self-tyranny in mind, we are can move forward and apply Plato’s theory to Rousseau.

We are ready at this point to support with arguments Rousseau’s choice to not return to the “golden age” (“Second Discourse”, note IX, [14]). Even though it appeared initially that self-tyranny was established only after secondary social needs overpowered primary needs, it was actually there all along from the beginning. It was there all along because there was no proper calculative part to guide the two primary drives (self-preservation and pity). In order for reason to be able to guide the desires, it needs to be able to reach the top part of the divided line, where the forms reside. In order to do that, reason needs dialectic. Dialectic is a dialogue between at least two people, in which one they try to reach the truth by means of argument (534 c). A man by himself cannot do dialectic. He needs other people. But since the core characteristic of the “golden age” is that each man was entirely self-sufficient, it is fundamentally incompatible with dialectic, with philosophy, and with knowing the truth. If man cannot know the truth, than he cannot guide his desires and his spirit, which are easily and often deceived, and thus is condemned to self-tyranny. The “golden age” is actually a prison, which locks the men in it in a continuous state of self-tyranny, without any possibility to escape, unless they abandon their self-sufficiency and start depending on others for their philosophical needs.

In order to have a hope of escaping the self-tyranny of following the wrong inclinations, one needs to leave the “golden age”. In this regard, the transformation of Natural Man towards Civil Man has actually been a road towards liberation, not servitude. Even though the tyrannical chains might have multiplied around man, his strength to break them has increased at an ever-faster rate. Civil Man has embraced the power of dialectic, and is educated and more intelligent than Natural Man. He has the ability to travel all over the world and expose himself to a myriad of images, sights, thoughts and ideas (the four levels of the divided line). Therefore, he can perceive and aspire to a much larger number of forms than Natural Man. The forms are out there, waiting to be grasped, all Civil Man needs to do is to extend his hand.

But does he want to? Some people have a philosophic nature, and the arrangement of their soul is in the proper order since birth. They’ve always been curious, always inquisitive, never satisfied. But as Plato says, those people are rare (495 b). Most people are ruled by their inclinations, and as the allegory of the cave shows, motivation is going to be an issue. Like a heroin addict not able to escape the yoke of pleasure, some people might think they are happy and satisfied, and will not want to be awakened from this illusion (517 a). But, as is the case with the heroin addict, the man who knows better, and can see that the addict’s true desires have been perverted towards something else, is obliged to help him and if need be, forcefully turn him towards the truth.

“The truth will set you free”

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