“Ethics Book 7” by Aristotle (349 BC)

 

“Ethics Book 7” by Aristotle (349 BC)

Ch. 1

  • Let’s talk about 3 moral character types to avoid & their opposites
    • AVOID: Vice, unrestraint & bestiality/brutality
    • WANT: Virtue, restraint & heroic/divine goodness
  • It’s beyond human quality to make a man godlike in virtue
    • Virtue doesn’t exist in gods because it’s too low for them
  • Bestial badness is different to vice – mostly only found in barbarians or due to a disease – beyond normal human vice
  • Unrestraint/softness v. Restraint/Endurance
    • They aren’t the same as virtue & vice but not too different
    • Self-restraint & endurance are good & praiseworthy
      • Self-restrained men abide by the results of their calculations
      • They know their desires are evil & refuse them based on principle
    • Unrestraint & softness are bad & blameworthy
      • Unrestrained men make calculations but readily abandon them, doing things they know are evil under the influence of passion
  • A temperate man is always self-restrained & enduring, & an intemperate man isn’t always that way
  • Some might say a prudent man can’t be unrestrained, some say he can be

Ch. 2

  • How can a man fail to restrain himself when he correctly believes what he’s doing is wrong?
    • Some say it’s not possible & it’s only out of ignorance – WRONG!
    • If failure is cause by ignorance, what kind of ignorance is it?
      • It’s clear that he doesn’t think the action is right before passion hits
      • This might be that he has an opinion & not knowledge
      • Or weak resistance to passion
    • When desire is opposed by prudence, do we blame a man for yielding?
      • Prudence is very strong & how can you be unrestrained & prudent?
      • You can’t voluntarily do the basest actions if you are prudent
      • Prudence is showed in action & it implies other virtues are present
  • Self-restraint implies having evil desires but overcoming them
    • A temperate man can’t have self-restrain because he doesn’t have evil desires
    • If he only has good desire, he doesn’t have evil ones to restrain himself against
      • If desires are weak & not evil, then self-restraint isn’t anything to be proud of because it should be very easy to resist
  • If self-restraint makes a man steadfast in all opinions, it may be bad – maybe resisting false opinions
  • If unrestraint makes him abandon any opinion, it may be good when the opinions are bad
    • Folly can be seen as a virtue when tied to unrestraint
    • A man who does & pursues the pleasant from conviction & choice may be better than one who acts out of lack of restraint because he’s easier to cure & change his conviction
    • Unrestrained men can’t really be corrected because it’s lack of conviction that is the source of his vice

Ch. 3

  • Let’s ask:
    • 1 – Do men fail in self-restraint knowing what they do is wrong or not knowing?
    • 2 – Are the objects of self-restraint & unrestraint concerned with all pleasure & pain or just special cases?
    • 3 – Is self-restraint the same as endurance or different?
    • 4 – Other questions
      • Is a man unrestrained only because he fails to restrain himself with respect to certain things because he’s got a certain disposition or a combination of things?
      • Can self-restraint & unrestraint be showed with respect to everything or not?
      • Does yielding to only one type of thing make him unrestrained?
  • 1 – Some people are sure of their opinions & think they’re knowledge:
    • Can weakness of conviction be seen as based on opinion or knowledge?
      • Because in this case, there’s no difference
    • “Knowing” has two senses
      • Knowledge without exercising & exercising knowledge
      • Consciously thinking of knowledge when acting or not
        • It’s not surprising that a man would do something wrong if he’s conscious of his knowledge
  • 2 – Is a man acting on a universal or particular premise?
    • Action is in regards to the particular
    • Universal premises may be applied correctly to things that don’t apply to them
      • The action was wrong because basis was wrong, not the calculation
      • Unrestrained men wouldn’t even get to this point – he’d have proceeded anyway
  • 3 – Men can both have & not have knowledge at the same time: asleep & drunk
    • Those in passion are similar – anger, desire, etc. alter the body & cause a type of madness that makes a man only temporarily mad
      • Unrestrained men’s knowledge is easily overcome like a sleeping, drunk or mad man
  • 4 – Other Questions:
    • When you have 2 premises, there’s a logical conclusion formed
    • What if the premises are wrong [in ignorance] must find out why it’s wrong & how it was arrived at
    • An unrestrained man has knowledge but is overcome by or blinded by his passions or desires

Ch. 4

  • Can you call a man “unrestrained” without any qualifications or is it in reference to certain things? What things?
  • It’s clear that you can use restraint or unrestraint when talking about pleasures & pains
    • Pleasure can either be
      • 1 – necessary things associated with the body – sex, nutrition – bodily functions [in profligacy/temperance discussions from before]
      • 2 – not necessary but desirable in themselves – honor, victory, wealth, etc.
        • Re. 2 – They’re unrestrained with qualification because they’re not the same as the unqualified unrestraint – may be only in one dimension but restrained in others
    • Some men are so unrestrained that they chase it no matter what it is & some men don’t choose pleasure, they just don’t understand where the border of temperance & profligacy is
    • Those who desire wealth, honor, etc. – noble things & aren’t corrupt just partially unrestrained
      • They can allow this desire to corrupt them in other ways – often they get associated with the completely unrestrained

Ch. 5

  • Some people behave like wild animals – only pleasant because of arrested development or natural depravity
    • E.g. Women who tear out the babies from pregnant women & eat them & those who all provide a child to eat at a public banquet
    • They might be diseased or crazy or may have just had bad habits that have gone out of control or something due to childhood abuse
    • Those people aren’t unrestrained because this is outside of the domain of vice & are bestial/brutal
  • It’s possible for these people to overcome these habits but it’s not fair to judge them in terms of vice & virtue or restraint & unrestraint

Ch. 6

  • Unrestraint is said to be less disgraceful in anger than desire – partly right, partly wrong
    • Some outbursts are forgivable or even reasonable depending on the severity of the situation
    • You have the right to be upset if insulted but it goes too far to declare war on anyone who insults you
    • Desire from the thought of anything pleasing & going off to enjoy it is different
      • Failing to restrain anger is better because it is sometimes rational
  • Impulses are natural & excusable to follow
    • Anger is a more natural impulse than desire for excessive & unnecessary pleasure
    • The craftier men are, the more unjust they can be
    • But a hot-tempered man isn’t crafty, & unrestraint in desire is more unjust & more disgraceful than excessive anger
  • Wanton outrage gives the doer pleasure & not pain but an act done in anger gives him pain
    • If anger out of proportion to the justice of the anger of the victim, unrestraint from desire is greater than from anger
      • Anger has no wanton insolence
  • Some of the desires are natural & some due to bestiality/brutality
    • Brutality is less evil than vice but more horrible
      • It’s a man acting as an animal & his highest faculties are depraved either by madness or lack of development

Ch. 7

  • Pleasures/pains of touch & taste, & desires/acts of avoidance thereof:
    • It’s possible to succumb to temptation that most men can beat & it’s possible to resist things most men can’t
      • Most men lead toward one extreme of unrestraint with respect to pleasure & restraint or softness with respect to pain & endurance or another thing
  • Pleasure are only necessary within some limits & indulgence isn’t necessary but neither is defect
    • The same holds for excesses out of choice & not some ulterior consequence
      • Then you’re a profligate – not going to feel regret & incurable
        • The opposite is deficient in pleasure
        • Those who avoid pain out of choice can also be profligate
  • Endurance – successful resistance but restraint is mastery
    • Those deficient in resistance to pain are soft or luxurious – too lazy to take care or faking illness = miserable
      • Probably overcome by violent or excessive pleasure or pains
    • More forgivable if it’s due to an innate tendency or disease
  • People too fond of fun are seen as profligate but are really soft due to excessive slackness
  • Unrestraint – weakness – they deliberate but passion prevents resolution – impetus led by passion because of lack of deliberation because they are quick & excitable

Ch. 8

  • Profligate feels no remorse & abides by choice
    • Unrestrained men repent excesses afterwards
    • Profligates are incurable while unrestrained men are curable
  • Vice is chronic & unconscious, unrestraint is intermittent & conscious
  • Among the unrestrained, the impulsive are more likely to know the right course but don’t keep to it & succumb to smaller temptations & don’t yield without temptation – likely to get drunk quickly & on a small amount
    • Not really a vice because he against deliberation, not with it & he isn’t unjust, only does unjust things
    • More likely to pursue excessive bodily pleasures contrary to what’s right – can be persuaded to change
      • Profligates think it’s the right thing to do & can’t be persuaded to change
  • Unrestrained men abandon rational choice due to passion for pleasure
    • Better than a profligate & not all bad because his principles are good

Ch. 9

  • Is a man self-restrained if he stands by any principle or choice? Or does it have to be the right choice?
    • If he fails, is he unrestrained? Or does it have to be a true principle & right choice to be unrestrained?
    • If he’s accidentally right or wrong, then sticking to what he sees as true/correct is close to restraint but he’s still wrong
  • Those who are hard to convince they’re wrong are obstinate & appear like the unrestrained man but are slightly different
    • Self-restraint is against passion & desire, & can yield to persuasion
    • Obstinate men don’t yield to persuasion against any reason
      • Can be boorish, stupid & opinionated – annoyed they’ve been deprived of a victory or that their will has been annulled.
  • Not everyone whose conduct is guided by pleasure is either profligate & base or unrestrained – just those who yield to disgraceful pleasures
  • Restrained men are the mean between the unrestrained man & the man who takes less pleasure than what’s proper
    • Unrestrained men take too much pleasure & the other man takes too little – both are bad
  • We think of the restrained man as temperate but the temperate man is never led by bodily pleasures to act against principle
    • Restrained men have evil desires but temperate men have none because they have no desire for pleasure against principle
    • Restrained men have these desire but don’t yield to them

Ch. 10

  • You can’t be both unrestrained & prudent because prudence is a moral virtue & unrestraint isn’t
    • Prudence is knowing what is right & doing it
    • An unrestrained man doesn’t do what’s right & he may not even know what’s right in the way a drunk or a sleeping man lacks knowledge
    • He may err willingly but he’s not wicked because his moral choice is sound – he’s only half wicked
      • Not unjust because he’s not deliberately doing harm
      • He’s like a country that passes good laws but doesn’t enforce them & a bad man is a country that passes bad laws & enforces them
    • The restrained man shows more steadfastness than most men are capable of – unrestrained men show less
  • Reformation is more possible for the excitable than those who deliberate but don’t keep their resolution

Ch. 11

  • Political philosophers think about pain & pleasure because they’re the ones by whose standard we decide things are good & bad
    • Moral virtue & vice are concerned with pleasures & pains, & most people find them important in happiness because bliss is enjoyment
  • 1 – Some might say that no pleasure is a good thing either essentially or accidentally but good & pleasure are different
  • 2 – Others say some pleasures are good but most are bad
  • 3 – Others say even if all pleasures are good, pleasure isn’t the supreme good
  • Re. 1 – If pleasure isn’t a good at all, then:
    • A – every pleasure is a conscious process towards a natural state but a process has nothing to do with its end
    • B – Temperate men avoid pleasures
    • C – Prudent men pursue a lack of pain, not pleasure
    • D – Pleasure is a hindrance to prudent deliberation
    • E – There’s no art of pleasure – all good things have an art
    • F – Children & animals pursue pleasure
  • Re. 2 – If not all pleasures are good, then:
    • A – Some are disgraceful & discredit those engaged in them
    • B – Some are harmful & can cause disease
  • Re. 3 – If pleasure isn’t a supreme good then it isn’t an end but a process

Ch. 12

  • Re. 1A – “Good” has 2 meaning – absolute good & relative good – good a particular person
    • Has double meaning when applied to people’s natures & dispositions & applied to movements & processes
    • Some processes can be “bad” in other cases – in the absolute & not generally desirable – may not be truly desirable
    • Either the good is an activity or a state
      • Pleasures that rest us to our natural state are accidentally pleasant
    • Activity of desire is that part of us that has remained in a natural state
      • Some don’t involve pain or desire at all without deficiency from the normal
    • Restorative pleasures are accidentally pleasant
    • In a normal state, we enjoy things that are absolutely pleasant but in a process of replenishment, we even enjoy their opposite – soul & bitter
  • Not always that we enjoy the end more than the process, so there must be something better than pleasure
    • Pleasure’s not a processor or incidental to one – activities & an end – not resulting from processes of acquiring faculties but from using them
    • Not a conscious process – an activity of our unimpeded natural state
  • Re. 2B – Pleasant & healthy things can be bad in a relative sense but that’s not necessarily bad. Thinking can be bad
  • Re. 1D – Prudence or other virtues aren’t hampered by pleasure from them – only alien pleasures. Pleasures of contemplation & study help us to contemplate & study more
  • Re. 1E – It’s natural there’s no art of pleasure because art doesn’t produce activity but capacity for activity
    • 1B, 1C, 1F – are answered the same – some pleasures are absolutely good & some aren’t
    • Children & animals pursue the one that aren’t
    • Prudent men pursue freedom the pain of wanting pleasures
      • Bodily pleasure in excessive forms lead to profligacy

Ch. 13

  • Pain is either an absolute evil or impediment to an activity & the opposite of an evil is a good, so pleasure must be a good
  • If some pleasures are bad, that doesn’t mean that a certain pleasure may not be the supreme good
    • Knowledge may be a supreme good, but some forms are bad
      • If every faculty has an unimpeded activity, the activity of all faculties or 1 of them, when unimpeded must be the desirable thing to do
      • Unimpeded activity is a pleasure & in this case the supreme good will be a particular kind of pleasure even though most are bad
      • This is why a happy life must be a pleasant life & a pleasure must be a part of happiness because no impeded activity is perfect & happiness is essentially perfect
      • A happy man will need external good to ensure an unimpeded activity & happiness
    • Some people think because happiness requires gifts of fortune too that it is the same as good fortune
      • Even excessive good fortune is an impediment to an activity & is no longer good fortune
  • If all animals & humans pursue pleasure it must mean it’s a supreme good
    • But they don’t all go for the same pleasure since it’s not always the same good for each one
    • Nature has implanted something divine in us all but we often think only of bodily pleasures because some of us only know that kind
  • If pleasure isn’t good & activity isn’t pleasure, a life of a happy man wouldn’t necessarily be pleasant
    • Why is it a pleasure if isn’t good?
    • Why is it a pain if it isn’t bad?

Ch. 14

  • Noble pleasure are highly desirable but some see bodily pleasures – object of profligates as undesirable
    • Maybe if what’s not evil is good or they’re only good up to a point – where they become excessive
  • You can have an excess of bodily pleasure & pursuing the excess makes a man bad – not pursuing what’s necessary to the right degree
    • With pain, we avoid not just excessive pain but all pain
  • Why do bodily pleasures seem more desirable than others?
  • 1 – Pleasure drives out pain & excessive pain makes us seek excessive pleasure which is an intense restorative because it’s sought in contrast to the excessive pain
  • 2 – They are also sought because of their intensity by people who can’t enjoy other things
    • Only bad if there are harmful results
    • Some have no other sources of enjoyment that even a neutral feeling seems painful to them
    • The young are in a state like intoxication because they’re young & growing which is pleasant
      • Excitable people need constant restoration because their temperament keeps their bodies in a constant state of irritation & their appetites are active & the strong pleasure drives out the strong pain
      • This is why excitable men become profligates & vicious
  • Pleasure without pain derived from things naturally & not accidentally pleasant – doesn’t allow for excess
    • Their effect isn’t used as a restorative but as a source of enjoyment for its own sake
  • Nothing can give us pleasure constantly because we have complex natures [also makes us perishable]
    • The simpler the nature of a man, the more the same activities give him the same pleasure
    • God enjoys simple pleasures perpetually – not just as an activity of motion but also immobility with great pleasure
  • Our desire for change is a sense of badness as if something good needs to be changed

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